Category: Christian


Today I Believe

Lord, You have always given
Bread for the coming day;
And though I am poor,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
Strength for the coming day;
And though I am weak,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
Peace for the coming day;
And though of anxious heart,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept me
Safe in trials;
And now, tried as I am,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
The road for the coming day;
And though it may be hidden,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
This darkness of mind;
And though the night is here,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
When time was ripe;
And though you be silent now,
Today I believe.

The Answer to Our Question

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” -Matthew 4:18-20

I remember talking to my dad about my future a while back. “I’m still not sure what I want to do with my life.” I said. I was very frustrated (as most college kids are) about the fact that the choices I make now seem to pigeonhole me into one vocation or another, seemingly permanently. I didn’t feel prepared to answer the question: “What are you going to do with your life?” I was surprised by my dad’s response to my request for guidance: My dad, a successful doctor (with a Master’s Degree in Architecture on the side), who has all of the signs of cultural success, said,

“Adam, I’m 50 and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.”

I share this moment with you all because I think that the question as to our purpose here on earth is one that is burned deep into the soul of all human beings. Most often, we seek to find our ultimate significance through what we do. Isn’t it true that one of the first questions asked of us when in college is “What’s your major?” and, once in the workplace, “What do you do for a living?” I think (and I think that you’d agree with me) that our culture places immense value upon our occupation because it has nowhere higher to look when trying to answer the question:

“Why am I here?”

Enter the Reversal. Look at Matthew 4, where Jesus begins his ministry on earth and calls his first disciples to follow him. “Follow me” he says. You see, without some source of significance, without a caller to give us a calling, we create it on our own. For Peter and Andrew, their purpose on earth was probably something along the lines of “To be an honest, hard-working fisherman, God-fearing Jew, and steady provider for my family.”

Sounds great, right? Not when compared with what Jesus had in mind. You see, he calls us to so much more than a vocation or even to his mission. Jesus’ answer to our Question isn’t even on our level. He doesn’t answer primarily with a task but with himself. He gives more than a calling. He gives the opportunity to walk with the caller. True significance in this life can’t be found in a job, but in a person.

And our task flows from Him; to be his humble disciples, spreading his word to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:12-20), in whatever vocation we find ourselves. He doesn’t just say: “Follow me” He gives a completely new level of significance to the familiar task of fishing.  You know what I love about these verses? He didn’t say : “Come with me, I’m going to make you a Rabbi” as would have been the custom for a Rabbi to do when gathering disciples. Translated into today’s terms, he didn’t call them necessarily to be “Pastors.” He called the fishermen to be… fishermen. Brilliant, right? Jesus called them to do what they were already doing, but to do it with Him and For Him and in a way that Honors Him Alone.  Not all are called to be preachers, but all are called. If I was a betting man, I’d bet on the fact that the Lord has bigger plans for your vocation than you currently imagine, be it student, businessman, engineer, janitor, whatever.

And there’s the reversal: Jesus calls us to be… us, but to do it for Him. And that is the trick to deep significance in this life. Follow the Call closer and closer to the Caller. Jesus answers our question with nothing but himself.

4 Christian Songs That I Learned Something From

I know that Christian music can be bad.  Many songs try to have a message and lose the essential parts of a song in the process.  Some songs however, present a powerful message, a new way of thinking, and encourage us to fight the good fight.  I hope that some of these songs might do just that for you.  Enjoy!

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What Do I Know of Holy
by Addison Road

When asked what the greatest commandment of all was Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:17).  A way to think about this is knowing God.  Addison Road sings a great song about our limitations of knowing the Creator and our own short sightedness in “What Do I Know of Holy.”

I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?

Chorus:
What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be

Another great resource is the book Knowing God by J. I. Packer.

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What It Means To Be Loved
by Mark Schultz

This song is a picture of what it means to be a parent, and to love your child.  A song about hope, and overcoming the odds.  Powerful things happen when we bring our concerns to God in prayer!

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What Faith Can Do
by Kutlass

This song is powerful to me because I have had the exciting experience of faith moving a mountain.  Remember Jesus’ words, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you”  (Matthew 17:20).

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
And I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do

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Praise You In This Storm
by Casting Crowns

Great truths about God and holding fast to him even in times of trouble.  This song reminds me that God does not always “step in” and make everything better even if we would like Him to.  God uses trials in many ways, always for our good.  As such we should praise Him in every storm!

I was sure by now, God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it’s still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
“I’m with you”
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

Chorus:
And I’ll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

Do you have a favorite Christian song?  Share in the comments below.

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Visualizing the Bible

This is a cool visualization of word frequency in the Bible done by Sixty-Six Clouds.  Check out their website here: http://www.66clouds.com.

Conquering Recursion

This guest post is by Dean Zhang author of Bamboo Updates; you can find it here.  He is also a floormate of Tyler and Adam at the University of Illinois where he is studying Computer Science.

We’ve all seen the relapse phenomenon. It’s happened in friends and family. Sometimes it is a joyous thing and other times it is too painful to watch. Whether it be a habit or a serious addiction they always seem to find their way back to us as time passes.

Most of our lives, we’ve been told what not to do. Out of love, our parents tell us not to do certain things in order to be a good person. We listen to this out of good faith in our childhood but eventually, we put most all these properties into question. Perhaps it is at this time that we are told what not to do the most. I remember that in youth group at church, my youth pastor almost spent more time telling me what not to do than my parents did. Which leaves the dangling question: Why? Why is it bad? The most common answers we receive are:

“Because it is/I told you so”

“Because It’s in the bible”

“Because it’s against the law”

While these are legitimate answers for the most part (bar the first response as a default parent answer), they don’t give real basis for not doing any of these things. Being told what not to do doesn’t really prevent people from doing any of those things, they just instill guilt as they carry these actions out. Our hearts have never been seeded with the proper motivation.

Jesus gives us a parable in Mathew 12:43-45

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

This can be applied both literally and figuratively in many cases. We are often tempted to restart bad habits and addictions after we have just let them go but look at the reason: “When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. …” We tidy ourselves up after getting rid of bad things in our lives but we forget to replace the evil. “Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there.” Recursion occurs and things get worse.

So what fits in this house that has been swept clean and put in order? The answer is God’s spirit.  He’s big enough to fill the whole house…if you let him. It is a challenge as it requires transforming our selfish will into His will but everybody has the capability to do this because we were made for this.  God should be our motivation.

Allowing God’s spirit to inhabit all of you is also a frightening decision to make. Many times we find ourselves giving him 50% of the house, leaving the rest for our assets. Often, we don’t even want him to be our all and if it comes to it, do not be afraid to pray to want to want him to inhabit the whole house.

God must not only become the dominant figure in our hearts (house) but the only occupant as he is the pivotal part in permanently ending the recursive cycle.

On Being Needy

People have a natural aversion from being in need.  We like to have all the power, solve our own problems, leave everyone else out of it.  This works great as long as we are by ourselves, but it breaks down as soon as you mention the word team.

Feeling needed is empowering .  As Thoreau said, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”    Our chest puffs out when someone asks for our help and puts our solution into effect.  We want to share the news that our idea worked.  We wish it would happen more often!

In many cases a leader will be capable of doing all of the work necessary for a project.  The leader doesn’t really need the help of any of their followers.  The question is, what is lost if the leader does all of the work?  The answer comes in two parts, one for the followers and one for the leader.  In the case of the followers they are losing an opportunity to be involved.  An opportunity to use their own skills to further the vision and contribute.  This leads to a lack of buy-in and they feel detached from the project.  You will not find anyone who daydreams about a solution when they are not intimately involved with the problem.  A follower cannot be intimately involved with the problem if the leader has already solved it.  Soon, the leader will find themselves alone, the team disbanded.

The second loss is for the leader.  If the leader places themselves in need they lose the position of power.  Pride must go out the window, a hard thing to do.  It takes a certain humility to be in need.  It takes an even greater one to purposely put yourself there.  You may be capable of doing everything yourself, but what are your followers losing so that you can puff up your ego?

I think people learn better from stories than from lectures (this should be a post!).  So take a minute to read through John 4:1-42 below for a great story of Jesus humbling himself and talking to a Samaritan woman.  What is Jesus giving up (by even being on Earth, by talking to a social outcast) so that she can gain?

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John 4

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

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I challenge you to place yourself in need more often, give people the satisfaction of being able to help.  Listen to people’s ideas more often, seek their opinion, and attend to their answers.  You’ll be amazed at the results.

How do you empower others?  Share in the comments below!

The Bible: More than just “Food for Thought”

It’s a given fact that the act of reading has many benefits. If you know someone who is a professional writer, they will tell you that one of the greatest secrets to being a writer is being an avid reader; those who read can write more quickly, clearly, and colorfully than those who don’t read. Professional authors aren’t the only ones to reap the benefits of reading. We know that “Leaders are Readers,” as Tyler so poignantly put it in his previous post. We all have something to gain from the general practice of reading, but I think that we have much, much more to gain from the disciplined practice of reading the Bible.

I’d like to give a bit of backround upon Biblical literacy before I begin, so bear with me! The Protestant Reformation brought with it the largest wave of biblical literacy since the original authorship of the New Testament.

“That means that for roughly 1200 years, the common man was unable to read the Bible for himself.”

The Bible hadn’t been in any sort of common vernacular since the days of the translation of the New Testament into the Latin Vulgate by Jerome, which occurred somewhere around 383 AD. That means that for roughly 1200 years, the common man was unable to read the Bible for himself, and dependent upon a priest to even hear it spoken! Can you imagine the mysteriousness surrounding the Bible during those times? With Biblical illiteracy fresh within their minds, the Reformers strongly held to a doctrine known as Sola Scriptura, that is, the belief that Scripture alone contains all that is necessary for full salvation and spiritual growth. We would do well to carry their convictions. While it might be trendy or even marginally beneficial to read the holy books of other religions, we know that only the Bible will lead us to spiritual life.

So, apart from just holding to a view of Sola Scriptura, why should we read the Scriptures? To start with the seemingly most obvious:

  1.  It is the manner by which the God of the universe has chosen to communicate with us. For whatever reason, God chose to get his words to us in written form. That means that, whenever I open that book, on some level, the God of the universe, both through providence and through the work of the Holy Spirit, will speak to me. I may not know it, just as a plant may not feel water in its roots after every rainfall, yet, God will soften the soil around my soul and deeply, deeply change me.
  2.  Many people have given their lives to get me the book that I have today, most notably William Tyndale and John Wycliffe. So often we easily forget our history as the church. We have ancestors in our tradition who gave their lives and suffered horrible deaths because they were so passionate about the Bible – the same book that we often justify not reading because we are “busy” or “tired.” I think it is an amazing thing that there have been so many who have gone before us that have drawn the inner strength to do great things from the same book that graces our coffee tables and bookshelves. Read it!
  3. We need the words on those pages to be alive spiritually. Quite simply, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deut 8:3, Matt. 4:4, Luke 4:4) We need to encounter God’s words more than we need food. Do you believe that?

There are many more reasons why we should read the Bible, but I hope that those listed above will prove sufficient to at least drive you to consider the amount of time you spend reading the Bible. The Bible isn’t just “Food for Thought”; it’s food for our spiritual lives.

My God

My God…
Rap by Pastor Jason Chu, Beijing International Christian Fellowship

My God is not an old white man to be feared
With a list of rules that’s as long as his beard

He’s not a creation scientist
Who thinks if you can explain the rain that it makes it less great

My God is not a conservative Sex Ed teacher

Not a tract
not a VHS tape
not a bumper sticker
With a bogus slogan chosen for controversy
Or a candidate who managed to attract the right… wing.

He’s on the wrong side of the tracks – Palestines and Iraqs
He’s behind every person whose culture has turned their backs
He’s beside every divide to provide for both sides

He’s on top of the world…

…and still holds it together.

He’s the most clever

Sometimes he’s seen in Esther
Mary, Theresa, Lydia, Deborah
Rashawna, Jingyi, Eunju, Emma
Julie, Jessii, Tori, Becca

My God is not a limited release
You don’t have to line up – preorder – show up – and show receipts

He’s not a neatly produced show on stage
Or a test prep book with the answers in the back page

My God is not the Texas board of education

He’s not Jesus Camp but he’s also not The Simpsons

My God cries and my God laughs
He knows how it feels to drink cold beer in the bath
My God has a sense of humor
So he created me – an Asian pastor that raps

My God is strong enough to not need to prove himself
He’s big enough that he can fill any room in the house
He likes the little people
The hurting
The lost
The ones who lost their virginity to someone who stopped calling

He’s a father whose children didn’t listen
But he never lost his patience and lets us come home
And our room in the basement is always waiting and vacant
With fresh sheets on the bed and fresh food for the taking

My God loves weddings
He dances on the floor until long after the last guest has bounced
He doesn’t wear a crown / ring / bling / or white gown
But every head turns when he’s up in the house

He responds – to text messages, tweets, and gchat
He’s not afraid when I offer my honest feedback

‘cause he knows the shape of my eyes thighs and veins
And he loves them – even when I think I need to lose weight

He knows what it feels like to be beaten by a lover
Abandoned by a mother
Without a roof for cover
He knows what it’s like to have to stay undercover
Afraid of what others would do if they discovered

He listens to alcoholic confessions
Gives late night blessings in midnight sessions
Sometimes, keeps me guessing – but only if there’s a point to learn
He even cares when my other friends are unconcerned

He loves widows, orphans, gay people, straight

He’s crying tears of anger for every single rape

Every child hurt – every heart that breaks

Everything that aches with an unforgiven pain

And he’s there in Rwanda and he’s there in Kuwait

And he’s there shedding tears at every mass grave

And he tears off masks to expose every face

And in front of his eyes there’s no room to play games

‘Cause he’s every mother’s kiss and he’s every father’s gaze

And he’s the God of every person who’s been stood up for a date

And he doesn’t care what you call it

It’s not about the words

He just wants you

You

You

You.


My God…

Expand Your World

When someone asks you about the most significant part of your faith as a Christian (if you happen to be one), what comes to mind first? I think at least the majority of us, if not all, would point to our quiet time with God. To be a Christian seems so innately tied to that time when you can be alone with God – reading the Word, listening to praise music, praying, journaling – whatever it looks like. Is that it though?

Recently, I read a blog post by a guy named Tullian Tchividjian (whew, what a name!) on the Resurgence Blog, titled “Spirituality isn’t Inward.” (It’s a great post, so go give it a read!). This post rocked my world. I totally hadn’t even thought about the idea that the truest form of spirituality isn’t what I do in my quiet time with the Lord, but how my faith impacts and interacts with others. In the post, he references James 1:27, which states:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”

Woah. So God views my actions towards others and my actions with regard to sin to be the most “pure and undefiled” expression of my religion.

Tullian raised the point that “Sin turns us inward, the Gospel turns us outward.” Isn’t that so true? As I focus more and more upon myself and the inward pursuit of conquering sin and “growing” in my faith, I actually cease to “grow” and my world shrinks around myself. Jesus came and didn’t call us to a faith that causes us to be obsessed with ourselves and our inner triumphs and failures. He called us to a faith that actually does something. A faith that interacts with others, not just between myself and God.

Matthew 5:14-17 says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Could it be said better than that? Don’t “put a bowl” over your faith, but let your world expand to include the lives of others. Don’t just focus upon yourself to the point of shrinking your world, but focus upon the lives of others as well, allowing your world to grow as you shine the light of Jesus to others.

Great Success?

Ambition is a sneaky thing. It’s one of those words that seems to have both a positive and negative connotation. As I think about my life, one of my greatest prayers is the request that God would simply show me the calling that he has waiting for me. What is it that he wants me to do? Where do I go next? There is a whole wealth of christian literature out there that strongly promotes a mentality of working hard and achieving great things for God’s kingdom in one’s life. Immediately what comes my mind are the books Don’t Waste Your Life and Do Hard Things by John Piper and the Harris brothers, respectively. Though these influences play somewhat of a role, I think it to be interesting that the strongest thing that screams into my ear “DO SOMETHING!” is not a christian source, but the world. Within that question, “What’s your major?” lies a whole world of meaning. “What will you do with your life?” That question scares me. One of my deepest fears is being pigeonholed into a job. On the one hand, I desire to be a provider for my family and seek stability. On the other, I can’t bear the thought of reaching the end of my life and having missed out on some grandiose calling and adventure that the Lord had for me. I want to do something big.

But where is the calling? “Just show me, Lord, and I’ll do it!” I say. quietly, the Lord responds: “If I gave you a calling, you would forget the caller.”

 

Oh.

 

You see, God isn’t in the business of giving us idols. If my future could be an idol, He will teach me to say, “All my hope is in you, not my future.” Think about Matthew 7:23, where Jesus says the the evildoer, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” At the end of time, what matters isn’t what I’ve achieved but who I know. Do I believe that God has a great, awesome calling for each one of us? Absolutely. Do I believe that he has placed some call upon my life? Certainly. I do know that he wants me to get to know him and to spend time with him.This is the most important call upon our lives; to know God.

To paraphrase Os Guiness, “As we fulfill our calling, we do not tire, for we get closer and closer to the caller.”

Knowing God comes first. If we try to find significance in what we do with our lives, we will fail. Our significance must come from an inward relationship and connection with the very person who created within us the need for significance. On our deathbeds, we will only be able to say, “My life was a success” if we have realized our true, primary calling, which is to know and to love God.