Thursday, January 2, 2014

Poem for 2014

2014 - three years from the return,
Grace I ever earned,
Lessons learned, I opened the textbook to see a curriculum I never heard,
That's right, wisdom is where the jewels are found,
We have heard of the word 'treasures,' so profound,
But we don't know where to start looking,
Like going to a travel agency without a destination we start booking,
We find trinkets along the way,
The shop stalls of success, love, fame, lust, pleasures, to pain,
Merchants display their wares,
Thinking that this is the place where money spent will spend all your cares,
But I keep looking and looking, no point to start,
Wisdom is the virtue that contains the application of knowledge,
Book smart from college can never polish,
Why you exist and whom you exist for,
That life ownership is not a stake to be bought with, yet what's more is that...
It is given, blessed by the Jah I know that I will be living,
If I pursue the lifeway path, all the way to the Son,
For whom all things orbit, in Him I find consistency in His sphere,
For someone greater than Solomon is here. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Warm Moments

Sometimes in the midst of freezing weather I like to think of warm weather. Of course, people would respond, "well when summer hits you will be thinking of wool sweaters, hot showers, and hot cocoa, so you just wait!" That's true, so I try to take stock in all the blessings that four seasons bring. Like, in the summer time, I notoriously sweat more liquid than one NBA team combined so it gets my clothes wet and all that, winter time, I never have to worry about that.

Through it all, though blessed with a roof over our heads, I like to think of warm moments to warm a heart.

I was teaching an extra class in 2008 at the ladies' high school in Korea. I remember the class was from 6:30PM to 8PM, and I was given free reign to teach whatever I wanted, so I thought I introduce American culture through a film called "Finding Forrester." The kids were intrigued since they were viewing life through the lens of a talented high school student named Jamal, so it was a film they definitely liked. Yet I remember, watching that film in the English Zone, looking outside the windows...the sun setting, the rest of the school virtually silent (enforced study time), warm night coming out, and good discussion afterward about the film. I am still amazed of how I traveled halfway across the world to teach in another country's school.

Teaching an extra class in 2007 at the guys' high school in Incheon, South Korea. Same class time as previously mentioned, but with guys, you can relate to them as a big brother type of person in their life. Also, sports. After we finished extra classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, we used to grab the basketball, go out there, and shoot some cord. It was really fun. Don't let the stereotype fool ya, Asian brothers can ball. Some of them showed me up! With the sun setting those nights, the cool night flowing in, crickets chirping, bouncing noises of a rubber ball, and sounds of Korean commands of "pass-shoot-get him!" running across the night sky, you just have to thank the Lord for a moment like that.

I remember as I finally started to get used to my surroundings in my city in 2007, I started to branch out more and explore at nights. Yeah, cities in America are fun to explore, but sometimes a major turn off is the actual safety of a place during night hours. In Korea, safety is a proud feature of their society as many can walk around liberally at night without fear of malevolence. An added bonus is that exploring in Korean cities is a dynamic thing, meaning that there are always neat things right around the corner. Their people are very dynamic and energetic: restaurants buzzing at night, people still working in the streets, students returning from academies and clicking on their cell phones. Neon lights everywhere, seafood restaurants with "free aquariums" selling their wares out front, people chatting it up late. So one night, with much time to kill, one of my favorite things to do was to pop in my iPod and walk around new districts of the city. I love people watching, seeing new parts of the city, watching life go by. That particular summer night in 2007, I was listening to a band called MuteMath. A very good rock band with laced electronica to their sound. At the end of their self-titled album, they have a song called "Reset." The track has no lyrics. Its simply a filler song/instrumental. Its just beats with great rhythms and ambient sounds. It was THE perfect exploration song. That night I just walked! When "Reset" came to an end, I came back and re-played the track. It was such a fun night to just be free after taking all that time to get adjusted to my surroundings.

Its warm moments like these that were made courtesy of the Lord God Almighty...who paved the way there for me to explore.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Treason

Ecclesiastes 5:11:
"As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?"

A take on the Holiday Season. It doesn't even deserves the title "Christmas." Really. People spend thousands of dollars using plastic credit to please people with gifts they know they can't afford. Running from store to store with a list in hand to check off the people that you think need a gift in order to appreciate. Customers shoving and pushing each other on Black Friday for videogames, DVDs, and clothing like they were playing defense against LeBron James. People acting out of goodwill towards one another because green and red tell us to be nice for one month. Green and red are our colors that tell us to be good.

That's like South African president Jacob Zuma telling South Africans to be good for "one month" during the World Cup this year. (Which he did, due to South Africa's notorious crime rate)

People guard and protect the tradition of Christmas like that itself will make people feel joy. I see a flaw in that, because last time I checked the season is about Jesus Christ Himself. His Grace and Mercy by emptying Himself of Glory to become human like us. A baby. We think its cute that Jesus is a baby...but it blows my mind to think that our God, YHWH, Elohim, Jehovah, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the One who made you, came down as a baby! A helpless baby! Think about that...

Now, I don't think there's nothing wrong with remembering our Christ's birth. There are legitimately good things that come about as families gather together to have good ol' fashion family time, because frankly, we don't do it much in American society anymore. Yet we can all legitimately say that Christmas was and is hijacked. To be honest, most people don't have fun. Its pack the van, go to the stores, get the gifts, and endless holiday preparations. Christmas may bring some time of actual bad memories, because of events that gone awry with family, friends, work-related problems, the Great Recession, and self-esteem.

I just want to challenge the notion of Christmas to those who are tired of the cliche themes of "peace on Earth, goodwill to Men" if people don't know why He came.

1. Look at the Real Jesus - what was His Mission? What did He come here to do? Read the story of the Nativity with your family, or to yourself. Share the Gospel with one another to flesh out the end result and ongoing story that is going on now!

2. Give gifts that matter. Does someone need something? Need help due to the Recession? Give them gift cards or cash. Give them something they lack.

3. Write legit cards. Write how you really feel about someone. How has she or he impacted your life? Send the card to them. Don't just buy a Hallmark and sign your name on the bottom. They know Hallmark wrote it. One of my biggest petpeeves. Can you encourage that person somehow?

4. Tell your kids (or nephews, little nieces, cousins) about others in the world who don't have the gifts they get (i.e. the children of Asia, Africa, and South America). Just let them know to appreciate and have fun with the gifts they get. But don't forget to tell em' about the greatest gift we have, The Son of God, given by the Father.

5. To see the impact of how Christmas affects the lives of those who actually trust and believe in Jesus, type in for example, "LeCrae testimony" on YouTube (LeCrae is a famous Christian artist whose life was radically changed by Christ). I think that's one way to keep Christmas legit.

6. Don't talk about stupid, fluffy stuff at Christmas dinner. "Hey Harold, how about that Doopers' football game?" How about "we know somebody's going to win anyway?" Talk about funny family memories, share the Gospel, share your testimony, talk about the past year, talk about something you learned. Brain food is good for the Holidays.

7. Go for a walk. Don't be cooped up inside (of course, weather pending). Take a cousin, a friend, or family member out for a walk and enjoy the outdoors. If its one thing I really take pleasure about America is the fact we have lots of space. Space to just move. And we are a nation that is obese! Wow...

8. Watch a fun, Christmas movie. Pick something. Hallmark Channel has a bunch of cheesy films to watch. Play a game, like mute the volume and put your own text into it.

9. Play boardgames. Videogames if its fun for everyone (fighting games where one person remains supreme does not count).

These are just ideas. Not a solution to Christmas woes. The only human solution to Christmas woes is to look to Jesus and see why He came. Everything else is peripheral. Jesus makes Christmas fun! Makes us reflect. Makes us be filled with joy to be reminded why we are here. I hope you, my friend, enjoy with Christmas, and reflect on His love and power to save us from sin. From a little the King of Kings.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bunch of Bums

Something cool I'm realizing about the Bible is how the Grace of God manifests itself through a "bunch of bums."

I grew up admiring our forefathers of old in the faith...Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. I have intense respect for the New Testament brothers who held down the faith...John and James, Peter, Paul, Stephen, Silas, Timothy, and Titus. There are countless others. I've read about the major and minor prophets whom the Lord used to be His mouthpieces...Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and others. The kings and judges of old who through the Lord's power did some major conquering and defending in the nation of Israel while maintaining worship to the Lord: David, Hezekiah, Deborah, Josiah, and Asa. Foreigners who followed God rather than their own people like Rahab, Ruth, and Namaan.

I look up to God because of them. They had faith in God and God used them to bring glory to His name. Sometimes I think that I personally can't be on their level because God elevated them on a whole another level. They just had "it" when it comes to faith in God.

But as I look at their lives more intricately, I started seeing more of how God was using people who were simply flawed and sinful. Yeah, its like we think these faith warriors were sinless so God chose them instead: they had the talent like a spiritual LeBron James or Ronaldinho. But, just take a look at how much these guys biffed up in their sin, yet our Lord was still faithful to finish the work that He started. He used these ordinary people to do His work.

Moses killed an Egyptian man who was abusing one of his fellow peoples (Exodus 2). David committed adultery and murdered the lady's husband through manipulation (2 Samuel 11). Rahab, who helped the Israelite people into Jericho, was a prostitute (Joshua 2). Abraham lied about his wife being his wife to the Egyptians, which brought calamity on them (Genesis 12). Jacob deceived and cheated his brother Esau...twice! (Genesis 25 and 27) Judah, one of the forefathers of our Savior Jesus, had relations with his daughter-in-law (Genesis 38). King Hezekiah ended up showing envoys of Babylon, potential thugs from the outside, his vast treasures and riches that he had stored, a huge mistake (2 Kings 20). And there are many more, because as Isaiah so aptly puts it: "I am a man of unclean lips!" (Isaiah 6:5) In God's presence, we are in big trouble.

I was just thinking about this phrase from rapper Stephen the Levite before begins his song "Stained Glass Window:"

"I'll never understand it man, a Holy God, not just allowing, but choosing sinful men, to represent Him, its crazy man..."

So, if you ever feel like God's grace is not sufficient for your sinful baggage, regret, pain? To magnify God's glory forevermore, read the Word and see how He uses and makes holy sinful people for His glory; to draw people to Himself. You'll find that a person like King David is more similar to you than you think. That's what the Bible is all about...God's Power, Glory, and Magnificence through human history, yet using ordinary, sinful people to be His vessels. And He does it all through His son, Jesus Christ, who took our sins to make it happen on the cross.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chris Brown Teaches English Better Than I Do

This is a hilarious story that shows how pop culture can influence people better than real people.

While teaching Class 1-11 at my high school in Korea in 2009, I decided to play some music while they were doing an individual activity. I start off each class with a lecture and then some kind of activity where they have to do something on their own so they won't have to be bored all the time. I would usually play music from my iTunes library, music they never heard of, just to set the mood while they were working.

Earlier that week, during a free period at the office, I looked up YouTube videos of Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. I am a casual fan of the boy wonder from Portugal, and I enjoy watching his footwork on the ball. This one compilation video of his football acrobatics was accompanied by a really nice R&B song that was quite catchy. I didn't know who it was at the time, being that I don't really listen to pop music in the States.

Commenters on the video were asking what the song was for some of them too did not know. Then the ominous came in the form of "Chris Brown, With You." Chris Brown is the infamous pop star who abused his girlfriend Rihanna, another famous pop star in the States. He received a lot of flack and charges for it.

Now, to anyone who reads my blog or has read this blog, I have portrayed what its like to work in the public school system of South Korea. It is a system of intense, rigorous study yet with no practical real life applications. So English is an off-target program where they have the goal to learn English but they miss the shot by a mile. Most of my kids study intensely daily, but have hardly any chance to speak, therefore, a good majority do not speak it well. Many kids know grammar well, but sentences are often broken. I'm not blaming them, I blame the system.

So how did Chris Brown teach English better than I did that day? During individual work time, I played his song in the middle of class. I had two girls in that class whose English really wasn't that good. One girl in particular never participated and she always looked off towards the East Sea in boredom. She even wrote one time in her notebook that my "Soni's class is not fun." Hey, she's honest. Speaking English to the both of them was like speaking English to fish..."huh?" Okay, I'm exaggerating, because one of the girls was decent, but the East Sea-staring off to space girl had hardly no English.

Yet, when Chris Brown started singing...I heard more voices.

It was the two of them. Not only singing the choruses, but ALL the verses by heart. Flawless. I asked them if they knew who this was..."Yeah teacher! Chris Brown!" And they sung the entire song by heart.

Chris Brown bested me that day. Teaching English by pop songs is a good method. But Chris Brown? Give me a break. I would never teach them to abuse others.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Source of Evil

"Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invest ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." - (Romans 1:28-32)

I became very horrified and depressed about this story of a trial of a home invasion and massacre committed in the state of Connecticut in 2007. Read the article above, because I will spare you the details as you read the gruesome account of man's wickedness and its capability to destroy life.

How man can be so diabolical? How can man do such things in all parts of the globe?

"When the question of evil is brought up, it is raised by a person or about persons. If the question is of any value, its only of value if a person is of value, and the only way a person can have value, is if there is a transcendent being of infinite worth who has given you that intrinsic worth, not given to you by state or law, or by any other fiat, will, or something else. " - Dr. Ravi Zacharias

Even in an increasing-secularizing society of America, where man tries to deliberately separate life apart from God, people in the hearts still KNOW there is God. They just deny it with their sinful lifestyle, while God, not denying free will, allows man over to his depraved mind. We make excuses that people are evil because they were reared wrong, they are messed up mentally, or that only a certain select population are capable of evil because there is something wrong with them.

Yet, looking at this saddening story, it drives me into honest depression and analysis of how man can do such things to other human beings. I look at the Bible, and it clearly outlines that its man's wicked looked at in my last blog. God is not the author of evil. He cannot be. He is Holy. But man wants it his way, and since God cannot violate the free will of mankind, He allows them into their sin. Its man wickedness and sin nature that violates other human beings and is capable of destroying.

People who do not believe in God and are vehemently against the notion of Him who created all things have a quandary in their thinking. If God is not the author of life, then naturally man is the creator of all things and he makes the rules. Man can do what he pleases outside a moral authority and he sets right and wrong, whether by socially or individually. That's why people are capable of doing such wicked things; with no referent to the value of life in God and Christ Jesus, someone can selectively choose whose life is valuable or not. Man can then choose what is pleasurable at the expense of someone else's sacred life. Outside of God, man seeks what is good and pleasurable to him, but has no regard to the person who is violated, even to the point of death.

My whole point is lost not because we are are ignorant, but its our original nature. When people cry at trials and people are horrified when they see news like this, that's just another indicator that intrinsically KNOW that life has value. Its one evident proof that they do know God exists, because in order for life to have value, there must be a creator infinite worth who had a design in the beginning for creating man in God's image. And I believe that God is the God of the Bible, The Old and New Testament, the Alpha and the Omega.

"In atheism, its all oblivion, without God there is no moral framework." - Dr. Ravi Zacharias

No God, then people will just do what they want to do, and they die. No judgment, no justice, no love. We die, that's it. Just do what you want now and then you go into oblivion.

See what Paul was writing up in Romans? That this is not a new problem. Its old. The scary thing is, a person like me is capable of all those things he mentioned in those verses. To simply say those criminals are the only selective evil people capable of such acts is missing the point. God's Word outlines that anyone is capable of evil. Yet in seeking justice and the answers behind man's evil, we must look to God's Word, not our own standards. Our own standards just lead to more sin and sidesteps the real issue of who is at fault.

Next time, when you see a brutal massacre and violence in Guinea, warfare atrocities, robberies, rape, and everything listed in Romans 1:28-32, don't be surprised! Instead, I hope you are broken-hearted to realize evil is not a peripheral (outside) problem. Its an internal problem of mankind, old as Adam and Eve themselves. Yet evil attacks the peripheral world, because we are the source of it, in choosing us over God.

Yet the good news is that God's Son, Jesus Christ, died for people like Mark Soni and everyone else because as the Creator realized how hopeless as we are, He loved us still to send a Savior. And not violating our Will, we as human beings can choose His son to give us a new nature, one away from sin and evil. Life here is already doomed here. Let's choose True Life in the Son. And someday, the One who died for us will return with a vengeance: to eliminate evil and to establish His rightful throne here on earth. (Revelations 19)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Look Into A Mirror

Matthew 15:19-20: "For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean.'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.'"

Last night, while watching the premier episode of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, I flipped through other channels to see what's on. I came onto VH1's "Top 40 Celebrity Scandals." I stopped to watch, and surprisingly, I knew most of these scandals that broke out. The reason I knew that they broke out is that our wonderful national news coverage tends to cover controversies and scandals as their top headlines rather than important, global-covering crises in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. It really is a product of national-centered news coverage that leaves Americans very oblivious of other true problems in the world today; that we should be hearing about the mishaps and sinful behavior of celebrities who have a lifestyle that none of us should not dream about.

Yet my main piñata-beating point for today is the hypocrisy of the show. Hypocrisy upon all of us. The show would do its countdown, covering old scandals from former politician Mark Foley's racy comments to his congressional interns, to sportscaster Marv Albert's lewd behavior in a hotel room and his criminal charges. The first reaction from any person in viewership is shock and laughter, shock from the bizarre sinful behavior, and laughter to see how silly they are in getting exposed. The most bizarre and funny incident involved a former NFL player, Eugene Robinson, who received the Bart Starr Award for high moral character, only to be arrested that night for soliciting a prostitute. Ridiculous.

After describing each scandal, there is a segment where comedians make fun of the incident and journalists who give analysis and insight to each shocking it was and several jokes to complement it.

But I found something very interesting, an assumption as we the audience and the comedians/journalists have about these celebrities when it comes to moral behavior. Its very subtle, but very true: "We are better than them, only celebrities goof up and we expect them to do it." Since idolatry is prevalent in American society, we either expect these people to do these things anyways since they have access to a lavish lifestyle , or we become so shocked that these people of "higher standing" fall so fast.

Time to look into the mirror. Look at the verse above. Jesus outlines and blasts the Pharisees' hypocritical maintenance of traditional laws in religion (Matthew 15) as their basis of remaining clean in their life, presenting themselves as moral people. But Jesus exposed their hearts as they nullified the Word of God for the sake of tradition while showing that they spiritually were far away from God (verses 6-9).

So we point the finger and say, "celebrities are just doomed to fail and they are always going to be in situations where they will fall." We look at the analysts and comedians as they break down the moral failures of their life, with us assuming that "yeah, uh huh, we know that we would never get into outlandish situations like that." We feel as if celebrities are the only people who are capable of such sin.

Yet I love how Jesus exposes and convicts our hearts. The whole point is, you and I are just as capable of committing sin as someone in "high stature." We assume we live humble lives as middle-class or lower-class citizens because we don't have the means to get into "clever sins." We think that by going to church and steering clear of doing stupid stuff like this and not getting exposed will keep us clean before God and people. We won't get humiliated.

But if we truly look at what Jesus is saying, if someone really examines the Law (The Ten Commandments) and how our Savior came to fulfill, we should be humiliated anyway, because we are all sinners!

Another way to look at it, just imagine all our thoughts, especially in line with the sins Jesus outlined above, were exposed on television. You and I as regular Joe Shmoes were on a TV show called "Top Sinful Thoughts of Regular Citizens." Yet you might protest "but I never committed the act openly." Yet in the book of 1 John 1:10 says, "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him (Jesus) out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." Its a heart issue, and God is Holy: no defect, no contradiction of truth in Him, and no tolerance for sin. Being good people doesn't count it. If we believe we are better than celebs in God's eyes, then all that is left in us is pride. In other words, you might not commit the act openly, but your heart exposes your sinful behavior anyway, committed or not. You can easily murder someone in your mind, or cuss out a person in your brain, or think lustful thoughts. You and I just committed sin when we cross that barrier.

To wrap this up neatly, we know that God's judgment falls upon all of us. Yet Jesus died for the ungodly (Romans 5:8). That means He died for celebrities and everyone else. Died to give us a new life through His resurrection. To those who believe, we should have broken hearts for those who are exposed, but also should serve as a warning not to forget where we come from. To those who do not believe in Jesus, it is a call to see that your life is not perfect, no matter what you hide, God still knows about your sin. Yet how much more did Jesus pay it all.

Get It Done...

Get It Done...
2010: The Year of the Soni Tiger