Archive for December, 2008

Not the degree, but the object.

This was a vivid illustration from Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God, demonstrating that the object of one’s faith is more important than the degree or amount of one’s faith:

Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you as you fall is a branch sticking out of the very edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and it is more than strong enough to support your weight. How can it save you? If your mind is filled with intellectual certainty that the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If your mind is instead filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. Why? It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith inĀ  a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch. (234)

Even the smallest mustard seed of faith is enough for God to credit to the sinner Jesus’ righteousness.

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New clothes

I went to the mall today with my family to go shopping. I think this year I’ve gotten more new clothes than any other year. Maybe it’s because as a senior I’ve become more independent with my finances and so when my mom or dad pay for stuff, including clothes, or when I get them as gifts, I notice it more. Or maybe because I haven’t thrown away too many clothes since the beginning of college, so I feel like I have a lot of clothes. Every time I go shopping, I feel bad for spending so much money, even though it might not actually be much compared to most people. Time passes by so quickly for me now that shirts I bought a year ago don’t seem that old to me, even though I’ve worn them a lot and they’re starting to fade and get fuzzy (my dryer at school isn’t the greatest).

I’m not used to buying “nice” clothes and having a taste for certain fashions. It’s a recent thing for me. Cheap jeans don’t fit as well (i.e. look as good on me) as more expensive jeans, so I find myself not even looking at the cheaper brands anymore. I used to just wear whatever my mom would buy for me. I remember thinking when I was younger that $50 shoes were expensive. But now I can tell the difference in quality between cheap and more expensive shoes and I enjoy the comfort, durability, and overall niceness of more expensive ones. I know what I’m looking for now in dress shirts and pants in terms of fit, features, colors, textures, patterns, and materials. It’s just that when I find something I like, it tends to be more expensive than what I would get a few years ago (I don’t think it’s just inflation). I do try to take better care of what I end up getting though, since I want them to last longer. And I’ve been finding that’s the case…more expensive clothes tend to last longer. I try to be a good steward of my material possessions.

It was nice to be able to get expensive clothes for cheap today. There were great deals everywhere. A few years ago, I remember feeling sick at the consumerism and shopaholicalism I would see around me. But today, I didn’t have that feeling with me. I don’t know what was different today…I could people-watch and not feel cynical and concerned about sin. Maybe it’s because the reason for the long lines wasn’t necessarily consumerism but low prices spurred by a bad economy. Maybe it’s because I prayed yesterday that God would help me to be more loving after a few incidents that reminded me of my pride and stubbornness.

I try to keep myself from getting too involved in what I wear. It’s nice to look nice, but it isn’t everything. I keep thinking about Pastor John Piper, who owns very few pairs of suits and doesn’t own a TV and lives a simple life. I think of my dad, who is fine with clothes from Walmart and looks funny sometimes in inexpensive jackets and pants. Can I still have a heart of humility even if I might be spending a little more money for clothes that I like? I hope so. I humbly realize that God can call me to deny these things for the sake of His glory.

A Lesson from UR

This past week was busy in a good way. As much as I wanted to come home and relax at home after finishing finals, I really feel like the past week has been put to good use. I went to KCM University Retreat and led a small group. I could share more about all the things I felt and observed and learned, but that will take too long. I’m kind of tired at the moment. But I do want to write about one thing I learned.

In our small group, one topic that we kept returning to was emotion. One of the guys shared about how sometimes he would look around during the service and see so many people full of emotion during praise and prayer times. He would find himself lacking the same emotion and thinking “Am I doing something wrong here?” But he was still growing in his faith and pursuing after God in Word and prayer. I felt his remarks resonate with me. I found it hard to be emotional outwardly with some of the songs. Pretty much all of the songs we sang had loud and powerful melodies and sections, even those that started quiet, and because they had so much of the “retreat-hype” quality to them, I restrained myself with my emotions because I didn’t know if it would be from the music or if it was true worship.

Another guy talked about how he had been to many retreats before and mentioned how he knew of people who go to countless retreats, sing and pray passionately, rededicate themselves to God, and then fall away again. Because of this, he felt wary about going too all out in worship services.

I briefly shared how all the various references to marriage during the course of the retreat affected me, and one of the guys made an analogy that I probably knew at one point before, but never had it really clicked for me and been so appropriate to remember. He talked about how the husband-wife relationship was supposed to be like the relationship between Christ and the church. At first, marriages are full of emotion and passion between the husband and the wife. But over time, the emotional and physical romance gradually fades away. But does that mean that the husband and wife do not love one another anymore? No. In fact, a marriage not fueled by emotion is probably stronger, for the husband and wife no longer need emotions to “prove” that they love one another. Before we heard this, I mentioned that I didn’t want to think of not having emotion as some sort of next level for Christian maturity, as if I was “above” emotions. It’s not that I don’t have emotion…sometimes I feel that there is more depth in times of sober-mindedness and somberness than ecstasy. But I think for me, I no longer look to outward emotional displays to gauge the level of my gratitude and love for God. Like my small group boys, I watch myself lest I become proud and start to judge fellow believers if they do express themselves in visible outward displays of emotion.

Just one of many things I learned. I hope to keep them in my heart and take care lest I forget the Lord.

The doctor comes for the sick, not the healthy

I didn’t think much when I clicked this link on the front page of Yahoo. The headline–“Sin City Saviors”–and the description, which said something about Christian crusaders trying to save Sin City, made me think it would be either crazy fundamentalists or “cool,” relevant Christians. Craig Gross is probably part of the latter (I saw his name associated with Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, which is all about being relevant–see Rob Bell), but I’m glad I watched it…seeing the visuals really helped me to understand what Gross, the founder of XXXChurch.com, is going up against.

Pray for Pastor Craig, who moved his entire family to Las Vegas to plant a church to reach the lost in Sin City. It is one thing to start a ministry dedicated to reaching those addicted to and affected by pornography and sexual sins. It is another to move your wife and young children into such a depraved city filled with wickedness. May God protect Him from temptation and surround Him with a faithful community who will be the salt and light for that city.