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Monthly Archives: July 2009

Living for the future

I have run across many people who believe in the philosophy “live life like there’s no tomorrow.” I know that when people write like this, they are only trying to describe their present life experiences and their “live-for-the-gusto” approach to life. However, I doubt that they know what it means to “live life like there’s no tomorrow.

This type of philosophy actually began a couple of hundred years BC and continued as a worldview until the end of the Roman Empire. It is the philosophy known as Epicurianism. The apostle Paul really summed up Epicureanism this way, “Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

Let’s make it clear that this kind of philosophy has no basis in the Bible. Paul was not condoning the practice, but actually was making a case against an Epicurean mindset, and for the biblical belief that the resurrection of Jesus Christ not only gives us a hope for a future but it also gives us a purpose for living a sober-minded (serious) life.

According to the Bible, how we live our lives now determines the quality of our lives in eternity.

1) First, everyone who lives in this life without knowing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, when they die will pass on to eternal life.

2) Everyone who does know Jesus Christ in this life will pass on to eternal life.

Therefore, the question really comes down to “What kind of eternal life will they pass on to?”

1) For those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they will pass on to an eternal life of punishment and condemnation in hell.

2) For those who do know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they will pass on to an eternal life filled with peace, love, mercy, and everlasting joy.

In conclusion, “living life like there’s no tomorrow” may seem like the fun-filled way to enjoy this life. But what happens when tomorrow catches up with us? The decisions we make, the things that we do FOR people and the things we do TO people will have eternal benefits or eternal consequences.

If you do not know what tomorrow (eternity) holds for you, then I encourage you–no, I exhort you–to seek Jesus Christ by confessing your sins, repenting from your unbelief, and my committing the rest of your days on this earth to Him. So that, your future will be filled with God’s abundant blessings, instead of an eternity filled with consequences.

You may choose to live life like there’s no tomorrow, but I choose to life life FOR tomorrow.

Blessings.

In Him, for Him, by Him,

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Posted by on July 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

On Skepticism, pt. 2

I’ve taken a lot time in thinking through this topic because 1) I don’t want to misrepresent the biblical position, 2) I don’t want to mis-represent the skeptics and their position, 3) I don’t want anyone to feel like I have intentionally set out to hurt them.
I believe that the skeptic’s criticisms of Christianity and the Bible often hinge in four parts: 1) The Bible is unreliable, 2) God is INcredible, 3) Christians are hypocritical, 4) the church is disingenuous (insincere).

In thinking through on how to approach this subject, I’ve decided that instead of doing an apologetic, I’ve decided to take a positive approach. I will merely attempt to state the biblical teaching on the aforementioned topics. I hope these thoughts—my thoughts—will be beneficial to those who read them, and by reading them with genuine desire to find the truth, the reader’s heart will be turned to Jesus Christ.

Let’s work backwards from number four to one. I think there is a logical order of importance, but perhaps I’ve been living in Asia too long, so I’m going to start from the back. It is hoped that my time in Korea has not influenced my reasoning too much to make me think in circles.

1. The church is disingenuous.

Disingenuous, properly means, insincere. I have to be honest and say that I get just as frustrated with insincere churches as the skeptic does. There is a brand of Christianity going around that can be termed ‘pop-Christianity.’ We’ve heard the term being referred in other ways: pop-culture, pop-music, pop-psychology, and pop-trends. Take pop-music for instance. A pop-artist can be raised up and killed in six months time. In an instant he can make the Top Ten, then just as instantly, he can burn away and dissipate like ashes blown by the wind. I think of disingenuous churches like pop bands that have no talent. They may have a look—an image dreamed up by the producers and publicists—but they don’t have the talent to match. They play a formulaic beat, dance a formulaic pattern, have portray a formulaic look. Similarly, many churches have adopted the same formulaic approach to faith. These churches are usually the one’s whose pastors have written self-help books, or are marketing ‘the magic formula’ for making your life better.

What is often missing from the preaching of these churches is any teaching on sacrifice and self-denial, discipline and discipleship. In other words, all they care about is selling their product—which is most likely some sort of self-help program.

More on this when I can find the time to elaborate….

…Back to the subject.

Perhaps what the skeptic is responding to, is not that the church is disingenuous, but that such portrayals of the church cause confusion as to who we are as Christians, and what we’re about. Look around you, you’ll find that there are many ‘brands’ of ‘Christianity’ being sold in churches. Some people’s experience of Christianity is much like a bad shopping experience. “I bought a bad I-Phone look-a-like phone. Now, I hate all I-phones.” The same kind of logic is applied to the Church. There are good churches and there are bad churches, so is it reasonable to assume that one’s own personal experiences define the whole of reality for the rest of the world? I think not.

The church consists of the people whom God has has called out of the world. They are his by the virtue of the price Jesus Christ has paid.

(Ephesians 5:25-27, NIV) 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Irrespective of what men may try to make of the church, it is the Church because of Christ, and his sacrifice paid for her. She belongs to him, and he is hers. If then, Scripture speaks so highly of the church, why do we tolerate such a polluted human misconception? Truthfully, I don’t know. I simply wait for Christ to deal with his church in the way he sees fit, at the time he chooses to deal with it.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2009 in Personal Thoughts

 

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The same old new face of Skepticism

Psalm 10:4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

Recently, I have met many people of all ages who have expressed skepticism in one form or another. Of course, I’m not wide-sweeping Skepticism, but I’m talking about religious skepticism.

There are various types of Skepticism, but I’m going to center my thoughts primarily on Skepticism as it relates to Christianity, to faith in God (the two are not necessarily synonymous), and to the Bible.

My experience with Skepticism is narrow, therefore, I will try to define terms merely from my exposure and experience than by their proper dictionary forms.

I have encountered two types of Skeptics, the “honest skeptic” and the “dishonest skeptic.” The “honest skeptic has been classified in most part as an Agnostic. The “dishonest skeptic” takes more of an atheistic position and has already determined in his mind what he believes and no amount of evidence will convince him otherwise.

Here, I’m not so concerned by the secularists, but rather, I’m concerned about the “Christian” with so much exposure to preaching and teaching, and yet remains ignorant of the Bible, and still chooses a skeptical path. It is my hope to blog about this group in a positive, and uplifting way to try to reestablish some biblical bases for those who are seeking. (I’m out of time for today, so I’ll be back.)

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2009 in Personal Thoughts

 

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The Momentum of Joy

Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV, Biblegateway.com)
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As is the case with most of his epistles, he divides the book evenly in order to balance the principles with the godly practice. Half of this epistle is a reminder of Christ’s faithful work of salvation, and the grace we’ve so freely received. However, if we uphold the grace of Christ, but lack the practice of putting our faith into action, it would be tantamount to what James would call dead faith.

In this passage of Philippians, Paul takes joy, one of the most personal of human emotions, and turns it into a command. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Notice, that joy is not just a static concept, a mere state of being. There is a movement. The movement of our joy in Christ is that it will cause the evidence of our gentleness, which is also in Christ.

1. Rejoicing in the Lord is not a denial of our real problems and sufferings in this world. Some people who think of joy as merely a state of mind seem to be living a life that is disconnected from the realities of life. However, we must remember that the command to rejoice is attached to the prepositional clause “in the Lord.” In the Lord is equal in meaning to “in Christ,” or “in Him.” A formula he uses quite frequently. Take for example the use of the preposition in Colossians 1:17 “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” The power of that statement is astounding when we take in the idea in the person of Jesus Christ, all things in the entire universe hold together. The contrasting implication is that apart from him, nothing in the universe holds together.

So also our joy is takes on momentum “in the Lord.” So then the flip-side is, apart from the Lord, we cannot rejoice. Let us remember that in his own life of service to Christ, Paul suffered much–we can even go so far as to say because of his service of Christ, Paul suffered much. Earlier in the same epistle, he wrote, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” (Philippians 1:17). Granted is the same way as saying “given,” so that the life of suffering is given by God to his faithful followers. We must also remember that the prophets of old put their hopes in a Savior who was much experienced in their sorrow and sufferings, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” (Isaiah 53:3).

More than a state of mind, to rejoicing is a choice that leads us away from dwelling in our suffering, so that we do not become mired in the quicksand of self-pity. True joy in the Lord will move us to act on who we are in Christ.

2. Rejoicing moves us from being inward focused, to becoming outward focused. First, the source, or wellspring, of joy does not come from within us in our natural state, rather it comes from the very real, inward presence of the Lord. Second, the act of rejoicing is not a personal inner emotion, but a choice to obey determined by those who are Christ followers. Finally, the effect of our joy in Christ is reflected in how we live it out in: 1) exercising gentleness in a hostile world, 2) in an anxiety producing world, we resolutely turn our faith-filled hearts away from circumstances outside of ourselves, and we determine to pray and give thanks to the Lord.

3. Rejoicing in the Lord moves us toward promoting whatever is admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. In other words, when we fill our minds with this excellencies in Christ, we can strive toward the higher things of God, rather than be mired by our own self-pity when situations are not ideal.

Take the time this week to learn to rejoice in the Lord.

In Him, by Him, for Him,
Bill

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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The ‘unCHAINable’ God

Matthew 21:16 ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?

Sometime last week my eight year-old daughter and I were driving in the car while Chris Tomlin song “Indescribable” was playing from my PalmPilot to my car radio. As is the usual case, our conversations range from the ridiculously trivial such as a classmate at school got a pencil stuck up his nose, to some deep conversations about God.

I am blessed in that it takes little to no coercing on my part to try to teach my children about spiritual matters. They often raise the questions themselves. Just as eager as they are to learn from me, they are also eager to teach me what they’ve learned.

In the case of this ride we were listening to Chris Tomlin’s beautiful lyrics which declare the majesty of God. Here are some of the lyrics:

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
Incomparable, unchangeable
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same
You are amazing God
You are amazing God
(Source: http://www.sing365.com)

As I was driving, I heard my daughter attempt to sing the chorus in the background.
“Indescribable, unchainable… incomparable, unchainable.” Then she asked, “Daddy, is he saying that God is unchainable?” I answered, “Actually honey, he’s saying, ‘uncontainable’ and ‘unchangeable’. Do you know what that means?” She shyly answered, “Not really.” I asked, “what do you think uncontainable means?” She answered very wisely for an eight year old. “That you can’t put God in a container.” I thought a second and said, “That’s exactly right. Sometimes we try to put God in a container and think that we can make him do whatever we want. But what’s wrong with that kind of thinking?” She answered, God made the whole world and he made us so he’s too big to fit in a container.”

I continued the discussion, “The song also says God is unchangeable.” Eirene said, “I thought he said God is ‘unchainable’.” “Well, actually, we know that God is unchainable, too. What are some of the things people might want to chain up?” I asked. She thought for a bit and said, “lions and tigers.” I said, that’s right, because lions and tigers are dangerous and people are afraid of them. People try to chain up the things they are afraid of. Sometimes, people try to put a chain around God because they are afraid of him. Why do you think that God is unchainable?” She answered, “God loves us, and we don’t have to be scared of him.” I replied, “That’s a great answer!”

In the end, we decided that the song would be sung just as well if say “Incomparable, UNCHAINABLE… You see the depths of my heart and you love me the same… You are amazing God.” Hope Chris Tomlin won’t mind.

In Him, by Him, for Him,
Bill

 
 

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Loneliness and the Divine Invitation

Psalm 27:7-9 (Revised Standard Version)

7. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,

Be gracious to me and answer me!

8. Thou hast said, “Seek ye my face.”

My heart says to Thee,

“Thy face, Lord, do I seek.”

9. Hide not thy face from me.

(Boston Globe) Loneliness is becoming a major health problem. In 1950, only 10% of households had just one person. In 1994, it had moved to 24%. Fewer than 10% age 25 to 44 live alone, but about 25% of those age 65 to 74 and about 40% for those over age 75. Some remain very happy- but supposedly only about 1/3. A 1990 Gallup study indicated that about 36% of Americans are lonely. More statistics:
People who are isolated but healthy are twice as likely to die over a period of a decade as those not isolated. A study showed that the more isolated men are up to 25% more likely to die of all causes at any age versus non isolated men. The odds for women are 33%.
Living alone after a heart attack significantly increase the risk of dying
People with heart disease have a poorer chance of survival if they are unmarried or do not have a partner to assist them.
Women who are alone and have breast cancer live half as long as those who do not.
People with malignant melanoma who participate in group intervention live longer than those who do not.
(Source: http://www.efmoody.com/miscellaneous/loneliness.html)

One of the most comforting truths of Scripture is what I like to think of as the Divine invitation. Often in Scripture, God makes his appeal to his people at a certain time and in a certain circumstance. Here David calls out to God at a time of desperation. The circumstances are such that David is surrounded by his enemies, and he sees himself to be soon engulfed by them. The antagonists are “evildoers, adversaries, and foes” who are encamped about him as large as a “host.”

Many people, like David are facing, or have faced, a major battle in their lives. Whether it be an overwhelming financial difficulty, a troubled marriage, loved ones who are facing a life-threatening illness, and so on… I believe for many people, the worst part of facing such difficulties, are not the situations themselves, though as horrible as they may be. Rather, I believe that there is a searing pain of loneliness that pierces the heart. Take for example, when a life-threatening cancer or a major debilitating illness strikes. The world is full of people who will say, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” Or, “Wow, that’s so sad!” However, when you’re the victim and you’re in the doctor’s counseling room, or going through an MRI or CTScan—wow! The fear and isolation that must be pouring into one’s emotions!

In this particular Psalm, David has decided that he’s not going to be another casualty of loneliness. He’s going to secure himself by going into the house of the Lord. There he will “dwell… all the days of [his] life.” Perhaps, we might even infer, “all the days remaining of my life.” It is there that he finds security, away from the fear and terror, but more than that, he finds the warmth of God’s reception.
We see this receptive heart of God scattered throughout the Bible. Take for example, the call of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” This Divine invitation of God is an invitation into a mutual love relationship. Think of what it would mean for people who are so lonely that they are contemplating suicide. The inner feelings of depression stem often from feeling insignificant and unwanted. Feeling like there is no one out there who loves me or wants me. God wants you, and he wants you to seek him and find him.

God is such a receptive God that he finds it frustrating when he calls out to people, and they do not respond. Isaiah 65:1 “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” The trouble with folks is that they think of God has just a cold and distant objective fact, “He too busy to take time out for little ole me.” A God, who is troubled by the unwillingness of people to reach out to him, does not sound at all to me like someone who is cold and distant.

Who can enter into this Divine invitation?

Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Those who seek him with all their hearts. That is to say that seeking the Lord has to be the deepest desire of your heart that comes out of your willingness to enter into a relationship with a living God.

Hebrews 10:22 “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is through the blood of Jesus Christ that we have access to God. Therefore, it is sinners who can enter into this relationship with God. Once you seek him, confess your sins, and repent by turning away from your sins and turning to God. The blood of Jesus Christ can free us from condemnation (Romans 8:1), feelings of guilt (Hebrews 10:2), the reminders of sin (Hebrews 10:3, 4), and a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22). In place of all these we receive forgiveness (Hebrews 10:18), confidence to enter the most holy place (the presence of God Hebrews 10:19), and full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22).

Matthew 11:28-23 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” How many of us bear the burdens of condemnation, shame, and guilt? The fact is that we have an invitation to enter into a place of peace and rest for our souls. This is the place where guilt and shame and condemnation can never touch us, because we rest upon Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” The same Divine invitation reminds us that God not only cares for us personally, but he also cares for the burdens we bear—the circumstances which cause sleepless nights, fears and worries which keep us tossing and turning at night.

Loneliness can be a place of pain and fear. However, like King David, we can realize that God has not abandoned us. Quite the contrary, we are invited into a deeper relationship with him to experience his love to protect and to guide. It is there, in that place of intimacy with God that we find rest for our souls.

Little do men perceive what solitude is, and how far it extendeth.
For a crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures,
and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.
(by Francis Bacon)
(Source: http://www.poetseers.org/poem_of_the_day_archive/poems_loneliness)

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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About Being Adopted, Pt.4

Where do I belong?

As an adoptee, the most lingering question on my mind was always, “Am I Korean, or am I American?” I thought that searching for my identity was tantamount to answering this question. However, at the age of 38, I think I can finally answer the question. I consider myself neither.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unpatriotic, but I have discovered that there is more to an individual’s self-identity than his nationality. I have often been asked on both sides of the ocean, “What is your nationality?” My answer is usually the same. I am American. That is because the question really relates to which nation one pledges his allegiance to. So in that sense, my nationality is American; I am a patriot. I do pledge my allegience to the Red, White, and Blue, and to no other flag.

However, the question of “Where do I belong?” is not simply answered by “Which flag do I pledge to?” Where I belong is even deeper than my cultural heritage, or my blood lineage. It is determined by my identity as an individual.

In that sense, I have learned to shed my cultural badges, and my blood lineage for the sake of embracing my true identity. I believe this to be a call of God for every person who truthfully confesses Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Philippians 3
This chapter begins with a warning to watch out for “those mutilators of the flesh.” He seems to be speaking in context to the Judaizers, whose loyalty and identity were wrapped up in their “Jewishness,” whether by culture or by ceremony. (3:2-3) (Let it be known that I have nothing against Jews. I love them as much as I love every person in this world who is made in the likeness of God. My prayer is that they will come to Jesus Christ the Messiah and repent from their unbelief, that they may be saved.)

Paul then goes on to talk about his own Jewish heritage (3:4b-6). By all the standards, Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, meets all the requirements for being a cultural and ceremonial Jew.

However, the following verses powerfully communicate the new identity Paul has found in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:7-11).
7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The supremacy of his new identity in Christ is so much greater than his cultural labels, that Paul says, he considers them rubbish–they are worthless!

I no longer feel the need to identify myself as a Korean or American. I know who I am because I know whose I am.

I wonder how many people are waving the Stars and Stripes, or the Taeguki, and are at the same time forsaking the righteousness of Christ. There is a cost of discipleship. What are we willing to forsake for the righteousness of Christ.

For me, there is no such thing as “Korean Pride,” or “American Pride.” I am a child of the living God. I have let it all go that I may gain Christ

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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