What Is Christianity?

Christianity isn’t about what happens to you. It isn’t about what you experience or what you receive. Christianity is about how you respond to what happens to you. It’s about how much you affect the experiences of others. It’s about what you do with what you receive.

Christianity isn’t about the absence of tribulation. Jesus experienced more tribulation than you, and he did it with the deeply symbolic gesture of arms wide open.

Jesus taught us to follow him. What does this mean? It means that we are to walk his path, walk in his ways, walk as he walked, live as he lived.

We do not seek tribulation, but we do not resent it. We do the right thing, in spite of all adversity. We love those who experience hate from others. We forgive even those who don’t understand what we’re doing, or why. We’re generous, not because the recipients are worthy, but because we choose to love them.

We are good, though surrounded by evil.
We love, though surrounded by hate.
We are polite, though surrounded by rudeness.
We are gentle, though surrounded by cruelty.
We forgive, though surrounded by vindictiveness.
We give, though surrounded by takers.
We heal, though surrounded by harmers.

We welcome those who are cast out.
We defend those who are are attacked.
We protect those who are oppressed.

We teach a better way,
We speak a better way,
We show a better way,
We live a better way.

It isn’t easy.
Jesus didn’t call you to a life of comfort.
He called you to follow him.

–Bob Young

Did you like reading this? Then you should buy one of my books. (Thank you!)
Books by Bob Young

The Parents Of John the Baptist Were Old – This Is Why

Sometimes God lets things happen in your life, and you wonder, “Why, God? Why is this happening? Why is it happening like this? Why is it happening now? I mean, I know you say you’ve got a plan, Father – but, really? How on Earth, and how in heaven, is this part of your plan?”

Sometimes, looking back on it years later, we see. We understand, in hindsight, why God kept us from marrying that person. Why we didn’t get the job. Why the sale of that house fell through. And, of course, sometimes, we never know, at least not during this life. Then we wonder, “Will God explain it to me when I get to Heaven? Or will I even care about it then?”

Mysteries. Some are revealed. Some are not. I want to tell you about one such mystery that, I think, today, I actually understand. It has to do with old women getting pregnant…

You’ve probably heard about Abraham’s wife. Her name was Sarah. The story is in Genesis 17:15-17.

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

So, a ninety year old woman got pregnant and had a son, and Abraham named their son Isaac. But (big disappointment here), I don’t know why Abraham and Sarah were so old when Isaac was born.

Now, John the Baptist – that’s a different story. His parents were old, too. And today, I know why. I’m speculating, of course, because the Bible doesn’t actually tell us why. But listen to my explanation, and see what you think.

The story is told by Luke in his gospel.

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
(Luke 1:5-7, ESV)

An angel appeared to Zechariah the priest while he was serving in the temple and told him that Elizabeth would bear a son. It happened just like the angel said it would, and Zechariah the priest named his son John. This John was later called John the Baptist, but his mom and dad didn’t call him that. They just called him John, or Johnny, or “you little squirt!” or something like that. When they were mad at him, like when he pulled the dog’s tail, maybe Elizabeth called him, “John ben Zechariah! Stop teasing Brutus right now!” You know how moms are, using your full name when you’re in trouble. Maybe that’s a new thing, but it seems to me like it probably started a long time ago.

Anyway. John. His parents were really old when he was born. Why?

To avoid heartbreak, that’s why.

Zechariah was a priest who ministered before God, and he was a good one. Zechariah was a man of faith, devoted to God; he was a man who tried earnestly to live a life of righteousness and obedience. He was honored to be a priest of God Most High, and he carried out his responsibilities diligently, with great care and reverence.

But John? Well, John loved God, too. Very much, in fact. But John saw corruption in the priesthood, and instead of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a priest, he went out into the desert, meditated, prayed, and became a noisy and boisterous preacher. John was adamantly opposed to hypocrisy. In his devotion to God, he was offended by the hypocrisy he saw in the priests.

Do you see? When John came back from the desert, he would have been a terrible disappointment to his dad, who was one of the few good priests.

And that’s why God waited until Zechariah was old before blessing him and Elizabeth with John.

John had all the benefits of the godly upbringing of his good and noble father and mother. And then, his elderly parents died. John went into the desert to grieve, and to decide what to do next. And, in a very real way, John followed in his dad’s footsteps. He proclaimed God’s message of truth and love, and a lot of men and women were transformed by John’s devotion and care for there well-being. He didn’t preach to hurt them; he preached to help them. And his love for his listeners was obvious. It was moving. They repented, and with God’s help, they changed.

But, I don’t think Zechariah would have understood. So, timing was everything.

God has a way of understanding timing. He makes things work out.

–Bob Young

Books by Bob Young

The Time Of Fear Is Past

Don’t be afraid.
God is truth.
God is good.
God made you.
God only makes good.
Very, very good.
The truth is this:
God loves you.
Oh, how he loves you!
You are not abandoned.
You are not alone.
God with us.
God with you.
In this strength God gives you,
Don’t be afraid.
All is well.

–Bob Young

Did you like reading this? Then you should buy one of my books. (Thank you!)
Books by Bob Young

Don’t Ask Why

Asking, “Why?” won’t help.
You see, there is no rational explanation for irrational behavior.
They did it, yes. But you’ll never understand why, because you’re rational, and the irrational mind will always be incomprehensible. There is no rational reason; there is no sensible “why.”
So, you won’t understand why, but you do understand what. You know what happened, and it was wrong.
Are you adrift?
Here’s how to get straightened away.
Don’t look for the answer to “Why?”
Look for the answer to “What now?”
Choose a goal.
Make plans.
Take action.
Move forward.
Leave the past.
Walk away.
You are better than what happened to you.
There is more than what you lived through.
It’s over.
It gets better from here.

–Bob Young

Did you like reading this? Then you should buy one of my books. (Thank you!)
Books by Bob Young

The American Taxi Driver

Before I go to bed, I have to tell you something…

It’s after 2am, and we just recently got to the hotel where we’re staying because our flight was canceled. We came here in a cab. Shortly after we got in the cab, while conversing with the taxi driver, he mentioned that he was from Pakistan. He told us that he moved here to New York in 1974, and he has been a taxi driver since 1976.

Later, in the course of the conversation, I told him a story about another cab driver who had tried to cheat us. That’s another story, and not important here, so I’m going to skip the details. What matters is our Pakistani taxi driver’s question. He said, “What nationality was this cheat? Was he Hispanic – Arabic – American?”

I told him, “He was American.” (I’m making this assumption because the cab driver who tried to cheat us earlier today was white, or, as listed on many race declaration forms, Caucasian).

The cab driver seemed surprised at this revelation. I won’t speculate as to why. I can think of a couple of reasons, but they wouldn’t have any basis in fact, so we’ll leave it here: the cab driver was surprised when I said, “He was American.”

Then, a brief pause. I leaned forward, closer to the opening in the plexiglass divider.

I said, “But you’re American, too.”

He said, “Thank you, sir.”

Now, I have heard grateful people say thank you before. But this American of Pakistani descent took gratitude to a far, far deeper place than you and I have usually been.

This man who chose to come here, who has lived and worked here for 43 years, rarely feels like he is acknowledged for who he really is.

My own relatives made the same choice my taxi driver made. Just a few generations ago, some daring people from Scotland, England, Ireland, and Netherlands came to America. They became citizens. They married. They worked hard and raised families. Their children married. Through this combination of immigrants, not that many years after their respective journeys, I was conceived and born.

This American taxi driver, born in Pakistan, married and raised two sons. He put them through college. One of them works for the FBI.

I want to go to bed, but I’m still up so I can tell you this story. Now that I’ve told it, there’s something I want you to do.

YOUR JOB: From this day forward, if someone is an American, refer to them as American – which is who they are – rather than referring to them as whatever they were.

–Bob Young

Did you enjoy reading this? Then – I promise! – you’ll love my books. Really. I promise.
Books by Bob Young

What Thanksgiving Reveals

Friend, there’s a difference between “I’m thankful” and “I’m lucky.”

There’s a reason why your heart is filled with gratitude on this day of Thanksgiving, rather than simply being filled with a sense of winning. Thankfulness, or gratitude, has a direction. It is pointed at someone beyond ourselves, someone who took action for our benefit. The feelings that swell your heart today aren’t just expressions of appreciation for family, friends, and (maybe) bosses. They’re evidence of a spiritual dimension to life that, for whatever reason, you may have needed to ignore.

Negative experiences with one or more religions may have necessitated a self-protective withdrawal from anything that can’t be concretely measured. And yet, on days like today, the goodness of your Creator is as real to you as anything has ever been.

Today, you know  that, although people are wicked, God is good.

Don’t let this day pass in denial. Don’t let the love and presence of God be a fleeting moment in November. Hold on to his presence; embrace him. Let this joy, this peace, this life of grateful awareness, be your new, daily walk.

–Bob Young
23 November, 2017

Now, go buy a book!

Worry Is Not A Sin

(This is a copy of an email to a friend on 30 September, 2017).

You asked me to send you the reference for a Bible verse I mentioned last Thursday. Here’s the passage:

“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (II Corinthians 11:28, ESV)

In the NIV it reads, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Let’s compare this with another place where Paul uses the same word:

“do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:6, ESV)

In the NIV it reads, “Do not be anxious about anything…” which is exactly the same.

Now, let’s look at the Greek:

II Corinthians 11:28 – μέριμνα (English transliteration: merimna, mare – im – nah

Philippians 4:6 – μεριμνᾶτε (English transliteration: merimnate, mare – im – nah – tay

In spite of what the NIV has done with the English translation, the words translated “anxious” and “concern” in these two verses come from the same Greek root. I’m not criticizing the NIV; I love it. This is why it’s valuable for us to study more than one version of God’s Word. I hadn’t noticed Paul’s complete teaching on anxiety, or anxiousness, until I got an ESV Bible a few years ago. Then, II Corinthians 11:28 took me by surprise and caused me to dig deeper. Even though I took two years of New Testament Greek at Northwest Christian University, I hadn’t noticed this.

I love the fact that Paul admits to anxiety or worry. It helps us realize that Philippians 4:6 is intended to be a word of encouragement, and not a command. This realization makes Paul’s teaching more consistent with the strengthening word of angels when they said, “Fear not.” It is not condemnation; it is comfort and power.

Satan tries to use worry as a wedge to separate us from God, but God intends worry to be a magnet that pulls us toward Him.

–Bob Young

Now, go buy a book! (And if you’ve already bought one, write a review).

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