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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Every now and then, I listen to sermon podcasts. Today, I listened to one by Matt Chandler, the head pastor of one of the Village Church campuses down in Texas. The message was entitled "A Change in Perspective." He talked about the idea found among many churchgoers that there is a sort of "sacred-secular divide" - that God is only concerned with things like church, theology, missions, etc., and that everything else (business, politics, agriculture, art, psychology, etc.) is only of concern to us humans. But Chandler refutes this idea with Scripture such as Genesis 1:28, known as the "cultural mandate": "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it..." He made men to be creators and doers and women to be their helpmates in those tasks. He created the world to function in a certain way, thereby demonstrating his interest and sovereignty over it. Isaiah 28 talks about how God designed agriculture to operate in a certain way; if it is done the wrong way, things won't grow. Romans 2:14-15 discusses how His Law is so prevalent that those who aren't even educated in it tend to live by it: "(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)" The entire book of Proverbs is itself a testament to the wisdom God has imparted to us concerning all things, not just the "sacred." Solomon wrote of wisdom in relation to business, right conduct, good manners, economics, war, etc. 2 Corinthians 10:5 speaks of taking "captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Why shouldn't this include thoughts about education or art? Didn't God create those too? God is the God of everything! He delights in knowledge and beauty and physics. He created those things for us. He wants us to delight in them too.

I'll admit that I have found myself silently judging Christians who major in things like business or fashion or political science - things I wouldn't consider "holy." I have wondered these things about myself as well - was my failure to major in something like ministry or Biblical studies somehow displeased God? Is anything else worthwhile to Him? And I've let myself feel guilty about these kinds of things. I've let lies about God seep into my way of viewing and interacting with Him, turning Him into a frustrated, sighing, legalistic kind of God whose only wish is that I would stop screwing up more stuff. This view has manifested itself in the way I view and do my devotions, my perspective on the purpose of church, etc.

Slowly but surely, however, He is revealing Himself to me in new and profound ways - ways that are freeing rather than oppressive. God doesn't desire that we constantly struggle under the weight of conviction and worry about what He thinks or might do if we turn the wrong way. He wants us to delight in Him and the gifts He has given us. He wants us to use those gifts for His glory. He wants us to live in love and be thankful. And that's the kind of God I want to know better.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This Magic Moment

Tonight I had a conversation with a friend (we'll call him Joel) about being "in the moment"--specifically, how to define "in the moment"/when you know you're "in the moment." At first, I really couldn't think of a quality description to give it. It's one of those things that you know you have when you have it; otherwise, you can't quite put your finger on exactly what "it" is. Because no two "in the moment" experiences are the same. You can never really repeat the same one, and you always find it difficult to explain to someone who wasn't there.

After much discussion, we decided that an "in the moment" experience is essentially defined by one word: intimacy. It's that point where you are deeply sharing with someone else, whether it's your feelings, a memorable experience, or basically some kind of meaningful connection.

But you don't have to be with another person to be "in the moment." You can be by yourself watching a sunset--in which case, you'd be experiencing intimacy with nature, God, or even yourself. You're connecting. You're becoming aware of the beauty of creation or of the things that are really valuable to you. You're at peace with the world and with yourself, if only for that brief instant.

I'd really like more of these in my life, I think.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dreams Be Dreams

Sometimes, I realize that I have weird expectations. For example, whenever I come home after being gone for a long time, and I walk into my room, I either expect or sincerely hope there will be some sort of surprise for me on my bed. I can't explain it. But I know my sister does the same thing. I think I'm usually looking for a letter or package. Or something my mom got for me at the store. Regardless of what I think it will be, I always get a little excited to walk in and turn on the light. Obviously, I'm almost always disappointed.

Another expectation of which I've recently become aware is that I will receive some new and previously hidden revelation from God, one that has never before been revealed to mankind in this present age. Not that I want to go start a new denomination or religion or anything, but I do find myself thinking that one day I will have a special epiphany. And I will feel closer to God than ever before. And I will be wise and legitimately able to impart my insight to others. And life will suddenly make sense.

I've "lived in the future" since I was a little kid. I particularly remember reflecting on the significance of important holidays or events, such as Christmas and the Olympics. I always thought, "By this time next [year/Christmas/winter Olympics], I will have [this] and will have done [this]. I will have [this] all figured out, and I won't have to worry about [this] anymore." Or I'll do the same thing with a certain future age. "By the time I'm [this] old, I will be awesome and have it all figured out. I will have arrived." It really isn't healthy. But I think I'm becoming better as I age (now that I have everything figured out, obviously). I was a senior in high school last winter Olympics. Now I'm a "senior" in college. It's crazy to ponder how much has changed since then and how much will change by the time I'm... wow, almost 26. Will I be married? Will I have 2.5 kids? Will I have a dog? Will I still be living at home? Ha. No, but seriously.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lies and Fear Go Hand in Hand

So, I have to be honest. I really don't enjoy blogging. Actually, I really don't enjoy writing. I enjoy the action of copying and pasting all of my wisdom and insight into the blog box and then clicking the button at the bottom that says 'Publish Post.' I don't particularly enjoy editing that particular post 16 times before submitting the final draft, but it does give me a small sense of accomplishment to know that I have just exposed another part of my life and soul to the rest of the world. It's a little freeing, in a way. Being able to be held accountable for the things you say and think. Getting feedback, knowing other people are thinking the same things, or just the fact that other readers now know you a little better than they did 5 minutes ago... These are the things that make writing worth it. At least that's how I convince myself to keep it up.

Lately, I've been thinking about fear. It was the topic of Pastor Dave's sermon on Sunday, and we talked about it again at the college group gathering last night. Fear is something that, when embraced excessively (or obsessively?), leads to a lot of false perceptions and beliefs. These can be delusions about yourself, the danger, or God Himself. I've never really considered myself a 'fearful' person. I'm just realistic. Right?

Over the past few months, I've started to become afraid of more things. Some of this downward spiral has to do with graduating college and desperately searching for the next step. Some of it has to do with unfulfilled dreams and expectations. And some of it has to do with the rose-colored glasses I am slowly but surely learning to remove. One of my biggest fears right is that my life won't be meaningful. That I will be a wallflower forever. That the world will be no different after I am gone. That God will look at me and say, in the words of Francis Chan, "Wow, well done. Well done. You lived the safest life possible. You didn't slip. You didn't fall" (
see the clip here). I don't want to live a life completely void of risk. I want to take chances and make mistakes. I want to witness the seemingly impossible. I don't want to bury my talents. I want to be sent out into the harvest field.

On the other hand, I'm fearful of failure. I don't want to try anything too crazy because I don't want to fail. I don't want to put my heart on the line because I don't want to get hurt. I don't want to say what I really think because I don't want to be criticized. When I want to make myself feel better about being wildly mediocre, I just compare myself to other people who are even more boring than I am. As if I'm trying to justify my wasted breath.

Sometimes I'm afraid of my ability to hear and understand God - that I'll misinterpret what He says to me. Other times, I'm just afraid I'll disappoint Him. Which isn't unusual, really. At other times, still, I'm afraid that God will ask me to do something I don't want to do. Like be homeless. Or eternally celibate. Or a customer service representative. Now, I know God isn't a big, mean bully who just loves to watch us squirm. But this fear is somewhat legitimate. Just think about Moses, when God asked him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Or Jesus, when God told him to give up his life. At the same time, though, it's key to remember that God will never move you out of your comfort zone without a greater purpose. He doesn't delight in our misery.

It's a vicious thing, fear. In a way, though, it compels us to flee stagnation. It keeps us from making careless choices. It makes us think about things like meaning and purpose and the character of God. The key is to find the balance. Clearly, I don't know exactly how that's done... But I can take comfort in the fact that God is bigger than my fears. My life is a small and seemingly insignificant blip in the span of eternity, and people have had bigger problems before I came along. And really, even if I screw up, God can work through that too. He won't waste an opportunity to teach me, even if it's in a little less comfortable of a way than I would have preferred.