Archive for May, 2009

The new stage is going

It’s been almost two weeks since graduation, and I’m glad to say I have spent my time well. Two of my friends that lived with me last year at my house at school moved back for the summer while my roommate that I shared my room with this past year moved back down to San Diego to his family. They spent an entire day with their girlfriends cleaning the house, getting rid of the clutter, and rearranging furniture to maximize space. It was a fresh start to the summer, and having them around, since they are working part-time from home and know how to focus when it comes time to do work, quickly helped me get into the mindset of maximizing my time. There are so many things I can do with my time, and the Monday after graduation I made a schedule dividing up my day into blocks, leaving time for each important daily task. I decided to do a Bible study with Jake and invited some of my KCM friends to it. We had our first meeting this week, and I am so glad we decided to do it. Accountability was one of my concerns for the post-grad life, and I am so glad that God has given me the drive and the opportunity to continue encouraging, being encouraged, learning, discussing, and praying for my brothers and sisters. I also visited one of the small group Bible studies of Reality LA, a church in Hollywood. It was such a blessing seeing the hearts of my friends, seeing how mature and sincere and thoughtful they are in their prayers, and also the hearts of people I had met for the first time, seeing the unity that comes through trust in God’s Word. I am truly, truly blessed to have had and to have now such good friends and role models.

All it takes is a little initiative.  When your fellow believers are also craving the same accountability, all it takes is a little thought. Even if it is just meeting over food or coffee, or even a phone call, when we share our lives with one another, we are challenged, we are reminded, we are encouraged, we are driven to pray, to rejoice, and to appreciate.

One of the things we discussed during our RBMW study was the fact that some people look toward the future, toward future marriage, believing that personal worth (or maturity or satisfaction or fulfillment or significance) cannot be found until they become married. They waste their single lives away, not realizing that they can do so much for the Kingdom while they are in their present stage of life. They look for God’s calling solely for their future, rather than seeking His calling for their present situation. They think “I am not called to be married” rather than “I am called to be single.” A not calling to something is passive and apathetic…a calling to something is purposeful and intentional.

It was not good for man to be alone at creation. But because of the Fall, because of the Great Commission, sometimes it is good for man to be alone. All single Christian guys should have that mindset, that being single does not just mean “not married.” Being single does not mean being sad and mopey. It means that God has not granted us a ministry of family yet, and because He hasn’t, we are more able to pursue the larger ministry of this world. The “calling” to be single does not mean being single forever, nor is it an important or clear calling only for full-time missionaries, but it is a calling for all of us followers of Christ for our present moment. God has appointed the current chapter of our lives for singleness as a platform for the day by day missions work that we do at school, work, and in our free time. So let us not sit around and do nothing, regardless of what stage we are in.

I feel bad not putting any Bible references in there, but I hope that I am on the right track.

Last Sunday was good. I felt very tired after practicing the service’s praise songs for not very long. I imagined myself singing with other people, with other instruments, with voices full of sincerity. It actually made a difference! I didn’t feel so tired after worship. I felt joyful and eager. I spoke to an audience of one that morning. It was just me and Grace. But I didn’t feel sad or frustrated. God answers prayers.

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New stage of life

I’m not sure where to begin, because the last couple of days have been an emotional rollercoaster for me. Thursday was USC KCM senior banquet. Friday was graduation in the morning, USC KCM senior reception in the evening. At times I would feel so extremely happy and joyful, like standing outside banquet before it started, seeing all the brothers and sisters in my class, dressed nicely and looking so handsome and beautiful. Other times I would feel somber, like waking up Saturday morning after all the ceremonies and celebrations. I sat in the living room of my house at school, already feeling disconnected from everyone, not knowing what they were doing, what their plans were. I prayed that God would help me against all the temptations of post-college life. But it wasn’t all just happy before graduation and sad after graduation. There were times during banquet when I would feel very sad. Those aches of loneliness, those swallowings of my pride, that deep swelling in my heart for the future. There were times during reception when I would feel very peaceful. We were finally done, we made it through, and everyone was congratulating us on our accomplishments. And then I came back home.

I don’t know what it was Saturday night, but I had a really, really hard time focusing on preparations for church. Maybe it was because all the banquet and graduation pictures were being put on Facebook, and those events seemed to have passed so quickly. They seemed so far away already. To be around everyone and now no one. Maybe it was because so few of my friends were on AIM, when normally at night I would see a bunch of them online. I’m jealous for the people who will continue to see some of their USC friends or other college buddies at church, updating one another on their post-college plans, jealous for the people whose church friends came to their graduations. Maybe it was just Satan. Whatever it was, I had a hard time…it didn’t go well.

I fell asleep reading for a few minutes and felt so groggy when I woke up. I just did not feel like doing anything church-related. I didn’t understand why I was so tired; I had gotten 10 hours of sleep the night before. I fell asleep at 10 pm and woke up at 8 the next morning, and the same thing happened after breakfast. Who falls asleep at their computer at 9 in the morning? I felt so horrible. I just wanted to rest, to rest in the Sabbath and receive God’s grace that Sunday. I didn’t practice the praise songs because I didn’t have time. I only did the minimum preparation for Bible study. I didn’t even have a coherent message prepared on Acts 11. Just a few underlined verses and a few thoughts. I was done with school and finals and should have had time to prepare…how did it come to this? My brother is visiting Taiwan for a school trip, so it was just me today. When we started service, it was just me and Grace. By the end of church, I felt encouraged and not totally depressed, but I still have a lot weighing me down. Things I wish I could share, but I have no idea who is reading this.

It’s time for me to take charge, to take responsibility for my time. Whether it’s studying, reading, preparing for church, or meeting friends, I must be deliberate with everything. The only structure I will have is what I make for myself. May I continue to reach out to others for accountability, fellowship, support, and wisdom. To my friends reading this, I need your encouragement. Please be with me as I continue on my journey. Pray for me. And let me know how I can pray for you. Let me know if what I have written has been a blessing to you.

I am so blessed.

Reflections from the KCM senior interview

KCM has senior banquet at the end of every school year. Last year was the first time I went. I’m not sure why I didn’t go sophomore year (two years ago), because I had a great time last year. I really enjoyed the senior interviews, because I didn’t really know any of the seniors very well, so hearing them reminisce about their past four years and make predictions about the future was really cool. And now college is over, and I will find myself on that video screen as they were, answering some of the same questions they did.

As I read the interview questions ahead of time and thought of things I could say, I thought about how awkward the interview could be for someone who wasn’t that close to their class or to KCM. Maybe even a bit of an agony and inconvenience. I remember listening to one senior last year during our semesterly outing to Koreatown Galleria during finals who told me how he felt a little out of place even as a senior, how he wasn’t like the popular people. I don’t remember what I said as consolation. I know it wasn’t enough, though, because he told me the following week at banquet after I greeted him that he didn’t feel very close to his fellow senior class and felt strange sitting at the table with all of them. It showed in his interview. It must have only compounded whatever feelings he had that night to hear the entire hall erupt with laughter or adoration over other people in his class but not for anything he said or shared.

I thank God for such a gracious and welcoming class, for opening their arms to me in love and allowing me to enjoy these past three years with them. Because of them, I have memories to share and jokes to make and secrets to reveal (nothing crazy haha), all because of their love. And I know that their love toward me and one another was rooted in their love for God and God’s love for them.

I don’t want to take for granted this wonderful feeling of feeling included, because I remember those times, in my life and in others, when it wasn’t a given. Sometimes there is great loneliness where you least expect it. May my heart be sensitive to those who may feel it and may I have compassion for them and be able to show kindness to them.

Predestination is not a dirty word

It’s been a while since I visited the doctrine of predestination and thought about just how good this doctrine is. Yesterday at church, we watched Mark Driscoll’s sermon on predestination, with its lengthy introductory overview of the beliefs of important church figures throughout history and the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism. Driscoll had some very, very good points…and I would like to share them those who have never really thought about predestination because they thought it was a dirty word or something that is too complicated to figure out. I want to make his insights (which he probably learned from others) my own that I may be able to explain to other believers the joy and comfort that we can have in knowing the sovereignty of God in election. In Bible study yesterday, we covered Ephesians 1:15-23, where Paul prays that God would enlighten the eyes of the hearts of His people, that they would know the hope to which He has called us. May our love for God grow even more as we reflect on His love in predestination.

God does not choose us after looking down the corridors of time and seeing that we would choose Him. The Bible is clear: if that was the condition for salvation, God would choose none of us, because none of us would choose God. In Adam, all are born sinners, none is righteous, no, not even one. No one does good, no one seeks for God out of their own “free will.” There’s that word that perplexes many people because it seems to contradict predestination. Free will is a funny thing and people must be careful to define it. Because only God truly has free will. Only God can create the heavens and the earth by mere fiat. Only God can literally do whatever he wants. I on the other hand, no matter how hard I try, I can’t make myself run a mile in a minute or make LA traffic disappear. No human has true free will. Our wills are bound to our natures. A fig tree will always produce figs. A sinner will always sin. Consider this: are we sinners because we sin or do we sin because we’re sinners? We sin because we’re sinners! A baby will always cry. A dog will always bark. A sinner will always not choose God.

Out of the heart of the unregenerate sinner comes only sin: pride, greed, lust, malice, anger. John 8:34 says that anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. No slave can simply will himself out of his bondage. No dead man can make himself rise from the dead. Did Lazarus shoot his hand out of the grave and call out to Jesus? No! His lifeless body lay rotting in the tomb, offering nothing but filth, decay, and death to the glorious miracle that Jesus saw through from beginning to end. Likewise, we were dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1). The picture is not that of drowning swimmers frantically reaching out to God but that of drowned bodies on the ocean floor. It is God that lifts our bodies from rock bottom, breathes into us life, and gives us the ability as well as the desire to reach out and accept His helping hand.

Is not believing in predestination a license to sin or an excuse not to evangelize? To use the apostle Paul’s words, by no means! Romans 8:29 says that we were predestined “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” We were predestined to love God, and God, in choosing us, gives us the heart to love Him and seek after Him rather than our fleshly desires. Remember, we were given a new nature! Behold, the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)! God takes out our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26). There’s a line in the hymn “Jesus Paid It All”: “Lord now indeed I find / Thy power and Thine alone / Can change the leper’s spots / And melt the heart of stone.” Why did Paul write more explicitly about predestination than any other author in the Bible? Perhaps it was because he himself experienced the power of predestination, the love of God in His sovereign mercy. Paul knew more than anyone else that only a work of God could have saved him. He would never have chosen God. Only God’s initiative could have rescued him from his depravity. Did this appreciation of God’s sovereignty suppress Paul’s passion for evangelism? You know the answer. Predestination leads to more evangelism, for we know that those whom God has chosen He will save, no matter how far off they seem, no matter how badly your conversation with them went, no matter how poor your witness was and is. God has not only predestined the end but also the means, and He has called us to be the means by which He will save the remaining lost sheep.

In love God predestined us to receive the gospel with faith (Ephesians 1:4-5). In love! Too many people who believe in predestination point way too quickly at Romans 9:20 and say that God can do whatever He wants. God is God and we are not. Yes, that is true, God can do whatever He wants, but the Bible tell us that God is just, and unless the Bible also tells us how God remains just despite saving some and not all, it will be hard to love such a God. Is God unfair in saving some and not all? No, God is unfair in saving any at all. Unfair is Jesus dying our death. Unfair is Jesus’ righteousness imputed to us.

In love God pursues His bride, the church, calling His people to Him. In love God sincerely calls sinners to repentance knowing that many will not submit out of their own will. In love God chose us!

A few last things I wanted to mention. First is something that Driscoll said regarding God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. The Bible says both that Pharaoh hardened his own heart and that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. How did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Did God harden his heart against his will? Driscoll suggests that through love God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. With patience and compassion, God sent Moses repeatedly, warning him with each worsening plague to obey. There’s the old Puritan saying: “The same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay.” The same love that cuts opens the hearts of the elect sears shut the hearts of the unchosen. But no one can blame God for showing love and patience. Those who reject God and go to hell have only themselves to blame. The Justifier has been justified!

And lastly, I want to point to an essay John Piper wrote that grapples with and attempts to reconcile all the seemingly conflicting verses regarding God’s will and concludes that it is biblical to believe that God has two wills, a will of decree and a will of command. God can both sincerely love and have compassion on the lost sinner and yet also choose that he will not be saved. I first became aware of election and predestination (they mean the same thing) during my sophomore year of college through Piper’s book The Pleasures of God. That one chapter, “The Pleasure of God in Election,” was mindblowing to me (the two wills of God essay was also included in the book as an appendix). It changed me forever, and learning about God’s love for me in election caused my love for God to grow immensely. Since then, I have prayed often, in love, “Lord, have mercy on me,” knowing that absolutely nothing I did deserved God’s love.

You were predestined to read this! Be blessed! :)

Idolatry

Tim Keller at the Gospel Coalition 2009 National Conference, speaking on idolatry and how all of our idols will fail and how Jesus is the only answer.

Highly recommended. I’m over a week late in watching it, but for those readers who haven’t heard of the conference, it’s a conference for pastors, but there is much any Christian can learn from these sermons. Tim Keller’s was the first; there are still a bunch for me to listen to. Please comment if you listened to them and found any of the others particularly insightful or moving.

This is the first time I’ve seen Tim Keller on video preaching. The only other time I’ve “seen” him is the apologetics talk he gave at Google, but that was low quality. This time I could see his body language a lot better: his facial expressions, his hand motions, things he does outside of just his speaking voice. And it’s crazy to see how gentle and conversational he is, but how much authority and wisdom he has behind the pulpit. He doesn’t need to raise his voice for the listeners to understand just how much passion he has. I love it…it is an encouragement to me, that even though I am not a particularly gifted speaker, the Holy Spirit can empower my words through the way I say them, through my body language, through what is unspoken.