Categories
Faith Grief

Where Words Fail

I don’t really know how to begin talking about this. It’s a very unnatural feeling, to be simultaneously heartbroken and utterly confused beyond belief at the same time. I think a lot of folks are feeling that way regarding the tragic passing of Richard Logan, his wife Diana and their son Aaron.

In the air hang a million questions all without answers. Like so many taunting mosquitoes that just refuse to buzz off.

By all accounts, Richard was a good man. His life was marked by compassion and service to others. He took great joy in drawing near to the weak, the helpless, the needy. Whether it was troubled youth in need of a father figure, or poor Ugandans in need of clean water and a roof over their head, Richard was there helping.

In many ways, Richard was drawn to those God is most drawn too.

Richard was my youth pastor. I went on two service trips to Mexico that he led. When I graduated high school, while others gifted money (which I appreciated), he gifted me the devotional My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. In college, he offered me a summer internship focusing on local missions. We took a trip to Guatemala that summer together with the organization Living Water. I remember sharing a hotel room, and him telling me how he missed his family, even during such a short time away.

To me, there was never anything even remotely off about Richard, which makes the current situation even more confusing. He loved God and he loved people, plain and simple. That much was evident.

What we are forced to come to grips with now is that clearly there was another side of Richard that none (or very few) of us knew about. As someone who has struggled with depression and mental illness myself, evidently that played a heavy role in his life, as it does for many who are outwardly successful. I only wish he had the opportunity and the courage to open up about it before such devastating consequences could be felt.

What is even more disturbing and perplexing is that Richard was clearly a man who God used to accomplish His purposes. When we see the favor of God in someone’s life, we automatically perceive that person to be good and right, and perhaps even a better person than we are ourselves.

This is a fatal mistake in human judgement, but one that is easily understandable. As Romans teaches, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Apart from Christ, both Mother Theresa and Adolf Hitler are on equal footing before God.

Another flaw in our reasoning is that we often equate good works to be synonymous with a good person. But as Isaiah reveals, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.

Again, Jesus teaches in Matthew regarding the final judgment, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So what are we to make of a supposed righteous man who has allegedly committed the most abhorrent of evil? Frankly, we may be dismayed, saddened and tragically speechless, but a proper understanding of the human condition should not leave us completely caught off guard. As a good friend counseled me recently, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” 

We do not like to think of ourselves capable of horrible atrocities; of unimaginable evil, something so vile and twisted it causes us to squirm and shudder inside. Only the rapists, murderers and genocidal maniacs are capable of such things, we tell ourselves.

But yet, this is exactly what was perpetrated to Christ on the Cross on our behalf. And He endured it. Silently.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

    yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.”

Isaiah 53:7

Regardless of the magnitude of the sin we commit on earth, it is all wicked and detestable in God’s eyes. He cannot tolerate even the slightest whiff of sin in His presence, which is why Jesus was sent to earth to accomplish our collective reconciliation to the Father.

I do not presume to know or judge exactly what transpired in the Logan household earlier this week. I am merely attempting to explain and understand how such an act could even possibly occur, given our assumptions and what we knew about Richard. The only way I know how to do this is by reading and interpreting the Word of God.

I am praying for Ambrielle Logan, and for each and every life that has been affected through this horrible tragedy. I am asking the Holy Spirit to comfort and to counsel those who are hurting and those who are confused.

What I can be certain of is that God reigns supreme and sovereign over every human act committed on earth. May we look longingly forward to the return of Christ and the ushering in of the new heaven and the new earth so vividly foretold in Revelation:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4

May that new and glorious reality come quickly, Father.

Categories
Faith Spirituality

The False Teaching that’s More Prevalent than the Prosperity Gospel

Do you ever get that feeling that something around you isn’t quite right? Like what you’re hearing and what you’re experiencing are two different realities that aren’t matching up to each other?

I’ve been feeling that way about American Christianity for a while now, but haven’t really been able to put my finger on it until recently.

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The realization that there is indeed a common Christian teaching going around that is more insidious and more subtly false than the prosperity gospel. The best name to describe it is this: self-help Christianity.

The Dilemma

I fell victim to this teaching for quite a while myself, because it sounded right and fed a lot of the doubts and insecurities I had about my faith. Self-help Christianity is fond of maxims like “deep down, you’re really a great person”, and “ultimately, God wants you to be happy.” Or how about “learn to love yourself.” Sounds pretty good right?

The problem is, that’s not at all what the Bible teaches. It’s kinda like western New Ageism and historical Christianity had a child and it was — this.

The problem with self-help Christianity is that it removes God from his rightful position of authority and power and places you (the self) at the center of the solution to life’s problems.

If only you could know yourself deeper and more intimately, then you would finally break through to the next level of happiness/success/whatever. If you take the time and energy to get your needs met, then you’ll finally be able to fulfill your true purpose (spoiler: you are not designed to meet your own needs).

The main issue with this teaching is that it assumes people are innately good at heart, and capable of having a positive impact on the world by undergoing a process of self-discovery. In fact, this could not be further from what the Bible teaches.

I subscribed to self-help Christianity during a period in my life when I was searching for purpose. I had just left another job (the 2nd in 9 months) out of disillusionment and despair. I was feeling repressed, like my talents weren’t fully being utilized (how millennial can you get?), and just generally bored with the whole thing. I set off on a journey to discover what I was really meant to do.

The problem was (and I realized this later), a career was never meant to give me the satisfaction I was expecting to get from it. I was trying to fill the God-sized hole in my heart with work, success, and self-realization. And it was woefully insufficient.

The Solution

The good news is, because self-help Christianity falls so woefully short in solving the big issues of life, it points us towards the ultimate truth: that there is a creator God who designed humans to find complete satisfaction and fulfillment through worshipping and glorifying Him.

It’s a paradox really, the idea that the only way to truly ‘help’ ourselves is to give up all autonomy and control of our lives. This idea flies in the face of our enlightenment-tinged paradigms, but it remains true nonetheless.

If you’re struggling in some area of your life, I invite you to stop trying to ‘help’ yourself (because I can assure you it’s not going to work). As one of my favorite authors Tim Keller says,

“We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Oh what a relief to realize we don’t have to be the solution to the world’s problems (or even our own!). Let’s come and find our true help at the cross of Jesus Christ.

Categories
Adventure Faith Spirituality Travel

Should Christians Do Long Term World Travel?


This is a question I have been wrestling with for a few weeks now. As I’ve spent the last 3+ months tramping all up and down Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, I’ve come to a point where I am mightily fatigued of being a tourist. I’m still enjoying being abroad and exploring, but a part of me really desires stability, structure, and just to feel like a normal person again.


My life for 26 days
My life for 26 days


I feel like I’ve hit the point where I’ve realized, this is no longer just a vacation. This is my life for the foreseeable future. When you’re on vacation you do things like cram as much as possible into a tight time window. You set up itineraries and book flights and make hotel bookings. I haven’t made an advanced hotel booking in over 10 weeks. Even when I crossed into Vietnam and arrived in Saigon at 3:30 am, I just took a mototaxi into the city and wandered around and made noise until someone from a guest house poked their head out. It’s a completely different mindset when you become accustomed to another culture and begin to understand how things operate. You start to lose your fear.

But while that’s all grand and well, some days I daydream about mundane things like going to a park to play frisbee golf. Or Chick-Fil-A, I daydream about their sandwiches. Or even the other day I went to see a Hollywood movie with friends, and it felt really nice to experience something familiar again.


IMG_1437


Back home, the struggle was always trying to avoid boredom. Out on the road, the struggle is to not romanticize how that boredom felt and want it back. Because at least the boredom was familiar, it was predictable. You knew it was there if you wanted it, and sometimes even if you didn’t. Schedules and routines felt like cozy fireplaces. When in reality, at the time you thought they felt more like shackles to a life you weren’t entirely sure you wanted.

I suppose “the grass is always greener” aptly describes the traveler and non-traveler’s struggles alike. We tend to want what we don’t have, or maybe even what we used to have. But what we have now is never fully appreciated in the moment.


Hanging Around on Monkey Island
Hanging Around on Monkey Island


And finally, that brings me to the title of this post. Should Christians travel? Specifically solo long-term world travel? Is it possible to have a balanced and thriving spiritual life while your daily life, your bed, and your relationships are constantly changing? Is continual movement the catalyst for growth? Or does structure foster stability which in turn yields deep roots in a community?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, nor am I particularly looking for advice into my personal life. I’m just curious if anyone else has experienced similar thoughts.


Vietnam-Sunset


For the time being I am resolved to travel a little slower, see a little less and soak up a little more. I’ll let a place show me what is, rather than always running around trying to find out for myself. Because after all, I have a pretty darn good life right now. And while I think our desires morph and change as we get older, gratitude and appreciation for what you have is beneficial no matter your age or what you want out of life.

So for now, I’ll just breathe. Breathe in the moments of life while they’re still here.

Vietnam_Coastline