Selfish faith

There are many qualities of a Christian that tend to be misunderstood… by both Christians and non-Christians alike. One of those is our call to be selfless. First, let’s define it…

adjective \ˈsel-fləs\
: having or showing great concern for other people and little or no concern for yourself

Okay. What does the Bible, actual scripture, say about selflessness? says this:

“The characteristic of being selfless is one of the most important traits any Christian can have. It’s so significant that Jesus said it is the second most important of all God’s commandments: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31; cf.Galatians 5:14). Jesus wasn’t creating a new law here; He was merely agreeing with and expounding on an Old Testament law (Leviticus 19:18). James calls this the “royal” law to emphasize its supreme value to God (James 2:8).

“Jesus had much to say about selflessness during His earthly ministry. In the Sermon on the Mount, He goes beyond what some may think of as selflessness—helping a friend, ministering to a spouse, caring for an ill child, etc. Jesus extends selflessness far beyond normal expectations—we are to love our enemies, even, and pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:44). Jesus taught that it’s easy to love a friend or a spouse—even unbelievers do that (Matthew 5:47). The Christian is expected to love the unlovable, because this is how we become more like God, who gives blessings to everyone (Matthew 5:45). It’s a difficult thing to lay aside hurt feelings and wounded hearts, but that’s part of being selfless.

“As in so many areas, Jesus is the ultimate example of selflessness. In coming into this world, “he made himself nothing” and took upon Himself “the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). Now, as followers of Christ, we are to “have the same mindset” (Philippians 2:5). Jesus came not for His own benefit but for ours. He came to minister to us and die for us: “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).”

(Read the full article here.)

There’s a lot to be said for being selfless. But I believe we must learn to be much more selfish.
In particular, being selfish with your faith. I don’t mean be selfish by withholding your faith from other people. Rather, to be selfish with the time you spend investing in your faith.

At one time, I took pride in being a Yes Man. (See above.) I was gung ho, ready, and eager for any adventure to be experienced or aid to be lent. I was giving myself over to opportunities and other people all the time. Was I leading a full life? In one sense, yes. But what I was falling victim to was a vast overextending of myself, and leaving God out of the picture. I believe in taking care of “in house” issues before outsourcing too much aid, lest both parties crumble. But more importantly, I’ve come to discover an internal frontier which needs all the aid it can get.

I’ve come to understand recently that being a Christian is not a passive role. Now, doing more good works will not give you a better seat in heaven. We are saved by Grace through faith alone. But faith without works is indeed dead. Faith inspires works. And works can likewise inspire faith. But it’s easy to get bogged down by the repetitive regulations. I’ve been told a million times – maybe not, but many, many times… Go to church. Say your prayers. Read the Bible. There was a great weight of legalism; a feeling of unauthentic repetition. In water polo training we called it “going through the motions”. And doing it all solely for the sake of tradition. Or someone else’s approval, like that of my parents.

Think of it this way… Do you feel obligated to see your best friend? Is it a chore to call them? Do you hate them for calling you out when you’re acting out of line? (Maybe in the moment, but you love them for it! At least you should.) In this same way, we can look at church as an opportunity rather than an obligation. Honestly, I don’t feel like going to church every Sunday. A part of me would rather not wake up at 6am every Wednesday to meet with my men’s small group. There will be times when you’re resistant because you think the time may be given to something more critical in your life. Or… simply… you’d just don’t feel like it. Truth is, there is nothing more critical than your spirit. Take care of it, and it will take care of you. Maybe not in the way you want, expect, or hope, but in the way that you actually need.

Our relationship with our Father, our pursuit of Him and His knowledge is the single most important journey of our lives. It’s the foundation, the cornerstone, the groundwork for everything in life. The sad part is that so many people view Christianity and “being a good little Christian” as extremely confining and oppressive. It hinders and censors. I get how it could seem that way, or how it might have been explained or demonstrated to you in such a way. What greater turn off for artists or those who fear the label of ignorant?

The thing is, Christianity is the ultimate freedom. Have you ever realized how many negative thoughts you have towards others on a daily basis? About yourself? Have you ever held onto guilt with such weight you feel like you’re walking on your knees? Have you ever been consumed with the seemingly better lives of others, wishing you were anyone but yourself? Talk about confinement, oppression, hindrance, and censorship. Christianity doesn’t stop at Law. The Ten Commandments were given to us to show us just how much we fall short of perfection, yes, but we are also given Gospel so that we have every reason to turn back to God who has promised by the death and resurrection of His Son to forgive us for all our flaws.


So how can we be selfish about our faith?


One way is simply to pray more. Upon waking, be thankful for the day ahead. Before bed, be thankful for the day you were given. Before meals, be thankful for having food and the company you may be sharing it with. I used to say a quick, silent prayer when eating with friends so as not to offend anyone. But what I came to realize was that sometimes, I may be sitting with another Christian and may not know it, or they’re not but may want to be included anyway. So I simply ask, “Do you mind if I say a prayer?” Now, I don’t know many people that would say no, but its’ more about the opportunity for them to get involved if they so wish.

Scheduling 15 minutes of reading is another way you can be selfish with God. Ever been invited out but decline because you want to finish catching up on your favorite Netflix show? It’s kinda like that. Take inventory of how you spend your time every day. How much time do you spend at work, eating, doing chores, with friends and family, catching Pokemon, etc? Can you spare 15 minutes? Can you cut 15 minutes away from something else? 10 minutes? 5? But then, what to read? The Bible’s always a recommendation, but without some guidance that can be a tough place to start for some. Perhaps try The Reason for God by Timothy Keller if you’re starting out, just curious, or even in the thick of it. Perhaps drop by a local church and simply ask them where you can start. Ask friends. What you’ll find though is that once you start engaging, the content will find you.

One thing I do these days is I take the first 30 minutes of my morning to read The One Year Chronological Bible, which segments the Bible into 365 chapters in order of earliest story to latest, read and complete the exercises of a chapter of 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life by Tommy Newberry, and then take some time to journal.


I feel like adding a disclaimer…

I’ve been sharing about my faith a lot recently. It used to really intimidate me. “Oh no, I can’t talk about my religion or else people will be turned off by it and I’ll lose fans or friends.” But as I’ve come to put more hours into knowing God, the more confident I feel about who I am, what I believe, and who God is, and I’m no longer afraid to own it. But why share it? Because I would have loved to hear this from someone when I was younger. For those of you who have reached out with your support, thank you so much, and I’m thrilled it’s fed your spirit.

If you think I’m ignant, that’s okay too. You’re in my prayers, and in no belittling way. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re any less of a sinner. That goes for EVERYONE. Yes, even the Pope. He’ll tell you the same thing. If anything, it’s harder because you have to own up to it. But there’s no way you can be forced to believe. You can be reached out to, but what I hope is that you’ll reach back.

Kako Gol!

After earning a foul at about 7 meters out, Paulo Obradović of Jug Dubrovnik delivers backhand goal. The post-foul surprise backhand is nothing new. The nod goes to his targeting. The typical shot angle would be on the same side as the arm, to the goalie’s right. Obradović’s ability to go around his defender and crosscage is what makes this an impressive display.

Also notice that he begins his movement upward with eyes crosscage, bringing his defender’s left arm up and making him elevate, and continues in one motion with his shot.

“Kako gol!” (“What a goal!” in Croatian.)

2015: From Pause to Power

I don’t do New Years resolutions.

The New Year – for most people – has an undeniable energy. A refreshing opportunity to begin anew. There’s promise of a clean slate, a new chapter. The resolution is a declaration that starting January 1st – 12am for some, late morning/afternoon for others – one will adopt or drop a trait or habit.

The idea of waiting until a certain date to make a shift in lifestyle stems from shallow motivation. “I’ll give myself a few more days of this (even binge on it) and then later make the desired change.” See something off? You haven’t made the change already because you’ve allowed that certain habit to have power. If you give it undeserved respect by allowing it to continue until Monday, or the New Year, you’re continuing to contribute your power to it. Sure, it works for many people, but others are set up to fail. If you decide to not miss a single workout in 2015… and then you miss a workout… 2015 is ultimately a failure. Time for more Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.

If you know you want to be somebody, what is stopping you from starting today? Starting now? The year 2015. The month of January. They’re dates. Measurements. They’re invented tools for birthdays and accounting. They don’t define who you are. You do.

If you decide to act in the now, not Monday, for an entire year… that’s a lot of growth. And that’s what 2014 was for me. Not that I would find something about myself I wanted to change, changed immediately, and BAM! I WAS AWESOME! (Though it happened a couple times.) It was  a constant flow of experiences, lessons, struggles, triumphs, friends made, “friends” let go of, etc.

2015 does not make a new me.

2014 did.

While New Years resolutions lend themselves to failure and repeated cycles, I propose the idea of a theme. Throughout 2014, one thing that plagued my life was my hesitation. I’d spend way too much time making decisions. Especially in small or even petty circumstances. Deciding on a meal or beverage while out for dinner. Deciding on plans for a date. Deciding what training program to follow. Deciding what movie to watch. Deciding on a Twitter/Instagram username. Deciding what character to be for a round of Super Smash Bros.  This indecisiveness always came with a feeling of weakness. Of emasculation.

Hesitation. Pause. Stalling. Procrastination. I know I’m not alone. One look through Buzzfeed videos would attest that it’s not uncommon. (I can appreciate the hey-we-all-do-it trend of their content, but I fear the openness about some undesired qualities have encouraged they be accepted as the standard. See: casual sex.) We want to make the right, best, perfect decisions. Heaven forbid we make the wrong choice and live a life of regret. How great our lives would be if we just made the right choice! Of course, some things do call for more time and evaluation. Still, not to excess. I believe one can tell the difference.

There was a time when I often pondered what my life would be like if I went to UCLA instead of Pepperdine. UCLA was the family school. I grew up wanting to be a Bruin. After fateful events during the recruiting process, I chose to be a Wave. I would later wonder, would I have won an NCAA Championship at UCLA? Would I have gotten better training? Did I miss out on the big school experience? How would it feel to share an alma mater with my father? How would I have benefited from a larger, more prestigious film department? How much more networked I would be in life after college? Did I choose wrong?

Let’s see. I got an education at one of the top private universities in the country, and the most beautiful. A professor-student ratio of 13:1. I lived and learned with a smaller student body that became like family. I had professors who challenged me personally and academically. I met who would become my best friends. Had an extremely competitive and successful career as a water polo player (placing 2nd in the nation my junior year) that led me to experience playing professionally overseas. I am still working together with the improv and theater crowd from Pep. My faith grew tremendously through highs and lows.

Yeah, I definitely ended up in the loser bracket there. Naht.

I realized that a great portion of my hesitation was due to where I was placing my faith, if anywhere. I realized that my indecision was rooted in a fear of regret. That if I made a wrong choice, my life would be lesser. That I wouldn’t be provided for. In truth, I didn’t believe that God would take care of me. I made the assumption that in order to live out God’s plan, I had to know the plan first. I’d even pray for a sign or ask, God, what do you want me to do? What do you want from me? I’d sit waiting. Nothing. Then I realized why he was silent.

He already told me. And you.

God’s told us exactly what he wants from us. And that is our sanctification. Being a Christian for 27 years, I had heard the word before but never actually knew what it meant. Basically, sanctification means to live apart from this world, to live for God. This doesn’t mean we’re all commanded to hole up in the mountains as reclusive, secluded monks, to sit, pray, and read the Bible all day. We are not of this world, but we are in this world. We are built to connect, to love one another, share with one another. To love God above all else, and to love others as ourselves. When I would stall over different decisions, I’d be caught up in what the world would suggest I choose, or what others would think of my choice. But it’s never about them and me. It’s about Him and me. I sill have the responsibility to make a decision. But I do not have the sole burden. If my decision comes from a God-loving heart, I don’t have to worry about any decision I make. Even if things don’t work out the way you hope they would. God has a knack for provision. That being said…

I want 2015 to be the year of CHOICE. To accept responsibility, accountability, and choose. How? Starting with the small things. Just pick. Going out to dinner? This meal sounds good, great. No need to peruse and scrutinize. Date night? How about an evening stroll around the neighborhood, great. What movie? This movie is on my queue, great. Behavior begets behavior. If I am more consistent at making decisions, then I will be better at making decisions. Mistakes are bound to be made, but those mistakes are lessons to inform future decisions. There will be times where I find myself taking too long to make a choice. After all, I’ve become quite good at it by now. The first step towards any solution is being aware of the problem. Now I’ll be aware of it, and act according to my theme. A wise friend once told me, “The way we do anything is the way we do everything.” In other words, the way you handle the little, mundane things will create the status quo for the way you handle the bigger, monumental things.

We live in an age with increasing opportunity, openness, and options. Unfortunately, these have come with entitlement, indifference, and indecision. I’m guilty of all three at times. But I will do my best in choosing not to be.

A wrap for Francis

This past week I’ve been busy with USC School of Cinematic Arts student Jamie Napoli, acting in his thesis film Francis. My role was Francis, a worn out wrestling coach in San Pedro who, after being overshadowed by his older brother for his whole life, decides to take a stand for himself. And, gets the girl on the way. Yeh. A fantastic experience working with a very talented crew and cast. Jamie plans to run Francis through the festival circuit, and I’ll be posting notable updates!

Matthew Halla (DP), Brandon Brandon Hall (1st AD), Tron, Jamie Napoli (Co-Writer/Director), Temi Coker (Producer)

I’m not what I used to be

As far as conditioning goes, I’m not what I used to be.

Frankly, the workouts I was able to do in college and overseas amaze me. Water polo is still a sport I enjoy playing, but it’s certainly more fun to be in shape for it. Ask any athlete, especially another water polo player. It’s practical and logical to say that my prime years are passed, and I have to be content with getting older and out of shape. I mean, that’s what retired athletes do, right? Right. But only some.

I may not be able to hold 15x100yds on 1:10″ again, but I can get my butt out of bed this morning and get in the water.

Today’s training won’t get me in amazing shape by tomorrow. But combine today, with tomorrow, and every morning for a month or two and I know I’ll be in better shape than I am now. This goes well beyond exercise. Diet. Reading. Music. Relationships. Faith. You want overnight/instant success sometime within a year? You may get it, or you may not. If you do get it, it may last, it may not. But if you put in the work today, now, whatever it is, within a year you’ll have guaranteed gainz, with a foundation to last….

But this is just my opinion. You can do whatever the DUCK you wanna do. #persistence #stepone #onestep #motivation #gainz #levelup #hodgetwins #soapbox #waterpolo #athlete #yourethere #goodmorning

Water Polo Game Changer

There have been more global rule changes to the sport of water polo, according to WaterpoloWorld.  The game’s rules have been changing nearly every year to help make the game more attractive for the average spectator.  If you play the sport, it’s very fun to watch, but it can definitely be confusing to others.Interesting to see what happens next.

God Could Have Left Job Alone

Bob Sorge was a senior pastor and worship leader in upstate NY when he suddenly suffered a life-changing vocal injury in 1992 that left his voice very weak and painful to use. He can speak around an hour daily before the pain silences him. The author of over twenty books, he travels the world strengthening believers with the message God has given him — intimacy with Jesus and confidence in His promises. If you want to go deeper in the themes of this short film, Bob has written a book on the life of Job entitled, “Pain, Perplexity and Promotion.”