Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Desiring a better country

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
- Hebrew 11:13-16 (ESV)

I am seeking a homeland. Not an earthly one. But a heavenly one. A much better country.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

All is gift

‘I know what he is thinking,’ said the King, looking upon the Queen. ‘He is thinking that you suffered and strove and I have a world for my reward.’ Then he turned to Ransom and continued. ‘You are right,’ he said, ‘I know now what they say in your world about justice. And perhaps they say well, for in that world things always fall below justice. But Maledil always goes above it. All is gift. I am Oyarsa not by His gift alone but by our foster mother’s, not by hers alone but by yours, not by yours alone but by my wife’s - nay, in some sort, by gift of the very beasts and birds. Through many hands, enriched with many different kinds of love and labour, the gift comes to me. It is the Law. The best fruits are plucked for each by some hand that is not his own.’

- p. 266, Perelandra by C. S. Lewis

We always think we must work in order to get something. Even when we are given a gift from a friend, we often feel obliged to pay her back by giving her a gift when it’s her birthday. Or we feel that we deserved to receive that gift since we had been very nice to her as a friend. So when you see somebody who received things without working for it, or you think he received it undeservedly, you feel it is unfair, or unjust even.
We are all like that. The world has taught us well. You receive what you deserve, and you are suspicious of free gifts.
So the meaning of grace escapes us. The notion of “free gift”, which is a tautology already, is alien to us. There is no free lunch, the world tells us, and we say amen to that.

But the forgiveness of sins and in fact, all the good things we enjoy in this world are gifts from God. All is gift, indeed. We have never deserved it, and will never deserve it. Who of us can claim that we toiled to make ourselves be born into this world? Who of us can claim that we earned our ways into the Kingdom of God? We are given the wonderfully bright mornings by God’s sheer grace, and we are given the seasonal rains by His grace. We are forgiven by His grace and we are accepted and taken into the relationship with Him by His grace. Was there any price involved? Any hidden costs? Cost indeed incurred. God has sent His Son into the world of sinners, and He died at the cross to pay for our sins. It cost God. But since He paid for it, we receive it freely. All is gift. It cost God to give us this gift, but for us it is free as we receive it. And what a gift it is. To know and to live with the rightful King of all ages, to love and to be loved by the Creator of the universe. There is no better gift that we could have ever imagined.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Faith in God who is gracious

Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob;
his anger rose against Israel,
because they did not believe in God
and did not trust his saving power.
Yet he commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven,
and he rained down on them manna to eat
and gave them the grain of heaven.
- Psalm 78:21-24 (ESV)

Without faith, no one can please God.
God's grace abounds even though He is angry against sins and unbelief.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Conclusion from Five Leading Reformers (Final)

As church membership becomes or remains respectable, we must always be challenged to our core as to our true faith before God. It is on our relationship with him, directly and individually, that we stand or fall, whatever position or rank in a church that we may or may not hold. Sola fidei was the great turning point and rallying call of the Reformation and of the five subjects of this book. If we are to be true to them we must be true to the biblical faith which they proclaimed. They - and their Saviour - would expect no less.

-p. 188 - 189 Five Leading Reformer

Monday, 1 November 2010

Watch out! God is out to get you!

One way or another, He will get you, no matter who you are.
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.
- Psalm 67:1-4

Conclusion from Five Leading Reformers

Finally, as Billy Graham once said, 'You may be a deacon in your church and not be born again.' The Reformation doctrine of sola fidei, justification by faith alone, is a lynchpin of the Protestant understanding of Christian faith, and thus, for the Protestant, of Christianity itself. It is thus the ultimate guard against complacency. If we are not saved by works but by faith, as a gift of the grace of God, then none of us has any cause to regard ourselves as a Christian by virtue of our parentage, our country of birth, our contributions to church funds, or any other outward marker. It is by grace we are saved through faith, and by faith alone. Our social standing, our heritage, our denomination: all make no difference whatsoever to our standing before God.

-p. 188 Five Leading Reformers

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Conclusion from Five Leading Reformers

Similarly, how much do we look to the pastor (or vicar or elder or whatever we call him) to do everything for us? Do we examine the Scripture for ourselves, weigh up the Sunday sermon in the light of the Bible (as Paul instructed us to do), or simply take it from the minister? Do we develop ourselves spiritually, seeking to grow and mature together actively with the other believers in the Church, through our conversations, our reading, our home groups? Or are we completely passive? We can hardly condemn the clerical-led nature of Roman Catholicism when we ourselves are the spiritual equivalent of couch potatoes! Roman Catholicism itself has changed much, not least in the encouragement of lay activity. All the more reason for professing Protestants to be active likewise.

- p. 187-188 Five Leading Reformers

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Five Leading Reformers

I've just finished reading "Five Leading Reformers" by Christopher Catherwood.
I was inspired to read more church history books after reading "Church History in Plain Language" some time ago, and this book seemed to be a good follow-up for me to read. As a Protestant, Reformation period is the most exciting era of church history for me, and I had this book for quite a while.
Now I have finished reading this not-so-thick book (less than 200 pages), I have less admiration for these reformers, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cranmer, and Knox. Yes, less, not more. They were great men, convicted by great truths of the Gospel, whose works changed the world and their legacy is still felt and experienced in most parts of the world to this day. But the author did well in showing the very human side of these reformers, although I believe he portrayed them only fairly and as accurately as possible. This author also honestly explained the political nature of reformation very well.
Hence, these men, as great as they were, were men, naturally. And so my admiration grew smaller, and my appreciation and reverence towards the God who worked so powerfully through these men, and in fact, through the whole affairs of reformation, both in the trials and victories, has increased.
So, this book had a good effect on me, I'd say.

The author's conclusive paragraphs were a real challenge. It is long-ish to post in one go, so I will be posting up one at a time in coming days.

Here's the first paragraph.

As we have just seen, Protestants often criticise the Catholic 'Cult of Saints'. But how often do we unwittingly do something similar? Many Protestant traditions including Presbyterians of most hues, look back in awe and gratitude to Calvin. There are churches named Lutheran to this day. Other denominations are no different, whether it is the Wesley brothers, Smyth and Helys, Azusa Street or whatever your past hero's name or location might be. We all too easily tend to look at Scripture through the prism of their teaching rather than, as the Reformers did, looking directly to scripture itself, as the doctrine of sola scriptura surely teaches. It would be too ironic if, by quoting, say, Calvin or Luther slavishly, we treat them as being infallible! If we teach that the Pope is not infallible, then neither is any other church leader, however revered. (italics original)
- p. 187 Five Leading Reformers

You can get Five Leading Reformers from BookDepository, Koorong, or Amazon.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Sacrifices that God does not despise

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
-- Psalm 51:17

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #70 (and some final thoughts)

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.
Aug. 17, 1723
(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

This is the last resolution Jonathan Edwards wrote.
So has my project of posting the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards with little bit of my thoughts attached time to time come to its conclusion too. Yes, I failed to keep to my initial plans of posting regularly and finishing up by the end of last year! Ah well, my life is full of failures and God is full of grace.

Anyway, here are my final thoughts.
1) Jonathan Edwards sure displays an amazing level of maturity from such a young age. He was born in 1703. So by the time he wrote this last resolution of his, he was only 20 years old. Perhaps it was the the culture of his generation, that people matured (or had to mature) early. But it is not just the maturity. There were plenty of men who had to grow up quickly and provide for his family back in those days for example. But what is remarkable is his "Christian maturity" in his thinking and in his conduct. What was going on in his mind in regards to God (or in his own words, religion) had a definite and powerful impact on his heart, and consequently, he was compelled to review and reflect on his life again and again. Hence his long list of resolutions. And all these by the age of 20. Look around. Or perhaps look at yourself, if you are 20. How do they compare with Jonathan Edwards' seriousness towards God? I certainly do not come close to his relentless zeal and passion for godliness.

2) One comforting fact remains, however, for all of God's saints. Jonathan Edwards may have been (and I believe he really is) a great role model for other Christians. Yet, the fact that he had to make all these resolutions to remind himself regarding his faith and conduct only shows that he was also a mere mortal sinner. He wouldn't have made a resolution to speak with love (as in this last resolution) unless he had failed to speak lovingly at some point and realised it by God's grace some time later. We are all at the mercy of God's grace. None of us can boast about our own achievements however great they may make us look great. When properly understood, everything comes from our gracious God, for our own strength, our own intellectual power, our disciplined attitude towards others, even our own faith, all come from God. There is no need for us to revere Jonathan Edwards beyond respect. He was much loved by God and received some great gifts from God so that we can benefit from his gifts as well. God loves us as much and He is still working in us, sometimes through the work He had done in Jonathan Edwards' life. So we are all in one Church of God and are all taking part in building up His Church. It is God who is to be revered and adored, not Jonathan Edwards.

3) Finally, just to lighten up the whole thing a little bit, what I would tell Jonathan Edwards about all these resolutions?
When I see him in heaven, I'll probably say, "Hey, bro, you had so many resolutions, how did you go about keeping them, eh?" and we both will laugh at our short-comings, and give each other a brotherly hug, and turn to look towards the One who graciously redeemed both of us and sing praises.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Saturday, 16 October 2010

No need to prove myself

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #68

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

It is an awful thing to face yourself and be honest about all the weaknesses and sins in yourself. Trust me, I know. But it is far better to be honest about it yourself, and confess that to God. See, God knew all that all along, and more. The beauty and majesty of the gospel is that God, knowing all your shortcomings, sent His Son to die for our sins yet still, so He may display His glorious grace over our sins, and rescue us from the eternal damnation and restore to us the eternal joy that He always intended. And even now, when I discover sins in my life, I can and must turn to God who is gracious. His promise is sure that on that cross where Jesus died, all my sins, including this sin that I just discovered I had in me, are cleared off and I am declared, "RIGHTEOUS!" by God.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

God of relationship

I started reading "God of Promise" by Michael Horton. So far, I've only got through the first introductory chapter, which doesn't even really go much into what "covenant theology" is. Yet, reading it, I've realised once again just how much relational our God is!

Our God is a Trinitarian God.
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Not three gods, but one God, three Persons.
From this God, I can make sense out of relationships and see what the community is meant to be.

It is obviously not individualistic. I am not to insist only on my desires and needs if I am to be in a healthy relationship. It is fairly well understood that the western culture has become so individualistic, church life also suffers from it. So we hear from preachers warning us about treating our faith as a complete private affair. Christians are called to be part of Christian communities. We are admonished to take active part in meetings and serving others.
Yet, we remain individuals. We don't simply become nobodies within a kind of uniform mass of indistinguishable persons. We are not saved by belonging to a certain group of people. God saves individuals. It is just that when He saves an individual, He saves her into a community. Not for her to seize to be herself, but to take part and find her place in a community, the community made by and for God. It is in this context of a community she can fully utilise the talents God has given her and be who she is.

There is much more to be said and the application of this truth about our God is far more practical than many people realise.

But I'll close here with a couple of questions.

If the claims of other religions or philosophies are correct, how would you make sense out of the relentless longing for relationships that everyone has?
If you adhere to theologies of other religions, which may be monotheistic, polytheistic, pantheistic, or even atheistic, what would an ideal human society look like, if there could be one consistent with the given theology? How do you like that picture?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #67

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

For JE, not one opportunity was to be missed, it seems. Continuous disciplined reflection is crucial in learning from your own experience indeed. It would serve me well too to count what I have just experienced and examine myself how I have been affected, and what I can still learn from it.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Monday, 4 October 2010

What it means to believe in a sovereign God

I have a lot of worries. My friends and families told me in numerous occasions to stop worrying about things so much. They lovingly reminded me of God who is in control and I need to trust him more and needn't worry so much with what may come my way in the future.

What I haven't realised till recently, was that I believe in a sovereign God.
Not that the sovereignty of God was a new thing to me, but I failed to see an aspect of it.
I believe in the sovereignty of God and I have been taking and do take great comfort from the fact that He is in control of all things including my life. But most often, my vision was only on the eternity in the future. I was only trying to take comfort of knowing sovereign God who has elected me out of His own pleasure, and will not fail to take me home one day. When I learned this a few years ago, it was a kind of revolution in my spiritual life. It really did not lie within my power to save myself, but all is done by God's grace and I am eternally thankful and can be reassured of His unfailing purposes. It was magnificent salvation, God was majestic in His total, sovereign rule.

Yet, how foolish and slow is my heart, that it escaped me, that God is sovereign not only in the grand scheme of salvation of His people, but while I live on this earth, on this 4th of October, 2010, He is involved in my life, He is not losing any sight on what is going on in my life, He does protect me, and guard my steps. He knows what I am fearful of, what I am worried about, what I am capable of at this moment, what are my weaknesses, physically, and spiritually, relationally, and intellectually. In all things, He has not lost touch with any thing.

So I ask myself, what am I so afraid of?
I do not know what tomorrow will bring.
I do not know where God is going to take me and my family, and my church.
I don't know what's going to cost me.
I have been disappointed many times in the past with what had happened around me, whether that be personal relationships, sufferings of close family members, or some kind of heart-aching, desperate situation at church.
While I acknowledged that all these happened for a purpose and God had His gracious hand in these, I am still quite a skeptic and a cynic, while desperately trying to control this fear within me whenever some changes are on the horizon.

But, the question I need to come back to is this.
Do I believe in God who is absolutely sovereign?
The God who reigns over the rise and fall of empires over the history of the human race.
The God who is in control of where rain would fall and Sun would shine.
The God who decides where and when a new star is to be born, and an old star destroyed.
The God who chose a man out of idol-filled nation, and brought through that one old man, a multitude of God worshippers and ultimately, the promised Messiah, His only Son.
The God who throughout the two millennia, against all imaginable odds, protected, nurtured, and renewed church to carry out His mission with the gospel of grace.
This grand God is also the God who is in charge of which sparrow would fall to the ground, and numbers the hair on our head. (Matthew 10:29-31)

So Jesus told us:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:25-33)
I am not fearless. I am not completely worry-less. I am one of whom Jesus here calls, "you of little faith." I do not have a great faith. But I know this great God. So I will, by His grace, stand and face uncertainties in life. And when all things are over and done with, no tongue would praise my strength as if I got myself through it all, but only God's sustaining power be known and His Name be exalted high.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #66

66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

I take that word, "benign" as meaning kind, or gentle. Unless it is required, I also wish to be kind and gentle with the one I am speaking to.
God has been so gentle and patient with me, although He had been firm and disciplined me when required. I just want to be like Him who is good and gracious. I just want to be like my Father, not just because Jonathan Edwards had this resolution.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Thursday, 30 September 2010

I suck.

Contrary to what the popular psychology and plenty of self-help books tell me, I suck.
I suck at soccer, tennis, or any sports really.
But not just sports, but I also suck in my interpersonal, social skills. I'm often awkward around people.
So, I might qualify as a "nerd" except I am not smart either. You might think I am fairly intellectual, but someone very close to me could tell you that I am really not that smart. I actually suck at that too.
You might think I'm at least a good person (or not), but God knows I suck in morality and ethics. Big time. Big big time.
And I suck at knowing God even. (How many times have I misrepresented You and distrusted You, O God? I cannot count...)

But I'm okay with that.

I'm okay with that because contrary to the popular beliefs, God is not like me.
God is not like us.
God does not suck.
God IS great.
He is the holy, sovereign Lord who is gracious.

How do I know that?
God sent Jesus.
Jesus completed what I could never do, and He received condemnation that I should've received.
So I am now complete in Him.
God will bring me (and you also if you are in Jesus) home safely and there is absolutely nothing in this world that can stop Him from doing what He promised.
Not even this little sucky me.
For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor 5:21
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Rom 8:1
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:38-39
(picture HT: TwentyTwoWords)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #65

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton's 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.

I don't know what JE heard from Dr. Manton, but I agree with what JE says here with all my heart. If God is so gracious with me, there is nothing I need to hide from Him, nor is it wise to do so.
(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

His mercy is great.

Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”
- King David, 2 Samuel 24:14

When I sinned against God, when I rebelled against God, when I scorned and rejected God's love and rule, I will run to Him and submit to Him whose mercy is great. No man can be as merciful as God, no man can execute justice on earth like Him. Find forgiveness and comfort in Him who is abundant in mercy.

Jesus is Lord

Glen Scrivener says:
Well first of all, "Jesus is Lord" literally means "'Yahweh-to-the-rescue' is Yahweh"

Have you thought about what the common phrase, "Jesus is Lord" lately?
Read the this blog post by Glen.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

How could there be anything that I did not want?

'What you have made me see,' answered the Lady, 'is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one's mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before that at the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or a setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished - if it were possible to wish - you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.'
Ransom interrupted. 'That is hardly the same thing as finding a stranger when you wanted your husband.'
'Oh, that is how I came to understand the whole thing. You and the King differ more than two kinds of fruit. The joy of finding him again and the joy of all the new knowledge I have had from you are more unlike than two tastes; and when the difference is as great as that, and each of the two things so great, then the first picture does stay in the mind quite a long time - many beats of the heart - after the other good has come. And this, O Piebald, is the glory and wonder you have made me see; that it is I, I myself, who turn from the good expected to the given good. Out of my own heart I do it. One can conceive a heart which did not: which clung to the good it had first thought of and turned the good which was given it into no good.'
'I don't see the wonder and the glory of it,' said Random.
Her eyes flashed upon him such a triumphant flight above his thoughts as would have been scorn in earthly eyes; but in that world it was not scorn
'I thought,' she said, 'that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent me drew me into them as the waves lift the islands; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming. I feel as if I were living in that roofless world of yours when men walk undefended beneath naked heaven. It is delight with terror in it! One's own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself may walk, not even holding hands. How has He made me so separate from Himself? How did it enter His mind to conceive such a thing? The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths - but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.'
'And have you no fear,' said Random, 'that it will ever be hard to turn your heart from the thing you wanted to the thing Maleldil sends?'
'I see', said the Lady presently. 'The wave you plunge into may be very swift and great. You may need all your force to swim into it. You mean, He might send me a good like that?'
'Yes - or like a wave so swift and great that all your force was too little.'
'It often happens that way in swimming,' said the Lady. 'Is not that part of the delight?'
'But are you happy without the King? Do you not want the King?'
'Want him?' she said. 'How could there be anything I did not want?'

- p. 80-82 Perelandra by C. S. Lewis

When our hearts are regenerated by God, when our hearts are sanctified by God, finally being freed, we, out of our own hearts, rejoice and choose, yes, willingly and joyfully choose God and follow Him, trusting God and gladly receiving whatever is given to us, because we have come to know the infinitely wise, just, sovereign, and loving Father.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

You can get your copy of Perelandra from Amazon, BookDepository, or Koorong.

Friday, 24 September 2010

A battle for clear conscience

I used to think that when I am presented with various competing options for action, I could easily make use of my conscience. Although I maintained that the conscience must first be "educated", or trained in godliness, it was more a matter of using this conscience or not in deciding what to do. Or so it seemed...

I'm coming to realise that it isn't so easy or simple to discern whether I am really using God-given conscience, or only still being deceived by some other vices of my sinful nature.

A question I now must ask myself frequently is:
Am I doing this to keep up my reputation before people so I won't be haunted in my mind by the imaginary or real accusations from them?
OR am I doing this knowing that God approves my course of action and since my reason for action is God, I can face people's accusations or even praises with no resentment or pride within my heart?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #63, #64

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14' and July '3' 1723.

64. Resolved, when I find those "groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those "breakings of soul for the longing it hath," of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be wear', of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #60, #61, #62

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; "knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord." June 25 and July 13, 1723.

Ehpesians 6:6-8 says:
not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Monday, 6 September 2010

Love that is genuine

My wife and I are reading through the Desiring God together. Last week, we concluded the chapter on Love. In it, I've learned that you should seek your joy in loving others. That can be misunderstood very easily, but when understood properly, and pursued and practised carefully, I know my life would honour God by genuinely loving other people.
This short video can help.

(See the original Desiring God entry.)

Oh, grant me this genuine love that seeks good of other people. Let me rejoice in others being saved, blessed, prospering and flourishing. Oh, grant me, Lord, this change of heart.

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #59

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July ii, and July 13.

I used to think that I was good with little children. Over the years, through serving at various ministries at church, and also through engaging with relatives and friends with children, I've learned that I am always more impatient and less gracious than I supposed.
I do think, that this resolution of JE would be of some benefit for me too.
Oooh... it's hard... Hopefully I will develop more spiritual muscles in regards to being gracious towards those who provoke my ill nature and anger before I have my own children (God willing).

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #58

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May27, and July 13, 1723.

Oh, I wish the same. How easily my temper can be worked up! How easily I can be displeased and dislike someone I am called to love?

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Friday, 3 September 2010

Unless God draws me

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
-- John 6:44

Draw me closer to you, Lord, my sin clings on.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #57

57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether ~ have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it, I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.

A Christian is not a man with no fear, but who can overcome the fear and live through whatever pain and suffering because he is so confident in God's providence.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

How to connect to God: Part 2/2 - Faith

The second thing you have to do is believe in Christ. Belief in Christ has a definite content to it. We must believe he was who he said he was, that we require salvation, that on the Cross he secured that salvation, that he rose from the dead. However, while life-changing Christian faith is not less than believing these things with your intellect, it is much more. The faith that changes the life and connects to God is best conveyed by the word “trust.” Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you as you fall is a branch sticking out of the very edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and it is more than strong enough to support your weight. How can it save? If your mind is filled with intellectual certainty that the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If your mind is instead filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. Why? It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch.

This means you don’t have to wait for all doubts and fears to go away to take hold of Christ. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have to banish all misgivings in order to meet God. That would turn your faith into one more way to be your own Saviour. Working on the quality and purity of your commitment would become a way to merit salvation and put God in your debt. It is not the depth and purity of your heart but the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf that saves us.

Faith, then, begins as you recognise and reject your alternative trusts and gods and turn instead to the Father, asking for a relationship to him on the basis of what Jesus has done, not on the basis of your moral effort or achievements.

from p232 - 234 The Reason For God by Timothy Keller

You can get "The Reason For God" from bookdepository.com, koorong.com.au, or amazon.com

How to connect to God: Part 1/2 - Repentance

New York City is filled with people who were raised and baptised in various churches but who abandoned their faith in their teens and college and have not thought much about it for years. Then something brings them up short and they find themselves in spiritual search mode. They work through the basics of the Christian faith and it seems to them they had never really understood it before. Their question to me as a pastor is “I don’t really know if I am a Christian or not. Am I returning to my faith or finding it for the first time?” The answer is simple - I can’t tell, and it doesn’t matter. If you want to either connect to God or reconnect to God, you have to do the same two things. What are those two things?

The first thing you have to do is repent. That’s not a very elegant sounding word but there is no getting around it. The repentance that begins a new relationship with God is not primarily a matter of drawing up lists of specific sins you are sorry for and want to change. Don’t get me wrong: If you are gouging the poor or cheating on your spouse, and you want to put your faith in Christ, then by all means stop doing those things. A Christian should love the poor and be faithful to his or her marriage vows. But those behavioural changes alone will not make you a Christian. Lots of people in the world are socially and personally ethical but do not have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Repentance is not less than being sorry for individual sins, but it means much more.

The repentance that really changes your heart and your relationship with God begins when you recognise that your main sin, the sin under the rest of your sins, is your self-salvation project. ... in both our bad deeds and in our good deeds we are seeking to be our own Saviours and Lords. We have alternative trusts and “gods,” even though we do not call them that. We try to prove ourselves by our moral goodness or through achievement or family or career. Even diligent involvement in church and religion may need to be repented of once we understand that it was all a way to put God and others in our debt.

Repentance, then, is confessing the things besides God himself that you have been relying on for your hope, significance, and security. That means we should repent not only for things we have done wrong (like cheating or lying), but also for the motivations beneath our good works.

from p232 - 233 The Reason For God by Timothy Keller

You can get "The Reason For God" from bookdepository.com, koorong.com.au, or amazon.com

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

For our sake

For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.
- 2 Cor 5:21

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Worship - emotion required

Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth. It is not a mere act of willpower by which we perform outward acts. Without the engagement of the heart, we do not really worship. The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.
True worship must include inward feelings that reflect the worth of God's glory. If this were not so, the word hypocrite would have no meaning. But there is such a thing as hypocrisy - going through outward motions (like singing, praying, giving, reciting) that signify affections of the heart that are not there. "This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."

- John Piper, from Desiring God, p 87-88

Get your copy of Desiring God from Book Depository, Koorong, or Amazon.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #56

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

He must have failed or given up at times. Otherwise he wouldn't have made this resolution. This weakness in a spiritual giant is a comfort for the rest of us. Indeed, it is the Lord who keeps His saints, while saints stumble over many times.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Saving faith

Saving faith is the heartfelt conviction not only that Christ is reliable, but also that He is desirable. It is the confidence that He will come through with His promises and that what He promises is more to be desired than all the world.
- Desiring God p.73, John Piper

Saturday, 29 May 2010

I want to be with the LORD

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
- Psalm 51:7-10

Friday, 28 May 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #54, #55

54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Prayer with the faith in future grace

Lord, whatever it takes to be free from pride;
Whatever it takes to be free from lust;
Whatever it takes to be free from greed;
From anxiety, from self-reliance;
Whatever it takes to be a loving, humble, kind husband and good father;
Whatever it takes, do it to me.
Financial difficulty?
Church strife?
I won't prescribe, I will just take the pill.
Do you want holiness? Do you want to be loving, humble, free, radical enough to pray
Lord if it take that kind of experience in order to bring me to this kind of self-abandonment, use your own wise, good physician wisdom.

Therefore faith is future oriented and embraces a future governed by God's grace and therefore superior to the future promised by sin.

-- John Piper from Battling Unbelief Session 3 Is it biblical part 1 --

Sunday, 2 May 2010

She calls me "husband."

She calls me "husband". Well, not really. She most often calls me by my name or "jagiya" which in Korean translates roughly to "dear", "honey", or "darling". But she knows I am her husband, and once we get used to it, the word, "husband" will easily flow out of her mouth when she refers to me, just maybe not when she calls me.

It was the 17th of April 2010, when God joined us together. In His infinite wisdom, He saw that it would be good to bring these two sinners together to represent the relationship between the Christ and His church as His bride. So I expect unceasing grace to overflow from Him to us, otherwise, we will surely and quickly fail to show Jesus through and within our marriage. So I am thankful. I thank God. And I thank my wife, who has been showing God's love and care towards me ever since we started dating.

It is a new chapter in my life, and it is exciting.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, 9 April 2010

This momentary life

Very soon the shadow will give way to Reality. The partial will pass into the Perfect. The foretaste will lead to the Banquet. The troubled path will end in Paradise. A hundred candle-lit evenings will come to their consummation in the marriage supper of the Lamb. And this momentary marriage will be swallowed up by Life. Christ will be all and in all. And the purpose of marriage will be complete.

-- John Piper, p178, This Momentary Marriage

So will it be! Very soon, Christ will be all and in all, and the parable will cease for the Real will be real.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #53

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

I'm getting married soon, and that thought brings me great excitement and joy at the moment. Yet, whether now, or after I get married, in every joyful moment God will give me, will I find greater happiness because of Christ and for Christ? Or will I shrink back down to earthly vision and cling only on to the gifts but not the Giver?

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Monday, 29 March 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #52

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

Much better than worrying about whether I will live long, or how I will turn out. Make every opportunity, each moment as worship to God, remembering that the days are numbered.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #49, #50, #51

49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.

urm... ok.
50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

Remembering the Day is a good thing. Live in light of it.
51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

Again, remember the future.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

My God is calling me to a life-long adventure.

I see this adventure ahead of me. It is a long journey interlaced with both pain and joy, often in that order. I can see that the path will bring confusion at times, and will bring grief certainly. But I then see that the path is also narrow and straight, and I hear my Lord's clear voice. He will lead me, He will guard me. He will provide, He will change me. He will keep me and love me, and He will get all glory from and through me.

I don't know what my Lord is going to do to me, but I know He will do it because He loves me. I only ask Him to take charge of me and claim me as His. I love to, I yearn to see His immense power and grace propelling me to Himself that my unworthy mouth be silenced and that I may simply bow down before Him and worship.

O may the glorious King rule forever and ever!

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #48

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

Looking into my own heart has been something that I started learning to do and is one of the most fearful thing to do. Yet, as I discover the dark secrets and sins in my own heart, I see love and grace of my Lord more intensely, for He knew all this from the beginning, and He made Himself nothing, and bore my sin, this filthy heart that I may be forgiven of my sins, receive His perfect righteousness, and reconciled with God our Father. O how glorious is His love?

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Comment spammers

I just spent about 15 minutes removing comments on this blog that were spams. And I did this kind of comment cleaning few times in this month alone.
From now on, you will have to do an image validation to post a comment on this blog. Hopefully it won't cause too much trouble for all of us. Oh, well, except for those spammers of course.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #47

47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5,1723.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Rights and Duties?

When I was in the primary school, back in Korea, I was taught that the rights and duties of individuals must be kept for a society to function well.
I had not realised that this idea has crept into my understanding of the Christian community for a long time. Only recently, I was challenged to re-think this idea that basically put Rights and Duties as two pillars that held a community upright.

My first suspicion came when I thought about duties. Christian. Duties. For a lack of all-perfect words, we can use duties to describe some things in the life of a Christian, yet, in my mind, I often found it unhelpful. Duties? That sounds like something we must perform. When we fail to fulfil those duties, our rights will be taken away from us. You fail to fulfil your duty of paying taxes, your right to keep your own money will be taken away, or in a worse case, your right to live in your own home and go about wherever you please will be taken away and you'll be put in prison.
But, is that how we live as Christians? Is that how we should view Christian communities, especially?

Are we not free from all burdens? Are we not the heirs of God's Kingdom? Are we not friends of God?
Yes, we are! But then, why wouldn't you demand whatever suits you the most from all around you? Why wouldn't you demand your Rights all the time? Why did Paul let go of his Rights (1 Cor 9:3-14, 1 Thess 2:6)? Was it his duty to forgo his Rights, as if his duties were of higher priority than his rights?

It cannot be duties for we are free.
So what would make a free-man to let go of his rights?

The truly free Man showed me the way.
It is humility. Not duties. It must be. Duty is the language of an enslaved. Humility is the language of the free.
Having perfect freedom to exercise all His rights, even Divine Rights, He humbled Himself, so that we would gain life and freedom that He has.
This is how Christian community must work, Rights and Humility, not Rights and Duties.

(Also read: How community works)

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #46

46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eve: and to be especially careful of it, with respect to any of our family.

It really brings out the true character of man when he is with his own family. It is tough to treat those close to you well always. Am I even bold enough to make this kind of resolutions?

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: #45

45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan.12 and 13.1723.

'what helps religion' probably translates to our modern day speech as, 'what helps my spiritual growth'. This seems a bit too strict or restrictive for my liking, unless I misunderstood it.

(Source: A Puritan's Mind)

[Didn't get to finish what I started last year. So continuing. But, these resolutions start to be more difficult to understand it seems.]

Do I, today, desire God?

Do I, today, desire God?
If so, do I desire Him more than I did yesterday?
Do I long for the risen Lord, my Redeemer, my sovereign King today more than ever?

O, stir my heart, Lord, and align my will.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Last year's resolutions

Last year around this time, I posted a new year's resolutions for 2009.
A few days ago, when there were only a couple of days left of the year, I tried to remember what my resolutions were, and I could only remember one of them. It was to pray every day intentionally even if it meant a 5-minute short one just before I went to bed.
At least I remembered one. But then, I thought I had 5 resolutions, while I in fact had 6. And to my shame, I could not remember the most important two resolutions, #1 and #2 of them.

Now I look back on last year's, I failed on all of them except getting a driver's license. Although it was never intended that I would fulfil them to gain favour from God or prove myself before Him, the fact that I could not keep my own words once again reminds me to look to Jesus whose grace is sufficient to cover all my short-comings. Which takes me back to the #1 resolution of last year, "Believe always that Christ's atoning sacrifice covers ALL my sins FOREVER." May the glory and praise to Him forever more!

What of this year's resolutions?

I think #1 and #2 from last year's stand this year just the same.
1) Believe always that Christ's atoning sacrifice covers ALL my sins FOREVER.
2) Believe always that I am and will be given sufficient grace to make godly choices and live sacrificially.

Other than that, I will refrain from mentioning more here, lest I become a greater liar by the end of the year.

Oh, and happy new year, and may God's grace be to you this new year more and more.