by Ernest Liu
about the author

  • Random Snippets
    • CBM and the Spiritual High
      Campers and counselors are excited, because in the next two weeks, we’re gonna rock the grounds at CBM Camp! It’s that time of year when we get a taste of Heaven, where we rejoice among saints without distraction. Many of […]
    • Loss for Words…
      There have been so many deaths lately, some suicides, I don't really even know what to pray for anymore.
    • The Malignancy of Sin
      Hell makes a lot more sense when you get past the elementary understanding of “eternal fire.” The thing that really burns in Hell is often misunderstood.
  • Why Christians Need to Listen to NF

    I carefully take us through winding roads as the sun sinks behind the mountains. Next to me is the pastor’s daughter. We have about an hour to kill before arriving at the campgrounds, and I’m only good at holding a conversation for so long. Keeping my eyes on the road, I ask, “Mind if I put on some rap?”

    “Sure.”

    I am pretty confident that she had never listened to NF. And I am right. It’s not the typical kind of music you would find on a Christian’s playlist. After all, we are called to fill our minds with holy things (Phil 4:8), and that easily rules out most rappers.

    I put on a track. The music’s tame by NF’s usual standards, but it’s still intense. The rapper weaves together the irony that afflicts the skeptic and nominal christian:

    When ya healthy it’s like, we don’t really care for Him then
    Leave me alone God, I’ll call you when I need you again
    Which is funny, everyone will sleep in the pews
    Then blame God for our problems like He sleeping on you
    We turn our backs on Him, what do you expect Him to do?
    It’s hard to answer prayers when nobody’s praying to you

    Oh Lord, NF

    She’s not the first Christian I’ve exposed to NF. This track is usually the way I start them off, as it points out the reality of how people interact with God. It’s a very pro-Christian rap, a good gateway to the rest of his repertoire.

    “Here’s another one…” I say as I navigate to another track. This one’s different.

    It took everything inside of me not to scream at your funeral
    Sitting in my chair, that person talking was pitiful
    I wish you were here mama but every time I picture you
    All I feel is pain, I hate the way I remember you
    They found you on the floor, I could tell that you felt hollow
    Gave everything you had plus your life to them pill bottles

    How Could You Leave Us, NF

    This rap isn’t about God. NF had an excruciating childhood, and it still plagues him. For the next five minutes, he takes his pain to the mic, and we listen to him agonize over the fact that his mom chose her pills over her children.

    “More Christians need to listen to NF,” I tell my passenger. “For a lot of us who grew up in church, we’re so sheltered that we’re blind to the hurt and depression others carry around all their lives.”

    One thing I learned is that NF isn’t a Christian rapper. While he’s a Christian, he doesn’t build the kingdom of God by producing a ton of tracks about God. He does it by wrapping his torturous moments in his albums. He highlights his suicidal thoughts and avoids giving superficial hope. He shows the world that pain is real. He empathizes with his fanbase, and people tell him that he’s the reason they’re alive.

    Christians need to listen to NF—especially those who grew up in a relatively stable environment without debilitating struggles. It’ll expose us to new dimensions of the spiritual battle. It’ll help us be more gentle when we counsel. It’ll move us to know that when life is Hell, we’re not alone.

    It has helped me learn to be a better friend to my friends. It has helped me become more empathetic to those with hard lives, wether due to circumstances or just because mental health is difficult to maintain.

    I’ve created an NF Starter Pack on Spotify. Take a listen. A real listen. The lyrics matter.

    Biden is our President and Christians Need to Repent

    Biden has claimed the presidential seat. I pray for his success in leading the country towards what is good, honorable, and true.

    Leading up to this point, I noticed something disturbing—that the most vocal Christians were oftentimes capable of being passionate about anything but the gospel. The wild political climate of 2020 couldn’t have made it more obvious.

    Christian bashing has become a popular sport… amongst Christians. 🤦🏻‍♂️

    Relatively few people praised churches and Christian organizations for their gospel-preaching work last year on social media. In fact, the majority of posts focused on the opposite: vilifying Christians for belonging to a political party, or mocking churches for their lack of care during the COVID crisis.

    From @HonestYouthPastor on Instagram

    While there is a time to lovingly criticize, the tone of these posts were usually bigoted and lacked any form of edification. I’d gamble that the content was shared in order to proclaim, “I’m not one of those Christians.” That’s lovely. Do you want kudo points for that? Here’s a kudo Bible verse for you.

    “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” – James 4:6 NIV

    If you must “bash,” do so in kindness and truth. Some of y’all just toxic all day.

    Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and a good reputation In the sight of God and man. – Proverbs 3:3-4 NASB

    Christianity is much more than Christ on the cross… but it is never less.

    We must fight against slavery. We must take care of the poor. We must empathize with the mentally ill. We must fight for the lives of those who cannot. We must fight for freedom. We must pray for one another. We must forgive one another. We must love one another.

    And we must preach Christ on the cross. Because without this cornerstone, we do not have Christianity. We have BeNiceianity. We have a religion with the ultimate goal set on relieving temporal discomfort.

    It is sad to know that we live in a society where we think we can be a good Christian without sharing about Christ on the cross. We think that it is enough to fight for the right causes, to speak out against malicious people and mean policies.

    Christian, preach the gospel. The actual gospel. The Christ-died-for-your-sins gospel. The truth that we have all sinned against our eternal God. The truth that the wages of sin is eternal death, Hell. Preach that He loves us—so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for us, taking the punishment we deserve. Proclaim how He conquered death three days later, displaying divine power not only over His own life, but yours. Tell it to the world, that every person must place their faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.

    Trust in God and accept the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. He paid for your sins so you could go out and share about His loving sacrifice, not so you could be a gospel coward.

    💡 If you’re not a Christian and you’ve stumbled upon this post, I encourage you to go read the book of John in the Bible. It’s a historical documentation of Jesus. It could be the most important thing you read in your life—no joke. Download the Bible app or just read it online.

    Repent, Christian.

    “Because I voted for Trump?” No.

    “Because I voted for Biden?” No.

    Because we’ve forsaken the core of our faith. Because we have taken good causes and turned them into the end goal. Because we have taken the ultimate sacrifice and shoved it below our passion in politics.

    Sometimes we need heart-piercing questions to help realign ourselves in life. Here are three.

    1. Did the cross heavily influence my vote?

    The sacrifice of Christ is preeminent. The reality of human eternity must ultimately eclipse our temporal worries.

    Yes, there is a myriad of issues to which we must attend. We must proclaim what is good, protest what is bad, and fight for God-given human rights. We do not back down on defending God’s moral truth.

    But as followers of Christ, our vote must go infinitely beyond these issues. It must go to the cross, to the preaching of the gospel. Did the marks on our ballot consider the great commission, to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20)? How did our marks aim to make the person of Christ known?

    The connection between our calling and our vote isn’t always clear, and that’s the point. It requires deep contemplation, and a Godless analysis of any issue is insufficient for the believer.

    If we neglected the gospel with our vote, then we have cheapened everything for which Christ hung.

    2. Did I spend more energy on God or politics in 2020?

    The divisive election has shifted upwards in our list of priorities, and I’m afraid it may have unseated God in the throne of our desires.

    We must reflect on 2020 and be realistic about our spiritual health. Our priests and pastors tell us to meditate on God’s Word, but many of us have spent more energy meditating on the words of politicians. The former should heavily outweigh the later, as our thoughts must never omit the reality of God. We must submit to the Holy Spirit as we navigate political waters.

    Is our faith ultimately in legislation or the Lord? How has our time and energy reflected this?

    3. Am I known for sharing my politics, but not the gospel?

    Let’s be honest—this is a damning question for most of us. In fear of the truth, we’re tempted to justify our reputation. Pride muddles the mirror to our hearts.

    When someone sees you and me, they should see more than a nice person with certain political affiliations. They should see a follower who loves and reflects Christ, someone who is unashamed of the gospel in its entirety.

    “I haven’t shared the gospel, but I’m living it out!”

    This excuse is commonly proclaimed by those who fail to share the gospel. If our lives were truly changed by such a great sacrifice, would we not proclaim it? Is our silence evidence of cowardice?

    We must tell the world of Him who loves us.

    Repent, then fight hard, Christian.

    Yes, we should fight for the right politics and policies. But more than that, we must fight for God and the gospel. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12). Our battle is ultimately a spiritual one.

    While the preaching of the gospel must not eclipse our fight for justice, the fight for justice must definitely not eclipse the preaching of the gospel.

    This is a call for my fellow believers to humbly re-evaluate their priorities and standing before God. We must ask Him to search our souls and reveal to us where we stand in our spiritual walk. We must ask Him to place the gospel at the epicenter of our hearts so that we go out into the world with eternal purpose.

    The Great Commission
    Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    —Matthew 28:16-20 NIV
    The God Problem

    You and Me Forever • Reading Journal Log 4

    As a pastor for over 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that most marriage problems are not really marriage problems. They are God problems. They can be traced back to one or both people having a poor relationship with God or a faulty understanding of Him.

    – You and Me Forever (20)

    We seldom think of martial problems as God problems. In an increasingly Godless society, we naturally see relationship problems as people problems. Ironically, that is the problem. We can demonstrate this by looking at three of the top reasons for divorce:

    Infidelity

    For a believer, committing adultery and indulging in porn requires deliberate rejection of God’s design. It says, “Your design for sex isn’t good enough; it doesn’t fulfill my needs.” It is rooted in a selfish desire to enjoy what God commands to be holy (Heb 13:4).

    Money

    This vice can impact a marriage in many ways, from differing spending habits to financial goals to materialism. When we forget that money belongs to God and fail to use all of it to His glory, it will burn us. (Luke 16:13). We are called to be good stewards of the resources granted to us.

    Poor Communication

    This problem comes in many flavors—being quick to speak, quick to anger (James 1:19), refusing to reconcile (Matt 5:24), neglecting one another (Heb 10:24-25), or lack of emotional self-control (Gal 5:23-24), to name a few. God commands us to strive for peace with one another (Heb 12:14). We find creatives excuses to neglect His design for unity.

    The List Goes On

    Weight gain, unrealistic expectations, lack of intimacy, and so forth. I’m pretty convinced that just about all marital problems are God problems.

    This past year, I had a sister in Christ who ended a relationship with one of my friends. After spending time processing through the situation, she was able to identify the issues—God problems. Lots of them. Christ was not the focus of the relationship, and that problem bled into every aspect of their friendship.

    “All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with that overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.”

    – A.W. Tozer

    Being intimate with God and drowning ourselves in His presence puts everything else in its place. As we go up with Him, our problems and pursuits below become small and insignificant. 

    Marriage Isn’t that Great

    You and Me Forever • Reading Journal Log 3

    What kind of chapter title is that? “Marriage Isn’t that Great?” I guess that’s the type of thing you’d expect from a radical Christian author. But there’s a point to the title. Before I get to that…

    I once sat silently at my desk as a laughter flooded the classroom. It was a safe environment for anyone who felt an urge to mock God. In this particular case, one student thought God was a joke, and that if she were to come face to face with Him, she would question Him about all the injustice and suffering that plagues this world. Our English teacher found it appropriate to assign three or four anti-Christian reading assignments that quarter. She even remarked on how she loved one author’s depiction of Jesus–a hippy that sat at the doorstep who would check in once in a while.

    I live in a culture convinced of a tiny God… and I don’t just mean the skeptics and mockers. If we really saw God as the almighty Author of the universe, would we so causally pirate movies? Would we so frequently fill our leisure time with porn? Would we so easily engage in gossip?

    Why in the world is the divorce rate so high amongst evangelicals?

    God spoke, and the world came into existence. God spoke, and the world was demolished by a flood. One day, God will speak the only verdict that matters as He judges every person.

    – You and Me Forever, Ch 1

    In comparison to the cosmic grandeur of God’s word, everything fades.

    Perhaps the title isn’t so ludicrous after all. Yes, marriage is great. I love marriage because it paints a beautiful picture of how God loves us. Marriage highlights the ingenious nature of God, and He means for us to enjoy it in its fullness. Our spouse is to be the most important relationship we have.

    But it is not to be our ultimate fulfillment, and it is temporary (Matt 22:30). So in light of God and eternity, marriage isn’t that great. And that’s okay.

    First, this doesn’t mean that Lisa and I won’t be deeply in love with each other in heaven. My guess is that I will be even closer to Lisa when we exist in glorified bodies absent of sin. Things must be different in order to be better. Second, I will have a union with God which is guaranteed to be better than any earthly closeness I might be experiencing now. I trust the God who created marriage when He promises a better future.

    Spiritual Vicodin

    You and Me Forever • Reading Journal Log 2

    Perhaps one of the most important things about learning is doing. In this book, Francis urges his readers to action as faith without works is dead (James 2).

    Christians in America have become experts at conviction–and failures at action.

    – You and Me Forever (Ch 1)

    Perhaps one of the most common problems I’ve seen in the church is complacency. Too many Christians feel like they are spiritually active simply because they know a lot and love highlighting verses in the Bible. Yet when it comes to caring for the poor, forsaking their offering until they make reconciliation, or leaving a clique to talk to the socially awkward person, they are infants (Matt 25:35; Matt 5:23-24; James 2:1).

    I know because I’ve been there. I’ve felt the fears that come with obeying God. And if I were to be very, very honest, I still do. “What will she think of me? What if I get criticized? What if I fail? What will I lose?”

    When’s the last time we asked ourselves, “But what if I do nothing?”

    Probably never, because we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s okay to be a Christian coward.

    We’d rather be safe and not make mistakes. Sometimes we even attribute our omission of action to “wisdom,” excusing ourselves from doing what we must. Then we comfort ourselves by quoting Jeremiah 29:11… or another verse that’s out of context because we know that one’s definitely out of context.

    It’s like we’ve turned God into spiritual Vicodin. Numb your sin and guilt with the Word!

    I hope to learn spiritual truths from this book as it points me back to Scripture. Even more, I hope that it transforms how I see God and love people.