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Theology Thursday – Lenten Reflections, Part II

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This month, I had the opportunity to attend two back-to-back conferences in good ‘ol US of A. First, I presented a paper at the Eleventh Annual Archbishop Iakovos Graduate Students Conference in Patristic Studies hosted by the Pappas Patristic Institute in Brookline, MA. I also got a chance to be a respondent and a moderator for a session. It was a great experience and I enjoyed getting to know so many awesome people. Perhaps, it is a sign of the times that before going, I was wondering if the presenters were Christians too. In today’s academic climate, you just never know. Just because it’s a conference on a biblical topic, doesn’t necessarily mean that those who go will necessarily be Christians. So it came as a surprising shock (albeit the good kind) when I found out that the presenters were Christians too! There is a certain bond, a sense of camaraderie and fellowship, that Christians share. It is this sense of belonging to something… or should I say, Someone… who is greater than me, than us, than my culture, than my nationality, than my gender, than my socio-economic status. Through Christ, we are all brothers and sisters. There is something inherently powerful about that.

I also got the chance to go to the SPS (Society for Pentecostal Studies) conference in Florida. There is something weird about not wearing winter jackets in March. I enjoyed meeting my new roommates and making new friends. There was something so beautiful about seeing so many like-minded and like-hearted people in one place. I think that’s why I loved these two conferences that I attended. In some mysterious way, I felt like I belonged. As an academic, I think it’s really important to make sure that you join a society that gives you that feeling of belongingness. Everyone was incredibly gracious and extraordinarily nice. SPS felt like home, a place where there are people of differing personalities and temperaments, but are still united in love for God and for one another. Yet, their love for God doesn’t mean shoddy scholarship. In fact, I think that their scholarship is great because of their love for God and their love for the church.

I have been blessed to attend these two conferences. If anything, it was a lesson on humility. I was surrounded by people who were so smart, it’s hard not to feel dumb. However, they were not arrogant or prideful at all. They were so humble and gracious. These are the people who, in my mind, have arrived. But, there is a danger for anyone who ever thinks they have arrived. There is always something more to be discovered. No single person has the ability to know everything about anything. It was great to see these men and women of God exhibit that type of humility and grace within an academic system that is often bereft of such qualities. It is a reminder that I need to guard against arrogance and pride as an academic scholar. The call for humility becomes even harder when you feel like you have something to boast about. If I were to boast in anything, may I only boast in Christ, and Christ crucified. As this Lenten season is nearing its end, may it also signal the end of my own pride and hubris, and the beginning of humility and grace.

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Tunes for Tuesday – June 25, 2013

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Hi everyone,

Welcome to today’s Tunes for Tuesday. My friend Rose (@GraceDefined) introduced me to this video awhile ago and let’s just stay that it is one of those videos that stay stuck in your head for a very long time. I usually don’t like a lot of “Christian” videos and music in general because they tend to, ummm, how do I say this nicely… alienate my soul! Imagine my surprise when I saw a video that was phenomenal! It’s called “Bombs Away” by Jonathan Thulin ft. Rachael Lampa). Click on the video below to watch!

Are there any other Christian music videos that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section! =)

On the importance of marriage

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Last week, I had the honour and privilege of attending the wedding of two amazing individuals, Peter (Mahaffey) and Gracie (Villanueva). I have been to a lot of weddings but this wedding definitely stood out. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wedding before where God was the underlying theme of the whole ceremony to begin with. I have been to Christian weddings before but there was something different about this one. Sometimes, I feel like God becomes a tag line in a wedding ceremony. The whole event is centered on the bride and groom and if God makes an appearance, it’s a brief cameo to bless their union. This time around, it seems that the event was built around the theme of God’s love instead of the love of the bride and groom. As a Christian, it was quite jarring and convicting. So this is what it looks like to have God be the center of a marriage, I found myself thinking.

During the speech, Gracie’s mom said something to the effect that their prayer that day was for God to be glorified during the wedding. I think I’m more used to prayers about how God should bless the couple’s lives rather than prayers that God would be honoured. It was one of those “really?!?” moments. While the sentiment expressed isn’t exactly revolutionary, I guess what surprised me was that she actually meant it. She really wanted the focus to be on God and not on the bride and groom. I think that really shocked me since I haven’t seen it before. During the numerous speeches, the one common thing was their constant reference to God’s love and God’s hand in bringing these two people together. It was so God-centered, I was quite taken aback.

I think that’s the one thing that people forget about marriage. Marriage is the most intimate picture we have of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church. In the Old Testament, God’s relationship to Israel was often framed within a marriage context. Marriage is a beautiful picture of the divine love God has with His people. Throughout the Scriptures, we see a God who pursues His bride relentlessly. Even when the bride strays and becomes unfaithful to Him, still God woos her back to Himself. It is a picture of constant patience, grace, mercy, compassion and love to someone who, in fact, does not deserve a single ounce of any of these attributes. Even when the Brides gives the Groom a reason to leave because of her imperfections, the Groom not only stays faithful to her, but also goes out of His way to redeem the broken relationship. What a beautiful picture of heaven on earth!

What is marriage if not another way of presenting the gospel to the world? It is a proclamation of the good news that Christ brought to our world. It brings a man and a woman together while boldly challenging our individualistic culture and loudly proclaims that they are more than ok to be seen as one in the sight of men and God. It is another visible reminder that a proper marriage must properly have God in the center. It is a tangible expression of God’s love as expressed on earth.

To Peter and Gracie, I hope and pray that you would continue to walk in the ways of the Lord your God. Continue to esteem each other better than yourselves. May you daily submit your bodies and your lives wholly and completely to the wonderful and compassionate God who created you and brought you two together in His love and grace. It was an honour to be a witness to your beautiful union.

Reflections on Good Friday

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A lot of the times, I really do feel that everything in Christianity is just so incredibly messed up in comparison to how the world normally works. Normally, people want to live. And yet, Jesus says that if we truly want to live, we have to die first. A lot of us would avoid pain and suffering at any cost. And yet, Jesus willingly goes to the cross. It just doesn’t make sense.

Maybe I should re-phrase that. It just doesn’t make sense in the natural order of things. Because in the heavenly order of things, it’s the only way that actually makes sense. The Bible speaks of Jesus being someone who became man and identified with humanity  so much so that we can never ever use the excuse “well, you just don’t understand” to Him. He actually does understand. Like a lot. Because he was put in the same situation as you are now in. He lived in a broken, fallen world, filled with corruption and politics (some things never change), teeming with both nice and mean people. If you think that you’re the only who was falsely accused of doing something you didn’t do, well that happened to Jesus. If you think that you’re the only who was forsaken by friends when the going got tough, that happened to Jesus too. And on the off chance that you think that you’re the only who has enemies in high places who wants you dead, yup, Jesus got that too. He identified so much with humanity, that years later, many would still deny His divinity because He wore the garment of humanity so well.

Why would the cosmic king of the universe deign to debase himself by being human? Here’s a hint: It’s the same reason why people do unbelievably crazy things for others. It’s because of love. A love that is so incomprehensible that words cannot even begin to convey what it means. Sometimes, I do think that our limbic system cannot fully understand the emotions that such love can make us feel. Our amygdala doesn’t even know how to process such a thing. (Yes, my undergrad is in Psych… lolz) That is what I am forced to wrestle with and rest in during Good Friday. I truly stand amazed that such a beautiful thing can happen through the most horrific experience. Crucifixion is right up there at the top when it comes to ways to torture people. The Romans mastered it and perfected it into an art. And through this violent and heinous act, the antithesis of Pandora’s box is opened. Whereas Pandora’s box released all manners of evil things in an otherwise perfect world, Jesus Christ’s death on the cross released love, grace, mercy, compassion, and all manners of good things in an unimaginably flawed world. This is the awesome beauty of the cross. What was meant to be a hopeless and tragic event becomes the event that would bring countless Christians hope and joy.

My friend, Renee, and I recorded a remix of a song called “Lead me to the cross”. Since it is Good Friday today, I hope that the lyrics of this song becomes the prayer of our hearts

Theme song of my life!

So my dear friend @GraceDefined (https://www.facebook.com/grace.defined) posted this video and I absolutely love it! Of course, I am biassed since I love her and she dedicates a song to me which also happens to be the theme song of my life. So go check it out!