Tag Archives: Christianity

It’s Not About Me: Part 2

If you didn’t catch the previous post, read It’s Not About Me: Part 1.

Max Lucado’s book It’s Not About Me calls into question the human tendency to believe the universe revolves around us. “We’ve been demanding our way and stamping our feet since infancy,” Lucado writes. “Aren’t we all born with a default drive set on selfishness? I want a spouse who makes me happy and coworkers who always ask my opinion. I want weather that suits me and traffic that helps me and a government that serves me.” 

The book demands honest re-evaluation of both self and God, but what particularly spoke to my heart was the chapter on life’s struggles. Lucado makes the case that even our sufferings are not about us.

When his friend Lazarus fell ill, Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Instead of immediately going to his friend’s aid, Jesus waited. He stayed where he was until Lazarus died. How could he allow such suffering? Because he knew it would bring greater glory to God if Lazarus not only recovered from illness, but returned to life.

At another point, Jesus and his disciples came across a man who had been blind since birth. The disciples assumed his blindness was punishment for sin. Jesus then replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).

If Jesus could use the suffering of Lazarus and the blind man, then Lucado asks, “What about your struggles? Is there any chance, any possibility, that you have been selected to struggle for God’s glory? Have you ‘been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake’ (Philippians 1:29)?”

By Rennett Stowe from USA (His Light Shines on Us Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Rennett Stowe, Wikimedia Commons

One of the most difficult arguments against Christian faith is: If a good God exists, then why does pain? Suffering leads us to question God’s character. If God is loving, then he must not be almighty, otherwise he would prevent tragedy. Or if God is almighty, then he must not be all-knowing, because only ignorance can explain his blind eye to grief. Or if God is both almighty and all-knowing, then he must be indifferent. 

Lucado responds, “Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end–the glory of God.”

It may appear like the world is full of senseless pain, but God uses it, bringing good out of evil. He does not waste it. Sometimes it’s used for God’s discipline. Sometimes he’s teaching you to rely on him and not your own strength or ability. And other times the testimony of his people under suffering brings more children to him than could have been saved by a prosperity gospel.

Lucado encourages his readers to discover how their problems can be used for God and his glory. But I would add that we should not be content with saying, “It is God’s will.” I don’t believe it is God’s will for anyone to suffer. Pain is a derivative of evil. We suffer because we are separated from God and live in a world that has been corrupted by sin. Jesus won over evil at the cross, but the war wages on with the world caught in the crossfire. Because suffering will continue until Jesus vanquishes over all, we should turn suffering in God’s favor, as an opportunity to reveal him ever more to this world. At a funeral of a loved one, we can show other people our assured hope of life after this one. When bed-ridden by illness, we can display how we trust God for his comfort and control.

What sacrifice are our temporary sufferings when we have an eternity to look forward to when there will no longer be grief or pain? Revelation promises, when God is finally reunited with his people, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:4). The Apostle Paul adds, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

As long as we have God with us through these painful days, what more can we ask of him? Contrary to popular belief, he owes us nothing. The reverse is true; we are the ones who are indebted. What right do we have to complain when life really isn’t about us?

We are like the child who just begins to feel the hunger pangs before dinnertime. He complains to his father, crying that he will die of hunger. The father knows better. Can anyone blame the father for making his child wait half an hour until dinner is served? The child may at first think the father is cruel. But if the child trusts his father, he might go outside to play with the neighbor kid while he waits. And he might tell that kid, “I’m hungry now, but I know Dad will call me for dinner soon.”

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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Books


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Why Christianity is Exclusive

This morning a Scientologist began to explain to me the basic teachings of his religion. When I told him I believe in God and Jesus, he assured me that Scientology has no conflict with any religion people want to choose and that it in fact works together with other religions.

I don’t know much about Scientology, but I do know Christianity does not cooperate with other religions. People accuse Christianity of being exclusive, and I will openly admit the Bible rejects any way to God and eternal life except through Jesus. Christianity refuses to give ground to any religion that does not accept Jesus as the only God and Savior. Many religions include parts of truth, but without Jesus, Christianity teaches that these religions cannot give life. In the end, they lead people to death. 

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

I am unashamed to hold to Christ even more tightly because of his exclusivity. He is as exclusive as the captain of a ship offering rescue to someone adrift in the ocean.

The castaway clutches a floating piece of wood rather than trying to swim on his own and drowning before he can reach land. Yet the wood alone is not able to save him. It offers no protection against starvation, dehydration, freezing, or shark attacks. In the middle of the ocean, it would take a miracle for the wood to carry the man to safe land before he died. The wood only gives the man hope to survive long enough for rescue.

Credit: Adrian Pingstone,

Then a ship comes by, and the captain finds the castaway in the water. The sailors on board wave their arms in the air and shout that his rescue is there. But the castaway refuses to listen, clutching even tighter to his wood. “He’s delirious!” the sailors cry. They wonder how long he must have been adrift to not recognize his need of rescue. They say to each other, “Perhaps dehydration and exposure to the elements have already destroyed his mind.”

Next the captain of the ship comes out on the deck and throws a lifeline to the castaway. “Grab a hold of this!” he urges. The sailors shout, “Take it! Take it!” If only the man would exchange the wood for the rope, then the captain promises to pull him to safety. “If you don’t take the line, you’ll die!”

“Don’t be so exclusive!” the man responds with a parched voice. His throat is cracked and his stomach sick from gulping sea water when waves came over his head. But he hangs onto the wood with the meager strength he can muster. Pulling his body further onto the wood, he says, “You have your way, and I have mine. Why should your truth be better than mine?”

With exasperation, the captain says back, “Because yours leads to death, while mine gives life!”

Now is that an exclusive statement? Sure it is. But it is also true. Christianity is exclusive to other attempts at rescue, like the wood. Christianity insists there is no other way to life. Yet there is good news in all this. Christ is inclusive when it comes to who he offers to rescue. He didn’t start a country club where only the privileged can apply for membership. Like the captain, he wants to save those adrift, and he reaches out to the whole world. Christ threw the lifeline so that all a castaway needs to do is grab on and not let go.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Other thoughts


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How to Lose Everything

Levi was an ordinary man with an ordinary desk-job. He worked for the government in taxes. He wasn’t well-liked, but it was a position that allowed for affluent living, especially if he exacted a little extra than the law required.

One day while at work, a man walked by Levi’s tax booth with a large crowd following after him. The man spotted Levi and simply said, “Follow me.” Levi stood up and left his work behind. He took the man to his house and invited others in his field of work as well as the people following the man to join them for a big dinner. Even though the community leaders criticized his choice of company, the man defended meeting with the corrupt government workers. After that night, Levi left his town to follow this man around the country as he continued gathering and teaching the ignored, shunned, and disadvantaged. Levi left everything he had and became known as the apostle Matthew.

Jesus repeated this scene several times, calling different people to join his disciples (Mark 2:14-17). What catches me, though, are his requirements. In one way or another, he says each time that his disciples have to abandon everything to follow him.

Luke 9:57-62 shows how Jesus calls three men. The first eagerly volunteers to follow him, no matter where Jesus travels. What is Jesus’ response? “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Translation? “Even animals have their homes, but I have no home. If you follow me, you won’t have a home either.”

He then turns and tells someone else to follow him. This man asks for some more time before going with Jesus. I once heard someone say that by asking to wait to bury his father, this man’s father was probably still alive. He wanted to wait until he fulfilled the duty of burying his father after he eventually died. Who knows how long that might take? This second man didn’t want an extension for a day or two; he was stalling indefinitely.

The third man in this story has a much smaller request. He promises to follow Jesus, but he just wants to say goodbye to his family before taking off. There is no knowing when he may return, if at all, so he asks to first visit the people he loves most. Jesus takes a different perspective. He tells the man, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Or in other words, “Either you are all in, without any doubts, or else you’re useless to me.”

These may sound like harsh words, but Jesus never said that the truth would be easy to swallow. He only wanted fully dedicated followers in his company, and even those still would doubt until his resurrection from the dead. Jesus chose one, Judas Iscariot, that would fall away in order to fulfill the Scripture (John 17:12). All the rest, Jesus kept close to him and prepared them to continue his work after he ascended to heaven. In his prayer the night before his crucifixion, Jesus says to God the Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). And going into the world turned out to be a tough job only suited for those who would exchange everything to work in the service of Jesus.

In my Perspectives class, we studied the many missionary eras and the inspiring people God called to his work. Hundreds of years ago, missionaries used to go off to foreign lands they had never seen and barely knew. They would pack up a few personal belongings and board a ship to who knows where, fully expecting to never return home. There were many who died of disease within a year or two. These faithful people believed that Jesus addressed the Great Commission to every one of his followers, including themselves, and they obeyed his call even while aware of the costs (Matt. 28:16-20).

Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission

Hudson Taylor, an 18th-century Englishman, knew God wanted him in China. He ended up spending 51 years there, starting the China Inland Mission and setting new precedents for future missionaries to follow. Taylor was strongly convicted by the lost souls in China and God’s call for Christians to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. He is quoted as saying, “It will not do to say that you have no special call to go to China. With these facts before you and with the command of the Lord Jesus to go and preach the gospel to every creature, you need rather to ascertain whether you have a special call to stay at home.”

According to Taylor’s thinking, missionaries are not the Christian exceptions, the rarities of the flock. Instead, missionaries such as the apostles are meant to be the norm. In the Christian life, staying at home should be unusual. Staying at home should be the “special call” or Plan B when God prevents you from otherwise going. The Christian life means to lose everything. When Jesus says, “Follow me,” we get up and leave behind our work, our homes, our families, and everything we know. We lose it all to gain life with him–true, fulfilling life that never ends.

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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Other thoughts


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Who Can Pray ALL THE TIME?

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

When I hear this verse quoted in Christian circles, it seems people commonly suggest that this is an important principle for Christians to follow and, at the same time, that it’s one of the hardest for us to strive towards. We get lost considering how someone could feasibly pray nonstop and if that is what these words even tell us to do. So without getting into the nitty-gritty, quoting famous pastors and analyzing the words in the original language, I want to simply add a few thoughts to the stew.

I’ll start with some word pictures. That’s what Jesus would do, right? I think he called them parables.

There’s a young woman who is hopelessly in love with Mr. Right, Prince Charming, her true love–take your pick. She goes around to all of her friends and annoys them to no end because she cannot stop talking about her special guy. She tells them about all the ways that he is perfect and has no equal. She tells them that she would give her life for him. She tells her friends that they will have a beautiful wedding with a seven-tiered cake. Her friends stop answering her calls and tape her mouth shut whenever she comes to visit. They think she must talk about her beau even when she is in a room alone, because nothing can get her to stop thinking about him.


Bella Swan in “Twilight.” Can a girl get more consumed by her love?

Then there’s a young man who has a constant companion to go with him everywhere. The two friends are inseparable. Elbow to elbow in everything, they talk all day, every day. It never crosses the young man’s mind to not say something to his friend. A day doesn’t go by in which the young man stays silent to his friend. If they were apart, they might get too busy to call or visit. If they didn’t spend every moment together, they might not keep in contact. But because of his friend’s physical presence, the man cannot help but remember the friend right next to him. There is hardly a moment when the man is not aware of his friend’s presence.


Sam and Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” From the Shire to Mordor, Sam rarely leaves Frodo’s side.

Now put yourself in the position of the young man and woman. You have someone you desperately love and who is always with you. With both of these cases being true, can you imagine not talking to the person? Or would the two of you be talking incessantly? It would be almost impossible for me to avoid conversation, and I know this is true because I’ve experienced it. If you love God and believe he never leaves you, then you know what I mean.

Seeing God in these terms makes it easier for me to “pray without ceasing.” Obviously, I can’t devote every moment to conscious interaction with God. No human could. But for me, praying without ceasing means having God on my mind throughout the day. I might notice the rare sunshine on a January morning and whisper a quick thanks to God for giving a bright moment at the start of my day. A friend might mention she feels a cold coming on, and I will quietly ask God to boost her health and strength. God talks back, too. It could be that a friend will cheer me up when I’m down, and I hear God tell me that he loves me and will always lift me up.

If you truly thought of God as your greatest love, would you struggle to remember him throughout the day? If you wholeheartedly knew that God is your best friend, always by your side and listening, would you forget to give him attention? If you fail these tests, perhaps you should reevaluate how you treat your relationships, because God deserves more thought and more attention than your dearest love or closest friend. Why wouldn’t you talk with him constantly?


Posted by on February 17, 2013 in Other thoughts


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NaNoWriMo: The Raw Cut

Is the suspense killing you? I know I promised to update in a week after my last post, but hey, 26,055 words really takes it out of a girl.

Yes, I conquered NaNoWriMo.


After a writing blitz during the last week of November, in which I locked myself in my apartment after work each day and ignored my friends, the book crossed 50,000 words on the evening of November 30th. I had almost four hours to spare before the midnight cutoff. With a relieved sigh, I submitted the completed manuscript to the NaNoWriMo website, confirming my winner status. Then I emerged from my apartment and went to a friend’s Harry Potter party to celebrate.

The feeling of accomplishment floated me along for the next week. My self-esteem enjoyed the boost after all the deriding remarks I kept feeding it up until I finished my book.

At the same time, I felt perfectly content to not write again for a good long while. Even two weeks after finishing, I still look forward to a break from serious, lengthy writing until at least January. I above all don’t want to work on my book. We spent too much intimate time alone, so we’re taking a break. I need the distance to clear my head before I jump into the waist-deep editing that it desperately needs.

Unfortunately, my eager and supporting friends and family now want to read the book. Too many have already asked, “So when do we get to read it?” Thank you for the encouragement, but you don’t want to see a fresh NaNoWriMo book. I don’t even want to read it, and I know what it’s about. No, this one needs severe cutting and stitching before it will be ready for eyes.

That said, I will consent to revealing a raw cut from the middle of my book, if only to increase my motivation to edit and eventually, hopefully–one day–publish the full book. So, without further ado, please enjoy the following excerpt:

Secondhand Lions is one of my favorite movies. With three exceptional actors, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment, and Michael Cain, it was practically a guaranteed winner. I found the DVD on sale for five bucks at Walmart and couldn’t pass it up. The basic plot is a boy, Walter, gets dropped off at the house of his great-uncles, whom he has never met, to stay for the summer. His single mother assures him she will be back in a couple weeks or a month at the most. She encourages him to try, in the meantime, to find the rumored treasure the great-uncles have stashed away.

Walter and his uncles act awkward around each other at first, but they start to bond once Uncle Garth begins to tell Walter stories of war, sword fights, an evil sheik, a princess, and a treasure of gold. In a gripping scene between Walter and his Uncle Hub, who would rather fight than tell stories, the boy asks if his uncle’s stories are true. Growing up with a mother who only lies to him, he desperately wants to believe the fantastic stories of his uncles but doesn’t know if he can.

Uncle Hub says it doesn’t matter whether the stories are true, neither confirming nor denying them. He responds, “If you want to believe in something, believe in it. Just because something isn’t true, that’s no reason why you can’t believe in it.”

He decides to give Walter a small taste of the speech he calls, “What every boy needs to know about being a man,” and the full length of which he had given to many boys and men in his life. As he goes on, he tells Walter, “Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this that love,” and choking up a bit, “true love never dies.” Whether or not those things are true, Uncle Hub says, “A man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.”

That isn’t an opinion you will hear often. It almost sounds new age and like believing in subjective truth, as if there is no absolute reality. But I think Uncle Hub wasn’t trying to teach Walter to believe in whatever he wanted or what made him happiest. He wasn’t denying that truth is important.

Rather, I take it that he meant there are certain things that we have to hold onto even when life seems to prove it wrong. In the face of opposition and in the middle of battle, we should believe particular principles to carry us through. If we give them up, we will lose everything. When a soldier forgoes hope for victory, he will lose his strength and courage to keep fighting. In a way, he contributes to his own failure by losing faith. So our beliefs affect our lives and may even save them. It matters what we choose to believe.

Some people call religion and spiritual faith a crutch for people who can’t accept reality. I also heard a Christian respond, though I can’t remember who, that Christianity wasn’t just a crutch; it was a full-body stretcher. This Christian fully acknowledged that his faith not only gave him something to lean on, but it completely supported him when he had no strength of his own. Is that an ignorance and denial of truth? Of course. That is, if the faith is based on false beliefs. But trustworthy faith deserves full reliance. If the faith is in truth, then why shouldn’t you use the stretcher? Refusing that support and confidence only reveals cynicism and doubt, not loyalty to objectivity.

Let’s take Christian faith, for example. If there’s nothing reliable in believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, then people are just accepting it to make themselves feel better. It gives them some false hope that makes life seem more meaningful, as if life has purpose. It also eases their minds about death if they can believe that they will go to heaven for an eternity of rest and joy. If Christianity is a lie, then Christians use it as a crutch to be happier, but it simply deludes them so they can escape reality.

On the other hand, suppose there really is something to all this hype about the Bible and Jesus. If salvation and eternal life come only through believing in Jesus, believing God became a man and died to save the world, believing his sacrifice frees you from the punishment for sin, then your only hope is to throw yourself fully into trusting the truth of Christian faith. If you hold back, you’ll be lost. Choosing to not let faith in Jesus carry you will condemn you to eternal death, instead, which we call hell. Yes, faith takes a leap, but it’s a reasonable one if the object of your faith is truth.

You can watch the scene I discuss from Secondhand Lions here. Please leave constructive feedback in the comments if you have some to spare.

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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Other thoughts


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