Here are the Top Ten Posts of 2017 from my blog, ranging from topics such as North Korea, the 2016 election, crazy hospital stories, when people can’t admit they’re wrong, dealing with a friend’s depression, and surviving the world as an ugly Asian male.
I know that for many of us, the Christmas season is a painful time. The festive celebration is in stark contrast to your own history.
It could be a dysfunctional family. Grief from loss. A lonely time. The heartache of a hard year. Or it could just be you dislike the whole affair. You can’t stand the egg nog, mistletoes, and holiday radio.
But that’s okay. Please know: You are not obligated to pretend happiness just because a certain calendar date has fallen on you. You have permission to be a Scrooge, a Grinch, a “downer.” No one else has to live through what you’re going through, and they will be long gone after telling you how to feel.
I believe that God can handle that. He receives you. He validates your grief. No one else can, not fully. He does.
And more, God’s invitation to rejoice still stands. Always. He won’t stop inviting you to joy. Through tears, even for brief moments, laughter can still bubble up and surprise you. Jesus broke in the same way: through dirt, grief, a lonely manger, he was light pushing through the dark. A surprise.
Merry Christmas, to Scrooges and celebrators. However you spend this time and through all you’re going through, I hope you know: you are loved.
sunmoonandmyrtle asked a question:
Hi JS, I was wondering about the balance between trusting God and making your plans/taking action. I am a bit OCD about planning. My journey at the moment seems to be learning to let go of trying so hard and have faith in God to provide. On the other hand, I don’t want to be the kind of person who says God will bless them yet doesn’t work hard or look for ways to work smart. I’m not looking for a quick solution, but would be glad to just hear what you think. (I hope you’re having a nice day.)
Hey dear friend, I really wrestle with this too: When do I let go and “let God”? If I hustle and pursue, does that mean I’m not trusting Him?
Here are a few things I’ve learned about trusting God:
caito8o asked a question:
How do you bring people to God without telling them that they are going to hell? Or “shoving my religion down their throat?” And how do you deal with people that tried Jesus and still don’t believe? I have issues with the way my church discuss these topics so I was wondering if you could bring some clarity. Thank you so much for your help!
Hey dear friend, I speak all this with absolute grace and love for you, and I’d like to go one further.
Hell is not a motivation for faith—but neither is heaven. If a punishment or a prize are the motivations for someone’s journey, then my assumption is that person hasn’t thought very far about why they’re on this journey at all. I’m reminded of that quote from True Detective: “If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward, then brother, that person is a piece of s__.”
If my goal is to “bring people to God,” that actually won’t work either, because we shouldn’t be trying to make it work. I don’t mean to assume your motives, but evangelism isn’t a score-card where we win people by attendance. No one is a project or a charity case.
Christians might not think we do this, but it happens in all kinds of unseen ways: we attract people until they’re baptized, and then the pastor stops talking to them. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. God can only naturally flow out of who we are and how we interact with others. God flows from my art, my expression, my patience, my generosity, and what I do with my free time. It’s not primarily a conscious goal to say, “See, this is God!” It was C.S. Lewis who said we can’t try to make good art, but that we make art and it might turn out good. It’s the same way with expressing God to others: it happens or it doesn’t.
iliveinayellowsub asked a question:
How can we “gently rebuke” our brothers and sisters who believe in and propogate prosperity doctrine? Because honestly, my first reaction is anger and a desperate need to shut them down 😦
Hey dear friend, this is a really, really tough one. Prosperity Theology is one of the most painful iterations of the Christian religion I’ve ever seen, and it’s always psychologically abusive in the long run.
The thing is, attempting to challenge anyone’s beliefs is a dicey, dangerous endeavor that requires an extremely fine balance of love and truth. It’s terribly difficult and will certainly go wrong. Here are a few thoughts about it:
1) Before challenging someone’s harmful belief, get to know why they believe what they do.
There is a concept called The Deep Story in which if you ask someone about their beliefs, they will tell you a deeper story about what led them there. And every single time, if you listen with an open mind, it’s easy to see that if you had the same upbringing, same trauma, same family and friends, same community, and same circumstances as this other person, you might have come to believe exactly as they do.
Because we are much quicker to speak than ever before—social media, globalization, polarization, all that stuff—we are a bit slower to listen these days. In the last ten years, especially, much of our language has revolved around lectures and imperative commands, so that we’re always (consciously or not) trying to force other people into seeing “my point of view, which is obviously the best point of view.” We are always carving other people into our image.
If you pause to listen instead of lecture, you’ll find that many, many harmful beliefs are based on the premise that I am doing good for the world. Almost no one thinks, “I’m the bad guy” or “I’m defective and trying to hurt people.”
The best thing you can do is really get to know why. Why have they fallen into this cult-like belief system? What does it do for them? How is it working out? And what is good about their beliefs that you can affirm on a common ground?