Tag Archive: God


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.

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…

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.

 

The Death of Creation

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 ESV)

Let There Be Light by Christolakis (Source: flickr)

Genesis 1 begins with that famous line which clearly positions God as the creator, maker of all things.  The story unfolds as everything that is seen is created and put in order.  Near the end of His working, God creates something very good, a man, in His own image.  I often wonder what characteristics of God show up in human beings because of our possession of His divine image.  None of us express His entire image, and each of us are weak in some aspects and strong in others.  But I think that there are some pieces that we all possess.  One of these is the capacity to create, even if at a level far below what God does in Genesis 1!

It is clear from the rest of the story that God intended man to be able to create.  He asks Adam to create names for all of animals and charges him to “increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” i.e. create more humans.  This story makes me reflect on modern day creation and how we spend our time.

Let us suppose for a moment that people have two modes, creation and consumption.  There are times when consumption is a physical necessity for life (eating or breathing). In our society it is rare when we do not have the necessities for life, especially when there is a super Wal-Mart down the street, though not for Dean.  We have minimized the time it takes to feed and protect ourselves which leaves ample room for either creation or other types of consumption.

We are a consumption saturated society.  The advent of mass media and advertising has led to people being drowned in a consumer mentality (fight-able yes, but an unlikely victory).  The saying goes, “you are what you think” and in the US, many people think about the next product they want to own or the TV show that is on tonight because an advertisement is in front of them all the time.  In my own experience, it is so easy to be convinced that I “need” that new product.  Everyone has their hot buttons.  Think about how you spend your time from a consumer, creator standpoint. Do you add value with your time; is it a good return on investment, or do you only consume?  As a creator you could create knowledge, build relationships, design art (digital or traditional), or play music.  How do you feel after bringing something to completion?  Most people experience joy when exercising their powers to create.  I know that Bethany was pleased with herself after repainting her bookshelf with cool stone flecky paint!

I agree that there are nights when I only feel like consuming a bit of mindless TV, but I find that even after couch potatoing I do not feel refreshed.  This situation has an opportunity for hidden creation.  I like to think about relaxing as the creation of peace.  Relaxation is specific, instead of mindless; it does not happen naturally (except during sleep).  How to relax is different for everyone, but my relaxation spot is a dimly lit room in a chair with a glass of Arizona sweet tea, a book, and DJ Tiësto’s “Hide & Seek (In Search of Sunrise Remix)” playing in the background (you’ll find me there after I get this post written)!  I am adding value with the book but when in relaxation mode I choose something lighter than Shakespeare!  Another great example of hidden creation is what I talked about in one of my first posts: Called for a Purpose – Building a Community where my roommate, Dean and I used video games to create a community.

Where do you want to focus your God given powers of creation this week?  We all have our projects.  I encourage you to spend time there, in things that add value to yourself and to others.  Those are the activities that are truly important and are so often buried under those which are only urgent.  The best way to think about it is what you will remember and what you will be remembered for.  Let me end the post with one more theme and reverse the definition of success.

“Success is to laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people & the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics & endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (thanks for the find Tuesday!)

What Is Love?

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, ESV)

The word “love” is mentioned 235 times in the ESV New Testament (according to a quick biblegateway.com keyword search).  Clearly, love is something that God is quite concerned with.  In fact, when asked which was the greatest commandment in the Mosaic law, Jesus responded,  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39, ESV)  So, love is the thing we are to be concerned with.  Despite this, I think our society has tragically distorted and misunderstood the concept of love.  We tend to confuse it with other, similar terms that have very different meanings.  So then, what is love, and what is it not?

First of all, love is NOT…

  • Tolerance.  Much is made in current popular culture of tolerating those who are different from us, those we might disagree with.  So what does tolerance actually mean?  The Oxford English Dictionary says that “tolerate” means “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference,” or “accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance” (www.oxforddictionaries.com).  It often carries the connotation of allowing something because you have no choice, such as “I don’t like olives, but I will tolerate them.”  But in Matthew 22:39, quoted above, Jesus does not call us to endure our neighbors, or to allow the existence of our neighbors without interference, but to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Quite a difference – one is almost begrudging of the existence of the thing to be tolerated, while one unconditionally cherishes it.
  • Condoning.  There is a common belief that to love someone means to support all of their actions and attitudes.   That idea falls apart pretty quickly, though; say a parent has a teenager who is dabbling in illegal drugs.  Is the parent loving if they support the kid’s habit or give him/her money to support it?  Absolutely not.  The loving parent will do anything they can to get the kid out of the situation and cleaned up.  Simply put, not everything we do is good for us; those who truly love us will correct us when we go astray and help lead us out of the darkness of sin.

Love IS…

  • Action.  Contrary to what chick flicks would have us believe, true love is not a warm, gooey feeling of affection toward someone.  True love is action – doing things for those you love.  We can say we love the poor, but unless we do something about it, what good is it to them?  Or to use a more personal example, I can feel what I think is love for Tyler, my boyfriend; but if I never actually do anything to show him that I love him, well, the relationship probably wouldn’t last very long.
  • Accountability.  If I love someone, I am sharing a piece of myself with them, and I am answerable if I let them down.  I can profess to love the homeless of Champaign-Urbana and volunteer at a soup kitchen every weekend in order to show my love for them.  But if I then start a campaign in the city to shut down these types of charities, you can bet the hypothetical soup kitchen patrons would hold me accountable for my actions.  As well they should – my campaign to shut down the soup kitchen is hurting the very people I claim to love and rendering my claim invalid.
Both of the “greatest commandments” involve love – for God and for our neighbor.  There are lots of misconceptions about love in American culture today; what it is, how to show it, its results.  Love is certainly not easy for us, but real love that does not trivialize or hinder is a rare and priceless gift to a hurting world.
For a different perspective on love, check out Adam’s series on love starting here.

Nothing To Say

There is a reason I’m a scientist, and not a writer.  There is a lot of writing in science, but the subject of that writing flows naturally out of your research.  There is no struggle to come up with a topic, and being engaging is certainly not a concern (as anyone who has ever read a scientific paper can attest to).  You just sit down and churn out a paper about whatever you’ve been working on for the last several months/years.  I knew the day would come when I would sit down to write my weekly post for The Reversal, but come up dry in my search for a topic.  I have a list of potential topics, articles, and such that is supposed to help me out in these times – but none of those are clicking for me right now.  So if it’s not a lack of topic choices, what is it? I think it is quite simply this: I feel that I have nothing original to contribute to discussions about Christianity and/or leadership.

I subscribe to probably 15 or so Christian blogs in Google Reader, most of them written by people who have written books, spoken to audiences of thousands, etc.  So it’s easy for me to think to myself, “What can I possibly have to say that they haven’t already said?  What do I have to offer?”  I don’t have an answer for this.  I do know that, despite my doubts and discouragement, that God is using me even when I don’t feel usable.

For instance, a year or so ago, I was reading through the comments on a blog when I came across a comment written by an atheist who clearly had recently experienced the hand of God in her life.  I replied to the comment, saying that I would pray for her and included my e-mail address with an invitation to ask me any questions she might have about Christ and/or Christianity.  I didn’t think much about it, until a day or so later when I found an e-mail in my inbox from this girl!  We exchanged probably nine or ten e-mails until she suddenly stopped responding to me; despite that, I knew that God was using me to plant a seed in her life.  It’s up to Him now; what I pray now, and what I prayed then, was that God would use that e-mail chain to draw her to Himself.  Who except God knows what impact my simple comment reply will have in the future?

I may not have many original thoughts to contribute to the blogosphere, but I do have the story of God’s hand in my life.  My hope and prayer is that someone could be encouraged by the little snippets of my life, and occasional useful thoughts, that I share on this blog.  God has given all followers of Christ a story in which He is the main character; it is our task to use it for His glory.

How God Can Use Our Friends

I’ve heard it said that a person is the average of the five people they spend the most time with.  While that may not be entirely true – if that were the case I’d be the average of my officemates (scary!) – I do wonder sometimes if God puts people in our lives in order to draw out or develop a latent personality trait.

I’ve always been enthusiastic about some things, but they have mostly been weather related.  The quickest way to buy my friendship is with pictures of clouds; I just can’t get enough.  However, in other important aspects of my life, such as my relationship with God, enthusiasm has been lacking.  Sure, I experience the spiritual high after a conference or retreat, but it never lasts once I get back to the real world.  Over the last year or so, I think that God has been putting people in my life who are incredibly enthusiastic about their faith and life in general.  As a result, I’ve become much more excited about my relationship with God and truly living it out in my mission field (i.e. grad school).

As an example, Tyler and I recently joined a small group at the church we attend.  When we introduced ourselves, I mentioned that I will be graduating sometime in the next year.  Afterward, one of the members of the group – whom I had just met that night – almost immediately approached me to tell me about a class for graduating students that he was teaching at the church.  Before I knew what was happening, he had my e-mail address and phone number and was planning to get me a copy of the book they were reading.  I went the next Sunday, and it turned out to be a great class in which I learned a lot.  This same small group member is now spearheading an effort to get the group (and group members’ children, where applicable) together to read the entire New Testament in eight weeks.  He is also just about to start building a new house.  Talk about enthusiasm!

The same could be said of many of the members of my Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF) small group.  I could go on and on about the ways they have positively impacted my life over the last 16 months, but one thing all of them share (or at least seem to) is a genuine excitement about their faith.  Out of this comes a true compassion for the other members, such that it is not uncommon for one of them to ask me about something I mentioned as a prayer request weeks earlier.  Not that they are only concerned with those close to them; one of them came to our summer reading group last week absolutely livid about an article she had read about human trafficking in the U.S.  That was quite convicting to me, as I tend to read articles like that and just assume they have been overblown by the media rather than feeling the anger that God must feel at these situations.

Faced with such examples of excitement and enthusiasm, I realized that my own life was quite lacking in these qualities.  The last few months have been quite the journey as I have attempted to cultivate a passion for others, for justice, and for God.  The results shocked me – my relationships seem deeper, I hear God’s voice more clearly, and my attention is more God-centered and less me-centered.  In this case, God used people he had put in my life who all shared a common personality trait to develop that trait in me.   We all have friends who share common qualities; could it be that God is using those friends to develop us and make us more like Him?

Whack-a-Mole in the Soul

One of the most sneaky and difficult sins to fight is pride. Fighting pride seems like playing figurative “Whack-a-Mole.” As soon as I begin to realize an area in which I am prideful, it seems as though another pokes its head up. Pride also seems to be one of the most pervasive sins; how many of us can say that on some level we know we’re at least slightly prideful? It doesn’t seem like having a slightly elevated opinion of oneself is as bad as, say, looking at pornography or murdering someone, does it? I think that looking at pride can show us a couple of things about its nature, and the nature of sin in general.

Firstly, it results from an inaccurate view of reality. I am most prideful when I am most out of touch with my actual condition. I am farthest from pride when I have my mind on what I think are the failings of others. So, fundamentally, the disconnect from reality in self perception is the cause of pride. Isn’t there almost always a difference between the way we see ourselves and the way others see us? Have you ever seen or heard yourself on camera? Isn’t that a strange and uncomfortable thing? You begin to realize the huge gap between your perception of yourself and how others see you.

Secondly, our natural, human response to pride is incomplete, often causing more sin. What I’m referring to here is playing internal “Whack-a-Mole.” We either ignore our pride, or tend to overcompensate in our personal attempts at crushing it. We take the proverbial hammer to all of our feelings of accomplishment. Have you ever wondered why it seems that so many people who struggle with pride simultaneously struggle on some level with low self-esteem? It seems strange; low self-esteem and pride seem so incompatible, yet are so often paired together. So pride, when dealt with autonomously, comes with a horrible side effect.

I think that so many sins are the same way. From the beginning, humans have tried to deal with their sin without God. Think of Adam and Eve, making their clothes of fig leaves! Our natural human response is to give special attention to the areas where we are most prideful, trying to crush it at the root. Our view of life becomes centered upon ourselves!

God brings a perfect solution for pride – himself. Think of your life. Where are you prideful? Did you get some award or some recognition for talent? Who enabled you to receive that award? Who gave you life, both spiritual and physical? Who has shown himself to be faithful in your life, giving good thing after good thing to you? When I looked at my life, God began to show me that every good thing that I have ever done was due to His good gifts. He is the one who should be proud of my achievements and inner successes, not myself.

So don’t play “Whack-a-Mole” in your soul. Just think about how good the Lord has been. Allow that reality to become your reality. Widen your view by thinking about God’s faithfulness in your life, rather than shrinking your view by focusing on your inward struggles or tying all of your successes to a proverbial rock and throwing them into the sea. You’ll find that letting God fight your pride works better than any human fix. Be proud (in a good way) of what God has done in your life.