Saturday, December 18, 2010


Despite what I think I know intellectually about what it means to live for Christ, I know that a part of me keeps believing that as God opens my eyes more to what He sees, walking with Him gets easier. What a lie. Right after Jesus was baptized by John, the heavens opened with God's voice saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." [Matthew 3:16-17] What a magnificent moment it must have been for Jesus, to hear and feel the affirming love of his father in that moment.

What happened right after? "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil."

I can see how God's been teaching me a lot of things this year, and really changing the way I look at myself, the world, and most of all, Him. But as I see God working in me, I've only recently noticed that Satan's trying to drag me down in other areas of my life that I wasn't keeping an eye on. I feel that I should have been more on guard as I strive to follow him faithfully, but I wasn't.

And so I find myself frustrated, bitter, and ignoring God's commands about the little parts of my life while holding on steadfastly to the bigger things I feel called to do. The lie that I kept on believing was that since I was following God's will about the bigger, more obvious and visible parts of my life, I was doing just fine.

I never thought I'd be a bitter person. I get stubborn, hold grudges if I'm not careful, and I'll occasionally get unreasonably angry. But I was never bitter about anyone or anything until this year, and on certain days when I'm alone with my thoughts, this attitude overwhelms me and taints everything I see.

I keep wishing that things were different, that I could fix things up in a day. And I feel that the more I am bitter and disappointed, especially with other people, I find myself drawing further from God. I find that I'm relying on myself to fix these things that I'm not satisfied with. I find myself trying to think of the right things to say or do around these people so that they will see what they're doing wrong, and so that they will change.

But David in Psalm 5 starts by asking God to hear his prayer. "In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."

I don't know the last time I did that. Go before God in the morning, before anything else in my day, and present those requests to God, waiting in expectation. It is with a solid trust that God knows what He's doing that David can say these things. These things that I wish to see changed aren't necessarily bad, I want people to know God more, I want them to live their lives in ways that are pleasing to God, but when I just think them in my head, and I'm not presenting them to God, I see that I don't have trust in God's sovereignty. I don't trust that God can and will do what's best, and I keep trying to take matters into my own hands. And then I have to question the motives for why I'm asking for God to move in the hearts of people: is it for their best interest, or is it because they don't fit my standards?

David goes on to say that he knows that God is not one who takes pleasure in evil, that these people that David is up against are wicked, their hearts filled with destruction.

And then David closes the psalm in a unexpected manner. If it was me, I'd probably end it with some talk of how I'd fix it, how I'd care of it. He first praises God for being righteous, knowing that God is perfect, that it will be taken care of, rightly, by God. And then he ends with the reminder that God blesses those who love Him.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
     let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
     that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous;
     you surround them with your favour as with a shield.

And for me, I need to struggle to fight against the bitterness that keeps trying to taint how I follow Him. I'm praying that God gives me a heart of faith and trust like David's, which I know is what will keep my heart pure, so that every part of my life, visible or not, is pleasing to God, and can be used for His will.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

a whisper in the wind

I know I've already failed to keep this up. And with each day that I decide to ignore the One who is supposed to be my everything, I am tempted to let it continue for another day. But mine is a God of mercy who waits for me to return, not with a pointed finger and angry judgment, but with loving and open arms.

And yesterday, after a couple weeks of a dry existence, my former pastor tweets: "Never rest on the laurels or the failures of yesterday. Today is a new day, and God's mercies are new this morning for you."

So I return. Maybe not with a huge emotional feeling of repentance, but almost a reluctant acknowledgment of the emptiness in my life. It is in a quiet moment, in an intentional decision to seek Him, that God speaks to me.

I've heard over and over again from many people that in difficult times in their lives, God spoke through the Psalms of the Old Testament. I never really understood why; even when I was a lonely college freshman in Boston I'd tried reading them, but it never felt like I was comforted or given peace.

But I know it's only because I've only ever looked at the surface. When you dig into His Word, it is a treasure waiting to be discovered, as I have found in Psalm 4.

I don't think I can share in words how He used these words to move me this morning. So I'll just close with this thought of David's that runs parallel with mine. Even as David is in distress, he is able to say:

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

the reason I live

As King David is fleeing for his life, he says:

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. (Psalm 3:5-6)
David knows that he has many enemies that are out for him, including his own son. Many people are saying that he will be found and killed, that God will not deliver him. Yet in this Psalm he still praises God and calls out to Him. Not in anger or bitterness, but with a trust that God's sovereign will is perfect and planned.

If I was hounded by "tens of thousands" who wanted me dead, I don't think I'd be able to say or do what David did in verse 5. He is unafraid! He goes to sleep, peacefully, and with complete trust in God, wakes up remembering and believing that God sustains every moment of his life. If he wakes up in the morning, it is only because of God's will that he does so. Because there must be a reason for why he wakes up day after day.

David wakes up with the thought that he is awake and alive because God has a purpose for him. Not just in the long run, as in "God's will for my life," but that there is a purpose to be lived out each day. How often do I wake up each morning believing that each day is an opportunity from God?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

seeing mercy and love in the midst of God's wrath

I've got so many questions about this particular Psalm, but seeing as it's 10:00pm and I need to get some sleep for my exam tomorrow, I'll have to save those for later. They mostly revolve around my lack of understanding of the original text. I have to wonder, did the Bible in the original text really have the meaning and implications that is shown in English translations? You probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but you can ask me about that later. Hopefully the rest of this blog is makes more sense..

Brief summary: Psalm 2 talks of kings of the earth who gather together to reject God, and God's subsequent response.

The tidbit from this Psalm that caught my eye is this: "Then he will speak to them in his wrath..." (v.5)

The question to ask is, why would God speak in His wrath rather than destroy or obliterate?

I see it as an indication of God's patience and mercy. If He is perfect, good, always right and just, not to mention omnipotent, then the natural result I would expect is that God would immediately punish and destroy those who reject Him.

But He is all loving and merciful too. How am I any different from those kings? On those days that I don't want to spend time with God, those days that I don't acknowledge His Presence in my life, I am choosing to reject God as my King. Yet He wants what is best for me, which I believe is to love and know God Himself. So instead of destroying me immediately for the sin that is in me, He waits for me to choose Him each day.

The thing is, sometimes His love for me, His desire to show me what's best for me, comes in a form that doesn't make sense to me, or in ways that I think show God's anger rather than His love. The second part of verse 5 says, "... and terrify them in his fury..." That is a blatant yet truthful statement of God works. I've grown up believing that if my life was all good and dandy, God was showing me loved me, and that He didn't if I was unhappy with anything in my life. But that is a lie that Satan will use to cause doubt in those times when I'm struggling. But the verse seems to say that God speaks in His wrath to terrify us back to Him. Sounds like an oxymoron I know, but I see it as God shouting to get my attention, to remind me of what's truth, and to bring me back to what's best.

Listening to someone talking on the radio this morning, I was reminded of it again, that God's perfect and loving will for me may not come in ways that I like. This person on the radio had called to share about how someone in her family had been sick for years. Still waiting for a miracle, she said that she still will trust in God's faithfulness, even if she doesn't understand the form in which God's faithfulness comes.

That's an immense kind of faith that I'd like to have. That I will trust God's unconditional love and faithfulness to me, even if by choosing to follow Him, He leads my life down roads I may not like.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Psalm 1

[Decided to do something a little different with my devotionals. I'll be going through the book of Psalms, mostly one chapter a day (maybe take a couple days for the really long ones) and to keep myself accountable I thought I'd briefly share my thoughts about them here.]

I memorized the first Psalm a few years ago, and through it I am always reminded of a true God-seeking heart. Verse 2 says, "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day at night."

There are so many times in my life when I struggle to seek God daily simply because I don't find joy in it. I feel like it becomes a chore, and I trudge through the time I spend with Him, or more often than not, I choose to ignore Him that day or week or month.

But in this passage there are only two types of people. The man who is blessed, and one who is not.

The one who is blessed is the man who meditates on God's Word day and night. I can hardly say that I am that sort of person 99% of the time. But in that 1% of my life, when I am wholly devoted to God every moment of my day, I see how God works in me. I am filled with peace and joy and love, despite the circumstances in my life, and I see God using my imperfection to do His perfect will. And seeing this truth in my life, it is only a confirmation of verse 3: "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever He does prospers."

So I trust that when I am delighting in God's Word (delighting, not forcing myself into), He uses me as an instrument for His glory. Especially when I'm not seeing the results, but that's okay. It's enough that what I do pleases Him; the rest is up to Him.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

it is better to love..

It's 11:40pm and I'm very tired, but I feel compelled to write this post, as I have had this thought for the past several days. I know that if I don't take the time to flesh out whatever seed of an idea is in my head, I'm missing out on the opportunity for God to bless me with whatever He wants to show me through that idea. Without a thoughtful response, the idea will fade and I will have forgotten about it a week or so afterwards.

"It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

Is that true? Maybe, maybe not. I would like to hope that it is, but I don't know what it's like to have lost someone that I loved so deeply to the point where I might question if it was worth it. A particularly good friend of mine passed away when she was just 20 years old more than three years ago. When I saw the pain that her mother suffered through, I wondered if she ever, even just for a moment, wished that her daughter had never lived so that she could be spared from the pain of having lost her.

But what I never thought of until now was that with this statement, there is an assumption: that loving someone was worth it because the person who loved received something in return.

It is a romantic notion, that one is better off now than before because they loved. You experience, you grow, you learn. But what about the other person? The one that was lost? I don't think the quote necessarily means the second person died. Maybe they left the relationship, or maybe it was a mutual agreement between both people that it was time to part ways. But the point I'm trying to make is that people who are willing to accept this quote probably do so with the premise that the person who loved has gained some benefit.

So I present to you an alternative statement: "It is better to love."

The first question that comes to my mind is, "Better for who?"

Taking a different track here, let me share what it means for me to love someone.

It means that I am opening myself up. Not just to have tender and caring emotions for someone, and not just to enjoy their company and presence.

Love for me means that I am opening myself up to pain and rejection. The love that I want to have for others is like that of Christ. He loved. And what did He get for it? Pain, rejection, and hell. Yes, He rose again. Yes, He conquered death and is seated at the right hand of God. Yes, He has been glorified and is now exalted as King. But He would have gotten that anyway. If He is King no matter what happens, ever, He doesn't need us, and He doesn't need to love.

But He chose to love anyway. If it is better to love, in this case, it was better for ME. Not for Christ.

So as difficult as it is, I ask God to teach me to love as He does. That He will give me a love for others that continues even when it causes me pain and heartache. Not because it's better for me, but because other people can be healed and moved and changed when they are loved unconditionally, as I have been by the perfect and amazing love of Christ. I want the conviction that the potential (and probably eventual) pain and rejection that comes with loving others more than loving myself is worth it. Worth it for someone else. And I would hope that the love they see in me, imperfect as it is, would show them a glimpse of the love of Jesus, which I believe is better than life itself. I am staking my life on that.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oh, How Wonderful It Is To Be Loved By You

I often feel like my walk with Christ is constantly on a roller coaster track with its crazy ups and downs. You'd think that this would have changed over the past nine years, since I first decided that Christ needed to be more than just my Savior, but the Lord of my life as well.

In some ways, I know I've changed. Maybe not in ways that I expected, and unfortunately, maybe not even to a degree that anyone else would have noticed. But I know I've grown, especially in the way that I see or think about God, myself, others, and life in general. And not even by my own doing, but purely by God working in me.

In other ways, not so much. Life during high school seemed to center around those emotional highs and lows that happen due to those bi-annual youth group retreats, making me question my faith over and over again. I always hoped that my faith and love for God would eventually become one that is steady, constant, and committed, not fluctuating in what could easily be explained away by getting caught up in the hype or temporary infatuation.

I don't know if I'm still as I was in high school. Maybe I'm not as blind as before or following with a herd mentality, but at times I still have those same fluctuating reactions. Some days I'm all for God, other days I don't want to acknowledge Him. But a part of me can't let go of the fact that even though those emotional moments always fade away, they're not fake. I can't dismiss those moments in my life where I felt the humbling and loving presence of God, even though I know others will by saying that they're just emotional highs, that they're just feelings you make up in your own mind.

Even now, I am occasionally blown away by the unconditional love and grace that He showers on me, especially at random points in my day. And I'm grateful for those moments. God never wanted my devotion to Him to center around duty, theological belief, or even for something like wanting to avoid hell and go to heaven. That's never going to be enough for me, and I'd eventually give up on God.

So during those periods in my life where I don't want to live this life anymore, God brings me back to Him. Not by threats of punishment, not by guilt over my sin. But by reminding me of how much He loves me. If you ask why I choose to follow God, I can try to give you a bunch of reasons that might satisfy you. But at the heart of it, He loves me like no other. Oh God, how wonderful it is to be loved by You.

I hope you are blessed by this song, as I have been the past few weeks:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Empty Words

I had a bad day. Maybe not tragic or particularly horrible, but generally miserable. If you know me, it doesn't happen often. Even if I get worked up or upset over something I don't like or approve of, I'll rant for a bit then let it go. Most things don't make a lasting impact on my mood. I personally like to think that I'm pretty laid back, stress-free, and have an likable attitude. At least I hope so. If you think I'm the very opposite, please let me know.

So if I'm having a bad day, it's pretty miserable for me. The negative feelings will take up residence in my head and heart. So when someone tells me, "It'll be a better day tomorrow," I can't help but feel that those are just empty words. I know that they mean well, and are for the purpose of raising my spirits, but it never has that effect on me.

This time the words made me question the reasoning behind that kind of answer.

What guarantee can anyone give me that these words are true? Why will tomorrow be a better day? Just because I close my eyes for the day doesn't mean that whatever issues caused my bad day are gone along with the sun.

I'm not trying to be pessimistic; instead, I'm trying to reflect on why everything is said and done, to question whether it's all in the Spirit of Christ. Why is tomorrow a better day?

I'm willing to bet that 99.9% of the time, these words are said without much thought. Just a generic way to hopefully make someone feel better. Maybe it started with the assumption that because the sun rises anew, it's also a fresh start for us. Unfortunately, this new day happens in a fallen world, and this hope is a blind hope not based on anything at all. If one were to argue and say that it is based on the fact that the sun has risen and set without fail for as long as we can remember, all I can say is that I don't believe this world will last forever. It will eventually fade away, and the sun at some point will fail to do what it's done for so long.

But the hope I have is eternal. So even if my day tomorrow isn't necessarily better in the way we usually see it, as a child of God, I can say that tomorrow is a better day for different reasons. Because I'm one day closer to the second coming of Christ. Because He continues to work in me, and therefore I'm a little closer to knowing Him. Because He gives me breath, life, and a purpose for why I exist. Because I'm loved one day more when I don't deserve it at all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

a blank mind..

I miss blogging. So I shall return. Not tonight though, can't think of anything to say because I am tired. But soon, very soon, I shall have a nice post for you all.
To keep you occupied until then.. (this is my favorite show)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

in despair

In those times when I feel completely lost, unhappy, and stuck in a life I no longer want, I consider abandoning my faith and starting over in a completely new direction.

You'd think that in the face of that, the things I feel would be of something like freedom, wanderlust, and the thrill of endless possibilities.

Instead, all I feel is the darkness of despair. Despite my never-ending list of wants, the truth that's firmly etched into me is that I deserve nothing, and have no worth other than in the God who made me, knows me, loves me, and intended my life on earth to be a temporary journey before the final destination which is at His side. To let go of that makes my world seem incredibly bleak.

In that perspective, even the biggest things that I want to acquire or accomplish for myself seem to pale in comparison.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

do people change?

Have you ever known somebody and thought to yourself that they never can or will change? As I was talking to a friend about such a person, I wanted to defend said person and say that they weren't all that bad, that eventually they would change, especially since they believed in God. I want to believe that God can change people, even the most unexpected. I mean, look at the one of the best examples in Saul-turned-to-Paul.

I don't want to limit God in my mind of what He can or can't do. I say that I believe in the God that parted the Red Sea. In the God that made a donkey talk (yes, it's in there, Numbers isn't as boring as you'd think). In the God that repeatedly brought His people back together to be a united nation despite being exiled and broken apart numerous times. If I believe in the God who created the world in seven days and raised a man from the dead after three, despite every bit of science telling us that it's irrefutably impossible, then why can't I believe that God can change somebody?

Or maybe it's not that I don't believe that God can change people, but that He won't. I think that's a harder pill to swallow. Because if that's what God wants, you're not really gonna get a hooray from me.

Maybe God doesn't want some people to change as easily as others would, for some reason that I'm not sure of. Maybe to strengthen my own faith, although I'm not sure how. Either way, I can't assume to know all of what God knows. And apparently, He knows best. So in the end, maybe it's not about believing that people can change, or even that God Himself is capable of it. Maybe it's about believing that whatever God chooses in that situation is best, even if it doesn't make any sense to me.

There is one thing I learned in high school that I remember best: I can't change other people. The only person I know that I have any real influence of changing is myself. And even then I need God to help me along the way.

Totally unrelated notes:
1. I'm wondering if the cliche "hard pill to swallow" inspired the blue pill/red pill scene in the Matrix. Great movie, by the way.
2. I'd like to give up school for Lent. Are you participating? What are you giving up? Here's a tip for you from twitter (@bloodwater): " Lent is more than just giving something up; it's about putting something better in its place."
3. I'm very unclever. See that blog entry title up there? Yeah, that's what I resorted to because I couldn't think of anything better than that. All my other choices = lame.
4. Lastly, waiting for that snow to melt. Bring on the Spring!

Monday, February 15, 2010

the world wide web

In the past year, I have been using twitter rather regularly. It's an interesting medium for conversations, considering that each bit happens in 140 characters or less, and it consists of a wide range of users/uses.

You get the annoying spammers who send out the same "flyer" to every twitter handle they can get their grubby hands on (just a thought, am I incorrectly stereotyping spammers by assuming they all have grubby hands?). There's the group of tweeters who think everyone is always just dying to know what they just ate (which I admit, I've done that before). Better are those who keep up with the news and give everyone real-time updates. There are even trends that are purely for fun. But best are the ones who are trying to foster conversation about anything and everything, which I really enjoy.

Through this I have recently realized there is a whole other online community out there: the blogging community. I love how it spans across the entire world. As you can tell, I'm trying to become a part of this by writing more regularly in my own, although I'm not nearly as witty or eloquent as any of them. But here are a few that I have been following. I particularly like these because they are not only amusing or interesting, but they've been challenging me to think beyond what I know and perceive about my life and my faith, even if I don't agree with everything they say.

Stuff Christians Like
The Church of No People
Twenty-Two Words

As you can probably tell (if you bother to click on them and peruse through), they're all Christian bloggers, because that's just my preference, but I know that you can find millions of blogs that focus on other things, like photography, comic strips, words and language, music, travel, or even something as silly (yet delicious) as bacon. (The first two links in that last sentence are of personal friends of mine, both highly enjoyable).

Do you tweet? What blogs do you follow? Or better yet, do you have a blog of your own? Feel free to plug or promote shamelessly.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

something about snow..

Despite the inconveniences of shoveling driveways, cleaning off my car, driving through bad traffic, and walking through the eventual dirty gray slush, there's just something about fresh-fallen, untouched snow that fills me with a sense of wonder. Even in February, which is usually when I'm wishing for the spring thaw, I smile and know that I'll never end up hating it.

Sorry for the bad quality: didn't have my camera on me the one day I really wanted it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


In a certain context, I really don't like that word. It's such a shallow and ephemeral concept, that to wish for happiness more than anything else seems futile. I know it sounds pessimistic of me, but I feel that as a Christian, to pray first and foremost for happiness is wrong. God doesn't guarantee happiness, it is written multiple times in His word that we will suffer in this world if we choose to follow Christ. So when people come to the conclusion that happiness is a sign of God's blessings, I have a problem with it. It implies that the blessings of a church, family, or person can be counted in terms of happiness; that if a church isn't "happy," God is not working in that church; that if a family isn't happy, God isn't blessing that family; that if I'm not happy, God must NOT be in my life.

Someone once pointed out to me that every time a Christian group goes on a trip, the first thing we pray for is "safety." But why is safety the first thing we pray for? If anything, shouldn't we pray that God does whatever it takes to draw us nearer to Him? If we're going on a retreat, we would hope that God takes us there safely so that we can receive whatever blessings He has planned for at the retreat, but consider this: what if, just what if, the best way that we drew nearer to God involved an accident of some kind?

Or here's another example (I heard this illustration once, and unfortunately, I cannot reiterate it for you in the same powerful way I heard it, but here's a paraphrasing): A missionary wants to marry a woman that he loves and believes is someone he can be one with in glorifying God. But he sees that God's plan for him is to do missionary work that puts his life at risk. When he goes to that woman's father, he doesn't tell the father that he will make her happy, or that he will provide for her, or even that he will protect her. Instead, he asks the father these questions: Can you give away your daughter to a man who will take her into danger for the sake of the good news? Will you allow your daughter to marry someone who will put God's will above her safety and happiness? Will you place God's glory before your daughter's life? I think it was a true story, because I remember someone mentioning that the father was able to give her away, and the married couple ended up martyred for the gospel.

I think that if that woman had been me, my parents would not have allowed me to marry a man like that. As much as my mom is devoted to Christ, when it comes to her children, I think that she will put our happiness and safety above our Godly purpose, which is to love Jesus and make Him known.

Even now, as the new year begins, I know that I will face a difficult semester, taking on a lot of things. When I told my mom that I was also going to serve as a leader at our church ministry, she kept trying to convince me that I should only take on the responsibility when I didn't have as much on my plate. I had voiced my worries of how hard it would be, and she replied, "If you know it's going to be hard, why do it?" My answer? I'm half-hoping that it WILL be beyond what I can handle on my own, because I know that my struggles are prime opportunities for me to draw closer to Jesus, to actually NEED Him in my everyday life.

I don't blame my parents for wanting me to be happy and not suffer. But I have to eventually reconcile my intellectual understanding that my happiness is not God's primary will for me with my heart's desire to be happy in the moment, here and now. And just because I know in my head what it should be like, it certainly doesn't mean that the execution comes just as easy. God help me, because I know I can't do it on my own. And as scary as it is, I'm praying that my desire to know and love God, to draw nearer to Him, will be more than my desire to be happy in this life.