When you look around, it’s easy to think everyone else’s lives are awesome and easy and important while yours kind of sucks and isn’t going anywhere. Here’s the truth: Everyone is made of the same stuff. Everyone has struggles, pain and heartbreak and God has a plan for you right now, today that is more important than anything a president or king ever did.
Month: December 2012
Quote: Smiling Church
A church full of grace leads to a culture of honesty, which is a messy church of uncomfortable growing pains. If no one is confessing or rebuking any sin in your church, it’s because the grace is not there. Only a gracious church would have the courage to regularly confess and rebuke. It won’t be the clean, sanitized, smiling church you wanted, but it’ll be the church you need. That grace could only come from looking at the cross, where the Perfect Man died as if he was the worst of us, but loved us because he was the best of us.
— from this post
Question: God Loves Everyone, Except Esau
In response to your “Jesus loves you” post, recently I’ve been hearing a lot about how God doesn’t love everyone (I’m still learning). And after thinking about it, it’s pretty true that God doesn’t give grace all the time (He owns entire tribes of people, Great Flood, etc) and does explicitly say that He hates certain people (God loved Jacob but hated Esau). How do I reconcile that, or more importantly, how to I tell non-believers that?
You know, I hear a question underneath the question here.
None of this will probably ever compute for a non-believer. When we isolate a few things from the Bible and dig into “Why-God-Why,” then we’re missing the point of what God is doing in history. Most people who bring up these things make it into a “Yeah gotcha!” — as if picking apart Bible semantics somehow erases what Jesus did for us. But I’ll play along and tackle the theology first.
Please allow me the grace to get pastoral-nerdy here. One day when I raise my future children, I will most definitely have to discipline them. This means time-out, fifty push-ups, mow the lawn, or I take away everything they own (which I bought them anyway). This temporal act of unpleasant discipline does NOT change the reality that I love them, but actually enforces it. At the moment they might think, “I wish I had a different dad,” but their bloodline and my father-status can never change.
God, who exists outside of time, often uses temporal acts that appear to be pretty dang rough. I’ve sincerely struggled with the Old Testament because it’s full of bloody, bizarre, outrageous acts of divine intervention that don’t always make sense. But in the greater context of each temporal action, God retains a timeless nature over us that is inflexible. He can also see the Bigger Picture, and His discipline is an eternal vision for our story. God in macro is love; God in micro does not always appear so.
As someone once said, “God often uses what He hates to achieve what He loves.” That’s a pat answer for cancer, car accidents, and earthquakes, but we also remember this broken world is not our final home, and God’s love is a finale that transcends our passage of time on this earth.
Continue reading “Question: God Loves Everyone, Except Esau”
Quote: Escaping Truth
Be blessed when your friend has the audacity to tell you the hard truth about yourself, no matter how it sounds or how they say it. Sometimes you’re just straight-up wrong, and to admit that is freedom from the tyranny of yourself. Insecurity or self-punishment are still escaping the truth. If you haven’t said ‘I’m wrong’ in a while, something ain’t right.
Quote: The Mess
Do not ever, ever, ever think of asking people what you’re not already trying to do yourself. You can blog and preach and soapbox about whatever you want, but legit historical figures actually rolled up their sleeves and lived it out and let their life do the talking for them. It doesn’t matter how sloppy you pursue it: just do something. We don’t need another basement blogger or pretentious preacher. We need game-changers. Words about love sound pretty; actually loving people is messy. Be part of the mess.
Originally posted here.
Hearts To Heal
For who knows how many hearts you’ll heal with a smile
How the smallest word of encouragement strengthens weak knees
How tiny deeds and unseen serving multiply to true greatness
How many you’ll see one day again in the Great Reunion
Because you took a chance on grace, despite the costs, against all odds, even when it made no sense and you saw no results —
and how it will be worth it all.
Remember: Who You Are
If you’re down today, remember who you are.
In Christ, you are a child of God: saved, forgiven, and free.
You have a strong father in Heaven who absolutely loves you, and who actually likes you. It’s why Jesus came to be one of us.
He gets your struggle, he’s alongside you, he’s rooting for you, he will never stop.
We are the sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who is in control of everything.
We have a Savior who wrote himself into the story of the world to write the final victory on our lives: so nothing else gets the last word but him.
Look no further than the cross and the empty tomb.
You have — right now — a Spirit of courage, bravery, compassion, love, and truth.
Remember: you are His. You are secure forever.
Question: How Could A Loving God “Elect” People?
Growing up, I took God’s love for granted. But when I gave my life to Christ and read the bible, my view of God changed. I began to see God as holy and how sinful I was, and Grace became beautiful and I feared him. It made sense that out of grace, a holy God would save undeserving elect. But I still can’t understand God’s love. If God also loved everybody so intimately, why would He only save some? Thus I get God’s holiness and grace, but have a hard time believing God loves me personally. 😦
A very awesome testimony and thank you for sharing. But GASP. You don’t believe God loves you? Do you know who struggles with this?
Well: everyone. It was essentially the first lie we ever heard in the Garden, and we’ve believed that lie in some form ever since. So you’re not alone in that.
About God saving some and not others: That’s about half the truth here. I think “predestination” sweeps the floor of our theology so much because it feels dirty to say “free will,” as if human-choice somehow infringes upon God.
But remember: God made free will, which is part of what makes us human. It was almost a risk. He knew it would end in disobedience and suffering, but that is the risk of sentient humanity.
So God saves us AND people choose. Both are true. While God woos us and draws us and loves us and has done all the saving work, we must still respond. To only say “God elects” is also to say, “People have no say in the matter,” which is plain bad theology.
I do believe in God’s election, but somehow in a mysterious way, it also works with human free will. You can find Bible verses to support both sides. Apostle Paul could say predestined and choose in the same breath, because in his mind there was no conflict. We need to be careful of putting two doctrines in a ring and letting them go at it, because that doesn’t help anyone.
How both predestination and free will work: I don’t know. Are we allowed to have mysteries anymore? I leave that sort of paradox to be reconciled by God.
Continue reading “Question: How Could A Loving God “Elect” People?”
Quote: Live For
If you live for the next world, you get this one in the deal; but if you live only for this world, you lose them both.
— C.S. Lewis
An Interview with One Day’s Wages About Giving $10,000 To Charity
The organization One Day’s Wages to which I had donated $10,000 wrote up an interview with me. Check it out here.
You can also help contribute to fight human trafficking with me.
Here’s an excerpt:
You are donating half of your salary. This is crazy and some might say even stupid. Why did you choose to do this?
Earlier in the year, I listened to a sermon in the car by Pastor Eugene Cho (founder of ODW) from the Catalyst 2011 Lab, and I was pretty much struck dead. The main thing that kept rocking my gut was: You can’t ask other people to do what you’re not first doing yourself.
I had been playing it pretty safe for a while — the typical blogging pastor hoping to stir up his little youth group to bigger and better things, and while there was growth, I just knew I was missing it. Every week I thought, “Well next week we’ll be fired up. God is cooking up something.” But Ephesians 2:10 had been pressing me — you know, those good works God prepared in advance for us to do. I just didn’t know how to fulfill the “do.”
I don’t make a lot of money, but I’m filthy stinking rich compared to the world. I’m sure you’ve heard other preachers go bananas on that before. On that night in the car, Pastor Eugene laid this on pretty thick, but that particular night was different: something just tore open raw inside.
By the time I got to my destination, my face was a slobbery mess. I was kind of crying and laughing and shaking my fist at God all at the same time. My level of “radical” was being challenged to become the biblical norm. I knew I’d be called crazy, but I decided: it would be crazy not to go for it either.
Quote: Better Place
“Please remember: What we see as “lukewarm Christians” are often people who don’t get it right the first go-around, and if you think elbowing them towards “real-radical-living” is the way to go, you’ve hit Pharisee-land. In other words: a work of the flesh only incites flesh, and dies just as quickly.
Not every Christian will get beyond Phase One, either. We can only try to love them to a better place, but we cannot guilt-fear-shame them, because that doesn’t last. Yes, it can be heartbreaking to see someone waste their life: but this is God’s experience of us every single nanosecond of His eternal existence, and He patiently pursued you. He will pursue them, too. You just do your part to trust Him and obey Him.”
— from this post
I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.
— G.K. Chesterton
Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Don’t.
— John Piper
“I feel things deeply. I don’t know how else to feel them. I cry reading the news. I laugh reading text messages. I get inspired by underdogs. I get angry for you more than you’re angry for yourself. It doesn’t mean I’m crazy. It just means I’m okay with being me. If you’re not okay with that, I’m okay with you not being okay with that, but it still won’t change how I feel things.”
Originally posted here.
Question: Helping A Friend With Anxiety and Depression — What To Do and NOT Do
Could you share some practical advice for the friends of those who are struggling with anxiety and depression? What should we do and what should we not do to best encourage our brother/sister during such dark seasons?
A great question, and thank you for caring to ask! You’re already an awesome friend for it. Thank you also for not diminishing the issue: anxiety and depression are very real, not just “in your head,” and can be completely debilitating.
Much of this will be common sense, but since I also struggle with depression, I have a bit of firsthand knowledge of being on the other side.
First, what NOT to do:
Continue reading “Question: Helping A Friend With Anxiety and Depression — What To Do and NOT Do”
Sometimes I see the potential in people, and it fills me with grief that they might never realize it because of mindless attachment to shallow things, an inexplicable cowardly comfort, excuses disguised as rational(ized) reasons, or a heart poisoned by contempt and resentment. You could really transform this broken down world, but it starts with you.
When To Speak
I absolutely believe we should be biting our tongue during such tragedy, and there’s way too much exploitative noise that’s only pushing forceful ideologies. I’m not above this.
Yet at some point, there is a time to speak up. There are issues to be addressed. Someone has to say something about how this could have been easily prevented.
Not every single voice here is politically or religiously motivated. Sometimes it’s just the obvious truth. Someone has to be the one to just say it: maybe not now or even days from now, but soon, with sincerity.
Maybe you see a threat behind every blog because it’s what you want to see, or you want to be the “rational” one who tries to look sane — when you really just have no backbone. Maybe you throw around accusations because this is all you know: and you have never sought a solution looking forward.
Just because someone approaches the issue right now does NOT mean they are diminishing the tragedy or belittling what has happened. Sure, some people might be doing that: and they’re jerks for it. But don’t throw everyone under that bus. If we don’t speak now, then when? Until the next one?
The moment calls for silence. There is also a moment to raise hell and fight for truth: with humility, patience, gentleness, love, and a sober mind, but we fight.
Originally posted here on my Tumblr.
Quote: All The Way Home
“The problem with guilt is that it never cheers for you, roots for you, or moves you towards victory. Guilt did not prevent you from sinning the last time and it won’t stop you the next time.
We have a Creator who is actually rooting for us all the way home. Jesus is our brother, friend, Lord, Savior, and King — and he grieves with you, wants the best for you, and is totally in love with you. He is going to work with you on your struggle, your pain, your doubts, questions, and confusion, and when you most want to run back to guilt, he is ready to restore you by his constant steadfast love. This is who he is, and nothing you do can change that.”
— from this post
14 Ways To Handle A Christian Introvert
If you ever met me, you would think I was an extrovert — I preach, I lead praise, I talk to everyone, I talk too much, and you can hear me laughing from across the street — but I am a full-blooded introvert.
If it were up to me, I’d rather be in my boxers all day eating Godiva while browsing food photo blogs and bothering my dog and cracking up at YouTube videos of Whose Line Is It Anyway and leaving dry ironic comments all over Facebook while reading the latest theory on how Sherlock survived the second season finale.
I intensely guard my personal space and my private life. It takes a herculean effort to step outside my comfort zone and interact with messy, fleshy, real live human beings.
Here’s how you handle us.
Quote: Doer Types
Some of you are doer, doer, doer types. You’re gonna burn out, you’re gonna get frustrated, you’re gonna be ineffective, unless you, literally, just block out your time, go to the woods, turn off your laptop, turn off your cell phone. Get your break, get with Jesus, pray, get your bucket refilled, get your Bible open, sing some songs. And some of are contemplatives and you do that too much. You’re always thinking about things that could be done, but you don’t do anything. You write nice blogs about things that other people should do, and you tweet things thinking that somehow in “Twitterland” others will just obey you and do it, because you added a verse to it or you said, “Thou shalt.” All right, and it’s the issue that some of you contemplatives, you gotta get up, man, put the book down, because you can’t see a lost and hurt, dying world through that book. It’s time to put it down, get your boots on, get in the game, get something done. That’s the way that it works: Action and then rest to replenish you to go back to action. For those of you who are contemplatives, you do too much resting, chilling, Jesus time. Those of you who are active, you need to schedule it, you need to make it happen.
— Mark Driscoll