Sekai no Hikari: Light of the World

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Jesus in a Box

The church has a big problem.

We like to put Jesus into little boxes that fit our comfort zones.

For uber-liberals: Jesus is a socialist hippie who said all war was bad and wants us to be free to explore our sexuality.

For uber-conservatives: Jesus is a sword-carrying manly man who approves of war, and destroys all sinners, mainly of the sexually deviant variety.

For denominations: Jesus was a devout (insert name of denomination here).

For legalistic types: Jesus was perfect, and commanded us to be perfect.

For lenient types: Jesus doesn’t care if we slip up. He loves everyone.

For skeptics: Jesus was a good man, but I don’t know about all that miracle business.

…And I could go on, but you get the idea. Jesus has been, and will always will be, controversial. At least in this day and age, everyone wants Jesus on their side, but most of them don’t even know the real Jesus.

Now here’s what I think: If Jesus came today, he would have something to say to EVERYBODY.

To the uber-liberals, he would probably say something like, “I made your bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit for an express purpose, and that is not to destroy them with illicit sex and drugs. Also, I am not a hippie.”

To the uber-conservatives, maybe he would say, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. And right now, you are not in the category of “merciful.” Also, quit it with the gun thing.”

To the denominations, he might say, “That church down the street has my Spirit also. I want you to be one with them, as I and the Father are one.”

Maybe he would give this advice to the legalists: “I am not about checking boxes. I want your heart, soul, mind and strength.” And to the lenient people, “Sin has great consequences, and continuing to sin cheapens my sacrifice.” And finally, to the skeptics: “I am God, and I will blow your mind.”

Actually, maybe that last one is for everybody.

Jesus is God! (And if you disagree with that, then you are going to have problems with this blog…) Can any human expect that we can fully grasp all there is to know about God? We know what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures by his Spirit. But our human desires and ambitions still get in the way of even that. And we end up not knowing the real Jesus.

The Jesus I know knows the reality of human nature. But even so, reality is too small for him, and he does crazy things, like calming storms, that show that he is the one and only truth.

The Jesus I know is probably a manly man. He was tempted in every way, so he understands desires. But he overcame the temptation, and that shows his unbelievable power.

The Jesus I know has a culture that is home to him. But he invites all, from the east and the west, to come sit at his table: the table of the one who brings unity.

The Jesus I know is perfect. He walked in accordance with God all the time. He has a perfect relationship with the Father and the Spirit. He mediates for us as the one true way.

The Jesus I know suffered. His father died when he was 12. He was poor all his life. He was an outcast – thought of as an illegitimate child. (Who would believe the virgin birth?) His pain enables him to be our healer.

The Jesus I know was courageous, and stood up to people. But also, he let himself be spat upon, and whipped, and humiliated, and killed, all out of love.

The Jesus I know never gave up, even when he died. He rose from the dead, giving us hope, and promising life.

In other words, the Jesus I know is my God, and that means he can never, ever be put in a box.

He destroys my boxes all the time. When I am hesitant to love my enemies, he shows me that just as he did, I need to be willing to forgive and forget – and suffer pain – seventy times seven times. When I am being stubborn, he shows me that as his disciple, I need to submit to authority on earth and in heaven. When I am despairing, he shows me that he is the resurrection and the life.

Knowing the real Jesus is the greatest adventure, the greatest trial, and the greatest joy. I die to myself so often, but each time, I find something better.

Will you join me?

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What on Earth is Wrong With Us?

First of all, I want to inform my readers of a slight change in this blog’s focus. Up until now, this blog has been mainly about general Christian principles and insights. However, I have decided to make it more focused on the intersection of Japan and Christianity, sort of like my post, “Dying to Apologize.” I believe I am called to Japan, and for that reason, I want to focus more on that. However, you will still see some general faith posts on this blog from time to time. With that, I will begin the story of how three Christians ended up in an auditorium full of Buddhists.

I have recently gotten in touch with some other Christians who also feel called to Japan, and this past Sunday, we planned on meeting some Japanese students to talk to them about their faith, which is a sect of Buddhism called Soka Gakkai, as well as present our faith if possible. However, the meeting had been cancelled due to another Soka Gakkai meeting going on at the same time. We decided to go to that meeting, hoping to find them. However, when we arrived at the location of the meeting, we were greeted by a grinning, suited guy waving a Soka Gakkai flag in the direction we were supposed to go. It was unbelievably crowded, and that’s when we realized that this was a huge convention, not a small discussion meeting. We went in anyway, not knowing what to expect. Inside the building, there was a very diverse crowd, and at the registration desk (!), we were asked to write our contact information. I politely refrained, because by now I could tell that these people were extremely zealous – not like most Buddhists. After we went into the auditorium and sat down, the event began with chanting. They were chanting “Namu myoho renge kyo”, which is very important to Soka Gakkai practitioners. I, meanwhile, was praying. After the chanting ended, we found that it was a conference for youth, with multiple messages from different youth speakers, as well as a petition going around to ban nuclear weapons, a modern rendition of “Ode to Joy” (yes, you read that right), and people sharing their experiences as Buddhists.

The modern rendition of “Ode to Joy” had had the words changed. Instead of “Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee”, the lyrics were, “Joyful, Joyful, youth emerging.” I couldn’t hear most of the rest of the song, but one line that stood out was “What will you do for kosen-rufu (Soka Gakkai evangelism)?” That was extremely hard to hear, since the song is meant for worshiping and glorifying God, not inspiring youth to earn their own salvation. However, the hardest part of the event for me was this one woman’s story: she was bullied, at the age of 4, by Christians. And when she spoke the word, “Christian,” it was as if it was the most disgusting thing she had ever had to say.

Now the point of this whole story is not just to make everyone sad, although sadness is a natural reaction to it. The point is, rather, to figure out what on earth is wrong with the church.

What is the church’s problem that people would rather join a weird religion like Soka Gakkai? What is our problem, that after 400 years, Japan is still only 1% Christian? And what is our problem that we would sit back, and let our kids bully other kids for not being Christian?

Now, Soka Gakkai has a lot going for it, especially in modern times. It is inclusive, diverse, and non-judgmental, which attracts ethnic minorities, as well as your average politically correct teen. It is centralized, which means that they can organize their members very easily. It requires a high level of commitment. It promotes peace. It believes that everyone can change themselves with discipline and effort. And most importantly, the members all believe they can change the world.

My question after seeing this is, “What can the church learn from Soka Gakkai?”

To answer this, I am going to go point-by-point down the list of the things that Soka Gakkai is good at. I will address each one individually, and say how the church can learn from it.

  • Inclusivity/diversity. Soka Gakkai had many Asian, African-American, AND white members. It was pretty much an even mixture. In addition, everyone was very welcoming. Although many churches already are very welcoming, many churches are not. We must see others as image-bearers of God, rather than strange people who are not like us. The church is not an elite fan club, it is a gathering for God’s glory. We must take this to heart. In addition, we are not to judge unbelievers by biblical standards. Instead, we must share with them God’s peace and light.
  • Centralization. This may or may not be good for the church, because centralization can cause both good and bad things.
  • Commitment. The church must require a higher level of commitment from its members! We must be accountable to one another in what we do, and “one another” does not just mean “church leadership.” The body of believers must expect that everyone will do their part to advance God’s kingdom.
  • Peace. I realize that Soka Gakkai’s views on peace may be different than ours. However, we must be countercultural forces of change – agents of God’s kingdom. We must work for peace on earth.
  • Self-change. This is one thing that we cannot and will not promote. It is God that must change people, not themselves. However, we can empower believers. The Spirit will do great works through those who are willing.
  • Changing the world. The church must have a clear mission. We are meant to change the world, and we can, and we will. Putting more emphasis on that fact will make new people see the power that is in us.

When I went to the Soka Gakkai meeting, I came away sad, disheartened, and doubting. However, Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” No matter what other force in the world, whether it be a religion, a government, or an ideology, seems to be winning, we know that Jesus has overcome the world.

On a lighter note, that night, I went to visit a local Japanese church. We prayed for those in Japan, and in the United States, who are without God. The church may seem powerless sometimes, but, on the contrary, we are powerful. We must take courage, and not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in, no matter the cost. And above all, as the pastor of the church said in his sermon, we must walk always in the presence of God.

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Roots, Leaves, and Grace

This Thanksgiving, I want to talk about grace. I promise it will tie into Thanksgiving, so keep reading.

Grace has had a long history, and I almost don’t know where to begin because the history of grace begins with – well, God. God had his plan of grace all ready to go before we were even created. But for the sake of time, I will start with Israel. (pre-Christ)

Israel had a lot of issues. They were complainers, and they had a painfully short attention span. They kept going to other gods, even after God had proven himself time and time again. So what does God do?

He gives them grace.

This grace isn’t permanent, but he promises them that, one day, he would “put [his] law on their minds and write it on their hearts”, and that his grace would be permanent. But the key thing to understand about this pre-Christ time period is that grace was not expected. It was special, and it certainly did not happen among people. Grace was something that God only sometimes gave.

Fast forward to the first century, when a backwater Jewish radical hung on a Roman cross, and the earth shook with the suffering of God. At that moment, grace became permanent. And three days later, all was revealed to the few faithful, who had until that moment lived in a society of justice. Over the next few centuries, these followers of Jesus brought grace into a society lacking it, and turned Western civilization from a ruthless, warring group of tribes into a transformed people, bound by grace.

Fast forward again, to the Age of Reason. People begin to wonder why we need God for grace, why we can’t just all get along. And the process that began then has continued through this very day: the elimination of justice from society. Now we have people that believe Hitler should not be held accountable for his actions because his moral code thought it was okay to kill millions. (Trust me, I know some people that think this.)

Now here’s where it’s going to get a little theological. I believe that love is like a tree. Picture a tree. It can be evergreen, deciduous, whatever. Just a tree.

Now picture the roots. They’re ugly, and they can get annoying, sure, but they’re essential to the tree’s survival. They provide water and minerals that are necessary for the tree to perform photosynthesis. I believe these roots are like justice.

Now picture the branches and leaves. They’re quite pleasant to look at, right? They also serve an important function. They provide energy by doing the photosynthesis and collecting the sunlight needed to initiate the process. I believe these leaves are like grace.

Now remember that Bible verse? “I am the vine, you are the branches”? So Jesus is the tree, and we are the grafted-on branches. Therefore, we are called to be engines of grace in God’s world, and God will take care of the justice. We were grafted onto the tree of love by God’s grace, and now we are called to be his hands and feet in the world – God’s grace-giving leaves, nourishing the tree of love.

But what happens if we cut ourselves off from the tree? We lose the water we so desperately need to do our job, and we can’t do it anymore. I believe these cut-off branches are like the people who try to eliminate justice from the equation. By cutting themselves off from justice, they are cutting themselves off from God, who is just by nature. I believe this is what modern society is doing.

As an aside, the people who try to take over God’s job and judge everyone are like leaves who have tried to collect their own water. In the end, they end up collecting neither water nor sunlight, just as the cut-off branches, in trying to collect sunlight without water, collect neither.

I think the reason that there are so many of these “cut-off branch” people these days is because we have lost our gratitude at the grace we have been given. The roots are no longer the starting point, and people take the leaves for granted. This Thanksgiving, I charge all believers to, first and foremost, thank God for his grace. Remember the height from which you have fallen, and remember the way God provided you to get back up. Never lose your awe and wonder at what God has done.

 

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Do you get Christmas?

Okay, first off, I’m super tempted to rant about Duck Dynasty right now, but I won’t. And here’s why: There are more important things in life than arguing about celebrities. Yes, I understand that America is not going down a good path, and I understand that theoretically, this intolerance of Christians could lead to persecution, but no matter how angry we get, it won’t change things. And frankly, we Christians need to accept that things are going to get worse before they get better.

Anyway…back to the thing I was actually posting about: Christmas. Now around Christmastime, there are always a flurry (no pun intended) of blog posts about everything that’s wrong with the modern conception of Christmas: too much consumerism, too many “pagan traditions,” too little helping the poor, too many people who insist on keeping nativity scenes out of public places, the list goes on. But does this really change things? Maybe for a select few, but for the majority, hearing what they’re doing wrong at a time that’s supposed to be about grace and peace? Not helpful. I believe that the way to change Christmas for the better is not to stop giving gifts or do anything radical. The radical-ness has already been done. Instead of doing and going and working to be better people, we need to focus on Christmas. The self-improvement will come naturally as a result.

Christmas is about Christ. Plain and simple. It is about remembering the most beautiful story ever told. And guess what? It’s true. If you are not absolutely blown away by what happened at Christmas, you need to do some remembering. Maybe getting some new perspectives will help a bit. I know when I discovered how ineffably amazing Christmas was, it was because I really got it. I understood the gospel. Now I’m going to say a few things that really make Christmas come alive for me.

One of my favorite names for God is Emmanuel – God with us. Now, we take the concept of God being with us for granted, since many of us have been around it for a while. But deists don’t believe God is even involved in the universe, much less that He is with us. Buddhists don’t believe in a personal God. Muslims believe that Allah sends prophets and such, but never that he actually lives with us on this earth. But we believe that God – the creator of all things, the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, infinite God – actually limited his infinity. How does this work? Well, in mathematics, there is the expansive kind of infinity. From infinitely negative to infinitely positive, from past to future. But there are also an infinite number of numbers between zero and one. Therefore, infinity is actually contained in a way we can understand. That’s what God the Son did when he became Jesus, the human being. He contained his greatness in a human shell, yet he was still fully God. We believe that God Himself deigned to come to our world and walk among us.

Another one of my favorite ways to understand Christmas is the song, “Welcome to our World” by Chris Rice. Here are the lyrics:

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking,
How we need to hear from God,
You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting,
Welcome Holy Child,
Welcome Holy Child.

Hope that you don’t mind our manger,
How I wish we would have known,
But long-awaited Holy Stranger,
Make yourself at home,
Please, make yourself at home.

Bring your peace into our violence,
Bid our hungry souls be filled,
Word now breaking heaven’s silence,
Welcome to our world,
Welcome to our world.

Fragile finger sent to heal us,
Tender brow prepared for thorn,
Tiny heart whose blood will save us,
Unto us is born,
Unto us is born.

So wrap our injured flesh around you,
Breathe our air and walk our sod,
Rob our sin and make us holy,
Perfect Son of God,
Perfect Son of God,
Welcome to our world.

So there you have it. The creator who became his creation, the artist who became his art. Jesus, the only one who could save us, is born. And we are saved because of it.

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A Letter to Atheists

Dear Atheist,

Obviously, if you’ve read any of my other posts, you know I am (Horror of horrors!) a Christian. Now please please PLEASE don’t discount my letter right away for that reason. I don’t expect you to change your mind from reading this letter. But what I so desperately hope is that you will understand the strange tribe of people who call themselves Christians just a little better.

Okay, so first, I have a few questions for you. Feel free to respond in the comments if you wish.
1) Why do you (atheists in general) think you have cornered the intelligence market?
2) Why are you so venomous towards Christians, but not towards Jews, Muslims or adherents of Eastern religions like Buddhism, New Age, or Hinduism? According to the logic you use, these religions should be even more preposterous, since they don’t explain/ try to back up their views with science.
3) Why do you think reason is the most important thing in the world? It is, in essence, your god.
4) Why do you claim to be open-minded when you are so angry?

Keep in mind, I am talking about atheists IN GENERAL. You may be the exception.

Now, for the confession. When I say “we,” I am talking about Christians through the ages. I am not saying I, or anyone I know personally, has done these things.
1) We have unkindly told atheists and adherents of other religions that they are going to hell.
2) We have started wars in the name of God.
3) We have used our religion as a whip to keep people in line or make them do things against their will.
4) We have used our religion to justify horrible atrocities.
5) We have claimed to be holier than thou when we are not. Our own belief system even says we’re not.
6) We have acted against what we have said was true. We have been hypocrites.
7) We have held up signs in protest, saying God hates fags, or God hates…(fill in the blank) when in reality, God hates no one.
8) We have failed to preach God’s grace, but have been all too eager to preach His justice.

For these things, I (the author of Sekai no Hikari) apologize in the name of my Christian brothers and sisters. I am guilty of numbers 6 and 8 myself, and I apologize for that as well.

Now here are some things I want you to understand about Christians:
1)  We are not perfect. God shows mercy on us, but we remain imperfect. We do not always follow God perfectly, and Christianity as a belief system says this outright.
2) We are human. We have fears, hopes, and dreams just like you. We also are hurt by things atheists say and do, just as you may be hurt by things Christians say and do.
3) We have doubts. That is part of believing. If you think we are “sheep” who follow without question, you are wrong.
4) The vast majority of us bear no ill will towards humanity. We believe we are doing right.
5) We are not insane.
6) We are not all conservatives.
7) Some of us are actually not afraid of you. 

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

The author of Sekai no Hikari, on behalf of Christians everywhere

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The Moderation Dilemma

The other day, someone I know said that, “everything is good in moderation,” and not to spend all your time, money, or talents on one thing. This got me thinking about that expression. It gets thrown around a lot, and I would venture to say that it has some truth to it. But, like all sayings, it must be thought about before we take it the wrong way.

As Christians, what do we not want? Evil is the first answer that comes to mind for me. So is evil good in moderation? Is sin good in moderation? The answer is obviously no, and this is what’s wrong with beliefs like Taoism, that stress “balance” between good and evil. Despite this, I would venture to say that a Taoist would be as quick to condemn an awful event like the Holocaust, or September 11th, as anyone. But that’s not the point. There is another side to moderation that is not as obvious, and not as insidious, but it is a lot bigger of a pitfall for Christians than evil in moderation.

Now here’s a harder question: Is time with God good in moderation? Is sharing the gospel good in moderation? Well, yeah, but it can always improve. This is something many Christians struggle with. They come to Christ, but then think, “I’m not going to go all out. That would be downright weird. Everything’s good in moderation, right?” Well, the answer when it comes to Christianity, and religion in general, is a big, fat NO.

Moderation has a different name when applied to religion. It’s called nominalism. The nominal Jews: celebrate Hanukkah, but not the Sabbath or Passover, and they don’t go to synagogue. The nominal Buddhists: never meditate or try to better themselves, but vaguely believe in Buddhist philosophy. The nominal Muslims: are of Arabic heritage, and believe in one God. That’s about it. The nominal Hindus: are of Indian heritage, have statues in their houses, have Hindu relatives. The nominal Christians: go to church on Christmas and Easter, believe in God, heaven, and hell.

The sad thing is that Christianity is one of the most common religions to have nominal adherents. I believe the reason for this is actually due to its uniqueness in the realm of religion. It is the only religion where justice and grace were fulfilled at the same time by one selfless sacrifice. Other religions are either the “Go do whatever you want” type, or the “DO EVERYTHING RIGHT OR ELSE” type. So with nominal Christians, they’re kind of expected not to do bad things, (justice) but they don’t feel a ton of pressure to do good things, either. (grace) To revise my earlier statement, this is what makes it easier for Christians to be and to stay nominals. The real cause of Christian nominalism is that they don’t understand the gospel. Because when you really comprehend the sheer depth of the gospel, you’re either in or out. There is no longer any in between.

Now about the struggle I mentioned earlier that lots of Christians have: I actually would not consider that nominalism. Many Christians, such as Francis Chan (the author of Crazy Love), would. But the reason I don’t is because we are under grace. Sharing the gospel is not a requirement for salvation. If these people are at least making an effort in some respect, I would consider them not nominal, but simply having a bit of trouble with courage, or faith, or any number of things. (A caveat: I am not saying nominal Christians are unsaved. I do not know one way or the other.)

To those Christians: I understand that sharing the gospel is hard. It’s hard in every way. Knowing when God wants you to do x, y, or z is hard, mustering the courage to do x, y, or z is hard, knowing what to say and when to say it is hard, dealing with attacks from the enemy is hard, the list goes on. I also understand that not all Christians are gifted spiritually with evangelism or faith or apostleship, which all help very well with sharing the gospel. But, I know almost all of you care what God has to say. He says to share the gospel. Now, the point of this IS NOT to guilt anyone into sharing the faith. Trying to force a spiritual conversation wouldn’t help anyway. The best motivation for sharing the gospel is the gospel itself. If you aren’t motivated by the gospel, and you wish you were, just ask God! God calls you His child. He will help you in the best way possible. Also, sharing the gospel, with both unbelievers and believers, (the gospel will never get old!) is a way that God intended for you to get closer to Him. It helps me get closer to God more than anything else does.

Now to the skeptics who are always careful about doing too much of anything: Moderation is always wise. It even mentions a similar concept in Proverbs, where the speaker asks God to give him only his daily bread, for too much or too little would lead him away from God. But, it is things like this that I believe Paul spoke of when he wrote that the foolish would shame the wise. Now, this is not a call away from wisdom, but true wisdom is always following God. And God calls us to be excessive with our faith. There should be a label applied to Christianity: Use liberally.

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My Significance Prayer

Lord, don’t let me be significant without You.
Don’t ever let me gain glory for myself;
For with You I am full, I am complete.
Without You I am just an empty shell,
A hollow husk just waiting to be filled.
The box is never kept just for itself,
But for the gift that’s waiting to be opened.
So fill me, Lord, and let me be the jar,
That holds the Beautiful Living Water.
With You, let me be great, and smart, and strong,
All things impossible, if not for You.
Use me to spread your truth to every place.
Through You I can be light to the world.
I pray that You would use me every day!

 

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Politics and Christianity: Gay Marriage

        I am adding this post as an extension of my previous post on what we should do as Christians in a highly polarized political climate. As most of you know, the Supreme Court just ruled in favor of gay marriage. Most of us do not agree with this. For those Christians that do, whether it be because you do not believe in legislating morality, or because you believe the Bible does not prohibit homosexual actions, I will state right away that there will be parts of this post you will not agree with, and that is fine. Feel free to comment regarding your views. However, I will not accept any mean or derogatory comments.

         First of all, I am deeply saddened at the road our world seems to be going down of late. I believe that gay marriage is a sinful influence on the world, and that things will only get worse from here on out. However, I do not believe our anger will help matters. It will, firstly, make things worse for the world, and secondly and most importantly, make things worse for the people in the world. I believe our world is doomed. That, however, is not a bad thing. As usual, God turns what seems bad around and uses it for the good. Thus, the people in the world are not doomed, and when we are angry about sensitive issues like this, it turns them off to God. Our actions show the world a picture of God, whether this is a true picture or not. By being calm and civil and gracious, yet at the same time standing up for justice, we show the world a true picture of what God is like.

        Now, how do we do this when it comes to the very tough issue of gay marriage? Well, I have a crazy idea. I have always been frustrated by the lack of conclusive nonreligious arguments against gay marriage. (By “nonreligious” I mean things that do not use the Bible as the source of authority. While it is the true authority, the world does not recognize it as such, and using the Bible will only make us seem closed-minded.) Therefore, I propose we admit that we don’t have them, because we don’t. The truth will set you free, right? However, we still need to explain why we believe the way we do. So here’s what I would say:
“I get that some people are gay and that they don’t choose to be, and I don’t know why that is. I know God made them as well as everyone else. I believe that homosexuality is a sin. And I admit that I don’t have any reason why that is, other than the fact that I know God, and I know what He says. There are things in this world bigger than sexuality, namely, spirituality. God is perfect, and I know that for a fact. There is lots of evidence that supports the truth of Christianity, and I can tell it to you if you want. Therefore, since I know that God is real and true, and since I follow Him, I have to trust Him on this.”
If more Christians answered this way instead of being angry, maybe the other side wouldn’t have as much ammunition against us.

        I want to conclude with a list of “don’ts.” I’ve seen people do this on comments on the internet, and it’s not pleasant.
1) Don’t cite the Bible as an argument. They won’t buy it.
2) Don’t tell people they’re going to hell. It will just make them angrier. Plus, only God has the power to judge.
3) DON’T EVER say cliche catchphrases like, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” That just makes you sound downright stupid.

        Remember, if you disagree with anything, feel free to comment. Debate (not arguing) is encouraged.

         Grace and peace to you as you figure this tough situation out.

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Our Differences

        Humans. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. But those differences pale in comparison to the depth of personality each individual shows. And everyone is different. This, in some ways, is the basis for relativism. But it can also be a support for Christianity.

        Relativism is the belief that each person or group of people has their own truth. In other words, truth is not the same for everyone. Or, as a relativist I know put it, “truth is in a constant state of flux.” However, relativism is often used as a basis by spiritual designers for their own brand of spirituality, therefore, each relativist will probably have their own idea of what relativism really is.

         The relativist, in general, looks at the world and sees all the different faiths that are in it. He or she can’t figure out which is true, and knows they can’t all be true at the same time. Therefore, he or she proceeds to attack the concept of truth itself, claiming that truth is relative to each person.

        The reason for all these differences of faith and theology is simple. In my experience, I have noticed that some humans tend towards certain values. To phrase this differently, each person has things they think are most important. Environmental factors can play a part in this, but a person is biased just by being born. For instance, some people are extremely compassionate, and they think mercy is an important virtue. I call this “the grace side.” Conversely, some people think that morals and righteousness are very important. I call this “the justice side.” These two values are on a spectrum. They both are good in general, but can be bad if carried too far. There are other spectra like this: individuality and community, tolerance and tough love, love for self and love for others, etc. Each person is made by God differently, so they land on different parts of these spectra naturally.

        What relativism seeks to do with these spectra is to devalue their importance. They say things like, “It only matters if you want it to,” limiting the impact of the different virtues by creating dividing lines. A person, thus, is restricted to their own whims and they only hear what they want to hear in light of their truth.

        However, Christianity fits with every virtue out there. In essence, it’s in the middle of all the spectra. Yet, at the same time, it provides a barrier that relativism doesn’t provide: it protects against evil. If relativism were true, everyone could make up their own truth that’s convenient for them, even if it were evil. However, Christianity, with its laws that tell us what to do, and the one true God who never changes and is completely good, makes sense in light of these seemingly conflicting virtues.

        And, with God as the one, absolute truth, and Jesus as the mediator and example to all of us, and us as the beloved creation, everything falls into place. Our differences make sense, and enhance our relationship with God and others. I know I have learned to be a better human, Christian, and servant to God and others by talking to other people who are more compassionate than me, and this includes non-Christians. It’s just because they’re different than me, and I, by God’s grace, am open to learning. Christianity doesn’t create annoying dividing lines like relativism does. Instead, God helps us see where we are strong, where we are weak, and where others can help us. By learning from the examples of others who are better at something than us, we learn different views on the Gospel, and our relationships are refreshed every day.

        I want to conclude with a quote: 

                “It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If we take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others…will help you become whole.”    Iroh, Avatar: The Last Airbender

        This applies to us as Christians, even though we already know the basis for the whole truth. Others’ unique points of view will help us uncover the many facets of the truth in God’s world.

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Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams

        Recently, I listened to another song by Britt Nicole called “Still that Girl,” and the chorus really reminded me of lots of times in my life, as well as other people’s. It goes like this:

You were young, you were free/And you dared to believe/You could be the girl/That could change the world/Then your life took a turn/And you fell, and it hurt/But you’re still that girl/And you’re going to change this world

        My dreams have died many times, and my life has turned for the worse many times. But the nice thing about God is that the worse becomes the better for those who love him. Suffering brings hope and makes us the child of God that we were always meant to be. When we fall, God will be there to help us get back up.

        Speaking of children, I think we all need to be more in touch with our inner child in several ways. First of all, children are humble, and we need to be like that. (This one, Jesus said.) Secondly, children are hopeful. Their hope is contagious, so spend time with kids! Finally, children have big dreams. God is the One that gives us passions and dreams, and kids seem to know this. I think we should never stop dreaming. If you have the right attitude, and the right heart, God can use you in huge ways.

        Never forget this: that from the teenager waiting for her life to begin, to the 80-year-old who feels useless, everyone can be used by God. Never give up on your dreams! God is infinitely bigger than any obstacle. You are important and valuable, and you have been saved, and redeemed, and set free. Now you will do great things for God in your own unique way!

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