Book Review: The Happiness Project

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KjU04I was having a life crisis…we have all had one. Big or small they happen. With life’s ever-present ebb and flow of circumstance and change it is hard not to get caught up in the waves of influence. Last year brought a few life shaking changes to my life and I will admit…I had a crisis. I was turning 30, we were moving to an unfamiliar place and I was diagnosed with a chronic illness all within a matter of months. When so many things that I thought defined me were taken away, I grasped to find meaning in my existence. I wanted to be busy again, doing things that I liked to do. I wanted to accomplish something before I was too old to establish myself  in a career. Most of all, I just wanted to be happy.

And it was then that The Happiness Project seem to just fall in my lap. With her lists and diagrams and rules the author, Gretchen Rubin, seemed to be a good fit for me. I function well with having structure. Knowing ahead of time that this book was not coming from a Christian perspective thoroughly intrigued me. I had read plenty of Christian books about joy and happiness and fulfillment but I was curious to get a view from the other side, to see how a person who does not have Christ deals with life and seeks to find happiness.  I did not intend for the book to give me answers to my problem but I did intend to find some inspiration or pattern to follow.

But the intrigue soon wore off and was replaced with frustration. I found myself actually shouting at the book at times…”Don’t you see…you are doing the opposite of what you should be doing. You have to find joy outside of yourself and you keep searching farther inward!! Agh!!” And then I’d put the book down for a while and pick it back up again in a couple of weeks to give me time to calm down. The author described a scene from her life where, finally, in trying to find happiness she tried to make someone else happy by throwing her mother-in-law a birthday party. She took time to find all of her mother-in-laws favorite things…presents, food, decor…but by the end of the chapter she had concluded that she could never make anyone else happy so she needed just to focus on making herself happy and basically live her life just for her. I felt she had completely missed the point. It seemed to me that she was happier when she was just trying to please her mother-in-law but it was when she spent too much time worrying about how it all made herself feel, she sunk into bitterness and frustration. I felt that if she had just served her mother-in-law and seperated her own feelings from it, she could have been much happier with the situation.

And though I found myself being frustrated with her I could easily make a reflection on my life. My search for joy was never as pure as I intended it to be. I often serve others for the sake of making myself feel better. I often makes sacrafices just so I can receive recognition or some tangible reward. I often do things for other people so I can get something in return. And I know God is the ultimate joy and yet I avoid Him and even when I take time to worship him or reflect on Him it is for my own personal gain…I want joy so I turn to Him.

The structure of the book was easy to read and often very insightful and funny. And though I would not agree with her terms that border on obsessive and legalistic…I would support the intention of making a whole life change by taking small steps and changing one thing at a time. Too often I have wanted to write more or spend more time outside or be more intentional about spending time with people…but I attempt to make the changes all at once and fail to stick to anything because I have overwhelmed myself.

The chapter on spirituality was particularly interesting to me. I have spent my whole life intrenched in Christian culture and beliefs. I have had very few non-Christian friends and have never asked a lot of questions to them about religion. So to get a glimpse into the life a someone who is practically a spiritual blank slate created so much curiosity. Everyone is searching for something to make them feel fulfilled. Everyone wants the hole within them filled with something.

In the midst of criticism, I did find a profound nugget of advice that propelled me forward in my own search for personal growth. I have spent most of my life being spread thin between an extensive list of hobbies, interests and jobs. But recently I have become overwhelmed and frustrated with my lack of focus and expertise. Because I had failed to be more specific about what I liked to do, I was merely mediocre at everything and I felt stretched between too many activities. It was in a complete moment of exasperation that I stumbled upon the answer to my folly. I read, “What did you like when you were a child? What you enjoyed as a ten-year-old is probably something you’d enjoy now.” (p.120) And in that moment a dim picture flashed in my head. A ten-year-old me lying in the tiny space of a closet under the stairs, scribbling furiously, lost in the world of my writing endeavor. By the time I had finished, I had far exceeded the one page requirement for class. I had stapled multiple pages together full of colorful drawings and rich vocabulary. This was pure happiness to me…and because of this book, writing is the avenue I have chosen to pursue.

Though I will not be following the particulars that were laid out in this book any time soon, in all, the book was very interesting. I learned a lot about the world’s view of happiness and it challenged my mind to think on my own Christian perspective of happiness. The pattern set out in the book is a good resource for making change in your life, but the premise and final conclusions made were contradictory to the Christian beliefs of sacrifice and humility. I would recommend reading this book with caution, having a firm stance on biblical joy and happiness.

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Book Review: Jesus+Nothing=Everything

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I was raised in a Christian home by parents who never could quite understand the legalistic rules that were so prevalent in the church as a whole during the 90s.  I found it somewhat exciting and interesting that my parents let me go to school dances and watch movies and listen to rock music and wear two piece bathing suits…all with the understanding that if I couldn’t handle the responsibilities that these brought with them, then I could not be free to partake in them.  My parents knew grace…and freedom in Christ, before they could even put proper words to it.  They knew that God was bigger than rules, they knew that wearing or not wearing, doing or not doing, saying or not saying would not keep us from or draw us into God’s favor.  And despite what the church had wanted me to believe, I came out on the other side knowing what so many kids my age long to know…that you don’t need to add anything else to Jesus.  He is absolutely everything.

The book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian was everything I wish I could have grasped as a teenager.  As I struggled through what was right and what was wrong it was constantly difficult for me to separate what was tradition…and speculation of man….and what was actual truth.  Was I really not a Christian if I watched an R rated movie? Was I really making God angry if I wore pants to church or said a cuss word? And even on into adulthood, this book could have spared me from the incessant wrestling that would go on in my mind about the spiritual disciplines.  I could have avoided beating myself up every time I forgot to read my bible…I could have felt relief from guilt and self-consciousness.  And more recently, if I could have read this book sooner I wouldn’t regret so many choices. I wouldn’t have felt so often the need to measure up or felt defeated by the goals I did not meet.  This book slams you in the face with the gospel and gives you a nagging challenge to give up on trying to do something…and just rely on what has already been done for you.

In the first two sections of the book Tchividjian gives us a clear picture of what he means by “Nothing” in the equation that the title proclaims.  By giving us a window into his own life we have a clear application of what the book will boldly explain.  A need to please, a need to do more, a need to meet a standard could have easily caused him to collapse under the weight of expectation and performance but by His mercy, God revealed His intentions in these events.  And that is when Jesus + Nothing = Everything became real to the author and from this revelation he begins to show us a way out from our relentless striving for more.  Through a desire to control our own lives in combination with the emptiness inside that needs filled, we create rules and standards for ourselves that God never intended for us to have.  And then legalism, or as he refers to it “performancism”, becomes our go-to strategy for feeling right with God and with ourselves.  We can all agree that salvation is not obtained by anything that we have done but only by faith, but through our actions we often portray that in order to stay in favor with God we must perform.  We feel we must be striving for Christian growth, we feel we have to be beating ourselves up about sin, we act like we have to constantly be in performance mode…we try to add all of this onto what Jesus already did for us and we hope to get something beneficial out of it.  But we are left feeling discouraged, frustrated, and disappointed with nothing to show for it.

Jesus+Nothing=Everything provides a simple, clear picture of the gospel and reveals the transformation it can have on our lives.  As the book explains, the need for the gospel goes far beyond our salvation and spills over into our Christian walk.  The true heart of the gospel is that Jesus did it all for us…he was perfect because we couldn’t be, he died so that we wouldn’t have to, he took our sins, he was raised, he stands before God…we are expected to do nothing else, except lean on the gospel.  If we try to do anything else we are totally missing the point.  And then when we realize how little we can do, and how much the gospel can do, our hearts are full of gratitude which pours over into our actions….so often we try to do it the other way around and fail miserably.  And through this progression we will actually be showing the world the gospel instead of scaring them away from it.  The world doesn’t want to see people who have it all together giving them a list of rules to obey…they want to know that we have an answer for the mess that they can’t seem to get themselves out of.  They want to know that Jesus really is Everything.

So…for anyone struggling with the lingering effects of legalism….for anyone who feels like life is a battle, and you are the perpetual loser….for anyone who feels like they never measure up….for anyone who can’t seem to ever keep up with all the rules you have made for yourself…for anyone who prides themselves on being a perfectionist….for anyone who is tired of not pleasing anyone…for anyone who just can’t seem to break out of a cycle of sin….this book is for you.

Thoughts on Knowing God

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J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God has been on my reading list for the past five years and as time has crept by, I have been drawn more and more to it but never actually picked it up to read it.  But this summer I was given a book, When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James (which I will most likely be reviewing later)…she referenced Knowing God  and used the phrase “knowing God” so often that when I closed her book, I felt that it was only a natural response to open Packer’s book.  Knowing God started out simply as a series of articles meant to counteract many Christian misconceptions that had snuck in due to liberal theology. The articles were intended to cause readers to think more seriously about God and His character…a concept that so many Christians take for granted, thus becoming lazy and misguided in their pursute of a relationship with Him.  At this point in my life I had become one of those lazy misguided people and had not even realized it until I delved into the knowledge that Packer so generously and tangibly presents in his book. I had honestly thought I “knew God” until I was so graciously shown otherwise. I would like to present a few ideas that I pulled from the book that have been on my heart the last few weeks. From this book I learned why we should know God, how we can know God and I was given examples of those who knew God best and how it changed their lives.

Our lives can be meaningless and confusing if we don’t know God. We cannot know the world unless we know the one who is in charge of the world.  As Packer states it, “we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about God whose world it is and who runs it.  The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business for those who do not know about God.” How could we even begin to understand the frustrations of life if we are not following closely to the one who is the author of our lives, who knows everything that will happen before it does because he orchestrated it.  If I commit to knowing God more intimately I begin to see his patterns, I begin to see his character, I begin to see how he acts and things aren’t as confusing as they once were.  I begin to trust Him and know Him as a friend.  Knowing God more deeply is the answer to anxiety because we cannot worry if we have trusted fully in His sovereign hand.  Knowing God better is the answer to depression because we cannot be hopeless when we know he has a plan…a plan for our good and His glory.  Knowing God helps us love our neighbors better because how could we not love when we are loved by LOVE itself. Knowing God ultimately changes everything about our lives.

But we do have to be careful of gaining knowledge of God simply for the sake of getting smarter and knowing more because this will only lead to pride. We must learn more about God and allow it to change our heart and thus change our actions.  It is so easy to use our knowledge to set us apart and put other people down…that is the opposite of what God stands for.  We are called to reach out to others through our knowledge of God. I have encountered so many Christians over the course of our ministry that in their quest for knowledge about God they get lost somewhere along the way.  They begin to gather in their own little groups, speaking about how much they know…leaving others out and making others feel bad for not knowing as much as they do.  In the beginning it is not intentional but it is brought about by losing sight of the true purpose of knowing God more…it is for His glory and to make Him known to others.  In the process of gaining knowledge we can so easily turn people away from God if we are not careful to keep this true purpose in mind.

We can know God through prayer, reading the Bible and meditation. Meditation is such a lost art in our culture.  Images flash in front of our faces all day every day giving us little time to actually concentrate on what we are seeing.  Our brains have been trained to not actually purposefully think about anything but to respond as quickly as possible to whatever comes to our attention at the moment.  Meditation is simply stopping and thinking about something…in this particular context we are talking about getting quiet, removing distractions and concentrating on who God is and what He has done.  Meditation can be a useful tool in knowing God when coupled with scripture reading.  The Bible is the written word of God…they are exhortations straight from the mouth of God himself.  Where better to begin to know God better than to read his exact words as written by His chosen messengers?  And through prayer we are given access to God in conversation.  We can actually speak to God…talk to him directly and we can hear from him through His chosen means.  We can call on the Holy Spirit to help us apply the scripture we have read and to know specifically what God is telling us through His Word.  And if we are still before Him he speaks to us through prayer.  We are given so many opportunities to know God better and through reading this book I was reminded of how I am squandering those opportunities.  

Knowing God gives examples from the Bible of those who knew God and served him faithfully.  Daniel is one such faithful servant. Through constant prayer Daniel walked closely with God.  He had a right perspective of God’s plan and had a trust in God that led him through many difficult situations.  He stood strong in his faith…refusing to eat the food the king had given him, refusing to bow to the king, and continuing to pray even when he knew the consequences could be deadly.  And never did he take the credit…it was his complete knowledge of God that lead him strongly.  He could keep the right perspective because he knew the God who had planned his course.  He could be brave in fearful times because he knew the God who controlled the mouths of lions.  He could stand strong against the king because he knew the true King.

There is so much more to learn from this book than what I have mentioned here.  There is a lifetime of application and a continuous stream of knowledge to be gained from these pages.  This was my first reading of this book but it will not be my last because though I came away with much to think about, I know there is much more information in this book than I was able to grasp through one single reading.  I encourage anyone to read this…theologically minded or not to gain a clearer perspective of the great God who made us, sustains us, loves us and guides our lives. 

Hope in A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Five years from its original publication, A Thousand Splendid Suns has sold millions of copies all around the world. In 2007 it was one of the most popular books, and yet it took me until now to read this gripping and soul stirring novel that covers the history of Afghanistan over the last 30 years.  The unstable history spans from the invasion of the Soviets, through the reign of the Taliban, through the violent uprisings and tragedy as the country moved into the post-Taliban rebuilding.  On a personal and political level, life has been hard for the people of Afghanistan but even amongst the wreckage and war, the characters of this story grasped on to, and were ultimately disappointed by the intense hope that they felt was all they had left after so much was taken away.

Mariam was the cast-off illegitimate child of a rich business owner. She lived for Thursdays when her dad would come and visit her. Though she was well aware of her position as the invisible 11th child in his family she still had a passionate hope in one day being a part of his family.  When her mother took her own life, she was left with few options and found herself being married off to a gruff, violent, much older man.  She lived out her days oppressed, abused, and lonely until she found an unlikely friend in her husband’s newest wife, Laila.  Through a unique bond because of a shared hatred for their husband, this pair with the addition of Laila’s two children, became the unexpected family that Mariam was looking for.  Powered by the hope for Laila’s future, Mariam eventually kills Rasheed and takes the fall for her herioc deed so that Laila can escape and live the life the Mariam had always dreamed about.  Mariam’s life, to its tragic end, was fueled by a hope that was never fully realized.

Laila was the only daughter born to a middle-class family shaken by the loss of two sons in the war.  Her constant hope was to live up to the legacy her immortalized older brothers left behind, so that her mother, immobilized by grief, would love her the same as she had loved the two boys.  Life exploded in front of Laila’s eyes when a stray bomb ripped through her home, stealing away her father and her mother. She soon found it her only option to marry Rasheed as she discovered that her true love, Tariq, had been killed.  Her life is nearly taken, as well, by the violent hands of her husband until Mariam gave up her own life by killing Rasheed and standing firm in her guilt so that Laila could escape.  Though she discovers that the story of Tariq’s death was all a treacherous ruse, is reunited with her first love, and returns to her home town…she quickly learns that life is not all she had hoped for.

As I read this captivating tale, through the rise and fall of each character’s wavering hope, I could not help but think of the unending hope that we, as children of God, have in this life and in the next.  We have hope that cannot be taken away by injustice or tragedy. We have hope that will not be destroyed even by death. The hope in the lives of Mariam and Laila was always seen from behind a veil of powerful loss and unrelenting oppression.  This hope was never realized and always sought after.  These women found their hope in circumstances so as life changed their hope would crumble away from one event or person only to cling to another unpredictable object or ambition. Family, love, financial security and freedom all gave these women reason to keep going but in the end each and every hope was shattered by war, violence, loss, and personal choices. Our hope stands firm and will not fall away as long as it is holding fast to the immovable, unshakable, unchanging, unwavering God.  May I never build my hope on the unpredictable circumstances of life, but may I always find my true and lasting hope in my God.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Real Marriage

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After the constant barrage of negative comments and over-voiced frustrations from my Christian friends about Mark Driscoll and due to the masculine, intolerant and angry persona he has created for himself, I began to question his ministry.  I had once followed him, devotedly listening to his sermons but recently I have found legitimate reason to back away from his teachings.  As a last effort on my part to rekindle my dying passion, I picked up the book Driscoll had written with his wife, “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship and Life Together”.  I have currently read the first half and can honestly say I am glad I gave Driscoll a second chance.  Maybe the subject brings out his better side, or maybe his “better half” has a way of softening him around the edges but for the most part I was encouraged and challenged by this collaborative work. Here are some of the major points that I drew from the book:

No matter what has happened in your past or what is going on in the present, God has the power to give your marriage an amazing future.  As Mark and Grace share their stories (individual and collective), it is amazing to see the work that God did in their lives (separately and together) to bring them to where there are today.  Grace not only was abused she later grew up to have terrible relationships with men and eventually cheated on Mark while they were dating without disclosing it to him until they had been married for a while.  Mark grew up in a rough neighborhood and overcome a lot of obstacles to come to the point where he turned to God (through the loving witness of Grace) and desired to serve Him with his life.  As a couple they endured frustrating and difficult times. On the verge of divorce, God repaired their marriage to the point that they are now able to counsel and encourage other couples facing seemingly impossible circumstances.

This book reminded me that first, my husband should be my friend. Life gets crazy with raising two kids, developing a ministry in a very needy area, and finding time for extended family and friends that it is so easy to neglect making time for my husband.  I lose sight of the fact that I am my husbands first earthly source of encouragement and my goal should be to seek to aid his growth in faith and knowledge of God.  I have failed on numerous occasions to actually look for ways to promote intimacy and friendship with him because I take for granted that he is always there.  I was truly convinced of the importance of pursuing my husband as a friend…someone to enjoy, be sanctified and encouraged by, be loyal to and honest with, and to walk the path of life together with.

I found it helpful to be reminded of my role as a wife. Since the beginning of out marriage I had a difficult time coming to terms with the idea of submission.  I felt I would be giving up my independence and would be forced to begrudgingly give up my opinion to the mercy of my husband’s male headship.  Through years of studying and seeking God on the matter, I had come to terms with it, realizing submission was not being a doormat but trusting my husband and being loved and led by him as he humbly sought my best interest and listened to my thoughts.  This book presented me with a whole new task.  I now need to wrestle with the idea of respect.  Men are wired to crave respect…from those who are under them at work, from his children, from his spouse.  And I had never realized that by constantly questioning his ability to take care of me, I was chiseling away and the foundation of his confidence in our relationship.  And by failing to pray for him and not seeking out opportunities to read the bible with him, I was not fulfilling my role as a helper.

It is important too, as one of the chapter titles suggests, to “take out the trash”. It is amazing how much frustration and annoyance can build up over the course of a marriage when things are not addressed properly.  By developing bad habits of conflict resolution, by storing up unrepentant sin and by harboring bitterness toward your spouse you can literally destroy your marriage.  But by opening up and clearing out all the hidden sin…through repentance and forgiveness…even the most broken marriage can be made new.

Relationships: A Necessary Nuisance or a Joyful Journey? Part 2

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Relationships are a gift from God to help encourage and uplift us…and also to challenge and sanctify us.  Last week I talked about how relationships became different when sin entered the world.  Relationships are messed up because we are sinful people interacting with other sinful people.  Our relationships on earth are difficult because our relationship with God is damaged.  But hope is found in our relationship with Christ….he is our mediator and repairs our relationship with God and thus makes it possible to have somewhat civilized relationships here on earth.  But as long as sin is present, there will still be difficulties that we must work through. 

Issue #2: Communication. One huge problem that we face in relationships is the way that we talk to each other. Communication happens over the span of many incounters.  It really isn’t that often that one thing we say has such a lasting impact on a person.  It is the little discussions, responses to small things, and the conversations we have about every day events that shape a relationship.  We don’t think much about what we say to our kids as we make dinner or how we respond to our friends when we see them in class or how we talk to our parents over dinner …it is just life as always and we probably aren’t as concerned about it as we should be.  We don’t really spend the time we need to on the most important aspect of relationships because we feel these moments are so miniscule and insignificant.  It is this mistake that can cause a relationship to deteriorate.

God has called us at all times to guard our tongues.  Our words (all of them) have power to encourage and build up…they have the capability of  giving someone hope.  And they are ultimately to be used to bring glory to God. But so often we find ourselves tearing others down and causing them to feel defeated and frustrated with the words we say.  And we often disobey and dishonor God with the way we speak.  So how am I supposed to redeem my communication to be helpful to others and to glorify God?

First I must realize that communication is not about me.  If I truly want to accomplish the will of God with my words I will not seek to bring pleasure to myself through what I say but I will seek to love God and love others in every word that I utter.  That means I cannot cut people down and criticize others to make myself feel better.  It means I should never gossip to gain social status and I should never nag my husband to get what I think I deserve. Truly seeking to do God’s will and loving others as God commands us to do, means that I do not use my speach to build myself up but I use it to humbly and patiently love and serve God and others.

Second I must realize that my words don’t belong to me anyway.  The ability to speak at all was given to me by my Creator and it exists to bring glory to Him.  “Everything we will ever say belongs to him and should be used for his purposes” Every word that I speak is an amazing gift from God.  When I use those words to belittle or be maliscious to people then I choose to take that precious gift and use it ungratefully and againts its intended purpose. 

Thirdly, I must focus on the problem of communication as a heart issue and not a behavior issue.  Luke 6:45 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”.  So as I seek to have better communication with those around me, I cannnot change the words that are coming out of my mouth just by sheer will power.  I must first change what I am putting into my heart, so that when it does overflow it is spilling good things.  If I am allowing bitterness to fester, I must thoughtfully address it.  If I am listening to ungodly talk, I must avoid it.  I need to stop humoring friends who gossip and stop building up sinful thoughts about a relative because eventually everything I put into my heart, every thought I allow myself to dwell on….will spill out in my words. 

I pray this week that God will search my heart and show me where my communication is lacking.  I pray God will help me to understand that communication is not just about me.  I desire for God to give me a better appreciation of words and their power.  And I pray God will guide me as I seek to clear my heart of any ill thoughts and fill it full of love and kindness and patience and joy so that all those things spill out in what I say to others.

 

My Not So Secret Obsession with Criminals

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I am known to read plenty of books about criminals…at the top of my list is the book “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. It is an intriguing account of the infamous serial killer, H.H. Holmes and the surrounding events of the Chicago World’s Fair. As I read the book, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the excitement and disappointments of organizing the World’s Fair.  So many of the world’s greatest inventions of all times were displayed at the fair…inovation and imagination were at the peak of performance during this event.  But, I’m not going to lie…I found myself at times skimming through the part about the fair so that I could quickly get to the pages devoted to Holmes.  Why is it that in the back of our minds, we are interested in those kind of things? Why do I crave the excitement of such monstrous atrocities?

One thought came to my mind as I read a more recent addition to my favorites list “Manhunt” by James Swanson.  This book is a fast-paced account of the 12-day search for John Wilkes Booth and the events that followed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. When I questioned my motives for reading such a devastating story, one answer came to mind… I long to see the world be right.  I crave the promises of God to finally be completely fulfilled, and if I can glimpse that for one second at the end of a grueling chase, then all feels right. I already know there is evil in the world, so I don’t want a book full of imaginative, false cheerfulness.  I want a story told to me that includes the violence and evil that I know exists, but I need to be comforted by the fact that these criminals were brought to justice.  Maybe that explains my fascination, and maybe it doesn’t. But what I do know is that when Jesus returns complete and total justice will reign with no exceptions.  There will be no Zodiac Killers that are never found or even a 12-day respite from a heinous assasination…because evil will not even exist.

And following these two books I have also contemplated….how do people like that exist? I know, when sin entered the world through Adam, our lives were inevitably exposed to every kind of evil that can occur.  But why am not a serial killer, why is my neighbor not trying to assassinate the president? Why is everyone in the world, who are all effected by the sin nature of man, not being as evil as they can possibly be?  And the answer is…the grace of God.  I am constantly being reminded, through interactions with people and through exposure to the media, of how terrible life can be.  My first instinct is to start judging people or complaining about the state of our society and for some people it even pulls them away from God. But as I contemplate the evil of this world, this phrase pops in my head…”But for the grace of God, go I”.  This saying was coined by the English preacher and martyr, John Bradford.  As he watched criminals being led to the scaffold, he found a way in his heart to be thankful for his position in Christ.  And it gives me reason as well to praise God as I am confronted by evil . It’s only the grace of God that keeps every single person in the world from being a criminal. It’s the grace of God that makes it possible for me to care for my family and go to church and interact with His creation on a daily basis.  It’s His grace that restrains me from being as evil as my sinful flesh wants to be. And instead of judging or complaining, I should be thanking Him for the grace He pours out every day. Because, were it not for the grace of God, I am sure I would be the vilest of all.