The last few days, Suzi and I have been traveling in Europe for our belated honeymoon. It’s our first big trip together and is marked by an abrupt departure from our normal ministry and work commitments (and an abrupt entrance into different cultures, languages, and timezones). But it’s been good for a lot of introspection, which I hope to express well here.
To be honest, I felt like this past month was awesome for me spiritually. Here’s a quick overview of the different events that happened:
- CSBC held its second annual Praise Night on the 4th
- Easter weekend events (Pastor Tim preaching for Good Friday, Easter Basket + buffet, two youth baptisms during a sunrise service, and a big children’s ministry gospel presentation/party)
- I finished memorizing 2 Timothy and recited it in a single sitting!
There were two themes in particular that emerged, though they are largely intertwined - the encouragement of the community around me (specifically my small group) and choosing to see God’s work.
Our church switched to smaller weekly small groups 2 months ago and I’ve been massively encouraged in my relationship with my small group (a group of 6, 7 guys) and seeing how God has been working in their lives. It’s one thing when we just get together and talk somewhat abstractly about the Bible and Christian sorts of things, but I think it’s transformative when we get together and talk about our frustrations and sin and hear real stories of what it’s like to obey God and what it’s like to have a good relationship with Him. And then to go out and try to do His work together, because we’re all working towards that aim in life - we’re all running this race of faith together, urging each other on.
The result of this is that I’ve been challenged to think how I see God at work around me and to think of things more spiritually than physically. This came about from re-realizing that if God tells me to do something, I should just do it. Or that if something is hindering me from having a better relationship with God, then I should just get rid of it. And If I got rid of what I knew to be sin in my life, I thought I would see God and His work more and more in my life.
So I started trying to do small things. I deleted some of the programming apps from my phone that typically distract me into wasting time. I considered it God’s work when I had a good spiritual conversation with someone, or when I met a new coworker who had a Bible verse tattooed on his forearm, or when we reorganized at work and the seating arrangement changed. I considered it God’s work when someone new came to small group, or came to our Food and Friends night, or came to church at all.
I think it’s a truer way to live, if you’re a Christian. God is constantly working in us and around us, but we’re often looking the other way. I definitely don’t want to stop here, in April, satisfied with the hints of ways I think I see God working. I want to see more… In the past, I treated spiritual conversations as the goal, as “par for the course.” But as I’ve had more of these conversations and realized people don’t really mind them that much, I want my goal to be gospel presentations. I think that should be par for the course.
I read “Is God Anti-Gay?” by Sam Allberry after seeing it on a Top Books from 2013 list on Gospel Coalition (pretty short book). Allberry is a Christian pastor in Europe who struggles with same sex attraction. Two things stick with me, a few weeks removed from finishing it:
- It is just as costly for a homosexual person to follow Christ as a heterosexual person.
- Perhaps the best illustration of how Christ fulfills the law that I’ve heard - the Old Testament Law is sorta like a contour map. When Jesus comes, saying “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law… I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them”, He fulfills all of the contours, but not in the same way. He fulfills the laws regarding the Temple, because His death and resurrection makes our bodies new temples. He fulfills the laws regarding sacrifices, because He was the perfect sacrifice, and fulfills the laws regarding cleansing, because His blood washes us clean. But He reaffirms other laws - sexual immorality being one of them.
The book went through a few Bible passages concerning homosexuality and concluded that the Bible clearly considers homosexuality as sinful. It had a lot of good counsel as to how to respond to a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction. I feel like the book didn’t do a good job of addressing how we should respond to a world that accuses and condemns Christianity for being against homosexuality.
I also began reading “Reasonable Faith” by William Lane Craig after it was recommended by a guest speaker who came to one of our small groups. I’m pretty blown away right now by Craig and the thoughts/arguments he’s assembled. Each chapter begins with what influential thinkers have said in the past (guys like Thomas Aquinas, Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Pascal, etc), then Craig adds his assessments and relevant criticisms, defenses, dangers, and applications. A ton of stuff has been completely over my head (there was even some probability theory in there), but overall, I’ve been really excited/engaged.
The first chapter was about the relationship between faith and reason and how Christians know that Christianity is true. I was a little disappointed (not sure if I should be) that Craig’s final point was that Christians know Christianity to be true ultimately because they have the Holy Spirit inside of them. And non-Christians will come to know Christianity to be true also ultimately only because of the Holy Spirit’s work in their life. But reason still plays a significant role in strengthening our faith in Christ, as well as strengthening others’ faith and breaking down some barriers for non-Christians.
The second chapter was about the human predicament and what the implications of atheism really are (Nietzsche said that if God really is dead, the eventual result is nihilism). Craig basically claims that it is impossible to consistently believe there is no God and maintain the purpose, meaning, and value of human life. He mentions the playwright who wrote a play where the curtains open for thirty seconds to reveal garbage littered across the stage, then the curtains close. The same playwright also wrote a play where two friends talk about trivial things while waiting for a third friend… and the play ends before the third friend ever arrives. Craig shows that such is the consistent conclusion of atheism.
The third chapter (which I’m currently working through) is a giant list and assessment of arguments made in the past for the existence of God. Definitely a bit over my head, but he’s laying each argument in a list of logical premises, then goes through each premise and its criticisms/reasoning.
I was placed on a product team to get my charting infrastructure done, but was a little frustrated with my productivity as I spent a lot of time being blocked by other dependencies. I’m not quite sure what the state of it is now that I’ve left and have been trying not to check my work email. But this whole month, basically all of my work was related to this charting component, besides a few days to get our test coverage back up, do some refactoring, and implement an Angular wrapper around a PubSub service (though now I understand Function.prototype.bind a lot more).
So it was a relatively quiet month. My side project, ngReact, got a nice mention in http://www.williambrownstreet.net/blog/2014/04/faster-angularjs-rendering-angularjs-and-reactjs/ which was on the second page of HackerNews for a while. I got about a month’s worth of traffic in 24 hours, which was nice. And I put in my very first conference talk proposal for CascadiaJS this year in Portland (I attended the last one in Vancouver last December): https://github.com/cascadiajs/2014.cascadiajs.com/blob/master/proposals/rapping-browsers-and-the-future-of-media-apis_davidchang.md
Being in Europe has been a bit rough. Suzi and I had gotten into a pretty solid routine in Seattle, balanced between ministry and work and spending time with friends. We didn’t typically have too much conflict. Then again, we also didn’t spend too much time together and hadn’t been on a real date for quite a while.
Being in Europe has been really challenging for us. I’m reminded how much I need to grow to be a selfless, active leader, and how quickly I become a jerk when I’m hungry, or tired, or uncomfortable (and I was basically all of those things all of the time for the first 5 days in Paris and Venice). It didn’t help that Suzi did all of the planning for this trip and I basically showed up for it, thinking that I should still lead in the relationship, but feeling entirely unequipped to lead. It just shows me that I have a lot to work on and that if I’m not consciously working on loving Suzi well, there’s a good chance I haven’t been.