Friday, February 25, 2011

Personal God or Cultural God?

Should you not be aware of the things you etch into your faith - for instance, whether or not you speak of a timeless, personal relationship with God before placing a cultural restriction on God?

It is evident that there are boundaries placed on the very God that one loves so much, such as the underestimating emphasis on a tiny corner of the glory of God - a temporary pursuit of happiness that essentially blesses monetarily and materialistically in return for faithfulness and good will. Much of the same doctrine can be found in the self-improvement books located down the aisle from the theology books. However not all individuals treasure and define prosperity by mere domestic comfort and pleasure; not all individuals find reward in forms of entertainment; not all individuals are able to practice their true abilities through cultural definitions of happiness; finally, not all individuals place such value on economic ladders. Now, there is virtually nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves. These days when Christians bicker they exaggerate passion into a legalistic belief and prosperity into a lukewarm belief. But what is God's definition of a blessing to each individual, since after all, it is a personal relationship rather than a cultural relationship?

It is inevitable that there will always be trends. Although, what is most prominent in modern Western Christianity? Better yet, what is success in the eyes of God as opposed to the eyes of man? As of late there has been a deadlock inclination that the work of an individual is fruitless if that work does not produce some sort of monetary profit. Essentially, money is merely a tool, not a goal, especially for one who projects everything, from faith to peace to success, into the hands of God. The more emphasis the desiring hearts of men put on a single tool to succeed, the fewer options he leaves for himself to succeed. Most men think that building a profit or climbing the social ladder is God's primary means of sending a blessing. I find that this is a hindrance to the true potential that God has for man. He is a worker of miracles, a creator, one who has granted great authority to those who are faithful. The man who continuously seeks God delights in creativity, he delights in discovering and witnessing his own strength, without submission to the gods of his time, under the hands of God who is beyond time.

As previously mentioned, the inclination is driven under the assumption that God's sole purpose is to provide little luxuries, which lead only to a rather fickle happiness, for every man that truly confides in his will. On the contrary, there are individuals with a more prophetic perspective; they do not walk in the here-and-now but by legacies for the coming generations. On earth, they might never witness their own successes or prosperities, yet reserved for them are blessings greater than those that which the world itself has to offer. God favors men and women who delight in being made worthy of happiness before the happiness itself. These people ask themselves, "If I were to die this instant, what message, eternally valuable, did I leave behind? How could one find me?"
They know that pride and power fall when the person falls, but discoveries of truth form legacies that can be built upon for generations.

First and foremost, the greater good in many cases is to speak of what is sure and profitable in the eyes of eternity, and this is done by clinging onto the example of Christ. He is the only teacher to ever set an irrefutable, timeless example for all cultures and all men. Some men delight in stepping outside of the cultural circle in an attempt to speak for all people. Indeed that is considered overdoing it, however, amplification signifies leadership:

"In winter Diogenes walked barefoot in the snow. In summer he rolled in the hot sand. He did this to harden himself against discomfort. 'But aren't you overdoing it a little?' a disciple asked. 'Of course,' replied Diogenes, 'I am like a teacher of choruses who has to sing louder than the rest in order they may get the right note.'"

How many have a passionate desire, though we will fail again and again, to lead a life following the absolute purity and certainty of the example of Christ? On the other hand, how many have become nothing more than inspirational speakers who focus only on certain highlights meant to emotionally inspire those within one's own culture and time period? Simply put, there were times in history and places on earth where people died or suffered for Christ just as there were times and places where people lived and prospered for Christ. They are both worthy simply because they are both for Christ.

It is quite superficial and safe when a televangelist implies that one must be happy or that he must prosper, by cultural definition, in order to be right with God. I have no problem with God if some of us were meant to suffer on earth in order to bring something worthwhile, something eternal out of us. I for one do not give much when everything is flawlessly moving to my advantage; I am too busy dancing in my selfish, self-righteous pool of ignorance. Sometimes it takes a lowly, title-less man to humble the world. Kings, rulers, CEOs, judges, doctors, pastors, they are already expected to be greater and wiser.

To be sincere, or maybe just believable, about helping others through adversity, one has to have experienced it himself first. This is my strangest prayer, and in this I can never regret a thing. It is a kind of self-sacrificial love, one of life's greatest components. I do not care about happiness simply because I believe that joy is something worth fighting for. Joy lies in one's desire to bear the burdens of others today and tomorrow (Galatians 6:2). It is not a tragedy; the most innocent man in history, Jesus Christ, suffered for the most beautiful event in history. The work of the divine, the act of love is to walk among those less fortunate than oneself. Good works is giving to the poor and the helpless, but divine works is showing them their worth to the One who matters. That is the definition of ultimate prosperity, and anything else, although not necessarily wrong, is indeed settling for less.

Ultimate prosperity is one's value within. It takes a man of depth, morality, and charm to be envied yet without a sign of wealth or romance. A passion to prove such inner worth is his permission to achieve whatever he desires. With a hint of good judgment, to fear nothing, not failure or suffering or even death, indicates that you value life the most. You live to the extreme; you push limits; you spend your time building legacies. Those do not die.
The walk of Christ in every sense of the phrase - this is the only constant joy, one that timelessly prevails throughout any and every culture. It is simple, as Kierkegaard said, "The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Know Oneself, Then Know One Another

When you have wit of your own, it's a pleasure to credit other people for theirs; and living by that principle, when people constantly try to ignore you or your talents it actually makes you even more confident, as though you cannot be matched.

Nowadays there are many different tests and evaluations intended to reveal one's dominant qualities. While some may be fraudulent, or maybe just inaccurate, I find StrengthsFinder 2.0 to be one of the most authentic. For those who can only follow me through cyberspace, I believe that sharing traits can provide at least an inch of direction to my nature and characteristic train of thought. The more one knows about how another person is programmed to make their decisions, whether agreeing or disagreeing with an actual decision, the easier it is to constructively criticize, accept, love, understand, and effectively rebuke that person when a circumstance calls. How is it that Christ has such a perfect love yet a flawless judgment? He knows each individual better than the individual knows himself; his Father is the one who designed and built our strengths and tendencies.

Also, I must say that true understanding and acceptance are not passive convictions that entail an "anything goes" mentality when practiced sincerely and effectively, but they, in result, provide accurate sources for godly accountability of one another; when or if in disagreement, the saying comes to mind, "To defeat [or repair] something you have to know it." I previously shared a passage from C.S. Lewis on the vulnerability of love, and I would be quite the hypocrite if I intentionally shielded my own thinking habits and much of what drives me to interpret things the way that I interpret them from those with whom I share my thoughts and interpretations.

This is my StrengthsFinder 2.0 report:

"Top 5 Themes:

People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has reason.

By nature, you often are the one who helps people understand how they are linked across time, distance, race, ethnicity, religion, economic levels, languages, or cultures. You make it possible for individuals to work together. You aim to break down barriers that separate them. Instinctively, you may be guided by the notion that no one can live life without some help from others. Perhaps this idea compels you to consider how what you do and say affects people you know and individuals you will never meet. It’s very likely that you demonstrate a heightened sensitivity to the challenges facing various members of the human family. The faces you see in the news often strike you as familiar, not foreign. You usually feel a strong bond between yourself and these individuals. You intentionally refrain from being surrounded only by people who remind you of yourself. Driven by your talents, you choose to associate with people whose philosophical perspective gives them both balance and courage in the face of adversity. Because of your strengths, you consider people more important than things. The value you place on humankind guides your decision-making. It also influences what you say and do as well as what you choose not to say and do.

People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

It’s very likely that you realize you can identify a variety of problems and respond to a wide range of questions. You probably can pinpoint specific times when you proposed alternative ways of doing things. You probably recall giving answers no one else considered. You are aware that your subconscious mind continuously absorbs information and creates possible options. Chances are good that you are a self-reliant person who needs time alone to think and work. You generate innovative ideas and propose systematic programs of action. You likely identify recurring configurations in the behavior of people, the functioning of processes, or the emergence of potential problems. Driven by your talents, you invent original ideas of your own. Your imagination is typically stimulated when you collaborate — that is, team up — with future-oriented thinkers. Because of your strengths, you might easily detect unusual configurations or spot new trends in data or factual information. Devising options appeals to you. You have little interest in simply repeating what worked in the past. Instinctively, you trust your ability to be an innovative thinker. You routinely invent many ways you can reach a single goal. Only then do you start narrowing down your options to the best one. You probably take into consideration prevailing circumstances, available resources, budgetary constraints, or pressing deadlines.

People who are especially talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.

Driven by your talents, you often accommodate the unique talents of people. Characteristically you accept human beings just as they are. You argue that excellent outcomes are produced by people who have ample opportunities each day to do what they do well. It’s very likely that you notice the unique traits that differentiate one person from everyone else. You have little patience with people who stereotype others into general categories. You prefer to describe individuals with specific and vivid details. No two people and no two lives are exactly the same, you contend. Watching people gives you much pleasure. It also provides you with lots of information others miss. Instinctively, you select projects, assignments, or tasks that allow you to use your talents to produce outcomes. You actively seek opportunities to work independently. You probably realize you make a lot more progress when you are allowed to work alone. Chances are good that you invest much more time thinking about your good points than agonizing over your shortcomings. You usually proceed faster and produce better results when you build on your talents. By nature, you inspire others by finding out what motivates them. You give individuals lots of recognition. You celebrate each person’s uniqueness. Your acknowledgments and compliments typically energize people.

People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

Driven by your talents, you are willing to spend time sharing your ideas with intelligent individuals. Of course, you want them to tell you their latest thinking. Conversations that involve a lot of questions and answers stimulate your mind. You know you have spent your time wisely when you have a number of new ideas, theories, or concepts to somehow file away or remember for future use. Because of your strengths, you yearn to increase your knowledge by being kept in the information loop. This explains why you gravitate to people who converse about ideas at a deeper and more thoughtful level than most individuals are capable of doing. "Making small talk" — that is, engaging in idle conversation — probably seems like a waste of time to you. By nature, you spend a lot of time pondering your future. You can experience anxiety about your prospects. Fortunately, your ability to reason through stress-producing situations calms many of your fears about the unknown. Chances are good that you traditionally want to think with visionaries. You are quite comfortable with long stretches of silence. Why? Quiet allows you and the others to mull over theories or create inventions that can alter the course of history or change the way ordinary people live. It’s very likely that you gravitate to discussions where the participants are committed to searching for truth and reason.

People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

Because of your strengths, you usually equate education — formal and informal — with understanding more about something today than you understood about it yesterday. It’s very likely that you genuinely care about the people you meet. Your fondness is apt to be apparent to them. Habitually, you ask lots of questions and carefully study the responses. Because you take time to know them personally, many individuals feel safe sharing their innermost thoughts or feelings with you. Armed with these insights, you probably become their ambassador of good will. You frequently teach your circle of acquaintances and friends how to welcome these people into the group. Instinctively, you desire to acquire additional knowledge and gain new skills. Why? You are naturally curious. You often work alone to commit information to memory. You probably have a solitary place where you can practice your art, craft, sport, or science. Chances are good that you can finagle — that is, obtain by indirect or involved means — time with people who think about the coming years and decades. Routinely, you read their writings or listen to their conversations. You probably ask them questions and consider their responses. You file away lots of ideas and facts, sensing that one day this information will prove to be useful. Whether it ever actually does become useful makes no difference to you. Collecting the predictions of forward-looking thinkers is apt to be rewarding in and of itself. Driven by your talents, you have a strong need to know that you are taking the proper course of action before you begin. Without a doubt, your hunger for evidence, data, or background information is immense. Whether your sources of knowledge are people, classes, books, the Internet, or discussions, you are hardwired to be as informed as you possibly can be prior to starting most ventures. You probably prefer to be overly prepared rather than risk being poorly prepared."