"So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Joining a Church

        I looked around and found the most popular church in the area, a Presbyterian Church.  It's membership was over 3,000 strong.  The pastor was known for his eloquent sermons, copies of which were always available for sale each Sunday.  The two assistant pastors were past All-American ball players.  There were lots of activities you could participate in.  Indeed, a happy church to belong to.  I was baptized there and even brought friends to join.  For two years, this was my world, not knowing that the journey had only begun.  God had a lot more in store for me.   

Why Christianity?

         Looking back, I see that I made the right decision.  Here off the top of my head, I am going to list a number of my reasons in random order.
        (1) In Christianity, God entered into our world as one of us so that we can relate to Him.  This unique feature distinguishes Christianity from all other religions in the world.
      (2) Jesus came and sacrificed himself in our place so that the gap between us sinners and God who is holy was bridged.  This is absolutely amazing if you think about it.
      (3) God is pure LOVE ~ not what humans would have expected.  This intangible quality also lead me to believe that there is a spiritual world in which God dwells, distinct from our physical world.
        (4) God is all powerful, yet he is humble and meek ~ another surprising feature.
     (5) It follows that Jesus is not just our Lord and God, but also our brother and servant.  Truly, the mark of an extraordinary God.    
        (6) The miracles Jesus performed as recorded in the Gospels are amazing feats.
        (7) His transfiguration on Mount Tabor is awesome.
        (8) He forgave sins!  Only God could do that.
       (9) He taught us to forgive even our enemies. Such is the immenseness of his  love.
        (10) It follows that he forgave all those who crucified him.
        (11) His rose from the dead ~ this alone is sufficient from me to believe.
       (12) He challenges us to love him above our own family and everything else.  This makes sense only if he is truly God.
        (13) He fulfilled over 300 prophecies given in the Old Testament.
       Jesus looms so large before us that we can not ignore him.  Either He is God or a phony, a liar, or a lunatic ~ there is just no middle ground.  He forces us to respond to his calling.  He makes us feel uncomfortable because we are sinners, yet he respects our free will.  My personal experience after I accepted him into my life confirms that He is indeed the true God.  I'll have a lot more to say about this later.              

Friday, September 25, 2009

Finding Christ

        Up to this point, I did not really understand the Christian message.  When I was still a kid, I got invited to a neighbor's house a couple of times when the family was holding a prayer service.  All I knew was that the adults had become  Christians.  I did not mind the seemingly-strange, loud, emotional praying I heard, because all the kids got to eat a lot of candies.
        After I entered graduate school, I met Harry who oversaw the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship ministry on campus.  Harry was different from all the other guys I knew.  He was always cheerful, dressed simply, and did not even own a watch.  I got to know him quite well.  He started to pray for me.  At the same time, I met other Christian students that showed their joyful faith.  The timing was right.  One day I decided to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior too.  I did this in my own apartment on my knees.  Then I called up my Christian friends and we got together to celebrate the occasion.  The belief at the time was that once you have accepted Jesus into your life, you are born again and saved forever.  Naturally, the emotional release felt was tremendous.  The feeling was that I had finally left the chaos of an unsettling, stormy life behind and entered a safe shelter.
        I'd like to point out that Harry was the one who basically brought me to Christ by being a good model.  Advice: If you hope to convert someone, never argue or ask pointedly if he or she has been saved.  Never exhibit a "holier-than-thou" attitude or proclaim self-righteousness.  Here is your chance to practice being humble.        

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Awakening

        Before I graduated from college, I came to believe that there must be a God.  Just look at the human eye.  How perfect its design and how wonderful its function!  It just couldn't have existed without a creator.  Then what keeps my heart beating?  A motor keeps running only when it's plugged into a power source.  Likewise, we are kept alive because of God.  Also, what keeps me breathing when I am alive?  Now my intuition or common sense started to kick in.  Of course, many other things around all pointed to the existence of God.  It made so much more sense to believe that there is a God than to believe otherwise.   This was the awakening, but how do I find him? 

Agnostic Years

        Many of us become agnostic or lose whatever faith we had as we go through high school and/or college.  The reasons are many.  We are young, so death couldn't be further from our minds.  There are just so many things we want to learn, experience, achieve and enjoy in life.  Studies occupy our time.  And of course, so many distractions, not the least among which are sexual thoughts and attractions.  In my own case, I also discovered the lure of science ~ it just seemed that science could explain everything, given the chance and sufficient time.  In other words, science
became my little god.  In general, scientists are divided into two camps: those who believe that there is no God and those who believe that there has to be a God.  So, in those years, I got by all right, even though deep down I could still sense that void there.
        By the way, I would like to mention that I decided to join the secret Rosicrucian Order, headquartered in San Jose, CA, hoping to learn some ancient wisdom.  After a couple of months I withdrew my membership, because the teachings just didn't mean much to me.  I also studied self-hypnotism to tell myself that I would always feel happy, but the effect usually lasted at most a couple of weeks each time.  What things we wouldn't try when we are lost?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Encounter with Buddhism

        I was influenced by Buddhism in my preteens since my grandparents were Buddhists.  After I caught a cold, I would pray to Buddha and actually got well a few days later.  I have never studied the religion seriously, so I'll just mention what I experienced in those early years. 
        It seems that the teachings of Buddhism today are no longer pure.  The concept of heaven and hell had been added.  I still remember vividly seeing a poster showing those who made it to heaven and those who ended up in hell.  There were eighteen floors of hell depicted, with tortures getting more severe each time you descend to a lower floor.  I remember that when I saw those scenes, I told myself to make sure that I don't end up on the bottom floor.  Looking back, I see that all this somewhat contradicts reincarnation.  Another book I saw lists the number of good or bad points attached to all the deeds.  As long as the good points outnumber the bad ones in the end, you are OK. 
        Anyway, a clear concept of God was absent.  And I didn't find Buddhism challenging me in any way.  In fact, belief in reincarnation bothered me.  If there is reincarnation, the number of living things in this world must be finite (a fixed number) ~ then how would you explain the multiplication of all kinds of creatures and forms of life going on?  Also, what's the point of it when you don't have any clue as to what you were and how you lived in your previous life?? 
        It also seemed that achieving nirvana through meditation is a rather nebulous process.  You could spend all your life attempting but never reaching the goal.  So Buddhism never took real hold of me.     

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beginning

        I remember that when I was eight or nine, I started wondering if the universe was infinite or finite.  I would look into the sky and wonder if I would ever hit some kind of wall if I keep flying into space away from the earth.  If I did bump into a barrier, then what's on the other side of it?  Big question!  The concept of an infinite universe with no boundaries was something I couldn't imagine.  Today we know that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies with each containing billions of stars ~ all this is truly mind-boggling.  The questions that logically follow such wonderment would be:  "Where did we come from?", "Why are we here?", "What's the meaning of life?" and ultimately, "Is there a God?"  I am sure that everyone has these questions coming into their mind at one time or another.  It seems that there is this built-in curiosity or desire to find the "truth."  Anyway, that was the beginning of my search.  (Later, I realized that when we search for something to fulfill our life, we are basically looking for God, whether we know it or not.)