Friday, December 19, 2014


Sometimes I go through old journal entries instead of writing a new one. Remembering God's leading in the past often reminds me of lessons I once learned. Sometimes I need to relearn them. So, the following is adapted from my journal from over a year ago.


It’s something I have a lot of sometimes, and hardly any other times. Sometimes I have it when I shouldn’t, and don’t have it when I need it.

I have confidence that my computer saves files correctly and isn’t going to lose my data. I have confidence that other drivers will stop at a stop light rather than going through and ramming into me. These kinds of things make normal life possible and far more pleasant than if we could not have confidence in anything. (Wait, would life even be possible then?)

But then there’s a deeper type of confidence - confidence in God and His word. And I don’t have enough of it. Sometimes I wonder if I really have any deep confidence in Him. For if I did, why do I so easily question His leading? I’ve often felt that life would be better if God understood my problems the way I understand them.

How arrogant.

What I’m slowly coming to realize is that He understands life's problems better than I do, solutions and all. And I don’t have very much confidence, because as soon as things start to look like they’re not working out right, I run to Him crying. Why are You letting this happen? 

Why? As if a feeble, weak, and struggling human mind could fully comprehend even a fraction of the purposes of the Almighty. He needs give no reason, no justification for His plans. Amazingly, mercifully, often He gives one anyway. But sometimes, He doesn’t, at least not in the moment. And it’s then that we learn whether we really trust Him or not.

He claims us as His own if we hold fast onto the confidence we have in Him, until the end. (Hebrews 3:6) I may not have started well - I’ve made mistakes, and lived my life as if I could be self-sufficient. But I have confidence that He will finish what He started. I have confidence in His plans for me even if they go beyond what I can see. I have confidence in His love. And He will sustain me through it all. Until the end.

Oh, let me run this race all the way to the finish line, and never give up no matter what. There is no other way. I need not ask for You to help - You’ve already promised that. But I ask for the humility to accept Your help.


To approach a battle smiling with the confidence of a thousand victories won already, we must be so accustomed to giving up our own plans and accepting God’s that it will be second nature to do it again.

That’s the recipe for Victory #1001.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

Absolutely not. 

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I marvel when I try to contemplate what Paul is saying. We are to be so caught up in the love of God that trials will only draw us closer to Him. Inseparable, for eternity. That's worth any sacrifice, no matter how precious... 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

This Day

January 22 started out like any other day. The air was cool, crisp, and still as I walked to the truck to leave for school. I wish I had time to stay out here and enjoy it.

As I drove over the gentle prairie hills between Chickasha and Norman, my mind was astir from my morning reading. Persecution. Faithfulness unto death. Changing the world. (I’ve started reading the Great Controversy again.)

I’m not going to pretend. I don’t have that kind of strength. How am I to change the world when I can’t even change myself? The work ahead seemed to rise up as an insurmountable obstacle, a mountain whose summit was very far off and difficult to reach. And who knew what today might bring?

Then I felt a gentle rebuke. 
You’re looking at it from the wrong perspective. Today, I’m only asking you to do one day’s worth of work for Me. Can you do that? Can you give Me today, and let Me handle the future?


We’ll do it together… 


Fast-forward 4 hours…

Computer Organization class had just been dismissed, and several friends and I were talking after class. As we were laughing and talking, I felt a vibration in my pocket. I pulled out my phone to find a new message from “OU Emergency Info.” (OU has a mass alert system that notifies students via text message when there’s an emergency.)

It could not be. It could not be. 

“OU emergency: Shooting on campus. Avoid Gould Hall. Seek immediate shelter in place.”

(Don’t worry - this story has a happy ending. But I didn’t know it at the time.)

My face must have registered my shock, for one of my friends asked me what was wrong. (I was one of the first students to receive the text alert.) I could not speak; instead, I showed my classmates my phone screen. We unanimously decided to stay right where we were, in the 4th floor of a building about 7 minutes’ walk from Gould Hall. An OU official came and told us that the campus was under lockdown, and that we would do best to stay in the classroom until things were sorted out.

It was hard to find up-to-date information on what was going on outside, but we were okay, so we all began calling or texting parents and friends to let them know we were safe. We texted other classmates and friends to see if they were okay. Finally we found a live video stream from a news helicopter, and the four of us gathered around my laptop to watch it. 

What we saw was astonishing. Police cars lined the South Oval and completely blocked the streets. Gould Hall was cordoned off with yellow tape, and police officers were everywhere. SWAT teams were on the scene as well. At one point we saw a group of police and SWAT team members cautiously entering Gould Hall, every one of them carrying an assault rifle.

View from a helicopter (photo: News9)

“I can’t believe this is happening on our campus,” one of my friends commented. “This has happened at other schools, but it seems impossible that it’s happening here.”

This seems so unreal… 

Not your everyday police officers (photo: Tulsa World)

Police cars lining the Oval (photo:

Time passed, and we sifted through the many conflicting reports coming in from the internet. Finally, though, it began to become clear that no shooting had actually occurred. Multiple people had reported hearing gunshots, but no shells or bullet holes were found, no one was injured, and no students were suspects. The lockdown was lifted, and we could finally leave to go eat lunch.

At 1 pm, OU President David Boren announced in a press release that it had been a false alarm. Classes in the afternoon continued as usual, and Gould Hall was reopened. 

(The official OU report is here.)


Driving home that evening, my mind kept replaying the events of the day. There were many things to ponder, but one question stood out. What if it hadn’t been a false alarm? What if one or more of our students had died today?

Life is a gift. Every day is a gift that we must not take for granted. 

This day was a gift… 

And a still, small voice reminded me,
We made it through the day, together. 

Perhaps the best (and most important) moments of life are rarely if ever experienced solo. They are lived together. (With a heavenly Companion, even in absence of human companions.)

I don’t know what the future holds. But be it joy or sorrow, happiness or tears, success or apparent failure, I know one thing. We will do it together. And we will change the world, one day at a time.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Broken Branches

Morning light had only recently filled the sky when I walked out into the frozen world. I needed to think, but I also wanted to explore after the ice storm of the night before. Half an inch of ice covered everything. The trees groaned and strained under the weight of the ice. Some of their noble branches had even broken under the stress. Still, in spite of the sometimes serious damage to the trees, there is great beauty in ice.

I stood alone; pondering, gazing at the crystalline world around me. What does it truly mean to love?

Love is a principle, not a feeling. Love comes back after being pushed away, just as a tree’s branches will spring back after the ice melts. Love hopes and endures all things. All things. Even those things which seem impossible. (Even broken branches.) But how?

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Beautiful words, spoken to one of God’s most faithful messengers… But it wasn’t written just for him. It was written for me, too.

How often I hold onto this promise in times of trial. God’s grace is sufficient for me - there are no qualifiers or conditions in that statement. If I am losing my battles, falling behind, unable to cope with what I must face… It is not because of a shortage of Grace. It’s because I’m trying to win battles on my own. God does not promise to take away our battles. But He promises to give us strength to overcome. Failure is not caused by an increasing intensity of battle. Failure happens if (and only if) we look for strength anywhere other than His grace and power.

But the second part of the verse is less welcome, less comfortable. Perhaps it would even be easier to gloss over this point altogether. For it seems that if God’s strength is to be made perfect in a strong man, he must become weak. And in our experience, to be weak is to be vulnerable.

You mean all these walls I’ve built to protect myself must come down? 

Yes. And more. Much more. Some branches will bend and strain. Some may even break. It’s going to hurt. Nobody likes being vulnerable.

But it will be worth it in the long run. I know whom I have believed. He promised that His grace is sufficient for me. And I’m willing to risk everything on His word. That’s what loving Him means to me right now: surrendering everything to His greater love, trusting that He will work all things out for good in His own time, and (this one is the hardest, sometimes) genuinely thanking Him for leading me even during times when I don’t understand the paths by which He leads. 

"God has a purpose in sending trial to His children. He never leads them otherwise than they would choose to be led if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose that they are fulfilling. All that He brings upon them in test and trial comes that they may be strong to do and to suffer for Him." (PK 578)

So let me learn to only love Him more, through trials and tests. For I have an incredibly patient, loving Father who does for me what I cannot do for myself, who cares about every detail of my life, and who rejoices and sorrows with me through every experience. This is what makes even the darkest days of life worth living, and the happiest days the most joyful. And though I'm only beginning to discover the extent of this truth, serving God is not only worth it in the long run.

It is worth it every single day, rain or shine. That's what it means to love.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Test of Faith

God loves to see faith in action. Faith that takes His word, "Give it to Me," and trusts Him with the outcome, when the deepest things in life are at stake. Faith to choose His ways instead of mine, when there is no discernible reason behind His doings.

I want that kind of faith. I ask God for it…
And then I whine and complain when He tries to train me?

A man of great faith is not born with the faith to move mountains. Faith must be developed, exercised, tested. And it hurts, when that test calls for the surrender of the dearest and most cherished dreams of life.

“Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” (Genesis 22:2)

Even till the last moment before Isaac was to be killed, Abraham never faltered in his obedience to God. He didn’t question how God could fulfill His promise about Isaac if Isaac was to be killed - he trusted that He would, simply because He said so. And Abraham risked everything.

We have no idea what it would be like to be in that situation. None.

“And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham’: and he said, ‘Here am I.’ And he said, ‘Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.’” (Genesis 22:11, 12)

He had passed the test, flawlessly. Few other men could have.

The most amazing miracles are wrought for those who are willing to put everything on the line, to risk everything for God.

So often I’ve looked at the histories of men of great faith. Of course they made those choices. Of course that was the right thing to do. Of course? When you’re in a trying situation, it doesn’t always feel that way. Maybe God’s plan crosses everything you think you know and everything you want to believe. Maybe it makes no sense at all to you.

But to quote a friend of mine, we are no followers at all, if we do not follow Him all the way. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Before Honor

"The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility." - Proverbs 15:33

Humility is a prerequisite for honor. Why? Because only those who have learned the lessons of humility are ready for the privileges of honor. Honor requires responsibility. Heaven will not bestow honor and recognition on those who will only waste it on themselves. It’s not as if we have anything of our own that is worth showing off anyway. Who wants to see filthy rags?

“The heavenly intelligences can co-operate with him who is seeking, not to exalt self, but to save souls.” (DA 436) 

If we put God first in every area of our lives, He will honor us in His time. “Them that honor me I will honor…” (1 Samuel 2:30) And what a privilege that really is. To be honored by the Ruler of the universe…

Sometimes in times of humiliation, we may be tempted to distrust God’s way; to be discontent with where He leads. But those times are the very times when He is preparing us to receive the honor that He wants to bestow on us someday.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


The hallway was filled with students. Some were excited, others were nervous. Some talked and laughed, others were silent. All of us were here for the same reason – the chemistry exam.

“Do you have the polyatomic ions from Table 2.9 memorized?” the girl across the hall asked the guy next to me.
“Mostly. The only one I can’t remember is thiocyanate.”
“That would be SCN with a charge of -1,” I supplied.
“Oh, thanks!” The young man seemed grateful. “I studied for 3 hours this afternoon, memorizing that table.”
He would have an easier time on the test if he had started memorizing before this afternoon, I mused.
Another girl seemed less prepared. “What’s Table 2.9?”
“It’s the table that has the polyatomic ions,” I responded.
“Can’t I just calculate those from the periodic table?”
“No. They are handled in groups, and you can’t just use the periodic table. You have to memorize the ions and their charges.”
“Oh no!” The girl was clearly dismayed. “What page is it on?”
“Page 60, right here,” another student showed her in the chemistry textbook.
“I’m going to quiz you on them to see if you really have memorized them,” the girl challenged me.
“Sure, go ahead.” I had been reviewing these ions every day for the previous week, so I knew that while I had a few weak spots, I knew most of them pretty well.
“NO3, charge of -1.”
“SO3, charge of -2.”
“Wow, you weren’t lying about reviewing these! I wish I knew them like you do.”
I thought to myself, I wish I knew all of them like I know those two. I’m not as prepared as she thinks I am. “It’s not all that hard. Nitrate and nitrite both have a charge of -1, but nitrate has one more oxygen atom than nitrite. Sulfate and sulfite both are -2, but sulfate has one more oxygen atom than sulfite. And so on…”
“How do you remember all that?”
Lots of practice, my friend…
She continued, “I’m going to have a really bad time on this test. I can just feel it. Can I sit next to you?”
I felt sorry for her. She was not prepared, and she knew it.
“Sure, you can sit where you like, but it’s not as if I could help you on the test anyway.”
“I know, but we could be really good friends and everything…” Her voice trailed off as she opened her chemistry textbook for some last minute review.

A few minutes later, the doors opened, and students began filing into the hall where the exam was to take place. “Everyone put your backpacks up here,” one of the test administrators announced. “And turn your cellphones OFF. If your cellphone goes off during the test and we hear it, we will confiscate it, and it will be a long time until you get it back, if you get it back at all.” He continued stating the rules for the test. Only pencils, erasers, and approved calculators were allowed – everything else had to be in your backpack, and on silent mode.

I put my backpack with the stack of other backpacks, and found my seat. A girl in the seat next to me was trying to calm down her friend in the row ahead. “Don’t worry. Just take a deep breath and approach it calmly. You’ll do fine.” She turned to me. “Are you prepared?”
“Me? Well, I’m mostly prepared. I wouldn’t mind being a little more comfortable on a few things though. I’ve been reviewing the polyatomic ions every day for the last week, but there are still a few that I tend to forget the charges on.”
The girl’s eyes opened wide. “You’ve been memorizing them for the last week? That’s amazing. You’ve got it down, I can tell.” She turned to her friend in the row ahead. “See, he’s prepared and confident. You’ll do fine since you prepared for it too.”
“Oh, I’m not that confident. I prepared the best I could, so now I’m just praying that I’ll remember the important stuff,” I returned.
“Oh, come on. You’re worried now, but I’m sure you’ll get an A. With that approach, who wouldn’t?”
“Well, I guess we’ll see.” I noticed that she seemed quite confident of my ability to get a good grade. “You’re prepared too, I take it?”
“Oh, for the most part, I guess.”

Our conversation ended abruptly as the test administrator announced that calculator covers were not allowed, and they needed to be stored in a backpack during the test. My new friend and I both got up and walked to our backpacks. Incidentally, our backpacks were right next to each other. “I guess that means we’re both going to do well,” she laughed.

“One last warning. Your cellphones MUST be off and in your backpack or stored somewhere else. If we catch you looking at your cellphone, you will be disqualified.”
After a few brief instructions on how to fill out the information on our answer sheets, the exam began. The exam had twenty questions, all multiple choice. The first few questions were fairly easy, but they quickly became more difficult. But I knew the material well, and I didn’t find myself “stuck” on any problems. I finished the test in 40 minutes. There were 50 more minutes left before time would be called. I decided that since I wanted the best grade possible, I would go over every single problem and redo the calculations, in case I could discover any errors. I was glad I did, because I did find a mistake in one of my calculations.

Finally, I was finished checking my answers. I turned in my answer sheet to my chemistry instructor, and collected my belongings. I noticed that most of the students had left already, but the girl I had sat next to was still working on her test. I waved goodbye as I walked past her on my way out, but she was studiously bent over her paper, and didn’t notice.

The next morning, I joined several other students who were early for our English class. “How did you do on the test last night?” one of my friends asked me.
“Oh, I think I did pretty well. I checked all my answers, and I was pretty sure about all my answers.”
“What score did you get?”
“I don’t know yet.”
The exam key was now available on the school website. The night before, I had the forethought to make a note of the answers I had chosen, since we were allowed to keep our test booklets. So I was able to check my own work, and see what my grade would be. I opened my laptop and pulled up the exam key. I went through and checked my answers. “Hmm, that’s too bad. I calculated the wrong amount of nitrogen,” I sighed. “And it was supposed to be chloric acid, not chlorous acid.”
“Oh, but you still got a good score,” another friend said. “My roommate took that test last night too, and got 60%.”
“Really? What happened? She missed 8 questions?”
“Yeah. She didn’t study much ahead of time.”
“I see. Well, at least she’ll have the opportunity to retake it in a month.” Our chemistry professor gave us the option to take each exam twice, in case we didn’t do as well the first time. The higher score would be the one that counted for our grades. At least there would be a second chance.

Reflecting on it later, I thought about that second chance. I wonder how many students neglected getting ready, because they were counting on that second chance. Last minute cramming is no substitute for thorough study. Not every test has a second chance.

And I wonder how many people will face their final test unprepared, because they neglected the preparation of the heart…

I’m not talking about a grade in a college chemistry course. I’m talking about the judgment. And the results of this test determine your eternal destiny.

Maybe people think they will have another chance.
Or that they have time to parley with the world.

Maybe they don’t understand the depth of preparation required.
Maybe they don’t understand that the only way to success is the complete surrender of their life to God.

Or maybe they don’t realize the grave consequences of holding on to self.

Don’t let it be you.