Saturday, June 27, 2015

Incredibly Happy

This post is more personal than theological. I just want to savor this day for some reason. I feel incredibly happy. For the past few months, I feel like I was trying to grasp both the future and the past, trying to pull them together in the present.

Maybe you've been there too. There's something in the past that you want to restore, and there's something in the future that you look forward to. 

Since going home, I was trying to evaluate the joy I feel. Had a happy discussion with my "teammates" at work. Happily had an early out from work. Had a happy and incredible time with some former co-leaders and my pastor last night till this morning. 

But I think that's not the reason why I'm feeling happy. I mean, sure, I love programming. And, yes, I really miss PCD-UMYFP leaders! But there's more...

I think it's because... I woke up early and didn't see a laptop before me, or a desktop near me. I see pews around me and I see a cross before me. I didn't have to rush prepping for the hassle of mrt, or think of choosing a better javascript framework. I was just there sitting... praying... happily. 

I guess what David said several years ago is still true to this day:
"For a day in your courts is better
    than a thousand elsewhere."
(Psalm 84:10a)

After a very long time, by God's grace, I have once again experienced this bliss of just waking up and walking in a silent place, looking up the sky, thinking of the Maker and smiling. Surely, nothing in this world compares to having communion with God. Absolutely nothing.

I'll end this short post with two songs that gave me LSS this week (and the lines I love most):

This Day (by Audio Adrenaline) 
It's six A.M
I'm so tired
The alarm sounds
And the new day begins
Before I go
And disturb this peaceful moment
I look to You 
I want to say a prayer
Before my feet can hit the ground
Lord I give this day to You


The Space Between Us (by Shawn McDonald) 
I'm still up, and it’s 3 in the morning
I try to sleep but my mind keeps going
Am I awake cause You're trying to speak to me
Lying here with my ears wide open
Can You fix what I know I have broken
There's a hole in my heart where I need You to be
But I'm right here, and You're right there
Will You take this wall I built and tear it down 
Do what You always do
Making the ocean blue [ = ocean and sky appear connected because of the color ]
Taking away the space between us
Filling it up with More of You

Saturday, June 20, 2015

When You Feel Like Growing Weary


"Is Christianity hard or easy?"
I think a simple answer like "It's easy" or "It's hard" wouldn't be enough.

If we say it's easy, we might sound like antinomians, quietists and/or easy-believists, who forget the Christian side of hard obedience, costly discipleship, discipline and sufferings. On the other hand, if we say it's hard, we might be suspected as legalists and/or masochists, who ignore the Christian's freedom, joy, grace, peace and rest.

The truth is: there is a sense in which Christianity is hard and there is a sense in which it is easy.

Consider these two passages for example: 
And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  (Luke 9:23,24, ESV) 
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry." (Matthew 11:28-30, NET)
The first one obviously shows the difficulty. We gotta give up everything or we'll lose everything. The second one says it's easy. It speaks of rest and easy burden we have with Jesus.

How then do we reconcile the two seemingly contradicting ideas? Let's start it with the hard side.

I guess, aside from the scriptures, the greatest proof would be experience itself. It's not easy to invest your time, energy, money and everything for other people in discipleship. On top of that, we have struggles outside and inside of us. Trials and persecutions on the outside; the flesh on the inside.

Christianity is tough. Sometimes we feel like giving up. Sometimes we grow weary. And when we do, how do we get over it? Answering this question would help us connect the "easy" part.

1) Look at those who have gone before you

When we are overwhelmed by our problems, we tend to think we got the heaviest load. But that's not true. Try looking at the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11: "There were others who were tortured... faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated... wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground." (vv. 35b-38)

Have you ever experienced all of those sufferings? Most of us don't. Hence, the same author stated that in our struggles "against sin, [we] have not yet resisted to the point of shedding [our] blood." (12:4) Before grumbling about your circumstances, try digging the riches of church history and take a look back at those who endured so much pain without complaining.

2) Look at who Christ is and what He has done

Secondly, look at the unmatched sufferings of Jesus. From eternity past, He is the Lord of the universe, completely self-sufficient, that even the most glorious angels find themselves unworthy before Him. But he set aside the full expression of His deity and assumed humanity - such an incredible humility all for the sake of proud sinners like us! Not only did Christ become one of us, he lived as the lowest among us. We should be reminded over and over again that when He came down to announce His kingdom, it was in the form of servant - born in a lousy place, had an unwealthy family, walked under the heat of the sun, helped the helpless poor, healed the sick and demon-possessed, called and ate with sinners, rejected several times by people to the point of being threatened to death, and suffered under the hands of Roman soldiers whose expertise is to pour out the greatest excruciating pain that human body could feel. But greater than all of that is the fact that Christ, while hanging upon the cross for three hours, bore the wrath of God for our sins, which takes us eternity in hell to suffer  (1 Pet. 2:24; Rom. 5:6-11; Jn. 3:36).

Has any Christian or any human ever undergone that? None! And no one else will, because no one else can.

3) Look at the powerful grace available to you and at work in you

Thirdly, it's not as if God has left us to bear the difficulties of Christian life on our own. It's not as if grace was given to us when we were forgiven, so must repay him for the grace he has given in the past. That's not it! That would make Christian life legalistic. Grace has brought you from the beginning and grace will make you persevere to the end:

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." (Jn. 1:16)

"he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6)

"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Phil. 2:12-13)

"...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:12)

The Christian life is not about how much we give to Christ but how much God has given us in Christ. All that you've done so far as a Christian - your thoughts, emotions and actions for God  - do not make us more accepted than when we first repented. Your justification (when God declared us righteous in the sight of God) in Christ is not being improved by your sanctification (where God actually and progressively makes us righteous) in Christ. Both of them are of God's grace that He lavished on us through the cross. They are undeserved.

Sure, God would certainly reward our obedience (2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5), but if we'll consider the authority of Christ in our lives as well as the grace that accompanies it, all we can say in the end is:
"We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done." (Lk. 17:10)

4) Look at the overwhelming glory that's ahead of us

Finally, try comparing our present, temporary suffering with the eternal, future glory.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Rom. 8:18)

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Cor. 4:17)

Most of the time, trials and sufferings make us myopic. We only see the greatness of the pain that we currently feel, we only see the conflicts that we presently undergo. And they look too big to handle, making us grow weary. We feel like we want to quit.

During times like this, the Scriptures command us to raise our heads and look up to what awaits us. Christ Himself has been the example: "Jesus... who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross". Christ looked forward to the glorification after His sufferings. We too should.

If only we could grasp what Paul means when he said "it's not worth comparing" and "far outweighs", we can joyfully endure every trial that we'll face here. It's just like skipping one meal for an eat-all-you-can, forever free feast later. It's like trading your most precious gadget to own the manufacturer of it. It's just like... ah... any comparison falls short actually! The point is that we wouldn't mind what we lose here, if we remember the greatness of heaven, where there is no more pain, no more sin in us, and where we have an eternal fellowship with God. We gotta get this perspective always.

Conclusion:

Perhaps, you've experienced a lot, and I would be a liar if I'll say that I understand every pain you're undergoing. But God in Christ does (Heb. 4:15). And yet He was the one who called the burdens we have as "light". If we will be mindful of these four truths, the weight we feel will be lifted, the seemingly big trials will be just minute and trivial, and Christianity would be light and restful and enjoyable. Do you feel like growing weary? Pause for a while and consider those truths.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Does Repentance Mean We Won't Do it Again?



What's the limit of your patience? If I'd be asked, I'll say it's when a person keeps on repeating his offense. I often lose my cool when a person seems to be too "stupid" and too "stubborn"to do the same mistake over and over again. And inside of me, I justify my impatience with thoughts like "who wouldn't get annoyed by that?"

Perhaps, you've done that too. You clearly tell a person his mistake, he promises not to do it again, and then he did it 5 times more!  Isn't that annoying? So, eventually, we get fed up with such people, who seem to be "unrepentant" of their sins since they keep on repeating them.

Sometimes, we apply the same with God's patience towards us. Have you uttered prayers like, "Lord, I'm sorry, I did it again" with a sigh? I did. Many times. Countless times. It's discouraging, isn't it?

And as we think about the N-th time we've done that particular sin, we get the feeling that God is probably already fed up with our prayers. Besides, we're going to do it again. It feels like there's no point in confessing and repenting because next week or next month I might do it again. And since we've done it again, it doesn't seem like we're repenting at all.

Maybe you have heard this a lot: a sign of true repentance is that you won't do it again. Maybe you've heard if from me before. But that statement is actually untrue, because the struggle of a Christian with sin is a lifetime:
"For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." (Romans 7:19, NIV)
Would we say that Paul in his struggle wasn't repenting at all? He keeps on doing the sin he hates. There's a repetition there. [1]

It appears that we have gotten this kind of victorious Christian living that we will always overcome sin. Besides, we have verses like this:
"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God." (1 John 3:10, NIV) [2]

The seeming contradiction has been a struggle to me both theologically and practically. I used to always emphasize that a Christian doesn't continue in his sins but the more I age in the faith, the more I find myself sinful and sinning. So I did re-evaluate what I believe.

Does a Christian keep on sinning or does he not? I found that the answer is both, but in different senses.

In one sense, a Christian would not continue in sinning to the point that he has no struggle with sin and has no progress in holiness at all and that living in sin has become his apparent lifestyle. When we say "lifestyle", it's the kind of conscious, repetitive sinning that doesn't fluctuate for a long period of time. I put some qualifying words there. "Conscious" means that we know that it's a sin and "doesn't fluctuate" means that there isn't really a struggle. "For a long period of time" means that he isn't turning his back from the sin. That's not how a Christin lives. That's an unbeliever's life.

At the same time, a Christian will keep on sinning (though he shouldn't) in the sense that he will often discover a deeper darkness inside of him and keep on repenting from such darkness.

In this life, sin will always indwell us, though not reign in us. It will keep on battling with us, and sometimes (many times!) it will win. Kris Lundgaard used to say that indwelling sin is like a big, haunted house. One terrifying door leads to another.

(For more information about this indwelling sin, see my post here)

So, back to our repentance issue, it appears that repentance doesn't mean we're not going to do it again. We don't want to do it again and we can avoid it for some time. But at some point in time, we will do some sins that we thought we have already overcome few days or months or years ago.

Yesterday, I was listening to a theological podcast [3] about sanctification. One of them named JJ Seid[4] quoted Martin Luther who said that,
"Repentance isn't what you do when you fail to grow. Repentance is the way you grow."
That's one striking statement. We don't grow in our spiritual lives apart from repentance -- it's how we grow! And the more we grow in Christ, the more we see the malignancy of our sins. And the more we see it, the more we become repentant. Repentance is not just a thing in the past. Just like faith, repentance is continuous. It's how we grow.

I love the way JJ Seid illustrated Christian life and progressive sanctification. He said to picture a man going upstairs with a yoyo.

Christians are the yoyo. There will be highs and lows in our spiritual lives. We will fluctuate from victory to sin and sin to victory. Our duty is to always return to the hand (of God) through repentance. But note that the man is going upstairs. Our direction is towards holiness. That means even though we fluctuate day by day. we have the assurance that God will finish the work he started in us (Phil. 1:6). Though not in this life, He will completely vanquish indwelling sin one day.

So if you're just like me, if you have struggled with the thought that you have overdone repentance and you feel like God is fed up with you already, there's one thing we need to do -- REPENT! We must repent from unbelief, for thinking that God isn't a forgiving God (1 John 1:8-9), and that repetitive repentance is a sign of being unChristian or being unspiritual. Don't get tired of fighting sin. But when you fall, don't get tired of looking at your sins and confessing them to God and repenting over and over again. Remember Luther's words: Repentance is the way we grow.

---------------------------------------------------------------
[1] See also Job 40:3-4; Psalm 51:3; 1 John 1:8
[2] See also 1 John 1:6; Heb 2:14; 12:14; Ezek 36:26-27  
[3] Theology Unplugged includes Sam Storms, Michael Patton and Tim Kimberley
[4] JJ Seid is a pastor of Community and Discipleship at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City

Friday, June 5, 2015

Leap To A Manger (A Parody of Lips of an Angel by Hinder)

CHRIST WAS BORN TODAY!

No, not really. I was. Not physically but spiritually. Not specifically today but it was around this time of year that I got converted (Praise be to God). And I owe my spiritual birth to the work of Christ. If Christ wasn't born in a manger, I wouldn't be born in his kingdom.

I think that's theologically true but, honestly, it just happened that I finished this parody today. So... Merry Christmas! LOL.



Leap To A Manger

A parody of "Lips of an Angel" by Hinder

Can we love a worm that we'll incarnate?
It's kinda how he reached us out
Have we heard God lying in a mere bed of hay?
Christ condescended though the gap is too wide
Well, the heaven's grandest rooms
Are still unfit for His booth
Who'd guess He'll even greatly move down?

Chorus 1:
He really took no hero's choice
Dwelling with men
And cows and sheep
Coming down as babe on a manger
There is no word to state this leap
This child got the whole world in His hands
The God who made us now is a creature
Quantum leap to a manger

He probably was crying that night
And, yes, he peed and pooped too
His mama knows the Boy she carries
Is God of Might
Truth is that He carries her through

Well, the heavens can't fathom
How God our flesh has assumed
Who'd guess He'll even greatly move down?

Chorus 2:
He really took the shameful course
Dwelling with men
In humble feat
Coming down as babe in a manger
There is no earthling this unique
Think how did God unmixedly unite
Our finite nature and divine nature
In him who sleeps in a manger

Chorus 3:
It's really good news He was born
Left his domain
Grace sounds so sweet
Coming down as babe in a manger 
There's a great gulf that He just leaped
This child who was born that He may die
The God who reigns above, for His people,
Had to leap to a manger

Can we love a worm that we'll incarnate?