Deja Vu, Self-Loathing, Resolve

dDéjà vu came over me when I saw this public post on Facebook by a UBF chapter director: “In 2013, I received a lot of grace from God in serving 1:1 and Sunday worship service (SWS). But I did not pray much. I did not get up early in the morning. I did not take care of my wife and two sons well. I did not pray for our church members deeply. I just enjoyed Bible study and my work. Through my son not getting an interview for medical school, my children’s struggles and church’s stagnancy were big blows to me and I realized that I was lazy and complacent. God is right. He is good. He loves his chosen people and disciplines them. I chose Dt 6:5 because my problem is that I didn’t love God wholeheartedly. As I prayed, I set a number “1-15-20-25” for our church. All our church members may read the whole Bible, serve 15 students weekly, pray for at least 20 minutes daily and 25 attendees for SWS. Personally I set my heart on praying to God every morning, 10 1:1, serving church members and loving my family.”

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How I Met God (My Mystical Conversion)

sIf God loves man, why does he command him not to eat the forbidden fruit? This is the story of my mystical conversion. In 1980 I left my homeland Malaysia and went to Chicago to do my residency in Internal Medicine. I met Dr. John Lee, a UBF missionary, at Cook County Hospital and he invited me to study Genesis. One night before going to bed, I was preparing Genesis Lesson 2, God Planted A Garden (Gen 2:4-25). One question asked, “If God loves man, why did he forbid him to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?”

What kind of a God is this?” This question made me very angry. I thought to myself, “God is setting the man up to fail! He put this tree right in the middle of the garden where he will always see it, and says, ‘You must not eat it!’ (Gen 2:9, 17) It’s like putting a stunningly attractive woman in the room with you and saying, ‘Don’t even look at her.’” [I was a non-Christian, single and very lonely at the time!] I was confused and confounded for half an hour by my table in my poorly lit doctor’s dormitory room.

God is God. Continue reading →

10 Traits of Creative People

CreativePeoplePaulThomasEvansFBWhen I saw this list on Facebook, I was surprised that it described me, though I never thought of myself as creative. Then I chucked to myself, thinking that people will really be quite annoyed by anyone with these traits. See if you have them. Surprisingly (or not), Jesus might actually be the most creative person of all.

1. Easily bored. I’ve said often that a great sin of Christians or the church is being boring (and predictable), because Jesus was never boring! When told that they are committing the sin of killing people with boredom, they say that the complainers are unspiritual and sinful. But in the gospels, it is the unspiritual and sinful that are attracted to Jesus! The ones who disliked Jesus were the boring people among the religious leaders.

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Christians Behaving Badly Toward Their Own Family

badbehaviorRecently, I spoke to a childhood friend who expressed to me just how hurt and disheartened he, his parents and his siblings were after his brother married and converted to Christianity. They are a loving Asian family and not religious. As adults they were very close and would visit each others’ families often. But soon after his brother and his family became Christians, he became increasingly estranged, disconnected and less intimate with his own siblings and parents. Without going into details, he treated his own family quite poorly for the last two decades and counting.

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The Happiest Compliment I Ever Received

Rock,ruleI love my four kids. I love each of them. My sense of pride as their dad knows no limit. They are indeed God’s best gifts to me; they tangibly reveal the greatness of God’s love for me. But I freak out at PDAs! So I feel justified that I do not say “I love you,” because I’m an Asian dad!

The happiest and greatest compliment I ever received! After my oldest son, Sam, read my blog, How did you raise your kids as a pastor (The ABCs of godly parenting), he made this comment on Facebook:

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How Did You Raise Your Kids as a Pastor (The ABCs of Godly Parenting)

godlyparentingYesterday, a friend made a comment to me about Katy Perry and Jessica Simpson being PKs (pastor’s kids), who apparently no longer profess to be Christians. Then she asked me, “How did you raise your four kids as a pastor?” This post is my partial response and spontaneous reflection based on my experiences as a dad for 30 years.

A is for authenticity. I believe that Christy (my wife) and I lived authentically as Christians to the best of our (limited and imperfect) ability (1 Cor 15:10). I was who I am in Christ whether I was in church or at home. My sense of my subjective self was no different in church or at home. As best as I can tell I was not “more holy” at church and “more relaxed” at home. Continue reading →

Consider Both Sides When You Express Yourself

bothsidesI asked a friend why some UBFers are upset with this post that I wrote: Sin is having an identity other than in God. He explained it to me so well in an email:

“It was a good article, Dr. Ben. I think with any critical self reflection, we can inadvertently dismiss the heart of an entire community’s efforts, which is ironically the antithesis of your article. It’s not necessarily your duty to always cover all grounds, but I can see why people would feel dismissed by what you wrote since you didn’t counter it with any mention of people’s good underlying, heart’s intention. It is probably true that not all people have the right heart’s motive, but some, even many do. Though they may have been misled to think that using social pressures is okay, I find many people just want to be used by God for the salvation of souls and the development of Jesus’ disciples.”

Very useful points for me to note are:

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UBF’s Expectations or God’s?

ExpectationAdmin Note: This is a comment to Sin Is Having An Identity Other Than In God:

“For 27 years my (Ben Toh’s) identity was in my faithfulness to never miss a UBF Sun worship service, never miss any meetings, never miss writing a testimony every week, never missing any UBF conferences, having 10 1:1 Bible studies a week, etc. I did well as a UBF man. Yet, though I love Jesus, my identity was not in Christ but in what others in UBF expected of me.”

This is what is so blinding here. I think people can attest to these things that you listed. These are some of the expectations for a faithful member of UBF. As long you do these things, you’re growing. Well that’s what it seems to be. Continue reading →

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

ash[from The Book of Common Prayer]

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became for them the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth by the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

[Silence is kept for a time, all kneeling.]

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Going Silent for Lent

solitudeTomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which for Roman Catholic and Protestant churches marks the beginning of the season of Lent. (The Eastern Orthodox observance of Lent began on Sunday.) Lent is traditionally marked by fasting, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines of self denial for the purpose of drawing near to God. Many evangelicals who have not traditionally observed Lent have, in recent years, been rediscovering the ancient practices of this season and incorporating them into their lives.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Lent, and how and why it can be beneficial, take a look at this series of short articles by Mark Roberts.

As part of my observance of Lent this year, I have decided to go silent with respect to UBFriends. From tomorrow until Easter Sunday, I will refrain from reading or posting anything on this website.

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