Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Guilt, Sin, Responsibilty, and Humanness

    A full acknowledgement of human responsibility and therefore guilt, far from diminishing the dignity of human beings, actually enhances it. It presupposes that men and women, unlike the animals, are morally responsible beings, who know what we are, could be and should be, and do not make excuses for their poor performance. ... decision-making belongs to the essence of our humanness. Sin is not only the attempt to be God; it is also the refusal to be man, by shuffling off responsibility for our actions. ... The commonest defence of the Nazi war criminals was that they were merely following orders. But the court held them responsible all the same.
    The Bible takes sin seriously because it takes man (male and female) seriously. ... Christians do not deny the fact - in some circumstance - of diminished responsibility, but we affirm that diminished responsibility always entails diminished humanity. To say that somebody 'is not responsible for his actions' is to demean him or her as a human being. It is part of the glory of being human that we are held responsible for our actions. Then, when we also acknowledge our sin and guilt, we receive God's forgiveness, enter into the joy of his salvation, and so become yet more completely human and healthy. -- pp. 119-120, from The Cross of Christ by John Stott (italics original, bold mine)

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Love your enemies

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:19-20

Stephen stoned to death (image source: 
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice,“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:59-60

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:44

For years, whenever I was tempted to take revenge against someone for an unfair treatment, I had to remind myself that God will judge rightly in the end. The fact that God will judge everyone according to their deeds was a source of great comfort for me. (Not that I was ever seriously persecuted for my faith...) Either you are covered by the blood of Jesus, or you will face God’s wrath yourself. So I was able to leave vengeance to God, knowing He will most perfectly judge. But, while this prevented me from perhaps hating or harming someone, I wonder if this is in fact a Christian response in its fullness. Has not Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors? Ware not the last dying words of Stephen an intercessory prayer for the mob who were throwing rocks at him?

It seems I have been focusing too narrowly on the part in Romans 12:20 that says, “heap burning coals on his head.” May God grant me grace that I may love my enemies, feed them when they are hungry, give them drinks when they are thirsty, offer up intercessory prayers for them, and forgive those who sin against me.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

My grandmother and her gracious God

Just a couple of days ago, my grandmother passed away. She lived to a ripe old age, but her life was not without significant amount of suffering.

When she was pregnant with my mum and her twin sister, communists took her husband away, and she never saw him again. She became a refugee during the Korean War and travelled, on foot and by train, with her five children, from the North to Busan, the southern-most city of South-Korea’s mainland. She meticulously hid all her money while she travelled to keep it safe from thieves, only to lose it all to a con man.

Busan was over-crowded with refugees and she could not find any accommodation. After taking shelter under a bridge for few nights, with nothing to eat, she pondered whether to simply kill all her children and commit a suicide herself. Eventually, someone told her to go and ask for a shelter at a church. The church was already filled with refugees beyond its capacity, but the gate-keeper took pity on her and her tiny new-born twins, and took them inside.

She made living by buying some clothes from the US military, dyeing them to make them look different, then selling them at a civilian market. It wasn’t entirely legal, but the times were hard for everyone and she got by for a while.

Eventually, and quite extraordinarily, all of her 5 children survived, grew up and received good education. My grandmother herself was never taught how to read and write, but she learned to do so, partly because she had to for business, but also because she wanted to read her bible. Her hand-writing always looked like that of a second grade kid, but she read her bible with ease and clarity.

Her children all got married, and in time, she was blessed with 8 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. She was never able to visit her homeland, somewhere in the mid-western part of North-Korea.

She was reasonably healthy for her age, especially when you consider the kind of abuse her body had to endure when she was younger. However, in recent years, with the onset of dementia, she deteriorated rapidly in terms of health as well as mental capacity. The near-loss of her moral judgment was particularly saddening, but her bible, and I believe, her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ was never too far from her.

On the 16th of July, 2014, my grandmother was finally released from her suffering. By the grace of God, my grandmother was saved from her sins and this decaying world, and she will resurrect one day in new heaven and earth, with the new glorious body, forever to praise God’s mercy. By the grace and wisdom of God, I came to exist through her family, and was taught the glorious gospel from my youth, and look forward to standing along side my grandmother and joining in everlasting songs of praise to our gracious God who is mighty to save.

"[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4 ESV)

In 2012, with her then youngest great-grandchild, John.

Monday, 19 May 2014

O, the triviality! Flee from the triviality!

Of course, we do not use the word cool to describe true greatness. It is a small word. That’s the point. It’s cheap. And it’s what millions of young people live for. Who confronts them with urgency and tears? Who pleads with them not to waste their lives? Who takes them by the collar, so to speak, and loves them enough to show them a life so radical and so real and so costly and Christ-saturated that they feel the emptiness and triviality of their CD collection and their pointless conversations about passing celebrities? Who will waken what lies latent in their souls, untapped—a longing not to waste their lives? 
Oh, that young and old would turn off the television, take a long walk, and dream about feats of courage for a cause ten thousand times more important than American democracy—as precious as that is. If we would dream and if we would pray, would not God answer? Would he withhold from us a life of joyful love and mercy and sacrifice that magnifies Christ and makes people glad in God? I plead with you, as I pray for myself, set your face like flint to join Jesus on the Calvary road. “Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:13-14). When they see our sacrificial love—radiant with joy—will they not say, “Christ is great”? 
 -pp. 128-129 from Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper

Oh, you precious soul! Flee from the triviality of this age, and live to display what is truly significant, the glory of God through Jesus Christ!

Wasting life by simply avoiding badness and providing for the family

Oh, how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family. So there is no adultery, no stealing, no killing, no embezzlement, no fraud—just lots of hard work during the day, and lots of TV and PG-13 videos in the evening (during quality family time), and lots of fun stuff on the weekend—woven around church (mostly). This is life for millions of people. Wasted life. We were created for more, far more.
 - p.119-120, Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper

Saturday, 17 May 2014

To be happy and to be holy, now and hereafter

Now it is here demonstrated by eternal truth itself, that it is our interest to be religious; and therefore religion deserves to be called wisdom, because it teaches us to do well for ourselves: and it is certain, that the way to be happy, that is perfectly holy, hereafter, is to be holy, that is, truly happy, now. It is laid down for a principle here, 'Happy is the man that findeth wisdom' (Prov. 3:13) that finds the principles and habits of it planted in his own soul by divine grace;
 -- p. 23, The Pleasantness of a Religious Life by Matthew Henry (or original page 5-6)

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Taking risks for the sake of God's Name.

And now what about you? Are you caught in the enchantment of security, paralyzed from taking any risks for the cause of God? Or have you been freed by the power of the Holy Spirit from the mirage of Egyptian safety and comfort? Do you men ever say with Joab, “For the sake of the name, I’ll try it! And may the Lord do what seems good to him”? Do you women ever say with Esther, “For the sake of Christ, I’ll try it! And if I perish, I perish”? 
There is more than one danger in calling Christians to take risks. I mentioned one of them in Chapter 4, namely, that we might become so fixated on self-denial that we are unable to enjoy the proper pleasures of this life that God has given for our good. Another danger, which is worse, is that we might be drawn to a life of risk for self-exalting reasons. We might feel the adrenaline of heroism rising. We might scorn the lazy and cowardly and feel superior. We might think of risk as a kind of righteousness that makes us acceptable to God. What would be missing from all these mistakes is childlike faith in the sovereign rule of God in the world and in his triumphant love. 
I have been assuming that the power and the motive behind taking risks for the cause of God is not heroism, or the lust for adventure, or the courage of self-reliance, or the need to earn God’s good will, but rather faith in the all-providing, all-ruling, all-satisfying Son of God, Jesus Christ. The strength to risk losing face for the sake of Christ is the faith that God’s love will lift up your face in the end and vindicate your cause. The strength to risk losing money for the cause of the Gospel is the faith that we have a treasure in the heavens that cannot fail. The strength to risk losing life in this world is faith in the promise that he who loses his life in this world will save it for the age to come.

  - pp.89-90 from Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper (emphasis mine)

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A body that has been undone on behalf of another

(Cover image source: Booko)
Here's another wonderful quote from the book, Loving the Little Years.

My very kind and wise husband once left a note for me on Easter morning, two weeks after Daphne was born. He wrote, “To my wife, before she even goes near the closet on Easter morning,” or something romantic like that. In it, he encouraged me to realise that there was no more fitting way to celebrate Easter (or any part of the Christian life) than in a body that has been undone on behalf of another.
-       p. 60, Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic

It seems I should learn not only from Mrs. Jankovic, but also from Mr. Jankovic.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Fat souls are better than clean floors.

(Image source: Booko)
I can clearly remember one night when I was big pregnant with Blaire and realized too late that we were out of tortillas. I figured I would just make some quickly. When I started this project I was alone in the kitchen. About a minute and a half into it I had been discovered. Four chairs into the kitchen, four children anxiously awaiting a chance to help. I remember Titus actually bumping into the back of my legs with his chair and very politely saying, "Excuse me, Mama! 'Scuse me!" Then came the real action: Titus wildly dusting flour on the tortilla I was rolling, someone cracking into the drawer and passing out rolling pins. Everyone rolling, and dusting, and rolling, and wadding the dough back up and having a grand old time too. I looked out of the haze of flour and elbows feeling very ready to blow the whistle, and I saw my husband smiling at me and laughing. He nodded at me and said, "It's okay." I knew what he meant. Fat souls are better than clean floors. They were so delighted to be in the thick of it -- dinner was late, I could have slept standing up, and we were doing exactly the right thing -- throwing flour around the kitchen. And it was okay. I don't even remember cleaning it up (quite likely because I was asleep on the couch while Luke did it all!). Most of the time the children do not know that what they are doing is overwhelming.
  - p. 52-53, Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic (italics original)

There are times when we do need to pull our kids and tell them what are acceptable or suitable behaviours and what are not. But I am far more often tempted to be driven by my preferred lifestyle to shape their behaviours, forgetting that I must nurture their souls and connect with their hearts first. Fat souls are better than clean floors.

I am still reading this book through, but I highly recommend it to any parents, especially those who have or want to have more than 2 children. Try Booko to find the book.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Most Misused Verses in the Bible

Image Source: Booko
There are some common misunderstandings and misapplications of certain passages of the bible. Some are more harmful than others, but all deserve to be corrected. This book, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, is helpful in checking your own understandings of certain bible passages, and to also learn how to better your interpretative methods. You may not agree with every interpretation of the author in this book, but you will appreciate his methods. If anything, this book will cause you to give more care and attention whenever you read the bible.

One caution from me, however.
This book is correcting common mistakes, and is full of great information. With it, you can be tempted to just use the newly acquired knowledge to pick out every mistake someone else is committing. You will want to and need to correct them in some way, but you must use wisdom and approach them with grace and humility, sometimes choosing another time to address such mistakes, so that they may not be discouraged and that you aren't simply showing off. Watch out for your own pride, and this book will prove to be greatly useful.

For another short review of this book, see this blog post by Trevin Wax over at the gospel coalition.

(Check Booko for places to buy this book.)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

I am an awful teacher.

This year, for the first time in my life, I started teaching in a Special Religious Education class, commonly known as the Scripture class. It was a daunting thing to take on, but at the same time, I was eager to do it as part of my ministry training (by the way, I have begun my MTS Apprenticeship this year and the Scripture class is part of the job/training I am doing this year).

It’s something I had never done before. I didn’t even attend a Primary School in Australia. So, it’s understandable that I was so busy focusing on getting the teaching content ready and getting through it during the class. But, it dawned on me yesterday as I was preparing for the class that I hadn’t been as faithful as I should have been with the Scripture teaching. I felt that I had been doing the bare minimum to get by in the class. I was getting the teaching content ready so I won’t embarrass myself by running out of things to say, for example. I also felt that I had been lacking in prayer for my students.

After the class, on the way to my car, I met another Scripture teacher from my church. My class went reasonably well, I was thinking, despite the kids getting quite loud and distracted – we did manage to get through the material the way I hoped to do. But as I was talking to the teacher, I had to confess to her that I had realised that I hadn’t been as faithful in praying and preparing for my classes. And then she reminded me that it’s important to prepare thoroughly, but it’s perhaps more important to be there for those kids and through the relationships they will learn much about God and how wonderful He really is.

With that, I felt even more rebuked and convicted that I had been an awful teacher. I had been just so busy “doing” things in the class, I hardly paid attention to any of the students! Not only that, even I could see that some kids were becoming more disengaged because of the way I had related to them. I could give various excuses for this, being a first time teacher, in a system that I am not familiar with, with 20-odd number of kids who are very talkative, etc, etc, it’s hard to relate with them in the class in a generous, kind, patient, gracious, and helpful way. Nevertheless, these excuses do not make me a good teacher. I still have to confess that I had been an awful teacher.

I am thankful that God had brought this fact to my attention. I am glad to see it. But I am praying that God would so grow and equip me that I would be a better teacher for these young students. I am also praying that these kids under my care, albeit for only meagre half an hour once a week, would grow in their true knowledge of God and love Him who love us first for whole of their lives. Will you pray for me and for my students? 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people —greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”    Luke 18:9-14 (HCSB)

I knew this parable. I knew for a long time. I heard and read this passage many times. But until today, my understanding of this parable was quite off the mark. All this time, I thought the meaning of this parable was about condemning religious hypocrisy. But today, I was privileged to listen to two different sermons by two different men from my church on this same passage. And both corrected my faulty understanding and hammered in the gospel of grace into me through this passage. You see, Jesus was telling this parable to those who trusted in their own good works (v.9). Those who tried to earn a good standing with God by their own efforts. Those who were confident that they were righteous before God because they were doing so many good things. By this parable, Jesus was turning their world upside down. He was saying, and He is saying to all of us even today, that we can never be right with God by our own efforts, yet, at the same time, that God is happy to declare us righteous when we recognise our sins and appeal to Him for mercy.

How does or can God forgive a sinner when even a morally upright person like the Pharisee isn’t good enough for Him? You may or may not be clear on how this works, but if you are wondering, you should keep on listening to this man, Jesus who told the parable.

Why don’t you come join us in journeying with Jesus? (Today's talks on the passage above will be available in a couple of days, morning and evening talks.)

Edit: The talks are now available, both the morning talk and the evening talk.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Reading Plan 2014

Last year I had 24 books in my reading plan. I had to abandon a book after reading first few chapters, and there were many others that I didn't even get to start on. There were other books that I read outside my initially planned 24 books. In the end, I read about 14 books, just slightly above 50% of my initial plan. You'd think I would now adjust my reading plan and reduce the number of books, seeing what I could realistically achieve. Nay, this year's reading plan has more books than last year. Perhaps I will still only read 50% of them, but that would mean I will have read more books than last year. Also, I hope that I will give more focused energy into reading books that I will in fact read more than 50%.

I recognise that the number of books I read isn't so important, and it can be even worse if the number serves to boost my ego. My hope in reading more books and posting what books I plan to read is so that:

  1. To be encouraged myself to pursue a life of serving Jesus
  2. To increase my knowledge of God and His Word
  3. To better understand the culture with the view that I may evangelise to people more effectively
  4. To train myself in reading more efficiently
No doubt my list will go through changes as it did last year, but here is my current list. Also, from this year, I've included the bible as part of the reading list, even though reading the bible was assumed in previous years, I thought it would be helpful to make it explicit.


Bible (HCSB)
John Calvin's "Instructions in Christianity" by Joseph Pitt Wiles
In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson
God of Promise by Michael Horton
Cross of Christ by John Stott
God Has Spoken by J. I. Packer
Revelation of God by Peter Jensen
The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson
A Clear and Present Word by Mark Thompson
Gospel-centred Hermeneutics by Graeme Goldsworthy
Consolations of Theology ed. by Brian Rosner


The Reformation by Owen Chadwick
The Pastor by Eugene Peterson

Other Christian

Leading Better Bible Studies by Karen Morris and Rod Morris
Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson
The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall
Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Fatherhood by Tony Payne
An Alarme to Unconverted Sinners (A Korean Translation) by Joseph Alleine
Sermons of Jonathan Edwards
How Long O Lord by D. A. Carson
When I Don't Desire God by John Piper
Confessions by Augustine


Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Bring up the bodies by Hilary Mantel
Why You Are Australian by Nikki Gemmell
Atheism Remix by Al Mohler
Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius


Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought by Vern Poythress