nblomblr asked a question:
Is God sovereign over our mistakes?
Hey dear friend, I believe He is. However, I see what you mean by the question. There’s a double-edge to it, because if “God is in control,” that means we’re not responsible for our actions and we could do what we want. But if God is not in control, then He wouldn’t be God either.
I can’t hope to fully explain the whole thing about sovereignty and our responsibility, because this is a paradox and my 3 lb. brain is allergic to paradoxes. But I do believe that God is somehow both in control while we’re each responsible for our choices. I don’t know how it reconciles. C.S. Lewis offers a little help when he says,
“Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed him.”
I leave a few things to mystery. I hope that’s okay. I know our Enlightenment-conditioned minds are afraid to do this: we all have this wild urge to make narrative sense of our lives because we’re so trained towards Westernized formulas. Growing up as an Easterner, the “mystery” part was never a problem for me. I left some things to the unknowable void of human limitations and bowed down to a universe I could not always understand. This isn’t satisfying, but neither is trying to understand dang near everything. As the priest said in Angels and Demons,
“My mind cannot comprehend … my heart is not worthy.”
But to answer closer to home, I do believe God works with our mistakes.
I’m working on my next book, a really tough one about trials and suffering. It’s about how to be mad with God. I’m also going over depression, sexy cancer, second world problems, misquoting verses for inspirational Instagrams, and the theology of True Detective, Louis C.K., and The Shawshank Redemption.
Please throw a prayer whenever you can. Hopefully it’ll be available in the spring, around February or March. Love y’all …!
(If you’d like to be a test-reader, I’ll be announcing it next month. You get a free digital copy in exchange for a little feedback and a consideration to write a review on Amazon.)
The e-book version of my books are priced lower than ever!
They’re 3.79 or less and work on every device.
Check them on Amazon here!
We’re married. 🙂
Here are the Top 14 Most Viral Posts from this blog of 2014, ranging from topics like singleness, homosexuality, racism, quitting porn, Mark Driscoll, and a confession about my brush with a celebrity pastor.
Tomorrow, I get to marry my best friend.
For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son to die for your mean neighbor and your crazy roommate and the picketing bigot and the racist blogger and your gay friend and all the politicians and our crazy parents and the pastor down the street and the uptight religious folk and the girl at work you can’t stand, because Jesus didn’t just die for the people you like, but for people like you and me.
Everything else awakens desire.
Jesus is the only one who fills it.
Faith is: growing in the certainty of God’s love by the proof of Him sending His Son to die and rise for you, knowing that He wants to spend the rest of eternity with you.
When you believe this, then four things are certainly true —
hayleylepugh asked a question:
What do you mean by skeptical Christian in your description? Don’t you have strong faith? (I’m not asking this in a rude way, I’m just genuinely curious.)
Hey my dear friend, I was an atheist for longer than I’ve been a Christian, so my natural default mode is to doubt, a lot. There are days I think this whole faith thing is crazy and I want to throw the Bible in the trash. I’m sorry if that’s too candid or honest. But it’s one of those things in the church we just don’t talk about, and I’m learning I’m not alone. It’s the entire point of this blog.
When Moses parted the Red Sea, I’m sure there were Israelites saying “In your face you Egyptians!” — but then another group was screaming the entire way through. Yet they all made it by grace. I’m one of the screamers.
I’m not endorsing a halfway lukewarm faith. I believe God wants us to have a robust, vibrant, thriving relationship with Him. But at least for me, I’ll be limping to the finish-line. I’m more Peter than Paul. I’m more Martha than Mary. I’m more David than Daniel.
mythoughtfulmind asked a question:
Hi! Within the last 6 months or so, I’ve thought a lot more about relationships than I ever have before. I’ve never been in one & it gets tough to see so many around me sometimes. With the secular world telling me to get out there, and the Christian views saying I just need to wait & “don’t worry, relationships are hard & being single is good!” sometimes I don’t know what I’m even “allowed” to feel among my Christian peers about this adventure of dating. Advice for a girl not sure what to think?
Hey my friend, first please allow me the grace to point you to my book on dating. It actually talks about the very issues you’re talking about. I’m sorry for the shameless plug, but it’s less than nine bucks and I think it’ll at least jumpstart your own thought process on relationships.
The truth is that you’re going to hear about a billion different opinions on dating. In the book I discuss how we’re all living within the reactionary backlash of someone else’s thoughts, so each opinion on dating (or life or faith or politics) is just a response to another response. That’s why we have the bizarre subculture of Christian dating versus the cool casual hipster pastors who shrug at purity.
My humble opinion is:
Prayers for the families of Liu, Ramos, Brinsley, Kondek, and Parilla. Prayers for NY, for our country, for the world.
cashmoneykatelyn asked a question:
Lately I’ve been feeling like God is so far from me. I know he says he’s just a breath away, but it never feels that way. I fear that for the rest of my life I’ll feel like this. I question if I even love God like I thought and that’s why I have problems.
Hey my friend, I’ve said before that the Big Christian Secret is we all run into doubts, frustrations, confusion, and questions.
I believe the church culture has inadvertently made a rock-show environment that induces hype every Sunday, so that each service must top last week until we get exhausted and crash. Then when those feelings are gone, we assume God is gone, and that maybe we’ve done something wrong. You haven’t.
We sometimes falsely pressure ourselves into a mountaintop experience everyday, but every person in the Bible also fell into valleys and deserts, and this is exactly where God does His best work.
deliveredfish asked a question:
Hello. I understand that my own works could never get me into Heaven, and it’s pointless to weigh myself down with rules and moral obligations. Nevertheless I do believe that genuine faith results in a changed lifestyle, and that good works are a byproduct of faith. This causes me to question the sincerity of my own faith, as I notice that my natural inclination is to sin/my nature is still corrupt/I don’t display much fruit of the spirit. I miss feeling secure in my salvation. Any advice?
Hey my dear friend, I absolutely believe that a follower of Christ is going to have evidence of change in his or her life. But please consider a few things before you go too hard on yourself.
The Christian life can’t just be about running away from sin: but is ultimately about running to Him. That means finding His mission, His purpose, and His heart for you. It means asking for His wisdom in how to discipline yourself, to be shaped by His truth, to be restructured in His image. It means bonding with other like-minded individuals to live out your God-given calling. It’s so fully experiencing the love of God that you are shaken down to your very core, melted and tenderized by His grace to never go back, but only pursue Him forward.
— J.S. from The Christianese Dating Culture
genericrandomusername asked a question:
I know that homosexuality is a sin. But one thing I’ve learned is that everything labeled “sin” is something God is protecting us from. Like any good father, his rules are there for a good reason. I understand why casual sex, lying, and gluttony are dangerous, but what are the dangers of homosexuality? What is God protecting us from? The reasons I’ve gotten from Christians have were either stupid or totally convoluted. I need to know why I oppose something. Something beyond a weak apologetic.
Hey my dear friend, please allow me the grace to offer just a few challenges to consider from very opposite angles.
– I’ve written about homosexuality before and I no longer talk about it much because everyone starts yelling at each other as loud as dang possible, and the people actually inside the issues get lost in the mix. Whenever issues get trumped over people, I’m out, because I love people more.
I’ve realized long ago that no one’s actually interested in having a real conversation over this one, and I haven’t had a single rational discussion about it, not once. It doesn’t matter how polite I am, someone is going to rage-cuss and I’m just too jaded for it now.
I’m not pro or anti anything, I’m just pro-people. I tend to anger both “sides” with that answer because it’s apparently too soft (sort of like “Give to God’s what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”). But if that makes me a cop-out, I think it’s actually more of a cop-out to reduce a person to his or her sexuality; it’s too simplistic to reduce the abortion issue to a nine-month window of time; I think it’s reductionistic to get angry at the President or to legislate morality on Capitol Hill or to dichotomize people into binary oppositions.
Let’s see it this way. If I’m caught in a current about to head off a waterfall and you throw me a lifesaver, it would be weird if I said, “What color and texture and material is this thing?” In other words, I need to get saved before I work out the details. I know the analogy breaks down somewhere (they all do), but the doctrine of faith is prioritized over the doctrine of sexuality. Both are important, but there’s an order. If we’re not getting to Jesus first, then who cares what I think about sex? I can’t put the caboose before the engine.
So I’m done with that. I’m a simple guy. My job isn’t to persuade anyone of anything. I love people like Jesus does, with grace and truth: end of story.
I’m going to leave behind that topic to back up over the larger picture.
– The thing is, if I tried to convince you of why you should believe any particular thing about the Bible, it won’t work that way. If you or I presume that God has to make a convincing case for His Word, then 1) we’ll keep our arms crossed and never be convinced enough, 2) we can be persuaded right out of it, or 3) we’ll follow Him with begrudging drudgery.
While I absolutely believe there’s a logical rationale behind all of God’s commands, if we don’t believe they’re for our good, then it doesn’t matter how logical they sound: I still won’t believe them.
Adam and Eve had a really strange rule in the Garden. Don’t eat the fruit off the tree. Was there any tactical advantage or practical benefit? Did it somehow profit the human race or create positive energy? Did the fruit have mystical evil properties? Maybe. But it’s more likely that God was saying, You have the entire Garden for you by grace, because I love you. Now please don’t eat the fruit off this one tree, simply because you love me.
That’s it. No hocus pocus or diagram or flow chart. No list of seven reasons why it’s a good idea to follow God. This is called a covenant, in which both parties love each other out of mutual trust instead of functional pragmatism. It’s for the essence of, not for what it can do.
Here’s what I’m not saying: I’m not saying we don’t ever question God. Believe me, I’ve questioned Him about a billion times at every painful step of faith. I grew up an atheist and I still default to doubt and skepticism very quickly. Some of God’s commands seem ridiculous at first glance.
But the more I learned about the particulars of the Old Testament (they’re an unfolding narrative and not a prescription) and grasped the idea of God’s commands (they’re not to restrict us, but to show us what’s best and give us abundant life), the more I was able to settle with God one-by-one on what He says.
It’s not that I flip a switch and trust Him overnight; I know some Christians who can do this, and God bless them. But I’ve eventually found that the heart of God is His love for me, and even His law is about touching upon His heart. My bias used to be that I distrusted God at every word; now my bias is slowly coming around to trust Him at His Word, and when I obey, it always makes sense later.
There’s also no place I need to look much further than the cross and resurrection. The Gospel is primarily an invitation into the True Story of the world; without this, then none of His commands matter anyway. All this will only make sense when we see the man on that tree who died for me, that savior who released me from the grip of sin by conquering its terrible grip. Without faith in Jesus, then it doesn’t matter what else we believe about what he says. God rescued His people from the slavery of Egypt before giving them the Ten Commandments. Rescue comes before internal renovation. I can’t put doctrine ahead of the Gospel, or else we have no doctrine.
What I’ve learned about Sundays is that everyone mentally agrees with the pastor and has no problem with values like love, peace, joy, and forgiveness. But on the way home, back into the world on our phones and Facebook, that three-point sermon doesn’t work in the heat of the moment. We can amen a sermon on loving others, but rush hour traffic turns us all into demon-possessed pagans. Because we’re human. That’s why every Sunday has to point to the Savior, who didn’t just save us once, but is also the daily grace we need to make it a day at a time. He’s our hope in traffic, in our jobs, with our spouses, with raising children, and choosing better when we most want to explode and give up. He gives us humanity when we least want it.
Who God has called you to be
is the you that you’ve been wanting to be all along.
— J.S. from What The Church Won’t Talk About
A huge thank you to those who bought my books and sent pictures!
– Isabella Ng, Esther Choi (and her dog Skylar), Emilyne Jane, and Hannah Hong
My books are available for less than ten on Amazon!
Check out the reviews and consider them for Christmas gifts. 🙂
Thanks again and love y’all!