About Lauren Chen

Lauren loves people, especially one or two at a time. She enjoys being outdoors - kayaking, snorkeling, biking and star-gazing - as long as there's a nice comfy place to come home to. She wishes her Chinese was better, but isn't motivated to work on it. She believes that cooking for others is a therapy that helps both the creator and the recipients, that Fall is the best season of all, that music is best without words, and that life following God might not always make sense, but always is good.

The Sourness of “Cherry Picking”

I admit, lately I’ve been having a hard time not getting really frustrated by “Christian” society/culture. Before I tell you why, let me say that I know I am deeply flawed. I have so many things that I need to let God change in my life. I’m not denying that. Still…

I wonder if you’ve noticed the same situation too? It’s when so-called Christians “zero in” on one sin, and treat it worse than others.

cherries-1503974_1920In English, doing something like this [i.e. talking about or choosing only what you want and disregarding the rest] can be called “cherry picking”.

This kind of cherry picking gives unbelievers the wrong impression! They think all Christians believe we’re better, or without sin. But, if we are serious disciples, we know that the Bible condemns such ideas as hypocritical and prideful.

Moreover, others won’t be able to see God’s TRUE JUSTICE if we only tell them that God judges the sins that we consider bad, while pretending that He ignores the ones we want to hide! That’s deceptive (and ignorant).

Often, recently, I’ve had to explain to several people that “No… homosexuality is not the only sin God hates. Any sexual activity that is not between a husband and wife who are in a committed, lifelong marriage-covenant-relationship (ex. having an affair, sex before marriage, incest, polygamy, etc.) is all against His perfect design… AND, in fact, lying, gossip, anger (uh-oh) :(, cheating, gluttony, lust, and a bunch of other things are also sins. ……
BUT FURTHERMORE, because of Christ, all of these things can be forgiven!
Washed clean, forever.

I should add that, sometimes the problem is that we Christians ADD things to the list that God never said were sins… legalism. — Nevertheless, whether we “add sins” or take them away, others can’t see God’s TRUE GRACE if we pretend like our “goodness” has anything to do with our salvation.

Either Jesus’ blood washes ALL of our sins, or NONE of them.


I don’t think that this problem will ever go away. I think it’s one of Satan’s tactics.
But it just seems like it’s so hard to share the gospel with people when almost everything they ever hear about Christianity is false, flawed, only half true, or told by people who only half-follow Christ…

Do you ever feel this way too?

Lies we’ve been fed.

With all of the changes and violence in the news, and people thinking about the end of the world and Biblical prophecies, something I’ve noticed lately is that most people have huge misconceptions about Satan and Hell. Even as Christians, we need to take note of the lies we’ve been fed…

Satan in hell cartoonIt begins when we watch cartoons as kids…. You know, when someone dies, there’s the devil: all red, with horns, a tail, and a pitch fork, waiting to welcome the newest inmates that have arrived for him to torment! — *ahem!* — Firstly, let’s remember that Satan is a fallen angel, formerly called Lucifer, who in his pride wanted to be equal with God. One third of the angels followed him, and they (now called “demons”) were all cast out of heaven.

Satan’s status in Hell will be absolutely nil. He will have NO power. – Hell is a place of eternal death for Satan, his demons, AND all who have died a spiritual death due to sin. That is… all who are not covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, through faith! – Hell is complete separation from God… we wanted nothing to do with God, so that’s exactly what He gives us: the absence of Himself.

Satan is NOT the master of Hell! Satan didn’t create Hell, and God certainly didn’t create it for him as a place where Satan could be the ruler, and reign his terror on sinners. – [Our sins are disobedience against GOD’S law, and Satan is the worst offender. He has no right to punish anyone.] – The Bible tells us Satan is the “father of lies”, who masquerades as an angel of light. – His acting is convincing, and his temptations are tempting. (Obviously!) He wants to keep as many people bound by sin as possible.

Moreover, there is the concept of an/the Antichrist. Firstly, anyone who is against Christ is anti-christ, i.e. an antichrist. But Satan’s biggest attempt to overthrow God’s plan will ultimately be [the] Antichrist. Until he is thrown into Hell, Satan will continue to do all he can to steal, kill and destroy. He’s *always* trying to raise up the Antichrist, because although God knows who it will be, he doesn’t! He can’t see the future. — This is a good reminder to simply put our trust in the Lord, and not waste our life or money trying to figure out prophecies that God said we’re not supposed to know the answer to.

Maybe next time, when people around you are upset about the next big tragedy in the headlines, you can talk to them about how the one true God is a God of justice. He will never let the wicked go unpunished, and Satan will one day meet a very bitter end; never to gain power again.

Out of the Mire

Sorry it’s so long, but it’s honest.

January of 2014, I was so excited to be back serving at a ministry. No more long days of staring at my computer screen working on projects I cared little or nothing about, and had seemingly no eternal value!

I poured myself into the students around me. My official work hours were Monday-Friday, 8-5pm, but actually, I was there from 8am-8pm, or 9pm… or 10pm.

“Are you sure you’re taking enough time off and getting enough rest? You could go to the dorm and get some time to yourself.” – I remember Mr. Matt asking me that so many times, and each time I replied “Why would I want to go home? I’m happy to be here, and being alone would be boring.”

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and by September my brain finally caught up with my body long enough to shout into it’s stubborn ear “STOP IT! I’m TIRED.” – I had hit a wall. I didn’t want to be “on” all the time.

I wanted quiet. I wanted an off switch. I found a needed haven in three good friends who were also physically and emotionally spent. We relaxed together, shared together, prayed & fellowshipped together… we bonded, and they became some of my dearest friends. (In fact, this past June I married one of them! ^_^) The time we spent was a blessing. I had found an oasis in the dessert, and God used it to bless the rest of my life!

BUT… as 2015 began, my job changed drastically. I was no longer teaching in the classroom, I was working in the office. I was excited to finally work on my many projects uninterrupted! – My hours also changed in a good way that helped me to stop on time.

Unfortunately, it also meant that I wouldn’t be joining a family group in the morning, but I thought it would be okay. [I didn’t need the accountability of a family group to make sure I did my morning devotions, right?] Well, maybe if I had been spiritually healthy at the beginning, that would have been true — but I wasn’t, so it wasn’t.
My quiet times got shorter, and fewer, and more haphazard.

Moreover, I began to avoid human interaction. I didn’t want to be constantly surrounded by people, or be responsible for what was taking place, or be involved in the game over at that table, or go to the movies with that group, or go out of my way to build relationships …I was purposely backing myself into a job that entailed [long days of staring at my computer screen working on projects] again!
What was wrong with me? I had always cared about people!

I’d like to say that when I realized what was happening, I prayed and got right back on track! But… that would be a lie. I have prayed, but I’m still in the mire. Mostly by choice. Simple choices like hitting the snooze button “just one more time”, and working on my projects “just 5 minutes longer”.


The most amazing part of all of this, is that I have never once felt that God has left me – that He has behaved toward me as I have toward Him. While I have ignored Him; choose sleep, work, and just about everything else over a conversation with Him, He has never failed me yet.

I find it so unimaginable — because, if I were Jesus, I would have cut me off months ago — then again, I keenly sense that this is the very grace I have long known and am merely tasting again, afresh. He is continuing to give me what I do not deserve. Himself.

By His hand, I see a light at the end of this tunnel… not because He’s going to make me climb out of this mess I’ve made for myself by myself (which is what I would probably do if I had such an ungrateful servant!), but by simply reaching up to grasp the hand He has continually had extended toward me all along. – By spending time WITH HIM.

He is so faithful. So kind. We serve a Good Master.

“1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.

11 As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! 12 For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.

17 As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!”

– Psalm 40



I had never really considered it before.

Even when I lived alone, half-a-world away from family, I’ve been blessed with a sense of security & protection all of my life. With safety a seemingly natural thing, I never really considered what it would be like to feel UN-safe, UN-secure, UN-assured. UN-protected.

Then I began a relationship… with someone who made me feel completely safe. Even safer than ever before! So I still didn’t notice it.

As I began preparing for our wedding, I ran across a few blogs, snippets of books, etc that talked about marriage and relationships. They talked about how to overcome common threats to deepening relationships: Anxiety. Insecurities. Inadequacy. Fears.

Suddenly, I began to realize what a precious gift I did have, by understanding what I didn’t have. I was so grateful to my parents, grateful to my fiancé, grateful to God! Moreover, I’ve begun to feel the beautiful weight of how our relationship with our earthly spouse is a mirror of our identity in Christ. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’d heard that all my life… but I didn’t KNOW it.)

For those who are 2nd or 3rd generation Christians, we take Salvation through Christ for granted. It’s hard to imagine life without Him. We obviously don’t want to turn back time and live a more sin-filled life in order to drink more deeply of His grace, but… we don’t know what it means to return to our first love, because we scarcely remember that far back! (Except maybe what our favorite toy was!)

And yet… it’s HUGE! It’s such a HUGE THING to be Saved. Washed clean. Redeemed. Uncondemned. Pursued. Loved. Secure. Accepted. Adopted. Wanted. Cherished. Completely whole in Christ. Made new. Safe.

The prayer of an unbeliever.

The prayer of a not-yet-believer.

“…finding out the greatness…”

– 2013 –

“Lord, why am I here? You clearly opened the door for me to work at this job, but I feel like I’m dying inside! I don’t care about business; I don’t even believe in the work that I’m doing!”

A year and a half ago, my heart cried this regularly. I didn’t understand what the point was for me to be working at that company. I sought to share Christ my coworkers, but other than that? Ick. – I saw no purpose in my work.

Finally, I began to rest and trust God. I began to rejoice, even though I didn’t feel like it.

– 2014 –

Just this morning, long-anticipated plans threatened to collapse. Excitement turned to worry and frustration. Someone else’s money could be lost, myself and others would be sad and disappointed… I prayed frantically as I tried to fix things. I groaned. I wanted to cry.

Just as I began giving into my fear and sorrow, an old hymn came to mind. “Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what Thou art. I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.” I knew the words were not true of me, but they needed to be! Because God’s faithfulness was already true of Him. I began to sing.
– – –

Fast forwarding to my current self… >>>>

Now, I see so much more clearly! To my surprise, the skills that I use every day at my current job [which I love] are the very same ones that I learned at the job I felt unfulfilled by. – – – God knew the future. He knew my need. He knew what purpose He wanted to fit me for, and provided me with free (in fact, paid!) training for the work He was leading me to. – “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in [my] eyes.”

And as for Today? 3.5 hours after it began, the crisis was over. The problem was solved. I’m still feeling an adrenaline rush from the “excitement”, but more than that, I’m so grateful to God for working it all out AND for teaching me again that rejoicing is always appropriate. That His name is worthy to be praised with or without the sun shining; with or without a silver lining.
– – –

These two circumstances remind of a lesson I learned 4 years ago… in the middle of yet another trial,


“I will be praising God in a week or a year’s time for what is happening now, so why should I wait to praise and thank Him for His loving-kindness? He is ALWAYS good!”

Blessing and Glory

Friend: “How can I bless you?”
Me: “…(long pause)…..What?”

I couldn’t respond, because I had never been asked that before. I had to think about it.

“How can I bless you?” – It seemed like a strange question… at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is a very good question. It seeks to find out how to love others, which is what Christ has called us to do!
At SYME, we talk about the 5 Love Languages.
We encourage our students to look around and INTENTIONALLY show love to others in the way they best receive it. (Which is often different than the way they give it.)

It’s not a question that we are always able to ask directly. In fact, sometimes asking the question can make the act less meaningful!(Because part of showing love is taking the time to discover the answer yourself.)

I want to become better at loving.
We each have 1 or 2 primary love-languages, so my teammate encouraged us to develop our weaker points:

  • Words of Affirmation – Ask God to change your thoughts! Make it a habit to think, write down, or say thankful/encouraging things about those around you.
  • Gift Giving – Thoughtless gifts don’t count. You need to spend time finding out what the person likes that you’re blessing.
  • Physical Touch – Obviously appropriateness of things like high-fives, hugs and back massages will greatly vary due to timing, gender, etc., but start with your family and branch out!
  • Quality Time – Put down your phone/computer, switch off the TV, stash your to-do list, and show someone you value them by giving them quality attention.
  • Acts of Service – Just do it! And even if you’re unqualified to assist in the task someone is working on, ask how you can pray for them, then follow through.

I want to intentionally be a blessing every day.

So where does the “glory” come in?
I was struck by a challenge another teammate gave our students last week:

For at least one day, to ask Jesus about everything… EVERYTHING. Whatever you’re doing, thinking, struggling with, excited about — just ask Him what He wants, what He prefers, what His will is for you in that situation; because He has purchased your life. You are His, and you are meant to live this life for Him by His living in and through you!

This takes childlike faith and open communication.
I confess, I haven’t successfully done it for a whole day yet, but the times that I have, I noticed that my thoughts were more directed toward God, my heart was singing His praises, and I was also able to love others better… I was reminded why I live; why I EXIST!

– To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Giving by Taking

Have you thought lately about how God blesses us through what He takes away from us? I don’t just mean trials and burdens… I mean taking away “good” things.

The blessings He GIVES us are easy to see! Just think about the VOICE ’13 staff! Since we said goodbye in August; David & Anna moved to Nantou – Jerry & Ada moved to Pingdong – Ethan moved to Taichung — Audra had a baby – Zack got married – Brianne moved to Pingdong – I joined SYME in Taichung – Loren and Tina got married to each other!  😉

These are all added blessings that we naturally thank God for… but do we remember to thank Him for the process? The journey? For the things He takes away? – I’m sure each of them had to give up or allow God to replace something “good” in their lives before they received these new and wonderful blessings… but, at the time, they may not have known why they had to let go! They just had to trust Him.

Sometimes God takes things away in order to give them back to us in His way.
Sometimes He replaces good things with better things.

  • God restored Isaac to Abraham; strengthening and proving Abraham’s faith, while still fulfilling His promise of both descendants and a Messiah!
  • The Lord blessed Joseph’s life, used him to preserve the nation of Israel, and allowed him to see his beloved father and family again face to face!
  • God blessed Job with twice as much material wealth as before, spoke to him personally out of a whirlwind, and directed the story to be preserved so that we could understand His mind and ways better.
  • After the cross, the disciples received their Master back AS SAVIOR! Moreover, they and we will be in His presence for eternity!
  • Through Jesus’ sacrifice of power, glory, holiness, etc. He received the church as His bride and inheritance, the keys of the kingdom, all honor, glory, power… the list goes on!

It is much better to praise Him right away (Job 1:20-21), and choose the “good portion, which will not be taken away” from us (Luke 10:42) — relinquishing things of earthly substance in order to receive blessings that are of heavenly/eternal value!

Through times of loss, sadness, pain and disappointment, I have experienced some of the sweetest times of fellowship with God! I have been blessed by trials when I’ve consciously chosen to praise Him in faith, trusting that He was working for His glory and my good, even when though I didn’t understand.

Our hopes can change easily; but, if we seek to only have what God chooses for us, then our desires don’t ever need to change! Moreover, instead of attaining our goals, we can instead joyfully give those desires of our hearts back to Him for safe-keeping… if they are blessings He wants to fulfill, He can do so a hundredfold!

So why wait 2 years (or however long) until we understand WHY God has taken something away before we thank Him? Let’s do it now, trusting that it is a blessing from Him!

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – I Thes. 5:16-18