God loves you

The Austin Stone Church – God With Us
April 3, 2011

Yesterday’s sermon was really touching. It focused on 2 facts that, as Matt says, our hearts are underwhelmed by:

  1. God loves you
  2. God is with you

You hear these statements all the time, so they may not mean anything to you anymore. Ideally, one should feel complete security knowing that God is with them and that God loves them no matter what they do or don’t do. God’s approval is not moved at all by your wrongdoings and failures, and nothing will ever change that. Matt related this to his relationship with his 6-year-old son; his love for his son is unwavering, no matter what. This made me think of my Dad and how my Dad loves me so much. My Dad loves me so much that he’s always thinking about me when he goes grocery shopping, he’s always wondering about me and how I’m doing, he’s supportive of everything I do, he forgives me for all my wrongs, and he (to his own detriment) can never say no to what I want. I feel so secure knowing that my Dad will love me forever, and it hit me in that moment that that’s the security I ought to be feeling about God, the father. Matt said that God has promised unending aid to his children, and he will fulfill.

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. –Genesis 28:15

I’m starting to think that God’s promise is a pretty sweet deal.

Rez Week at The University of Texas

Coffee house performances, free speech boards, and prayer tents galore!

Prayer tent and crowd in worship with UT tower background. Photo credits: Alex Wang

This year is the 16th Annual Rez Week, held for Christians of different backgrounds, denominations, and traditions to get to know one another. I walked by the displays this morning on my way to and from the gym, and I was pretty impressed with all of the set-up. Somehow, they’ve managed to create a warm, cozy feel to the Gregory Gym plaza by setting up a prayer tent and tables/chairs for a “coffee shop” and hanging artwork donated from various individuals. I walked into the prayer tent for a minute to sit and think, and the reason I felt comfortable doing so was because it was such a welcoming environment.

Most notable are the huge free speech boards that are standing in place with colored chalk. Members of the campus community walk by and write responses on the boards to a set of prompts (e.g. How do you feel about absolute truth?). These are meant to create dialogue and help people understand what students think and feel about their faith.

Free Speech Boards; Photo Credits: Alex Wang

Today’s the last day for all festivities, which makes me realize that I’ve missed out on a pretty sweet set of activities that I would have really enjoyed. Maybe next year!

Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz

I can no more understand the totality of God than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me. -Donald Miller

Who knew that religious inspiration could come from reading a funny book on a stair master every other day? I just recently finished reading Donald Miller’s book, “Blue Like Jazz.” There were so many times in his book that I felt like I could relate to the feelings or thoughts of different characters, including Don himself.

There was one part that really gave me the heebie-jeebies. Don told a story (and illustrated too) of Don Astronaut who wears a special suit that he can survive in without water, food, or oxygen. He gets stuck in space after an accident, and no one comes to save him. As a result, he orbits the earth for 53 years before he dies, alone and crazy. His helmet is black because his hair has grown so thick that it completely fills the helmet, blinding and suffocating him in the end. Don Astronaut’s experience is apparently what Hell is like….

Yay. Read the full (short) story of Don Astronuat here.

Heaven and Hell

Matt went through a Heaven and Hell series recently at The Austin Stone. He ended his sermon with the most powerful thing I’ve ever heard a pastor say.

“For those of you who have never trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior, repent. Turn from your sin. Trust in him. Tell the Lord today, Lord I’m a sinner. I’ve offended your infinite holiness and infinite authority, and I deserve infinite punishment, so I need someone to come and take my sin away from me, which is what Jesus said he did on the cross. So trust in him as your lord and savior and you will be saved. Do that, and do that right now because if you don’t…

Enjoy the pleasures of this life. Enjoy the warmth of the sunshine. Enjoy the cool of the wind on your face. Leave this place today, and enjoy good friends, food, community, fellowship, and love. Because if you don’t trust in Jesus, this earth is as close to Heaven as you’re ever going to get.

But for those of you who are in Christ today, Jesus Christ has overcome sin and when he overcame sin, he overcame death. And when he overcame death, he overcame Hell. And because Jesus overcame sin and death and Hell, you who are in Christ Jesus have overcome.

Christian, endure this world. Endure its suffering. Endure its pain. Endure its loneliness. Endure its sickness. Endure its troughs  because for those of you who are in Christ Jesus, this world is as close to Hell as you’ll ever get.

Why do you believe in God?

It all comes down to a certain amount of faith.

For the past year, I’ve gotten into some conversations–both surface level and deep–with various friends and colleagues about Christianity. I always ask, “Why do you believe in God?” I ask because I’m genuinely curious about the reason behind it all. What compels you to believe in something that you have not seen with your own eyes?

The overwhelming answer I’ve received is that it comes down to a certain amount of trust and confidence that God exists and that the bible tells the truth. That answer, though it may not satisfy you or directly address the question, is a brilliant one because that is the definition of faith.

So, I’m curious. Do you believe in God? Why or why not?

My First Post

Hello!

Welcome to my blog about my spiritual journey as a non-believer. When I turned 23 (young, I know), I found myself seeking answers to many of life’s questions through the development of my own faith and learning about the faith of others. According to Sharon Daloz Parks, author of The Critical Years: Young Adults and the Search for Meaning, Faith, and Commitment (1986), faith is the activity of seeking and discovering meaning in the most comprehensive dimensions of our experience. I’m eager to discover such meaning in the most comprehensive dimensions; the question then becomes: Through what lens?

I’ve chosen to pursue my spiritual journey through Christianity.

Although my parents are Buddhist, I was raised nonreligious. I was not required to practice a specific religion, not to say I wasn’t involved in Buddhist rituals. I prayed (rarely) with incense at temple and at home. I left out fruit at my grandparents house for our ancestors. I even attended what I called “Buddha Camp” for two back-to-back summers. I learned a few things about Buddhism during that experience, some of which are more than likely misrepresentations of the religion: that it’s wrong to kill living things (even bugs), you don’t eat meat, you don’t speak while you eat, you do a lot of chores, and mornings consist of mandatory yoga at 6 a.m. and 30 minutes of meditation afterward. Needless to say (or maybe not), those practices haven’t stuck with me.

My initial motivation to develop my faith was deeply rooted in my desire to be a better person. You might have noticed that religion is a very positive thing, and believing and aligning yourselves with religious beliefs usually makes you a better person. I say usually because some people take it to an extreme–sometimes an incredibly hurtful one. The Christian faith is, in my opinion, a remarkable thing. People, driven by their religious ideologies, are capable of doing both miraculous and horrifying things. Yet, despite all of the bad that people do and say as a result of taking matters into their own hands (e.g. Shirley Phelps Roper), one cannot argue that the values, beliefs, and charges of Christianity are very good.

Read why I started this blog.