yesterday pastor todd began a new series in the pm service on Habakkuk. the book begins with the prophet’s cries to God. these cries can be summarized in one word, “Why?”.

       O LORD, how long shall I cry,
      And You will not hear?
      Even cry out to You, “Violence!”
      And You will not save.
        Why do You show me iniquity,
      And cause me to see trouble?
      For plundering and violence are before me;
      There is strife, and contention arises.
         Therefore the law is powerless,
      And justice never goes forth.
      For the wicked surround the righteous;
      Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.

pastor todd then went on to explain the current state of affairs in our world, in our city. why does God allow drug dealers to roam the streets? gang violence? corporate greed? horrendous crimes against humanity? why? why??

if you want answers, tune in to the pm services (recastweb.com), todd promised them. but for my part, i want to address two issues.

1) we all ask those questions. the question “how can an all powerful, loving and good God allow such pain and suffering to exist in the world?”, is not a new one. it has been dubbed by many who discuss it “the problem of pain”, and indeed, it’s a relevant question. but brothers and sisters (yes, addressing christians now) figure it out. honestly, you should know the answer to that for yourself and for your friends when they ask you. do NOT wait until you are suffering, to answer this problem for yourself.

when you are sad what part of the bible do you turn to? psalms? maybe job? you don’t turn to the epistles. my point is, when you are doing alright, figure these things out. the problem of pain is theological and philosophical in nature and you will have a very hard time thinking theologically and philosophically when you’ve lost a loved one, or become paralyzed from the waist down. you build your house on the rock before the storm comes. if you wait for the storm to start first, it won’t really matter where you want to build.

it really breaks my heart to see brothers and sisters lose faith because it wasn’t shored up against attack. we live out our walks daily, never once thinking about the difficulty in reconciling suffering in the world with a good God, when there’s genocide in africa, poverty down the street, and spiritual bankruptcy everywhere we go. but the minute something bad happens to us, everything comes crashing down.

that being said, i don’t want to give off the vibe that i’ve been through it all, and have come out the other side. one of my greatest fears is that i’m an imposter. that all my apologetics and ‘wisdom’ are nothing but a house of cards, waiting for the final blow. but really, if you wrestle with God, i think you’ll find that he can hold his own. and if you’re currently suffering, this is in no way an indictment of your walk, and i’d be glad to pray with and for you, seriously. for those of you who have no idea how to even begin addressing questions like the problem of pain, i really really recommend mere christianity (duh.) 😀

2) as pastor todd was describing the mess that is oakland; the shootings in the church parking lot, the drugs, the violence etc… i was (honestly) kind of beaming. i am very very proud of todd as my pastor, regeneration as my church, and many of my friends who have decided to follow the lord into the trenches. but the talk of serving the lord in a dangerous place got me thinking about, what else, martyrdom (haha, bet you didn’t see that one coming!) did you know that my parents named me after Justin Martyr? ok, no they didn’t, but there was a guy by that name, and guess how he died!

but honestly, if God were to martyr me at any time, the best time would be now, wouldn’t it? i’m single, i have no money (in fact, i’m in debt mwahahaha), i have no responsibilities, no real amount of possessions etc… really, i felt so free to live, free to die, for the sake of something i actually really care about now (finally!) and this line of thinking led me to two thoughts:

    a) Stuff – when we gave our lives to jesus, we gave him everything right? one problem i often rant about is our quickness as christians to take certain parts of the bible un-literally. for instance, when jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell all of his things and follow him, we are instantly inclined to say “oh, that just means we have to be ready, to give away all of our stuff”. even if this is true, don’t we realize that this gives God the express right to take away all of our stuff, whenever, and for whatever reason he pleases? the problem with being rich and christian (you can do it, but it’s hard) is that where your treasure is, so is your heart. if you invest in the world, you will be tied to it. it’s like what pastor todd says, God asks for your money, not because he needs it, but because when you do, you’re giving away your selfishness, your greed, your materialism, your false sense of security, your claim to control over your life.

too often we take jesus’s promise of the ‘abundant life’ and translate it into the language of our individualistic and materialistic culture. and we fail to remember that you can have an abundance of stuff, and little or no life at all.

    b) A Wife and Kids – looking ahead, i can see clearly that perhaps the hardest obstacle to overcome if living missionally called me to dangerous places, would be the safety of my family. i don’t know how people do it. how much faith would it take, to put your family in that situation? how much faith would it take, to trust God even if you lost a son, or a daughter, or your wife to crossfire, muggings or worse?

when thinking about this i am almost (this close) to saying that i’d be cool with it, if God wanted me to be single… forever. :X all complicated issues surrounding celibacy aside, i think in order for this to ever come to pass, some things would need to change.

when i talked to dufour about this a few weeks ago, his first response was “but it’d be so lonely”. and it’s true. but i think that really needs to change guys. the stigma around singleness needs to disappear. sure, some people are meant to bless another person with their devoted love and support, but some aren’t. i really think some people might be more willing to realize their gift of singleness/celibacy, and utilize it for the kingdom, if they knew they wouldn’t be judged and ridiculed for it.

ok the following argument might be a really big stretch, but please bear with me. so God made adam, and he’s sitting in the garden playing with his animal buddies. and God seeing that “it’s not good for man to be alone”, makes eve for him. somehow i think it’s significant that along with eve, God also created the potential for the rest of mankind. without eve, there wouldn’t have been cain or abel, or jesus etc… so sure, ‘it’s not good for man to be alone’, and the union between husband and wife is imagebearing of God’s full and complete character, but according to paul (and taking Jesus as an example), not everyone was meant for it. is it such a stretch to think that i (or you) could be celibate and still not be ‘alone’? like sure, that means no sex (and man, what a bummer) :X but still, can’t single people also have meaningful relationships?

brothers and sisters, i really feel that in order for people to be more comfortable with their (temporary or permanent) states of singleness, our concept of ‘friendship’ needs to be more than it is. if i’m honest with myself, (next to the sex thing) the biggest barrier to even considering celibacy is the fear of being middle-aged or old and having no real friends because everyone else is married and has lives of their own. but would i feel this way if i didn’t feel like i was just a placeholder for my friends before they started dating/got married? if i truly felt like friendships could be real and lasting? friendship just needs to be more, period. i think we call each other brothers and sisters for a reason, and we’re called members of one body, for a reason.

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~ by justinhong on December 11, 2007.

10 Responses to “”

  1. justin, your posts are always too long!

  2. worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd.

  3. good stuff just. yes i read it all. i have a book i got from BayUP that you may enjoy reading. they’re short stories… perhaps good reading before your start working in a homeless shelter. stay safe in socal. until then, see you when i see you

  4. Good things to think about Justin. More often than not, we tend to scratch the surfaces of one another’s lives, and not take the opportunity and responsibility to invest into friendships with that eternal perspective. It’s almost like we make friends not out of faith, but fear – specifically from loneliness.You’re right – there is so much more work to be done in that area for all of us…

  5. i actually did read through this whole long, convoluted entry. hahahaha. just kidding. i feel you on the whole singleness and martyrdom thing. i consider how much experience walking beside God has built me up to even start thinking about this possibility of paying the ultimate price..and i wonder if its selfish. or foolish to force my kids into the same surrender and sacrifice when they havent seen the things God has walked me through.. or walked through those things themselves.and then i remember studying genesis and how abraham’s whole hearted intention to sacrifice isaac left a legacy of faith that wouldnt ever leave.. how, from generation to generation, isaac knew that his father feared the Lord over all things and loved him more than anyone else. and i wonder if the sacrifice of our children in the mission field or to the dangers of a closed country might be comparable?dont know. still praying. okay. thought i’d at least comment since you stayed up so late talking about this entry!!

  6. i WANT to read this entry, especially the wife and kids part but im toooooo laaazzzzzy. i like your shorter entries.yay for moving to haste house though! i was thinking about you today cause i felt whiny (which i know you LOVE), and i got excited about seeing you around 😀

  7. i confess i didn’t read this whole entry… :/ the words “todd spitzer”, “preaching”, “habakkuk” (one of my favorite books in the Bible) just made me go to their online webcast site.. but i’m sure it’s good! :)the “it” in the last sentence refers to your entry

  8. so… the habakkuk series isn’t up yet.. 😦 so i decided to read your entry. let’s just say amen to the “singleness” part.. esp. with the family, strong sis/bro friendships.now to your “problem of pain” entry… as one going through grief, i can say that’s probably true… we have to be firm in who God is, so when bad events happen we do not doubt the character of God.. but it’s hard to not doubt him when bad things happen.. I think one huge reason is because the American Christianity touts a religion with pink frills and a vending machine God. The cross isn’t pink and frilly. It’s more than that. It’s a symbol of love and pain,pain, pain, pain and pain.. Can I not emphasize it more? and i have alot more to say about this..

  9. stop writing long entries that everyone agrees about. and no, i think it would be sad if you were single for the rest of your life. some girl out there is going to miss out.

  10. good thoughts here bro. the costs are high, and i confess i try to bargain it down.and dude. you’re on xanga so much it’s scary. we should hang out sometime, real soon, particularly because you’ll soon be so close 😀

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