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.

Conquering The Fourth Grade Mafia Boss

When I first started teaching my current fourth graders two years ago, my mantra for their class was “love conquers all.” Recently, I have realized much of the reason for their moody behavior in class and stage whispers about which teachers they like. I’ve always known it was about who was in control of the class, but I always blamed the wrong students. With a flash of a stamped paper, trading little items back and forth during class, and a glimpse of paper money, I finally discovered the culprit.

Jenny gives her classmates stamps based on their behavior–toward her. The stamps are converted to paper money, used to buy things at her “store.” When I first saw glimpses of this store in action, I was incredulous at the types of things that were being sold. Plain, clear folders. Ordinary pens. If they don’t buy, they are punished by Jenny’s moods. Also, the worst thing is that Jenny has the power to take anything they buy back from them, giving them no security. Following Jenny’s rules enslaves them and makes it impossible for them to enjoy anything that’s not giving them a tangible reward. They prefer Jenny’s material rewards to the immaterial rewards teachers give them such as praise, accomplishment, and education.

Love = truth + grace. I grew up in a church that emphasized truth over grace and so naturally the pendulum has swung over to the grace side. However, both grace and truth are vital in my relationship with these students. Without grace, I’d scold them after every infraction. Without truth, I’d ignore their self-destructive behavior. Love does conquer all, but it needs to be a rich, nuanced love; grace and truth working side-by-side. Grace and truth have to be so blended in our words that no one can see where truth ends and grace begins.

How can I so blend truth and grace? My actions towards my students are a representation of how God responds to my sin and self-destructive behavior. Truth often requires that I suffer earthly consequences for my foolish actions, but Jesus took the eternal consequences onto himself in a stunning display of grace.

In that, Jesus Christ, who was full of grace and truth, conquers all.

Conquers my apathetic heart.

Conquers little fourth grade mafia bosses and those whom they oppress.

Conquers all.

the j class



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.

Flawed Infallibility

Big head bucky ball BobaAs my sisters tell it, I was quite the bossy little boy. I knew I was always right, and that God was on my side. When others DARED to disagree with me, I would ask them in a shocked, nasally sing-song voice, “You don’t listen to God?!”

This attitude may be amusing in a child, but to my horror, I’ve found it still prevalent in my life, and in the lives of fellow Christians. We think our understanding of God is infallible, shaking our heads, pointing our fingers, presuming to speak on His behalf.

Two examples.

As a Christian born in America, I subconsciously believed my political party was a part of my identity as a Christian. I never realized that I held this belief, or came to question it until 2001.

One Sunday during the aftermath of 9/11, I attended a service in Taiwan where a pastor criticized the American government for seeking revenge, and emphasized the importance of forgiveness. I was disturbed for two reasons. One, how could a Christian disagree with the decisions of my political party in America? Two, why didn’t I understand enough about politics to defend my country’s actions as right and moral?

God created the world, so evolution must be wrong. How can people believe in Jesus and the Bible without knowing the truth?

One year at VOICE, someone on my team disagreed with creationism. I tried to convince him that his science textbooks taught him lies, but in the end, his belief in evolution – and lack of belief in God – remained unchanged.

When I shared my experience with my pastor, he told me something that has slowly transformed my way of thinking over the past ten years.

“We must not allow secondary issues to distract us from what is most important: whether or not they will accept Jesus as Lord.”

But you might ask, what about the verse in I Peter 3:15 that tells us, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”?

Exactly. The hope that is within us, that is what we must defend. In all other areas, we must be open to the possibility of our fallibility, or else we will be like Christians joining a murderous crusade to the Holy land, the Catholic church condemning the scientific discoveries of Galileo, or like a self-righteous little boy who has still so much to learn about God.


The taking of Constantinople. Public Domain.

Have You Forgotten the Truth?

lies-truthI recently read a book called Eyes Wide Open written by the Christian novelist, Ted Dekker.In this book, the two main characters – Austin and Christy – find themselves in a world where they’re struggling to find out the truth of who they really are despite the lies of what people are telling them. The longer they listen to the lies, the more the characters begin to believe that the lies actually are their reality. It’s only when they see their world through a mysterious pair of glasses, that their eyes are finally opened to see beyond the deception and into the light of truth. Finally, everything in their lives make sense. However, these glasses are quickly torn from their eyes and they’re again forced back into their old reality. The challenge that they then face is remembering the truth in a world that seeks to deceive them. One line that jumped off of the page at me was this:

“Life is a cycle of remembering and forgetting.” 

Maybe it’s an overly simplistic concept, but think about it: we’re prone to forget the truth, only to be reminded again, only to forget again. This is the cycle and struggle that, towards the end of the book, Ted Dekker does a fantastic job of portraying.

I wish I could say that I don’t understand this cycle of forgetting. But actually, I do. Because this story isn’t just about Christy and Austin…it’s also about me.

This past year, I did a lot of forgetting. Even though I’ve known and experienced the truth of God’s faithfulness in my life, I went through times in the past year where God felt distant and far removed from my circumstances. From where I was standing, life didn’t make sense. I wanted God to prove Himself and silence my doubt like He’d done for His people all throughout the pages of scripture. But He didn’t. Or at least not in the way I was hoping for. I started to believe the lies that God was distant to my pain, elusive, and silent to all of my questions.

However, when I needed it most, God brought people into my life who reminded me of truths that I’d known in the past, but had forgotten when the skies of doubt had clouded my horizon. It was the remembrance of God’s faithfulness, promises, and love that eventually gave me the eyes to see the truth that God’s goodness and ways don’t always fit into my way of understanding the world. And that’s okay. Because He’s God and I’m not.

I think we all have gone through or will go through periods where we wonder what in the world God is doing. We may question God’s plans and start to believe the lie that He’s not truly good if He allows pain and trials in our lives. However, we have to remind ourselves that no matter what our circumstances or emotions tell us, God never fails or makes mistakes. When we choose to open our eyes wide to the reality of truth, every lie of unbelief will come crumbling down.

Into All Truth

But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. 
John 16:13

I’ve been thinking about how it is that we find the truth. And maybe the answer is that we don’t find the truth: the Truth finds us.

Some people look to science for truth. After all, science is just looking at the world and describing what we see. The famous scientist Stephen Hawking wrote a book last year about how he thinks science can now explain where the universe came from – and explain it without God. So is that true? Well, Hawking thinks that if more than one explanation works, we should use whatever explanation is most convenient – both are equally true. I think that this is what happens when we trust science too much: our idea of truth becomes confused. What we think we see when we look at the world today is different from what people thought they saw 100 years ago. It’s even different from what they thought they saw 15 years ago (that was when many scientists began to believe that most of the stuff in the universe is a strange stuff called “Dark Energy.” No one had suggested that before). When the things that are considered scientific “fact” change so fast, who can blame Hawking for thinking that there is no stable truth about the world? No, science is good for doing work, building technology, and such things; but it’s not very good at finding out truth.

But if we can’t find the truth by looking at the world, what hope is there of finding the truth? Well, none. This might be part of what the Bible means when it says we are “lost,” “blind,” and “in darkness.” There is no hope of finding the truth about God, of knowing God. We don’t have the ability to do that. Well, a clarification: we don’t have the ability to do that unless we already know God. So how do we go from not knowing God to knowing God? This is the whole story of Christ: we don’t become God, instead he becomes human. We don’t seek him: he seeks us (Rom. 3:11). We don’t find him: he finds us (Lk. 19:10). This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit: to guide us to the truth that we would never find on our own (Jn. 16:13, above).

What good news! Even the scientists should realize that’s the only way we could ever know the truth.

Truth that Transforms

People often warn about the danger of having only head knowledge about God and no life application. It’s true that simply amassing Bible facts isn’t of much worth if that knowledge doesn’t affect you.

But on the flip side, it’s also meaningless to try to do what is right without first knowing the basis for why you should do good. It should be knowledge of God’s character and the gospel that motivates us to do what is right.

I read recently that when Jonathan Edwards preached, he didn’t have to persuade people to start doing the right thing. He simply told them the fact of God’s holy wrath and that truth convicted the listeners; that knowledge drove them to repentance.

Yes, Christianity is about a change of heart and life, but it’s knowledge of truth that brings it about.

So! What do you know about the faith you profess? Do you pursue a knowledge of God? (theology) Are you interested what the Bible says about everything? (doctrine)

What motivates you to live like you know a Christian should?

True, knowledge shouldn’t stay in the head, but it starts there. Learn the Bible, so that its truth can reach your heart, and then be evidenced in a transformed life.