Selamat Tahun Baru

Lippo Cikarang, West Java, Indonesia

It’s been a year since I last blogged and I’ve been through quite a lot. Looking back, here are some of the things that happened in 2013 in my life:

  • Visited Papua, Bali, Poland, Cleveland, Minnesota, Japan as well as more familiar haunts
  • Completed my first year of teaching and began my second
  • Moved to a new house
  • Experienced my first ever breakup
  • Became an uncle
  • Became school House Coordinator
  • Saw drastic workplace injustice
  • Did not re-sign a contract for 2014-15
  • Flew an airplane twice
  • Gained a lot of weight
  • Drove a motorcycle
  • Hosted visitors to my home

So what will 2014 hold?

A mixed record

Lippo Cikarang, West Java, Indonesia

I phail. A lot. Here were my goals for 2012:

  • Run a marathon or two half marathons or 1000 miles in 2012
  • Fill up 3 pages of passport with stamps or fly 20,000 miles
  • Blog at least 28 days per month – hold me to this please! It just needs to be something not a treatise on microeconomics
  • Only eat desserts at special occasions (birthdays, holidays, etc and not daily)
  • Read 15 books (150+ pages)
  • Tear out the thorn and let it heal
  • Read a chapter of the Bible before going to bed every night

I definitely completed my travel goal and then some. Instead of flying 20,000mi I actually flew 31.870 see:

I think I also may have completed the book goal let me try and think what books I read in roughly reverse order: Song of Ice and Fire books 1 & 2, House on Mango Street, Fellowship of the Ring, Lord of the Flies, Blood on the River, Ask Me No Questions, Hunger Games 1, 2, & 3, Apocalypse Z, Life of Pi, At the Back of the North Wind, Mayor of Casterbridge, Daisy Miller, I think there could be others that I don’t remember but that’s 15.

Despite a (little) success I am hoping for 2013 to be better. 2012 was a great year and I’m sure I will look back fondly on it in the future.

I won’t be home for Christmas

Lippo Cikarang, West Java, Indonesia

Confession: I’ve been listening to Christmas music. A lot. Even before Thanksgiving. That is a most grievous sin and yet I still committed it quite a bit. A few days ago I just bought an entire Bing Crosby Christmas album on iTunes (I never buy stuff form iTunes – it’s too trendy, expensive when I could just go on Grooveshark. One of my favorite ever Christmas songs:

It’s a lie. Although I sin like those opera vikings a beautiful bird in the shower every morning it doesn’t make the words come true. I’m not going to see my family this Christmas. In a way perhaps. I get to see my girlfriend which is fantastic! But I won’t get the traditional clam chowder, tree decorating and let’s be honest best of all valuable presents! celebrations of Jesus at my home church! And so in the beginning of this 25 days of Christmas Blogging I will start it the way I start everything with a stinky fart caution. As great as this Christmas season will be I know that my home has changed but I suppose that’s what it means to grow up.

Annoying Christian Phrases #1: Surrender

Lippo Cikarang, West Java, Indonesia

For a while now there have been certain phrases often repeated in Christian circles that annoy me. Now part of this annoyance is simply that I am critical of what people say but most of it is because people do not always think carefully before they open their mouth and so they turn to very generic phrases that they hear without comprehending the larger implications. I will likely turn this into a series so here is phase number uno:

“All you have to do is surrender yourself to God!”

*submit or give up are acceptable substitutes for surrender.

I recognize that this phrase is biblical and may be useful. However, it is generally employed in such a way that indicates if we, that is humankind, give up ourselves to God then God’s love will be able to change us. It is used to spur on the action of self-denial and instead focus on God. It is used to say that our faith starts with surrender.

My first problem with this phrase is that it is unspecific. In all practicality, what does it mean to “surrender” to God? What am I, French?

The second reason I dislike this phrase is that it places the burden on me. It is a completely legalistic dogma, holding to the Law, what we should do rather than the Gospel of what God has done for us.

The reality is that I am incapable of submitting myself to the Holy Spirit. My sinful human nature means that “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” (Martin Luther, Explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed).

Faith doesn’t start with me surrendering. But rather “faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

I think that a better way of discussing the general statement of “surrender to God” is to say “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). This makes use of the Law to announce that we are sinners. I need God because I am at my very core evil not because surrendering to God is like giving up everything to become a Bielieber.

God is not just a fashion trend that takes over our lives and fades when the fame does. No, God is a father.

Another problem, particularly in the cultural context in which I am in is that of Islam. When I say that the most important part of Christianity is submitting to God’s power I am blurring the distinction with Islam. Islam means Submission and that is the chief idea in the religion. It can certainly be a talking point of comparison but I should never blur the two and thus imply that they are basically the same thing. They aren’t the same at all.

As I mentioned above, the chief problem of this statement about surrendering places the burden on myself but I am incapable of carrying it. Even as a believer, there are times I think to myself: this is crazy. I honestly believe in a God who loves me? Lord, help me to believe.

No, it was Jesus Christ who took my burden. My hatred, greed, selfishness and inability to believe – Christ took my sin as His own burden and it is buried in the empty tomb. Christ is greater than my burdens, I am not. After all, “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

By making our “surrender” (whatever that means) into the conditionality for God’s grace we are turning the Gospel into a Law and thus diminishing the power and love of Christ.