Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Vacation Part 3

We got back from our trip kind of late at night, so the airport was pretty empty except for a few people. As we were waiting for the parking shuttle, there was a man who I'm sorry to say I was immediately a little wary of. 

**On a side note, I want to mention that while I definitely don't want to judge or be rude to strangers, I think it's a little different for females. I wouldn't fault any female for not being the warmest, friendliest person toward an unfamiliar man when it's late at night and he's wandering around talking to random people.**

Back to the story. The man had been talking to another man, who seemed like he was trying to be polite but really wasn't interested in chatting. So the first man looked up and saw us as we were approaching the shuttle stop, and we had an exchange that went something like:

Man: "Chinese people! Got a light?"
Us: "No...sorry..."
Man: "What?! But Chinese people always smoke!"
Us: "Nope, not us."
Man: "Haven't you heard that song? [to the tune of that "doo-dah" song] Chinese people always smoke, doo-dah..." [does an accompanying little dance]
Us: (looking around uncomfortably)
Man says something else dismissing us and finally walks away.

Minutes later he comes back with his lit cigarette and announces to all of us standing there, "I got a light! Everybody's safe now. I'm not going to blow anything up."

Once again...I'm all for showing compassion to strangers. But this made me 1) pretty angry and annoyed and 2) not want to take late night flights too much in the future.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Vacation Part 2

Wasn't there a McDonald's ad campaign a while back with the tagline "Food, Folks and Fun"? That probably sums up our Christmas trip. I talked a lot about going to some good restaurants in the last post, so I won't go on in too much more detail about the food part. Later in our trip we checked off a few more things on our "to-eat" list, including Whataburger and Greek food. And then there were plenty of homemade dishes that we scarfed up, like the Quans' jook and curry (not together); Poh-Poh's rainbow jello; Aunt Jean's "doong," cha siu baos and noodles (see below); and much more. WiiFit asked me why I gained 3 pounds and I said it was from eating too much.

One tasty treat

About the folks - as also mentioned earlier, we spent some great times catching up with family and friends. Cheesy as it sounds, I really was moved to tears on our last night as I thought about how many terrific people God has brought into our lives. And there were several more that we unfortunately didn't get to see at the time, but hopefully soon!

A semi Nurture Cell reunion

And the fun - this can be summed up in two words: Rock Band. We spent many hours playing at my parents' house and at our friend Brandon's house. I must say we have some very entertaining friends...but really, when it comes to Rock Band, almost anybody is entertaining.

This may have been Livin' on a Prayer...?

Ben brushes up on his drumming, sort of.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Vacation Part 1

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all! We are spending Christmas in Texas this year and have already gotten to spend some fun times with family and friends.

We've had a few people ask us lately why we haven't updated our blog in a while - so here you go. And thank you to those who do read it! :)

We are glad to be back and it was certainly worth the slight trouble we endured in getting here. A big snowstorm was predicted for - and happened on - the day we were to fly down. We were prepared for some delays and just wanted to get there safely. We drove to the airport in the snow, arrived at 4 pm, and spent the next eight hours waiting as our departure time got pushed later and later. First the delays were merely caused by the weather and the inability of flights to get to where they needed to be. We thought we might finally get out around 8 or 9 pm, only to find out that our plane had been diverted to Maine and would not get back to us for another 45 minutes to an hour. When our plane finally arrived, we learned that we still could not leave because one of our flight crew had to be replaced, as one of the current flight attendants had gone over her legally allowed duration of work time (due to the weather delays). Our replacement flight attendant was on another flight - which subsequently got diverted to Maine as well. We finally got another flight attendant whose flight came in earlier than the Maine one, and left at last around midnight. By that time, Ben and I were quite tired and had already watched Hancock and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 on our computer (yes, Ben has seen both Sisterhood movies - thanks, Ben).

So I wanted very badly to go to sleep on the flight - except that the plane was filled with several college students who were extremely excited to go home for the holidays, and were thus extremely chatty, along with a little boy (~ 2 years old) who screamed, "I want my pretzels!" about 25 times in a row and then intermittently throughout the flight. For some reason, when we finally landed, this same little boy had to be taken off the plane by paramedics, even though he looked fine and I thought he was just cranky during the flight. I don't know what was wrong. At any rate we finally got in at 4 am.

On our first full day we enjoyed some breakfast at IHOP, shopping at Target and a tasty family dinner at one of my favorite Chinese restaurants. A big, 9-course Chinese dinner is a rare treat for us since we don't have many people close by to share this with.

On Day 2, we went to our former church and reconnected with many more familiar faces. Unfortunately a lady fainted during the service and had to be taken away by paramedics (are we a curse?!). She was conscious when she left, so hopefully she's OK. You can pray for her. Later in the day we had lunch with friends, did a little caroling at the assisted living facility where my grandfather stays (and visited him), and ate another tasty meal with my parents, this time Tex-Mex.

Day 3 brought more shopping (the third Target in three days!), and a fun, yet very cold, family photo shoot. Thanks, Sharon, for doing a great job with that! We enjoyed some happy hour (i.e., inexpensive) sushi with friends followed by Scrabble and Rock Band.

More to come, hopefully including some photos!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween in Salem

Well, we didn't actually spend Halloween in Salem (too crowded for our liking), but we were there the night before Halloween to see some of the festivities. Unfortunately the carnival that we wanted to go to was closed, but there were still some booths running with food, clothes and other novelties for sale, and things like "spiritual readings." There were also several haunted houses, but we weren't really into that. Lots of people were already in their costumes. Somehow it takes away from the scariness of your beastly, demonic mask when your friend has to tell you when to watch your step.

The more interesting things were 1) the guy with a sign that said "Jesus Saves," 2) the guy with a sign that said "Ask Me Why You Deserve Hell," and 3) the guy who unsuccessfully tried to scare me from behind. He came up behind me and screamed something, and I didn't react because I thought it was Ben (who had done that twice already that night). Anyway, I turned around, wearing my burnt orange Longhorn beanie, and he said, "Oh, that didn't scare her. She's from Texas." I felt proud.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tired of Political Spin

Is anyone else tired of the caricaturizing, endless spin, half-truths and demonizing of the other side on BOTH sides of this year's presidential election?  I am.  This week's Time Magazine has agreat little chart, analyzing the truthfulness of the ads of both candidates.  Their conclusion: 

"Both candidates say they want to run a clean campaign.  In reality, they are tossing mud in every direction."  

Scot McKnight, a thoughtful theologian and cultural critic, posted a couple of very good analyses of both McCain and Obama -- some good things and bad things about both.  I highly recommend them.  McKnight's conclusion: 

"So, as I said about McCain. If Obama wins, there’ll be some things to like and some things to be concerned about. I think we’ll be able to work for the gospel under either President, and that is what matters most to me."    

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Neither Party Gets it Quite Right" -- Wall St. Journal

Some great insights from Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal:

Democrats in the end speak most of, and seem to hold the most sympathy for, the beset-upon single mother without medical coverage for her children, and the soldier back from the war who needs more help with post-traumatic stress disorder. They express the most sympathy for the needy, the yearning, the marginalized and unwell. For those, in short, who need more help from the government, meaning from the government's treasury, meaning the money got from taxpayers.

Who happen, also, to be a generally beset-upon group.

Democrats show little expressed sympathy for those who work to make the money the government taxes to help the beset-upon mother and the soldier and the kids. They express little sympathy for the middle-aged woman who owns a small dry cleaner and employs six people and is, actually, day to day, stressed and depressed from the burden of state, local and federal taxes, and regulations, and lawsuits, and meetings with the accountant, and complaints as to insufficient or incorrect efforts to meet guidelines regarding various employee/employer rules and regulations. At Republican conventions they express sympathy for this woman, as they do for those who are entrepreneurial, who start businesses and create jobs and build things. Republicans have, that is, sympathy for taxpayers. But they don't dwell all that much, or show much expressed sympathy for, the sick mother with the uninsured kids, and the soldier with the shot nerves.

Neither party ever gets it quite right, the balance between the taxed and the needy, the suffering of one sort and the suffering of another. You might say that in this both parties are equally cold and equally warm, only to two different classes of citizens.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rick Warren on "Evangelical Politics"

I disagree with Rick Warren on some issues, but I just read a piece that the Wall Street Journal did on Warren's view of politics, and I think he said some pretty insightful things. He neither identifies with the Religious Right nor the "new" Evangelicals who seem to be pretty staunchly supportive of the Democratic party. While many accuse conservatives of "legislating" private morality -- things like gay marriage and abortion -- are the liberals really that different when they claim that the solution to poverty and other more corporate social ills are bigger government programs? Sounds like "legislating morality" to me, as well -- just a different set of moral beliefs (by the way, I think both sexual ethics and concern for the poor are biblical). Is it any wonder that both conservatives and liberals become very self-righteous when it comes to their "beliefs"? Perhaps the primary solution to both private and corporate moral problems is not legislation at all. Warren asserts that politics, in many ways, operates "downstream to culture." I agree.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Discerning your Idols

One of the things that has really transformed the way I look at life is a really honest realization of the things that enslave me -- my idols. And I think there are three "levels" of idolatry, and I think the deeper the level of idolatry you acknowledge, the more change in your life you see.

1. Shallow level: "External sins are idols." Getting drunk, lust, crude language, forgetting to read the bible and praying. Most of us know that these things are wrong and harmful, and sometimes we do them, and wish we didn't.

2. Deeper level: "Behind external sins are deeper idols." We realize that we can't break the pattern of laziness in our lives, or our pattern of anxiety, our our patterns of people-pleasing. And then we realize that behind our laziness, is a deep fear of failure -- we run away from hard challenges, because we hate feeling incompetent. Behind our anxiety is a deep fear of not being able to control our circumstances. Behind the people-pleasing is our deep desire to be loved and accepted. All our idols are an attempt to find some kind of self-worth.

3. Deepest level: "Even my goodness is an idol." Perhaps the hardest to acknowledge and the most important idol, is realizing that even our efforts at purging our idols, when we focus on our efforts to be good, are actually still turning away from God as our savior. We want to be our own saviors, by forcing God to bless us by our good behaviors. When our goodness is our idol, we become self-righteous, proud people.

In the end, all of life is seeing our idols, and turning from them to God. Because all of our idols are worthless -- approval from people and even our self-effort may temporarily give us comfort, but the end leave us empty and wanting more, like a cheap drug -- or like a wooden idol.

...the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god!'...Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isa. 44:17, 21)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Toxic Shame

I have made a habit out of watching "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" while I eat lunch. Also, I just finished a paper on Asian Americans. So today, when there was this Chinese-American guy on the show, I couldn't help but to see the concept of "toxic shame" I read about pretty clearly. On the $25,000 question, he had a pretty good idea of what the answer was, but he ended up using his two remaining lifelines. The answer was what he thought in the beginning. When he won the $25,000, it seemed like he was more upset than happy, I think because he had wasted his lifelines. Meredith Vieira, the host, was basically comforting him: "You should be happy, you won $25,000!" Now, I think his reaction was understandable to an extent -- but after watching several episodes of this show (probably too many), his reaction seemed pretty abnormal. Usually the contestants are disappointed if they waste lifelines, but they get over it and are really happy -- sometimes to the point of being giddy -- when they win $25,000. It's almost as if he was preoccupied with the fact that he could have had done better -- not that that he had won $25,000. Toxic shame (a term I think first used by Pastor Ken Fong) is when we see our failures and mistakes not only as mistakes -- but as signs that there is something deeply wrong with us, that we are beyond redemption. We basically feel like we are the mistake. It comes off as humility -- but it's more of a false humility, a self-centered shame. The gospel is the paradox that indeed we are hopelessly flawed, yet at the same time we are completely loved and accepted through Christ by sheer grace. If we can't be happy when we win $25,000, how much harder is it for us to accept the immeasurable gift of grace?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Love Life

Okay, don't be weirded out. I'm not going to write anything that will make you uncomfortable (I hope). But for awhile, I've wanted to reflect on what I've learned about love -- specifically, romantic love. We've only been married for a year (on July 21), and so I still have A LOT to learn, but I think God has taught me a lot from teenage crushes to serious dating to marriage. I've been thinking about it again, since I was recently asked about my opinion on teenage dating, which brought back lots of memories of youth ministry, where this question was, and will always be the #1 most frequently asked question. There's two things that I'm pretty sure will be part of youth ministry forever: crazy, goofy, chubby-bunny-like games and dating questions.

There's too much to reflect on in one post, so I'll just start with my experiences in college. I have to admit I was pretty much on the look out for a future wife in college. I went to a Christian college, and I figured if I was going to find a suitable wife, what better place? For about two years of college, I was infatuated with one girl. In my mind, she was perfect. But looking back, I'm pretty sure I was really only attracted to her physically. But that one aspect clouded my mind so much, that I truly believed that she was nearly perfect in every way. I was infatuated but not very brave. I did manage to spend as much time with her as possible, all the while never expressing my feelings. I would define this as the ever-so-popular "let's hang out alot one on one but, we're not dating" stage. For me, this was basically an excuse to be a wuss: toy with the other person's emotions as much as possible to get what you want without taking any risks. Fortunately, I had roommates who couldn't put up with my non-action any more, so eventually they encouraged me to ask her to this big formal ball-type thing we did at Wheaton (long story...but it's basically a dance without dancing. Insert joke here.) And by "encourage", I mean that they actually dialed the number on the phone and gave it to me. But in any case, after that triumphant experience, I was convinced that I had to "take it to the next level", which, in our Wheaton subculture, meant having the "define-the-relationship" talk. Long story short, though I nearly attempted this talk, I aborted it because I found out second-hand that she was not interested in me "that way."

I was pretty devastated after that. I remember very distinctly sitting in my apartment in the middle of the night, wanting very badly to get as far away as possible from Wheaton. I wanted to take a train going anywhere. I wasn't even rejected face to face, but the sting felt like the worst rejection I've ever experienced. It wasn't just that I didn't get the girl, it was a deep, gnawing sense of worthlessness. I wasn't good enough for her...maybe I'm not good enough for anybody. I had such high hopes and I had a plan: fall in love and get married. With my hopes dashed, I felt like I was relegated to being a second-class citizen. Still never dated. What a loser. What's wrong with me? Looking for something that could help ease the pain, I popped in a Matt Redman cd. The words from "The Father's Song" seemed to be directed straight at me.

I have heard so many songs, Listened to a thousand tongues, But there is one, That sounds above them all...The Father’s song, The Father’s love, You sung it over me and for eternity, It’s written on my heart... Heaven’s perfect melody, The Creator’s symphony, You are singing over me, The Father’s song...Heaven’s perfect mystery, The king of love has sent for me, And now you’re singing over me, The Father’s song.

The song is based on Zephaniah 3:17, which is part of a prophesy of how God will redeem his people: The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. In that moment, I felt God's gentle song of love over me. It was as if he was saying, "don't you see? What your soul is longing for, what it craves...only I can give it to you. Hear my song. I'm singing it over you." In the cross, God substituted himself for me. Not because I deserve it, or because I'm "worthy." But because I'm worthless, because I'm faulty, inadequate, and cowardly, he sent his perfect son in my place so that I could be his child. So that his perfection and status could be mine. So that the God of the universe, my creator, who knows all of my hidden flaws could call me his beloved, accepted child. There is now no condemnation. How could I chase after the approval of a girl to validate me? How could I chase after the approval of the world to validate whether I was a "loser" or not? And how could I chase after marriage as the all-encompassing goal of my life?

I have heard so many songs, but there is one that sounds above them all.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summer TV

I don't want to take away from the great reflections and insight Ben shared in his last post, so if you haven't read our blog in a while, please read that post before you read this one! I had the privilege of reading the entire paper and really enjoyed and appreciated Ben's observations and assessments. It will be interesting to see how God helps us work through those issues in our ministry.

On a lighter note, we have become engaged in a handful of summer TV shows while our regular shows (The Office, American Idol, SNL, etc.) are on hiatus:
  • American Gladiators - I loved this show when I first watched it back in the early '90s. It came on right after Saturday Night Live, and I would frequently stay up to watch it as I rushed to finish my Sunday School homework (which I had procrastinated on earlier in the week). So we were pretty excited when it came back earlier this year, and again in May. The added trash-talking by the Gladiators can be somewhat annoying (especially from Wolf), but I do like the new and old events, as well as the enhanced storylines of the contenders - e.g., best friends, fellow cops, people who have had significant weight loss, newlyweds, a 52-year-old woman, a few people with disabilities, etc. It gives the contenders more of a human side rather than just people running around in spandex suits. Anyway we are always excited to watch AG, and it certainly provides a bright side to Mondays.
  • America's Best Dance Crew - We thought it sounded a little silly when we first heard about it, but then watched the finale of the first season and subsequently a marathon of the first season and were hooked by the time Season 2 started. The dancing really is great and incredibly entertaining. Ben's favorites are Super Cr3w and Supreme Soul, while I am rooting for (and voting for) my hometown SoReal Cru. Another thing is that this show features Mario Lopez as host and JC Chasez as one of the judges, which is a small bonus for me as a huge Saved by the Bell and *NSYNC fan.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond - We have both watched this show from time to time in reruns, and never watched it when it was originally airing, but now we watch reruns nearly every night during dinner (alternating between that and the Saved by the Bell reruns on The N). Some people might find it frustrating - and understandably so - but we find it funny and often quite insightful on life and relationships.
  • Wipeout - This one and the one below are not quite as important for us to catch as the top 2 on this list, but they've also provided some significant entertainment. It's almost like AG but more comical and with lots of falling down, water, and falling down into water. Since I was a baby I have always gotten big laughs out of people falling down (as long as they are not seriously injured or anything), and this show has made me laugh to tears at times.
  • I Survived a Japanese Game Show - Japanese game shows are pretty amusing by themselves, so we thought this was worth a shot. It's about a bunch of Americans in Japan who have to live together and compete on a Japanese game show while also trying to avoid elimination and win a large cash prize. The Japanese game show competitions can be pretty funny, and my biggest critique is that I wish they would spend much more time on those activities than they do on the drama among the participants about who likes/dislikes whom and who is going to get eliminated. But I guess if we want more Japanese game show activities, we should just watch a Japanese game show. Hey, whatever happened to that show called Sushi TV on the TV Guide Channel? (Actually, what happened to the TVGC? Does it still exist?)
For the record, in the midst of these shows, we still DO get all of our schoolwork and other activities accomplished, so don't worry!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Asian American Pastoral Leadership

I just finished my paper for my Pastoral Ministry class on the culturally specific opportunities and challenges for Asian American Pastoral Leadership. It was a great experience to write it. Here was my conclusion:

Asian American pastors find within the Gospel of Jesus Christ both affirmations and challenges to their cultural sensibilities. In our authoritarian hierarchies, we find both a recognition that authority and structure are needed and the abuse of authority to assert power, gain prestige, and neglect empowerment of others. In our collective identities, we find both an orientation to be others-focused and also a propensity for toxic shame and conflict avoidance. In our work ethic, we find both the biblical call to diligence and also an addiction to our self-effort. And let us not forget the American cultural strengths and weaknesses that are also engrained in us.

Writing this paper, I have discovered in myself many of the strengths and weaknesses described. I remember feeling a sort of “toxic shame”: I knew the reality of my sin deeply during my teenage years. Ever since then I have struggled with truly understanding and embracing the grace found in the cross. In my few years of ministry experience, I have always found myself emphasizing the need for vulnerability and brokenness: perhaps in reaction to the lack of vulnerability and the performance-orientation I’ve experienced in Asian churches. This year, my wife and I became members of a non-Chinese church (a first for me), and though the church is nearly half Asian American, interacting with other ethnicities in the church has forced me to deal with my cultural identity. I find myself becoming more timid around Caucasians, and even doubting my own call to ministry because of this. But I have realized that on one hand, I should not necessarily interpret my lack of aggressiveness in contrast with Caucasians as a sign of poor leadership, and on the other hand, I should not let my fear of rejection prevent me from “stepping up” and allowing God to work through me. Most importantly, it has reminded me to rely not on any of my gifts, but solely on the righteousness I have through Christ as the source of my self-worth.

As bicultural people, Asian Americans are often confused as to which culture they truly belong to. Many, deeply assimilated into Western society, have some level of animosity towards their Asian heritage. In my research, mostly from the Asian American authors, I observed noticeably more negatives than positives written about Asian cultural values (consequently, my paper also reflects this relative imbalance). Perhaps, as bicultural people, the failures and weaknesses of our parents stand out against the Western culture we have grown up in. But this also gives us the unique perspective to discern and embrace the best in both the Eastern and Western cultures. We must also guard against the tendency to react strongly to the weaknesses by merely going to the other extreme. As sinful humans, it is impossible to transcend our cultural trappings and leanings completely. Our only hope is not to find our identities in either our Asian or American cultures, but to “count all things as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.” (Philippians 3:8-9)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Missing Summer Missions

Happy 4th of July to all! Let's be sure to give thanks for the freedom that we enjoy in the U.S. I know I definitely take it for granted most of the time.

During the last two summers, Ben and I have led youth missions projects together, and now that it's summertime and our former youth group kids are leaving for this summer's project, I find myself missing those trips and reminiscing about those experiences. The Lord definitely worked in the communities we served, and especially in our own hearts through the challenges and successes we had and the insights we gained. While I do not miss the discomforts - such as sharing sleeping quarters and shower facilities with 10 or 100 girls, and doing hard labor in 90- to 100-degree weather - I do miss serving with and interacting with our high school students. We have many fun memories and valuable lessons from our times with you guys, and although we are not serving you in the same roles anymore, we hope for more fun times with you in fellowship and ministry in the future!

H2K6 group with our partner church

New Orleans group

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Prolonging your Laptop battery life

I normally make fun of people who blog about computer stuff, and then secretly read their blogs. So feel free to call me a computer nerd today. But today, I was just noting that my cell phone battery seems to still last pretty long compared to my previous cell phones, and I think it's because I only charge it when it's down to 33% battery life or lower. So I was thinking, shouldn't that work with my laptop too? I googled it, and this guy says that to prolong a Lithium battery (which my MacBook uses), you should only charge it when it drops below 35-40% and stop charging it when it reaches 80-85%. I'm gonna try it whenever I'm at home, but I'll charge it up to 100% before I take it to class and only use it on battery when I'm in class. Has anybody else heard anything about this?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Busy Last Few Weeks

We've been pretty busy the last couple of weeks and it's been forever since I posted. I got inspired since our friend Sarah asked me earlier tonight if we had a blog and said she would subscribe to it. So Sarah, I expect you to be reading this. :) 

Ben's parents came to visit us a couple weeks ago and we had a nice time showing them around where we live and places nearby. We went on a Duck Tour and visited a museum, and Ben took them to a town not far away where they toured a historic church and other sites. We also introduced them to Wii and had a lot of fun playing tennis, MarioKart and other games together. 

In the Public Garden

We play WiiPlay

Shortly after that, we took a weekend trip to Vegas for my cousin Jason's wedding to his fiancee, Claire. We had a great time celebrating with the happy couple and hanging out with my parents and lots of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other relatives and friends. We also played a few slot machines (yes...please don't judge us) and got ahead for a little while, but didn't end up winning anything. Oh, well. The way I see it, the money you lose (as long as it's just a small amount) is the price you pay for a little entertainment.

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Chan!

This past week we had the treat of a visit from some familiar faces from the church that we went to back home (well - home for me, at least). Chens and Yees, we had a fun time at dinner with you - wish we could have spent more time together!

It's Miley Cyrus! Err - I mean Erica, and Michelle.

Finally, today was Ben's birthday! After a tasty birthday dinner - actually two, thanks to two generous gift cards we had received - we had some of our friends from church/seminary over for Wii games and ice cream cake. Friends, thanks for coming to celebrate with us! Hope you had as much fun playing Wii as we had watching you play. :) 

Happy birthday, Ben!

Looking back, we have been incredibly blessed with so many family members and friends, and the opportunities to be with so many of them recently. For those we haven't seen in a while, hopefully it won't be long before we see you, too.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Spelling Bees

I love watching the spelling bee on ESPN. First, it's really exciting and dramatic to see these kids spell crazy words and get all nervous. Second, it's always interesting to watch these uber-smart, socially dysfunctional kids, many of whom are indian or asian, probably because it reminds me of my sweatsuit-wearing, crooked glasses-donning, 4 foot 8 inch middle school self (the socially dysfuntional part not the uber-smart part). I'm watching right now, and I just saw a kid with the fullest peach-fuzz mustache I've ever seen in my life.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How can I love God?

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11)

I've heard people say quite often: "it all boils down to this: Love God and Love People." And after all, that's what Jesus said. But to me the very next question is always: well, then, how do I love God? In fact, it usually sounds very burdensome to me: I know I must love God...God, how can I love you? I want to love you so much, but I'm always failing! God, I feel like such a failure!

But perhaps the key to Loving God and therefore to loving others isn't "how do I love God?" at all. 1 John 4 says the key is "do you know God's love for you?" And then the task becomes really knowing and grasping that radical love...which is the most counter-intuitive thing to do in the world. And then perhaps we can love God...and then perhaps we can love others.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Peeling back the layers

We had a chance to spend some time with my friend/mentor, Elton, who is a church planter in San Jose, and he said something that stuck with me. He was telling me about someone he went to seminary with who took a job at a church that fell through. Stripped of his title of "pastor" and without a church, he was devastated, to the point of questioning his faith. Then he said, "if you peel back the layers of your life and at the core, it's not Jesus...well, then, you're basically screwed."

For myself, I have to wonder what's at the core sometimes...is it the hope of a successful pastoral career? Is it my wife? Is it my own need to control my life and circumstances, maybe even through religion? Is it the approval of family or friends or people I look up to? Or is it at the core, just being a child of God? Life is about peeling back the layers...if I don't do it, God will do it for me.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I was trying to be provocative in my last post. But just to clarify, when I said "the only way to please God, to live a holy life, was to do absolutely nothing at all." I don't mean that to be holy, it means we sit around and do nothing. But in a very paradoxical way, I think living a life of faith means surrendering our will completely to God, even abandoning our efforts to "try" to be holy, to please him. But that surrender requires all of our effort.

Monday, April 7, 2008

You might be a legalist

In his book, Putting the Truth to Work, Prof. Dan Doriani explains the differences between four classes of legalism:

Class-one legalists are auto-soterists; they declare what one must do in order to obtain God's favor or salvation. The rich young ruler was a class-one legalist.

Class-two legalists declare what good deeds or spiritual disciplines one must perform to retain God's favor and salvation.

Class-three legalists love the law so much they create new laws, laws not found in Scripture, and require submission to them. The Pharisees, who build fences around the law, were class-three legalists.

Class-four legalists avoid these gross errors, but they so accentuate obedience to the law of God that other ideas shrivel up. They reason, 'God has redeemed us at the cost of his Son's life. Now he demands our service in return. He has given us his Spirit and a new nature and has stated his will. With these resources, we obey his law in gratitude for our redemption. This is our duty to God.' In an important way this is true, but class-four legalists dwell on the law of God until they forget the love of God. Worshiping, delighting in, communing with, and conforming to God are forgotten.

(I found the above on my friend Jason's blog)

I think I was a class four legalist for most of my life. The breakthrough in my life occurred when I discovered that the only way to please God, to live a holy life, was to do absolutely nothing at all. And I was freed.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Sort of Interesting Chinese Dining Experience

Last night I was in the mood for some Chinese food. Unfortunately there are not too many good Chinese restaurants in our area - we've tried a few - but we decided to try another one that we had passed on the road before. 

We drove up and saw that the place actually looked kind of nice, and wondered for a second if we were dressed properly since we were just in jeans and long-sleeved shirts. But then we saw some people come out who were dressed pretty casually and figured we were fine. We got inside and realized we were the only Asian people in there who weren't staff members. (It is not uncommon for us to be the only Asians in the entire restaurant when we go out to eat near our home.) There were a lot of people waiting, but thankfully we got a table after just 5 or 10 minutes.

When we sat down, there were already plates and forks out, but the waiter also put two sets of chopsticks down. Ben looked around and noticed that no one else seemed to have gotten chopsticks. Hmm... He also looked back toward the front desk and noticed there was a large American flag hanging from a wall, maybe about 6 feet wide by 4 feet high. Not something that we've seen in many Chinese restaurants before.

We looked at the menu and saw "Peking Ravioli" as one of the appetizers. What is that? We decided to order it. Then the waitress came to take our order:

Waitress: "Are you ready to order?"
Ben: "Yes, what is the Peking Ravioli?"
Waitress: (writing) "One order of Peking Ravioli..."
Ben: "No, what is it?"
Waitress: "Peking Ravioli."
Ben: "Um...no, what's IN it?"
Waitress: "Pork."
Ben: "So, is it like dumplings?"
Waitress: "Dumplings."
Ben: "Uh...OK, yeah, we'll take one order."

I didn't bring my camera with me, so I don't have an actual photo of what we got, but here's something that's representative:

I guess Peking Ravioli = potstickers? Oh, well, they were still tasty. We also got long green beans with minced pork, and beef chow fun (aka ho fun - one of my all-time favorites). Quite greasy, but isn't that what most Chinese food is like? It was still very good, and we had plenty left to eat for dinner today. And the bill was pretty inexpensive.

So not a bad option to return to, and I'd say definitely one of the better ones among the Chinese food options around here. There are good places downtown, but that's far away, and we don't have the luxury (as much as we did in Houston) of joining in on large family gatherings where we can eat big 9-course meals with a variety of dishes. Seafood soup, beef with gai lan, crispy-skin chicken with shrimp chips, snow pea leaves, lobster, fried rice, steamed fish, seafood "bird's nest" thing, sweet tapioca soup (or a trip to a boba place afterward)...all wonderful blessings from the Lord. :) Somebody please invite us to your large Chinese banquet!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Amy & Brandon's Visit

March was a month of visitors! Our friends Amy and Brandon came and hung out with us for the first half of last week. We did a lot of touristy activities, went to Easter service, ate a lot of seafood, rented a couple of movies from Redbox for FREE, and experienced candlepin bowling for the first time. Good times were had by all. 

Walking around Rockport

Enjoying some Dunkin'

No loitering!

Visiting the Old State House Museum

The "gigantic skeeballs" used in candlepin bowling

Long Overdue Photos from the Last Post

Touring the campus

A tasty birthday dinner

Nice to have family to celebrate with

Taking a trolley tour

At the oldest restaurant in the U.S.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Birthday and Visits from Familiar Faces

Two weekends ago we had the pleasure of visits from my parents, my cousin Matt and our family friends the Moons. Everyone stayed in our one-bedroom apartment. Just kidding. Actually my parents stayed with us for about five days and Matt stayed one night during that time and had to sleep on an air mattress in the kitchen. I felt bad for him, but he was fine with it, and I later realized, it couldn't have been much worse than any missions trips he'd been on.

We celebrated my birthday with a lot of shopping and eating of sushi - two of my favorite activities. I am not one who needs a fancy celebration, and even simple shopping tasks make me happy. We went to Target, Dollar Tree, the mall and Trader Joe's before dinner and then finished the night with a trip to Wal-Mart to get a vase for the flowers my parents bought me. A perfectly lovely birthday.

We met up with the Moons for dinner one night and had a good time eating at Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the U.S. (according to its Web site). Although it took forever to get our food, it was a fun experience. I felt as if we should have been planning revolution efforts.

On the last full day of my parents' visit, we drove out to some outlet malls and found lots of good deals. Successful shopping = happy Rachel.

I will post pictures in the next post.

Also, happy birthday to our brother/brother-in-law, Pat!

Monday, March 3, 2008

What to do if you're stuck in a legalistic church

I've spent several years in churches where it was understood that being a good Christian meant staying away from "bad stuff" and making sure you were doing "good stuff." Basically, make sure you go to church every Sunday, don't cuss, don't drink alcohol, don't watch R-rated movies, listen to Christian contemporary music, do your quiet time every day, try to join a committee at church, and maybe give some money to charity. What this produced were people who were trying their darndest to follow these rules, but who were always a little nervous or fearful because they weren't sure if they were following all the rules. They were afraid to talk to people about their secret failings, because it would immediately "out" them as a bad Christian. Inside, they are always unsure if they were really a Christian, because they knew God saw them even when they weren't at church, and He knew all their dirty little secrets.

On the other hand, usually in these churches you have young people who get tired of the "church system." Seeing the hypocrisy in their parents, they rebel. They want to live life not marked by hypocrisy but freedom. They watch all movies and media -- even the most graphic. They go to bars and parties and hang out and maybe get buzzed from time to time. They are passionate about social injustice. Because in the end, being a good person was more than just following rules.

I have been caught in the middle of these worlds, being put in a position of being in a world of legalistic adults and also trying to teach impressionable youth at the same time. I've asked myself, what should I say?

All I've been doing recently is reading Martin Luther, because I have to hand in a paper on him tomorrow. I wonder what he would say if he stepped into a legalistic church like the one I described above. Because in his day, people at church were all about rules too, just different ones: go to church, fast, pray, confess your sins to your priest, take communion, and even pay your priest a few bucks so that your sins would be forgiven. It produced the same kind of nervous, fearful people. Luther's big discovery was that when we try to do good works to try to prove to God that we are righteous people, it always led to fearful, guilt-driven lives. However, if we receive God's freely given grace and righteousness, we become free, we become joyful and we want to love others and do good works simply out of pure joy and gratitude. We don't even have to "try" to do good works, they simply radiate from us. As Jesus said in Matthew 7, a good tree will bear good fruit. If you're a bad tree, you simply won't produce good fruit. And you can't make yourself a good tree. You have to be uprooted and replanted. And then you don't even have to "try" to produce good fruit. It just sprouts out of you. Of course, Luther recognized that even in genuine Christians, there still remains the old you that does not delight in God. But the answer is not to try to do more good works. The answer is to remember your new identity; you already have everything you need through Christ! You don't need praise from people, you don't need success in your work, and you don't need to do more good works to get God to accept you. He accepts you through Christ. This is a life of faith...when you are bombarded by the old you, you continually battle it by remembering your status as child of God, by remembering that God keeps his promises. I've heard this process called "mortification through joy."

I've rambled, and haven't even gotten to my main point...so I'll just sum it up; Luther uses Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 to show that to those who are stubbornly relying on rules, we must confront them blatantly and never conform to their systems. But to those who are caught in between -- those who are not sure what true freedom in Christ really is -- we must not flaunt our freedom, but instead try to show them that it really is about being a good tree not trying to grow good fruit, all the while keeping the rules. Paul circumcised Timothy so as not to offend (Acts 10), but he refused to circumcise Titus because of the people's legalism (Gal. 2). So this means, not letting our young people watch some graphic material and not letting them drink, but at the same time teaching them that it's not their abstention from these things that will free them. And at the same time, confronting the legalism of the older folks (or the younger folks) and not letting their rules oppress us. A fine line to walk, for sure...but one we must walk, out of love for all.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wheaton College more open-minded than Columbia?

Rachel and I got a chance to hear Tim Keller speak at MIT a couple of days ago and it was quite invigorating to see a lecture hall packed with skeptics glued to every word a Christian minister had to say. His new book, "The Reason for God" had made it to #11 on the New York Times Bestseller list in only its first week; praise be to God! I've gotten through most of it, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has doubts about Christianity.

I just finished listening to a panel discussion that Keller had at Columbia University with two secular religion professors. It is a fascinating and friendly discussion, and you can watch the whole thing here. I was quite pleased and startled to hear Wheaton, my alma mater, spoken of highly by a Columbia professor (in the second quote). Here are some provocative quotes.

"If Christians are serious about conversion, that means getting into a conversation where they’re listening and not just talking. Not just bringing the good news, but open to listening to other kinds of news. Not just there with your little tracts, but actually standing there and listening to what other people have to say.”
-Mark Lilla, Columbia Professor

"I’m completely sure that belligerently secular people who are hostile to religion can be just as intolerant as any religious fanatic can be. And I think in fact in some quarters of American intellectual life that the condescension toward religion and the refusal to take religious people seriously is a very serious problem…I spoke not too long ago at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution, and I found that the openness, the intellectual exchange, the sense of diversity of opinion actually compared rather favorably to what we have here at Columbia.”
-Andrew Delbanco, Columbia Professor

"Though we are infinitely exalted in the image of God and therefore we have rights, but at the same time we are infinitely fallen...and if Christians can get in touch with that, and I do agree that an awful lot of the rhetoric from the Christian Right is not in touch with that at all, we’re still not going to have any moral authority and people don’t have to listen to us because it won’t resonate. As a person who believes in the image of God and that Christianity is true I therefore think there are lots and lots of reasons in peoples’ consciences that a lot of these Christian themes will resonate even if these people don’t adopt Christianity per say. Therefore, we have to find ways as exclusive religionists to move out in society with a servant attitude with humility and serving people and recognizing that only if they recognize by the way we live and our attitude that we really are Christians. The onus is on us Christians to earn back any kind of respect in the public square so people will listen to public proposals that have Christian roots to them. Right now people aren’t listening, because in the last hundred years we haven’t earned their respect and you only get it back not by yelling, but by serving and by putting yourself in other peoples’ shoes."
-Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pastors with goatees and stylish glasses

Pastors with goatees and stylish glasses were considered on the cusp of ultimate "coolness" probably 2-5 years ago. Now, I think guys with goatees and glasses (i.e. me -- see picture to the right) mostly get made fun of. And probably rightly so. I've heard a lot of seasoned Pastors poke a little fun at Pastors who have a goatee, wear "granny-style" glasses and show movie clips during their sermons. These are the same Pastors who use candles in their worship service and drink beer and might even use cuss words from time to time. To be honest, all of that makes me a little self-conscious, because I've done all of those things (except cuss, that's just not my style). Actually, it makes me want to get new glasses and shave my goatee. But then, I would just be falling into the same trap: being too consumed by how I look -- just in the opposite direction. And quite frankly, I kinda like the way I look in glasses and in what I call a "goatee." (sidenote: I got my glasses at Costco. They have really good deals on glasses!)

Here are some examples of cool pastors/christians:

Exhibit A. Pastor Mark Driscoll: the unshaven, unbuttoned shirt look:

Exhibit B. Pastor Dan Kimball: the California, punk rock hair look

Exhibit C. Musician David Crowder: the classic old-style glasses with crazy goatee. a crazy 'fro too.

Here's my main point. I am a young guy, and I'm impressionable. I've spent the last five years probably getting too caught up in trying to be a "cool pastor." On one hand, I think it is a very important and good thing to try to understand our culture especially for the purposes of reaching it with the Gospel. On the other hand, I admit that young guys like me get really excited about the "newest, coolest, and most innovative" new techniques. I still have these tendencies. But I think I'm beginning to realize that the most important thing is not being cool, but rather the most important thing is getting your message right. If you're cool, and people think you're cool, and they're going to your church, but they aren't changed, challenged, and completely transformed by the Gospel, you've really accomplished nothing. I'm far from perfect, but I'm thankful that for the next two to three years, I am required to read books from theologians and saints from centuries past who did not have goatees or cool glasses. I doubt that St. Augustine or Abraham or Jesus or the Apostle Paul were considered stylish in their day. I'm trying to undrstand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The more I study, the more I realize how rich, complex and multi-layered it is. But my prayer for myself and all the other young cool pastors out there is that we will focus on things of first importance: understanding the Gospel, and taking it deep into our hearts and identities. Then, we can have debates about the coolest eyewear.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

We Rocked the Vote

I meant to post this the day it happened, but never got around to it until now. But just so you know...
Ben did, too, but he was too cool for a sticker.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My German Friend Marty

I am reading a biography of Marty (Martin) Luther for my church history class. What an interesting dude. Luther came from a poor but hard-working peasant family. His father desperately wanted him to become a lawyer, but instead, he was struck by lightning and took it as a sign to become a monk instead, much to the displeasure of his dad. (at this point, I was wondering if Luther was actually an Asian boy born to demanding immigrant parents) For years, he tried with all of his might to live a Godly, moral life. He spent all his time praying, fasting, reading the bible. He attended Catholic mass and confessed his sins to priests about every little sin he could think of. Yet, he was tormented by the fact that no matter how hard he tried, he knew that even his attempts at becoming good actually just revealed how selfish he was: he wasn’t truly good for goodness' sake, he was just trying to be good to appease a righteous God and avoid hell. All of this led him to a great awakening in his life: that perhaps the Scriptures actually taught that the Christian life wasn’t about trying to be good…but perhaps that a life of faith was actually about admitting he could never be good and constantly trusting, believing and depending on a God who had died for him who had already made him completely acceptable before God; and being transformed from the inside out as a result.

Although today’s world is much different from Luther’s 1500s world, I can’t help but think of the nominal Christianity of America. Don’t most American Christians think Christianity is really just about becoming a better person and going to church so that hopefully their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds and they make it to heaven? Here are Luther’s words:

“You Lord Jesus are my righteousness, but I am your sin; you have taken on yourself what you were not and have given me what I was not.” (Luther’s prayer)

“The Christian life does not consist of being but of becoming, not of victory but the fight, not of righteousness but of justification [being declared righteous], not of comprehending but of stretching forward, not of purity but of purification.”

“The law says ‘do this!’ and it is never done. Grace says ‘believe in this man!’ and immediately everything is done.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lesson for Current and Future Married Men

I know that a lot of married men play with their wedding rings. They get bored or fidgety and start tossing it around, spinning it, etc. I saw my friend Jose do this at my last job and I also saw Conan O'Brien challenge himself to see how long he could get his ring to spin on his desk. Anyway, this is a minor pet peeve of mine because I am always afraid the ring will get lost. Ben does this fairly frequently and I tell him to stop, but he still does it.

So I wasn't too shocked when I came home one day last week and saw this on the kitchen table.

Me: "What is that?"
Ben: "Funny story..."

As you might've guessed, he had been playing with his ring and it rolled underneath the oven. So he crafted a hook device from some rolled-up magazines to get it out. 

*dramatic reenactment

Guys, please don't play with your wedding rings! Thank you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ultimate Kick-back Music

I don't know about you, but every time I listen to Jack Johnson, I immediately want to lay around and do nothing. It's the ultimate relaxation music. I got my copy of "Sleep Through the Static" and it's relax-erific. Artists I would like to see live: Jack Johnson, U2, Coldplay and Linkin Park.

On another note, Rachel and I saw "Waitress" last weekend and I would definitely recommend it. I owed Rachel a chick flick b/c we have been watching all action movies recently, but it is a very thoughtful chick flick and really captures some very real, human moments in lives of ordinary people. It also presents an interesting pro-life argument (though that is not its agenda).

Friday, January 18, 2008


Lately we've been posting a lot of thoughts on our faith and politics, but we haven't really blogged in a while about general things we've been up to. So here's a quick recap.

Early December - As you saw, we began learning (or re-learning, for Ben) how to deal with the New England snow. I feel pretty proud of the fact that we endured what was the Boston area's second-highest snow total in history for the month of December. Again, I also need to give proper appreciation to Ben for faithfully shoveling around my car and warming it up for me in the morning.

 What a great husband!

Late December - We visited with Ben's family in North Carolina and spent Christmas with them. In addition to eating, opening presents, and hanging out at home with everyone, especially the adorable Caleb, we helped out with a clothing drive at a local rescue mission, took a Pun family portrait, and had a fun double date with Pat and Brenda. I think Ben and I also watched the most movies in a five-day span of time that I've ever watched. Among the plane trips, the family time at home and the double date, we watched Rush Hour 3, Happy Feet (although I fell asleep - sorry, I was sleepy), The Great Debaters and The Simpsons Movie.

Fun with Uncle Ben!

New Year's Eve/New Year's Day - I had to work on NYE and we considered trying to find some "real" plans with friends for the evening, but no one seemed to be doing anything special. So we ended up staying home, falling asleep long before midnight, and toasting shortly after midnight with some sparkling apple cider. For the record, we were planning to have champagne until we remembered that we are not allowed to have alcohol in our home. Oops. Thankfully this came to mind prior to us buying any. We slept in on NYD, took a late afternoon walk and then went to see I Am Legend. (I think we're overdue for a chick flick. Especially after Ben got me to watch Unbreakable this week, too.)

Early January - I'm continuing to settle into my job, even taking on some new responsibilities after a colleague resigned to take another job. Ben has been enjoying the rest of his winter break while studying for a Greek exam and reading in preparation for his spring classes. We also enjoyed a fierce game of Monopoly with our friends Erin and Ryan, as well as a fun potluck dinner with our Citylife community group. We've gone through yet another major snowstorm (surely not the last for this winter), during which I managed to drive through what looked like Narnia and get to work ON TIME...perhaps a mistake, since even a good chunk of my co-workers, who are mostly native New Englanders, did not come in that day. But at least I made it to and from work without much trouble, and I'm pretty proud of and thankful for that. 

I know I keep blogging about snow, but it's just such an interesting learning experience for me, and sometimes for Ben, too. For those Southerners who haven't been through this - if you want to get a taste of what it's like to drive in an active snowfall, next time you're in the shower, turn and face directly into the showerhead. See all that moisture coming straight at you at a rapid pace? Fun, isn't it? (I'm being sarcastic, of course.) Also, I'm sure this seems really obvious, but if you must drive on a snowy day, the key is to drive either BEFORE or AFTER the snowstorm has happened. If you drive before, obviously the snow isn't there. If you drive after, you give the plows a chance to come through and clear the roads for you. If you're out there when the snow is coming down, you will always be driving on a significant layer of snow, unless you have the great fortune of being behind a plow truck. Folks, there's my lesson of the day for my fellow snow newbies. But enough of snow for now - although we would like to take and post some photos of Narnia soon. It is scary and beautiful all at the same time.

More to come!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Christianity according to a Porn Star

I read an interesting interview today between Willowcreek church and porn star Ron Jeremy.  Not surprisingly, Ron Jeremy is not a Christian.  But he made some interesting observations about Christianity:

I think Christians have a very chauvinistic attitude, and I don't think Jesus would go for that; 'If you don't accept Him as your Savior, you don't go to heaven.'  I think that's really mean...What He would say is 'You were a good guy that wasn't born and raised to believe in me.  I'll teach you about me when you get here.'  He's going to penalize you because you were born a Jew, a Muslim, Buddhist, or Confucianist?  He's going to blame you for it?  You spent your whole life working with kids and being a good person and being a teacher in the Peace Corps, but because your parents didn't teach you about Christ he'll say, 'Sorry, you ain't coming up here?'...So you're going to sit there and tell me that Jesus Christ wants it like that -- where you can be a serial killer and slice people's throats, but accept Him as your Savior five minutes before you die, you're going to heaven?

I love debating.  Sometimes with religious fanatics I just can't get a point across.  They say, 'Well, Christ doesn't like that.'  Great, then the argument's over, isn't it?  How am I going to argue with that?  They just throw the Bible at you.

First, Jeremy is right about several things.  Far too many Christians refuse to think critically and show that they really haven't thought through important issues.  It is much easier to just condemn non-believers then to really engage them in conversation.  

Ron Jeremy also poses the classic problems that most people today have with Christianity: it is narrow and unfair to say that Jesus is the only way.  It's a hard question that I think I've only recently been able to have anything close to an answer to.  But it is a flawed argument.  When you say that "all religions are valid" you are actually are being just as narrow as I am.  You are saying that your belief, that all religions are valid, is the right belief and everyone should convert to your belief.  You would have the same problem as a Christian would: if someone wasn't born in modern America where this belief is prevalent, that person would never have a chance to know the "truth" of your belief.  So your belief that all religions are valid and my belief that Jesus is the only way are equally narrow.  There simply is no way to have a belief/worldview that isn't exclusive.  The real question is which belief/worldview truly leads to peace and freedom in our world and from the human condition?

But I think Ron Jeremy misses what separates Christianity from all other worldviews.  He thinks that all religions including Christianity basically say that if you are a good person, if you practice your religion and beliefs, you go to heaven.  He rightly concludes that in his view, he is a good person and that therefore he will go to heaven as well.  Jeremy is right that all other religions assert that you are saved by doing certain things and practices.  But Jesus is radically different.  He says you are not saved by what you do.  Christianity recognizes that we are broken, and no matter how hard we try, we can't really solve our brokenness by joining the peace corps or helping kids.  I know that even if people might think that I'm generally a "good" person on the outside, I know my thoughts, my motives and my darkest moments.  I am always doing and thinking things that I wish I didn't.  I am always being too self-conscious or too materialistic.  I am not a good person, and no matter how hard I try, I can't get away from it.  But unlike all other religions, in Christ, God became man and died in our place: he saw that we could not fix our situation, so he came down to us, became a lowly man, was spit on, mocked and killed for us.  We are not saved by anything we do, we are saved only by trusting and receiving Christ's perfect record in our place.  Only Christianity offers freedom from our human brokenness because we no longer need to try to prove ourselves.  Only Christianity gives me the power to truly love others who don't believe what I believe because after all, Jesus loved me and died for me even though I constantly reject him.
Thanks Ron Jeremy for making me think.     

Monday, January 14, 2008

Religion Saves and 9 Other Misconceptions

I'd like to recommend a free online sermon series to you entitled "Religion Saves and 9 Other Misconceptions".  Mark Driscoll, Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, who I think is one of the most gifted communicators of biblical truth to today's culture, created a website to ask people to submit the topics they would like him to preach on.  After tallying thousands of votes, he is preaching on the top 9 (my paraphrase of the topics):

1/06: 9.  Is birth control wrong?
1/13: 8.  Why do you use edgy humor when you preach?
1/20: 7.  How can a loving God predestine people to hell?
1/27: 6.  What parts of Christianity do you still wrestle with?
2/03: 5.  How do you get free of sexual sin?
2/10: 4.  Is salvation by faith alone or also by works?
2/17: 3.  What boundaries should we have on dating?
2/24: 2.  What can we learn from "emerging" churches?
3/02: 1.  Does the Bible determine not only the message but also our method as well?

Here's a sample from a Q&A session from his first sermon, responding to the question: "Is aborting a pregnancy as a result of rape is wrong?"


Friday, January 4, 2008

More Politics

For some reason, I've become fascinated with the upcoming election this year.  As Rachel said, this is the first time we've really been interested in politics, and I think this is a good thing.  Last night as I was flipping between CNN's coverage of the Iowa Caucus (I'm still not sure what a caucus is by the way, or how to spell it for that matter) and the Orange Bowl,  I was trying to analyze what was going through my own head in trying to choose a candidate I liked.  I was a little annoyed by the CNN people repeatedly saying that it was the "evangelical" voters who won Huckabee Iowa, I guess because it seemed like they were always using a tone: "those pesky biased evangelicals who always unthoughtfully just vote for the 'christian' candidate."  But I guess there are a lot of people who vote like this -- and I'm trying my best not to be "unthoughtful" in my voting this year.  I've heard Martin Luther quoted several times as saying he'd "rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian", and though it seems like Martin Luther never actually said this (which leads me to another point -- look up your sources before you quote people!), I have to agree with whoever said this.  You could be a great Christian, and be a horrible political leader, and we shouldn't vote for someone like that.  On the other hand, I think it's obvious not only to Christians but to all Americans, that we all want to vote for somebody that we trust and that we think generally has good character.  This is what goes through my mind, at least: which candidate seems like he or she is actually going to follow through on all the promises he/she is making?  I don't think anyone wants someone who is just a sweet-talking politician, but rather a strong leader who leads firmly and thoughtfully: i.e., with integrity.  Another thing that annoys me is the hard-lined partisan talk: "the other party is filled with complete idiots and everything they stand for will lead this nation to doom."  It seems obvious to me that that we need both the Democrats and the Republicans: why else have they both survived virtually equally in our government throughout history?  It seems like our country basically survives on them balancing each other out.  I'll wrap up my long rant by saying that I think this is why Obama and Huckabee have emerged as the early leaders in this race: they seem to be appealing to the American people as the most honest candidates who are also striving to be less partisan and more understanding of opposing viewpoints.  I think that's good.