My very first smartphone is arriving next Tuesday!
Being 19, quite a few people I know feel this is a long overdue event (not least my 7 year old violin students, who are definitely as excited as I am about it, if not more.)
I put off getting a smartphone previously because I didn't see the need for one in my life then. If I needed to text someone or was going out of the house I would just borrow my sister's phone (observe the benefits of having siblings.)
But perhaps partly I was also afraid of having to deal with the problem so many people talk about--becoming stuck to their phones, whether literally through their earpieces or just through the invisible force that made them gravitate to their phone every ten minutes.
Smartphone addiction is a huge problem for teens today!cry tons of concerned parents and adults. My kid is downright rude and antisocial...has problems studying because the phone is so distracting...plays games/loud music on it all day long...Candy Crush is going to brainwash the next generation...(well, not just the next generation. I see plenty of adults playing it as well.)
And the saddest part is that it's true. Smartphone addiction IS a huge problem today.
Let's face it. The problem with smartphone addiction is not the phone, but ourselves. Smartphones--and all gadgets out there--were designed simply and solely to please/serve us. It's not hard to see why it's so easy to prefer them to another human being, who, far from being created to please us, is usually much better and much more interested in pleasing him/herself.
Smartphones aren't necessary for happy lives. I hope this doesn't sound like a radical statement to you because that means I'd have to write another article.
Fine; most of us know that, in theory at least if not in practice.
But what do we do when we actually have a smartphone? How do we own a smartphone to the glory of God?
In view of...
When something bad happens in my life, and I try to find comfort in God, this question is the first cry of my heart.
How can God comfort me if He doesn't explain why He let this happen in my life?
How can God even love me if He did this?
As young Christians, our first (and perhaps only) response to bad things is to ask God WHY? We want an answer. We need an answer, to reconcile God’s love for us with the pain we’re feeling.
When your brother slaps you, it’s not likely you’ll continue as loving siblings until he asks your forgiveness, or explains that there was a mosquito on your cheek. It’s human nature to demand an explanation of sorts from the one who causes us pain. And human relationships are the only thing we have in our experience to compare our relationship with God to.
And so, though God is far from human—as far as ‘mortal’ and ‘immortal’ implies—we often treat God as we would another human. We expect to see, hear Him. We expect Him to make sense to us. When He does something which hurts us, we expect Him to explain Himself before we can continue in our relationship.
But when God puts pain in our lives He mostly doesn't follow up with a prompt explanation. In fact, it may be years before we realize why He put us through that ordeal.
Yes, God is not human. In contrast, He is perfect.
That means His power and His plan for our lives, His wisdom and His love for us, are perfect.
That means that the ‘explanation’ for everything—good or bad—that happens in our lives is that it is part of His perfect plan.
That means that if we truly lived out our belief in God’s perfection, we shouldn't have to demand a WHY of God when bad things happen.
Reading the Psalms is like reading an emotionally intense, atypical autobiography of King David. In the Psalms, the intense, vibrant joy David has in God—which we wish we had— is alternated with equally intense times of depression and pain—which we can all relate to.
But in all his pain, David isn't consumed by the one big, heart-gnawing cry of Why, Lord?
David’s peace and comfort, as well as his joy, come from the same source: his deep relationship with God. In other words, David knows God so well he can still be convinced of God’s perfection despite the bad things in his life. God’s perfection is a glorious reality, so much so David can trust that even the trials in his life are part of God’s perfect plan.
If we know God to the same liberating extent that David did, we can face the trials in our own lives without being consumed by the cry of WHY. Instead, we are able to trust God in the midst of the pain, without doubting His wisdom and goodness.
Maybe we can’t understand how this trial works out as part of God’s perfect plan. But if we believe that ultimately it does, we can face it with peace in our hearts. We can face it with unfaltering love for God—despite the pain. And we will face it with the comfort that God will give us.
Perhaps this is the simplest Hard Thing of all, in our lives: being able to trust God—even when bad things happen. Even when our hearts are torn and bleeding. Even when we can’t see the way ahead for our tears. To trust Him, knowing that the darkness we’re in now is only a blindfold, and that the light of God’s perfection and love is shining undimmed beyond it.
How real is God’s perfection to you? Real enough to withstand the human cry of WHY?
I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Psalm 119:75
I suppose it's good to start right from the beginning, and so here's my testimony--which I recently rewrote this Easter. I was so glad I did, though initially it took alot of courage and self-prodding (I posted it on facebook! can you imagine? I can't either) :P
Remembering this major turning point in my life made me remember all over again the wonder and joy I had felt when I first realised the full impact of Christ's love, and what it meant to my life.
When I gave my testimony for baptism, it was the first and likely last time I stood in the pulpit. As a PK—Pastor’s Kid—Christianity had always been part of my life, long before it defined my life. Even before I was a PK, I was brought up knowing the Gospel, and was pretty familiar with the Bible (if you asked me how many wives Abraham had in total I could give you a pat answer. Ha, nice try. Did you know Abraham had THREE wives?? Try reading Genesis 25:1. *smug face*)
But I wasn’t moved by God to feel its importance. I knew I wasn’t a Christian, but somehow, even though I never doubted that God existed and that the Bible was true, I wasn’t worried about it. Oh well. Judgment Day is coming but as long as Dad and Mom are there too it’ll be all right (don’t laugh, that was when I was seven.)
It wasn’t until much later that God made me realize what it really meant to not be a Christian—it meant that I was in danger of Hell all the time. If God took my life away—which He could at any moment— it would mean Hell for me, forever, without any chance of ever getting out. It would be final.
I was afraid. I knew I desperately needed to get right with God, and I started trying to.
I knew that in order to be saved, you had to repent of your sins. I believed, as the Bible taught, that I was a sinner, but somehow I couldn’t feel a strong sense of guilt about my sin. Sure, we’re all sinners; I’m a small, pretty nice one.
All along, I had only prayed to God when there were problems in my life, or I wanted something. Or an insincere ‘thank You for what You’ve given me’ which I prayed more because I knew I should, not because I really felt thankful to God.
This was the first time I began to pray personally and seriously to God about spiritual things. I asked Him to show me my sin, remembering those old evangelical stories I used to read when I was small. God seemed to always answer the people in those stories who prayed for Him to show them their sin.
And wonders! He actually answered! It didn’t happen immediately, it was more like a slow process—I didn’t even realize God was answering my prayer at first, I just wondered why I suddenly seemed to be not as nice a person as I’d always thought I was;)
When I realized that God had really answered my prayer, I was amazed. I thought I’d always known that God was real, but now He was really and truly ‘alive and kicking’ to me. He heard me. And more than that, He answered me. I was awed—He was this real.
I was also much humbled when I finally saw, quite reluctantly, just how much of a sinner I really was. I had always been a ‘good kid’; I never went out of my way to provoke others or initiate quarrels; I obeyed my parents (most of the time), was polite and kind to (most) other people like my parents taught me to. But that didn’t mean I had no sin. I was full of it, especially those subtle sins that are so dangerous because we pass them over or think they’re not important. Some sins I hadn’t even thought of as sins, because I previously justified them as a response to how other people had sinned against me. So-and-so was obviously unjust or unkind to me! SO, it was perfectly right for me to fly into a rage at them and say hurtful things back!
As a result, He also gave me a real sense of guilt. No one likes to see unpleasant sides of themselves. Your natural response is to correct anything you don’t like about yourself, just as you automatically adjust your hair when the mirror shows you it’s messy. I tried to do the same thing to my soul once I saw that it was dirty with sin, but of course it didn’t work. Even though I had learnt long ago about how hopelessly sinful people are, (I even knew the fancy theological term “original sin”) I kept thinking that if I just tried harder I could stop sinning. If I can just control myself better, I kept telling myself. It seemed so possible—stop biting your nails, stop sinning; the same method to get rid of any other bad habit.
So I kept trying—kept failing—and got more and more depressed and discouraged. In fact, the more I tried, the more sin I kept seeing in my life, and the more desperate I felt when I failed. Why, oh why couldn’t I keep from sinning? The more impossible I realized it was to get rid of my sin, the more I wanted to get rid of it. For the first time I felt a new, urgent desire for righteousness. ‘Righteousness’ had never been very high on my wish list, if it had even been there before; now it was all the way up there and I couldn’t think of anything else.
At first, I had been driven to God by my fear of hell. Now, I was driven by my desire to get rid of my sin.
And then FINALLY—I realized that this was exactly what I had learnt since I was small. God didn’t mean me to be saved by being righteous, because I never could; I could only be righteous through Christ, Whom God gave for that reason. Suddenly what I had learnt since I was small became real, and applied to my own life.
Strangely enough, I still had one more realization to make. I sought salvation as well as I could, just vaguely knowing that it had something to do with Christ. Okay—I knew I was a sinner now and I knew I couldn’t stop sinning by myself. I also knew the only way was with Christ. But—how? What then? (so much for thinking I knew the Gospel in and out!)
Well, for a long time nothing happened. What was God doing? I felt I had done everything I could, and now it was up to God—but He wasn’t doing anything. I felt as if He had walked off, leaving me to deal with this unfinished project of being saved. I was upset with God, and confused.
Until one day, quite simply and casually, I heard my mom telling me the qualifications for salvation. I thought I knew them, but this time they really hit home as I realized that—*drumroll*--that was it. Repentance, desire for righteousness, belief in God, trusting only Christ—they were all there, in God’s eyes I was no longer a sinner but one of His children, and a Christian at last. He had been patiently waiting for me, all the time I thought He wasn’t doing anything. It wasn’t the mysterious, press-a-button type of transformation I had thought it was, and was waiting to experience. It was just humbly and earnestly admitting your need for Christ’s death, asking God to forgive and accept you on that basis; it was more like a decision and a change of mind/heart (being converted didn’t make me any less a sinner than I was before; the only difference in this aspect was in God’s eyes.)
So I began a close, personal relationship with God for the first time, truly with ‘joy and gladness’. It was an amazing feeling to be so close to God, to feel so loved, and to finally be without the barrier of sin. All along, I had never experienced this type of relationship with God. When I was little He had been vague and hazily good and a bit storybookishly-dubious; then He became real, terrifyingly so because He also became a very real Judge of me and my sinfulness. But this was the first time He had really become to me a ‘loving Heavenly Father’. Though I had known God for almost all my life, it was nothing compared to the relationship I now had with Him, which was the real thing.
Christ’s death, and subsequent forgiveness and love, has been the wow-factor of my life. Not only was it the most amazing thing in my life (hey, what else would someone dying for you be? Not just someone, but Someone?), it also enabled me to live. Not merely exist—here without really knowing why; going through day after day with either tantalizingly brief glimpses of happiness, or confusion and blank unhappiness when things go wrong. But to LIVE—as well as we can in our imperfect state, in this imperfect world—the perfect life God meant us all to have. To live with joy, with hope, with comfort, with love. With, and because of, our best Friend.
Happy Easter. We have been given a great gift indeed.
Hello there, you lovely person, and thank you for coming by; I'd like to get you a cup of of Earl Gray tea (my favourite), but you'll have to make it for yourself, or--hopefully--find my thoughts and words as satisfying.
I don't know how you came here, though I'm certainly happy to see you; but I do know why this blog exists for you to read at all, and here's why:
I want to grow in my thoughts and in my writing.
I want to grow in my relationship with God--thinking through, understanding Him better as well as His doings in my life.
I want to grow thicker skin...not really. Well, yes in a way. Exposing your thoughts like this is really exposing your heart to both the pats and the bruises which help it to grow. And that has to do with my desire to grow myself; so it's more or less the same as the above, I suppose. Also--inspired by the Rebelution!--I have a list of Hard Things which I'm working on...and this blog is one of them.
I'm not sure how many more times I'll see you, but I do hope this collection of thoughts will help you in your journey upwards--towards obeying and glorifying God--as it marks mine.
And so, here goes....
Our goals should drive us upwards, towards obeying and glorifying God, rather than forward.
~C. J Mahaney
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are