Tag Archive: God


I’ll be honest, I have not faced the adversity and oppression that many around me have faced in their lifetime and in their shared experience. So I cannot truly feel the depths of emotion that many have endured in the last 12+ hours after the US presidential election. I’ve also realized I have not such a disturbing dissonance within me for a long time.

As I’ve been trying to process where my thoughts and feelings are on all this, I’ve recognized a couple of things.

First, “Is this what God wanted?” With so many evangelical leaders, and with a segment of Christians who vocally proclaimed that “God wants Trump to be president” (as a YouTube search will verify), I adamantly couldn’t come to that conclusion. And yet here we are. Which makes me start wondering, am I not understanding the will of God? Are my understandings of who God is and his desires really that far off? At this point, I don’t think my understanding of God’s intention for life or for his creation is completely wrong. (But I did get pushed to that at one point.)

Secondly, the word that’s recently been popping in my mind is “injustice”. There’s that part of me that still clings on to the idea that you “reap what you sow”. Recently, I heard some news-talk callers state that late-night TV shows (like Seth Meyers, SNL, Stephen Colbert) were bullies to Trump. Part of that was because (sounding like a 3-year old), he started it! The arrogance that exhumed from him seemed unmatched. (To be honest, part of the reason why I watched those clips was as a defense against that arrogance.) As Van Jones stated recently (and I’ll paraphrase), we tell our kids not to be bullies, not to be bigots and to study and be prepared, and yet this guy succeeds in spite of contradicting all of that. Even with that arrogance, all that hatred and seemingly lack of respect for anyone except himself, he still managed to win the White House. It seems as though he didn’t reap what he sowed, that someone can win while so explicitly disregarding others in such a profound manner.

A sermon I preached a few weeks ago on moments when God seems far, far away came flooding back to my mind (always interesting how God reminds me of those). This feels like one of those moments when what my head knows and what my heart experiences are two different things. On the one hand, yes, I do believe and cling to the truth that God is still sovereign (because he’s been sovereign through so many other reprehensible moments in history before). On the other hand, my heart looks around and asks, Where are you God in all this?

On this side of eternity, I don’t know. That dissonance I don’t believe will cause me to throw away my faith in Jesus. It’s definitely not a state I want to remain in forever. Somehow, may God continue to reveal how all this unfolds. In the meantime, I must continue to seek him and his will not just on this subject, but for everything else that’s coming.

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Let me rephrase the question: would you do something if there were no direct punishment for you? (You can extend this to any illegal/immoral activity, whether it’s stealing, harming, raping, etc.).

What deters many people is the resulting punishment/consequences if one of those acts is done by one person against another. Many times, this is how some churches present their understanding of the Christian life i.e. God will punish you if you do that. So, for many, living a moral life is really about punishment-avoidance.

What this question suggests is whether you are changed fundamentally, especially from a Christian faith perspective? Because if you would do it because you can get away with it, what does that speak to who we really are?

John Wooden said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” To shift the angle: do I try to stay away from doing bad things (you define what those are) primarily because I’m afraid I’ll get caught or because I believe those acts are fundamentally wrong in and of themselves? After all, in the hypothetical scenario that I wouldn’t be punished for that act, there are still consequences because it impacts the other person negatively. Sometimes, I ask myself that question:

  • Would I steal (embezzle, etc.) just to get what I want?
  • Would I get back at another person through some sort of violence (physical, material, psychological, social) if I felt wronged or because I had contempt?
  • Would I treat women essentially as objects for my own pleasure?

It challenges me to address a deeper issue within me i.e. is God shaping that fundamental desire to seek the betterment of the person around me vs exploiting them for my own selfish desires, which in turn shapes my behaviour? This is beyond punishment-avoidance behaviour modification. This is what the Holy Spirit wants to pursue in my life and everyone else’s.

At times, facing that question forces me to consider where am I at really with God. (To be honest, there are dark spots in my soul I don’t want to acknowledge sometimes.) Yet, it’s God’s desire that the very depths of my soul be transformed so that I might be like Christ. God help me in that process.

Is God a micro-manager?

Every so often, I heard some Christians talk about God being in control of everything. We equate this to the concept that God is sovereign over all, that “not one thing happens without God’s approval”. Sometimes, this can be taken to far-fetched extremes. For example, there’s the one story about a guy praying about a parking spot as a sign of God’s will for him to get a donut. Yet is this what it means for God to be sovereign? Does God control everything you do including when you’re taking a smoke or a drag?

It seems some people purport this idea of God’s sovereignty almost being like some kind of cosmic puppet-master. I would suggest that’s a skewed way of defining sovereignty. God shows us how life works best within his parameters of his will. I don’t believe every single action is pre-determined by God, that somehow our main purpose is just to find the “secret, correct” path that God has set out or else we’ve completely messed it up. There’s a different between being all knowing and all controlling. I don’t think God stands back and thinks, “Ah, I missed that one. How did that happen?” He knows what will happen and allows situations to unfold based on the decisions of others. Those decisions actually have an eternal impact. But I don’t believe every single incident is pre-deteremined for us (like what I’m going to have for lunch tomorrow). He allows our decisions to actually have significance in how things unfold. But God already knows what those decisions are and how life will unfold. Part of our task as Christians then is to seek God for the best direction so that our decisions will actually expand God’s kingdom, not obstruct it.

Is God a micro-manager? I don’t think so. But there isn’t anyone else I would trust to give me direction. Period.

I started to read this book when I had a dark period of my life. When I started, it resonated deep within my soul. That feeling that sometimes God is distant, is unaware, is gone. As the title suggests, it’s as if we’re left in the dark by ourselves and no idea what to do.

Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin share their experiences in moments like these not in a flippant way. They don’t nonchalantly skim over their dark moments but allow you to dwell with them, perhaps feeling your own darkness in that time. Their answers are simple (maybe a bit too simple). Some of their reflections on scripture don’t delve into the intricacies of the issue. For example, there’s a reflection on Judas and how he basically never knew Jesus even though he did everything the disciples did (including miracles as implied). I think the context surrounding Judas is more intricate than that.

In the end, Kluck ends his section stating “it’s only natural that a book on doubt/struggle would end here. At repentance. At joy.” They are right in that in those dark moments, we don’t necessarily abandon hope, but we abandon God (not the other way around). And like most things within the Christian faith, it is simple but definitely not easy.

Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Chosen Books (a division of Baker Book House Company) in exchange for an honest review.

Within the evangelical community, there is this tension between social justice and a claim to biblical theology, most recently highlighted in the debate about same-sex marriages. (This is typically exemplified between liberal and conservative polarities.) I can appreciate what the tension tries to resolve.

God’s heart is to remind humanity that they are all worthy of his grace. Not worthy because of what we’ve done but because of his great love for all of us. He brings dignity even to those who are on the fringe. Many Christians seek to continue that by affirming all people whether because of gender, race or sexual orientation.

God also has a high standard of what life is meant to be. The very definition of “sin” is deciding how to live life our own way instead of God’s way (the premise being if God did create everything, then he should know how it all works best together). So many Christians hold tight in calling sin what it is and warning others against moving it.

A lot of times, Christians sway towards one polarity or the other, claiming their dominant premise of who God is (or how he is reacting).

Yet I try to hold on to both of these polarities in its tension because I believe Scripture demonstrates that God holds both a desire to uphold the dignity of all individuals and to hold humanity to a high standard of living according to what it was meant to be (i.e. God’s intended original plan). And it will continue to be a tension because I may never get the “right” balance between the two. It doesn’t mean I should give up on it, because Jesus did exemplify this balance so well in bringing dignity to those on the fringe while also challenging all to the high standard God set before humanity.

To be like Christ, I must continue to wrestle with this tension in my current finite understanding, trusting that God (being God) already knows how the two go hand in hand.

How do you deal with this tension?

The uncertainty of uncertainty

I’m a person who likes to plan out as much in advance as I can. My calendar has entries into 2014. My task list (all 3 of them) keeps growing. I try to map out what I need to do with as much detail as possible. I’d like to consider as many variables as I can before mapping out a plan.

Right now though, I’m in a situation with great uncertainty that will have long-term implications for our family. (For now, I can’t delve into the details of our situation publicly.) I felt myself going back to the day when Elijah was diagnosed with autism. The day after, I felt such a deep sense of “I have no idea what to do with this”; I cried with my own son (at the age of 2) comforting me.

Through the following weeks, we started to seek different supports, resources and agencies, developing a strategy for Elijah. Gradually, we got him a variety of supports and saw where his prognosis and direction. However, I had to live within that uncertainty, staying in a “holding position” before I could move ahead.

I find myself in that position again, facing uncertainty in our family’s future and not knowing exactly what needs to be in place in the coming months (or years). Over the last few days, I am grateful for the family and friends who have expressed their utmost support. I have also found myself greatly leaning on God in all this. It’s both an anxious and comforting feeling having the Holy Spirit surround us in all this.

Things are still up in the air. Yet I hear God continuing to say to me, “I have your family in my arms. Trust me even though you’re not sure where you’re going.”

Words from a Prophet

Lately, there have been three distinct themes in my life:

  • a conversation with someone about “fear of the Lord” and how it impacts our lives
  • my recent Bible readings of Israel and Judah before and as they were being exiled along with the contemporary prophets of that time (chronological reading is coming in very handy)
  • a couple of conversations where people are contemplating whether to approach others with the truth, speculating whether it will be heard in vain

In a lot of ways, this isn’t unusual. It seems lately that God has kept the prophets in the back of my mind for a reason. So many times the prophets were told to give a message and God even states that the people won’t likely listen to it. Yet God charged them to speak anyway. At the end of the day, whether we think our actions or words will be ineffective or a waste of time isn’t really our decision. When God charges us to speak a message, it needs to be spoken, no matter how hard it is. (That doesn’t mean we don’t attempt to communicate at our best, that we just flippantly blurt out whatever we think we want to say. Rather, we communicate the message as best with as much grace as possible, yet leave the results with God.)

The flip side of this is that too many times there are some of us who speak too abrasively. We seem to think that anything coming from our mouths is “a word from the Lord” when really it’s our own opinions or perspectives. We think we’re speaking God’s truth when really we’re spewing out our own agenda, our own ideas (attributing them to God). This is a grave danger because 1. we’re blinded by our own arrogance and 2. we’re delusional. So even if God were to correct, unless our attitude and mindset changes, we’re really in the same boat as the people to whom we are judging.

This is where “the fear of the Lord” comes in. When we speak on behalf of God, we must realize that the magnitude of what we’re suggesting. I think sometimes many of us speak with a false sense of pride (perhaps even arrogance). But to speak God’s word or God’s truth contains a sense of profound fear that challenges us to make sure we have it right in the first place. (Because if we’re wrong, the consequences are disastrous both for the audience and the speaker.) This isn’t limited to sermons or public addresses, but includes personal conversations as well. So many times God warns that there were prophets who kept giving the people what they wanted to hear yet claimed to speak for God (when they weren’t). They evaluated their performance based on what the audience wanted to hear, not what God wanted to communicate. Whether this was intentional or delusional, it was false.

It’s one thing to have a personal opinion; we’re all entitled to that. However, it’s different when we claim to speak for God. When we do that, we had better make sure through much prayer and discernment that this is God’s message. That being said, once it is confirmed as God’s message, we must deliver it, whether or not we feel it will be effective or well-received. That part isn’t our concern.

Woe is me if I do not speak the words God has given me.

Fragility of Life

As I’ve grown older, I’m recognizing that there are not as many direct causations as I used to think. For instance, if I made a mistake, I used to believe it predominantly affected just me. Experience (and the Bible) have shown me that really, my mistakes impact others in ways I can’t predict.

I’m recognizing that while there are some elements I can control (my own attitudes, perspectives, etc.), there are many other things that I may be responsible for but really have no total control over. e.g. my children: Some people are quick to point to the passage that if a church elder doesn’t have “control” over his own household, how can he be an elder? At times, that has been taken to legalistic heights not meant to be. However, recognizing that I am not in total control, I just recognize more what I can influence, what I can control and what (to a large extent) I must trust God as he has oversight over all those different moving parts.

It’s hard sometimes. It’s hard to trust God when I want to control. Yet all the pieces which influence each other are so many that I can’t oversee it all.

Maybe, in the end, it’s actually easier to trust God and follow his direction than to think I can control everything.

Tonight, another viral video hit my Facebook wall featuring Charlotte and Jonathan auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent. (spoiler alert) This shy guy, very conscious of his appearance (the emotional scars of being teased throughout his life are visible) comes out with his friend to sing The Prayer (also performed previously by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion). Unbeknownst to the audience, when he opens his voice to sing, an energy and power come unexpectedly that they are wowed onto their feet, including the 4-judge panel. Reminds me of the Susan Boyle audition 3 years ago that shocked/wowed a YouTube audience which led to her superstar career. A couple of things that struck me as I’ve watched these 2 performances again.

First, we all have moments when we judge the common, the unattractive. (As confessed in the Susan Boyle audition, the judge said, “We were all against you.”) But then the moment comes when you find a treasure underneath bursting through, the crowd has this sense of “I can’t believe I was thinking that before”. (You know it’s dramatic when Simon Cowell has the priceless shock-look on his face when he’s made that very judgement.) At that moment, there’s this resounding connection that, even if it’s just for a moment, the world seems right and we are grateful for the treasure that was hidden within is now shared visibly. Some would say it’s the human goodness within us. I would suggest that it’s the God-connected part in us that sees, for a glimpse, perhaps what God had intended from the beginning i.e. that we would see the treasure he has gifted us within, without the prejudice of the exterior (unfortunately the sin within us tends to suppress and distort that).

Secondly, there’s something about a smile that makes a profound connection. When I see that genuine smile on the faces of three contestants, the audience members who know they are witnessing something spectacular, even on the face of Simon Cowell … definitely when I see the smile of my wife or my two kids … there is a connection that is almost unexplainable (I’m sure there are some social scientists who could explain it to me). There is a joy that cannot be hidden. It’s in those kinds of moments that I wonder if it’s a glimpse to what God experienced in the beginning, before earth as we know it or humanity was created. It’s a sheer joy of fellowship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit that could not be contained, it had to be shared and came in its fulfillment of what we know as creation. Contained within this thing we call a “smile” seems to be a temporal embodiment of that joy. Perhaps that’s why it’s so positively contagious, especially in those moments when it’s least expected.

For now, it’s a moment that I linger onto, praising God that, for this moment at least, I am experiencing the joy that God intended for humanity in the first place.

The last 12 hours have been a struggle. Preparing for his dental surgery, he wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything as of midnight. At 2am, he woke up wanting water (which of course he wasn’t allowed to have). He threw his objections and protests at me, saying that water would make him feel better and it was healthy (all valid points). Yet he couldn’t grasp the big picture that he couldn’t have it. I kept offering that I would be with him through the night, knowing he would need to battle this natural pang in his stomach without relief. Then he started getting scared about the surgery. All through the night and this morning, I kept reminding him “I am here with you”.

How often we miss the big picture, with our whining or complaining or legitimate fear or frustration, that we don’t see what God sees. Yet he still reminds us “I am with you”. Sometimes, I need to remember that and allow God to carry me through without knowing the big picture. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.”

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