I Have This Against You

7churchesScary words of Jesus. These are harsh, critical and condemning words of Jesus to the church at Thyatira (Rev 2:20). To the church at Ephesus and Pergamun, Jesus also spoke equally critical words, “I hold this against you” (Rev 2:4), and “I have a few things against you” (Rev 2:14). That’s not all. To the two worst churches among the seven churches that Jesus addresses, he said, “I know…you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead” (Rev 3:2), and “I know…you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth…you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev 3:15-17). Wow! It does not sound like a very Christian thing to say. Surely, no church likes to hear such words. Yet these are the very words of Christ spoken out of his love for the seven churches in first century Asia Minor, which are representative of all churches throughout history. Continue reading →

The Sins of Older Christians

noseInTheAirAs an “older” Christian, it is so easy for me to rant and rave about the sins of “younger” Christians and non-Christians: lust and laziness, impropriety and indifference, irresponsibility and irreverence, immaturity and immodesty, folly and foolishness, spendthrift and stupidity, disobedience, despair, despondency, duplicity, dishonesty and the like. If I keep on picking on their sins relentlessly and persistently, then maybe they will someday repent and change and grow up!

But it seems to me that primarily doing so would quite certainly “ignore” the sins of older Christians. Of course, older Christians sin in similar ways. But with age, I think that it is a lot easier for older Christians to “hide” their sins behind the austerity of being older, wiser, more mature and more spiritual, whatever that means. So how then can I address the sins of older Christians, including and primarily beginning with myself? What might they be? Continue reading →

On Lent and Fasting

Lent is universally observed in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and the so-called high church Protestant traditions. In recent years, many low church Protestants and evangelicals have begun to appreciate the season as well.

mourningI’ve heard people say that Lent is unbiblical because it is not mentioned in the Bible. The Apostle Paul tells us not to let anyone judge us by what we eat or drink or by the religious festivals and holidays that we keep (Col 2:16). Observing Lent is not a matter of right or wrong. However, Lenten practices go back to the earliest days of the Church, and many Christians throughout the ages have found them to be beneficial.

Lent is part of the annual church calendar which does have biblical roots. An annual cycle of religious feasts was established in the Old Testament. Jesus observed those feasts, and the main events of the gospel are embedded in them. Jesus died at feast of Passover; he rose from the dead on the feast of Firstfruits; and he sent his Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost. The church liturgical calendar is partly a Christian adaptation of the Jewish cycle of feasts.

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A Lenten Prayer

Ephrem1Today is Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent, the traditional forty-day period of preparation for Holy Week and Easter, a season for fasting and repentance.

In the near future, I hope to write more about the history of Lent and how Christians can benefit from Lenten practices. For now, I will share a traditional Lenten prayer that was composed in the fourth century A.D. by Saint Ephrem the Syrian.

O Lord and Master of my Life!

Take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to your servant.

Yea, O Lord and King!

Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother; for you are blessed from all ages to all ages. Amen.

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Sexual Temptation

You always notice someone in church, or in class, or at work, but you will never tell anyone. How do we Christians overcome the ever present temptation to lust and to fantasize? Even if we strictly avoid inappropriate sexual contact, how do we overcome the wild imaginations of our minds, and the allurement of sexually explicit pornographic images freely accessible on the internet? Do we just “Say No” to free sex, porno, nudity, strip clubs, etc, as we say No to drugs? Do we say, “Be like Joseph who overcame Potiphar’s wife who demanded sex from him day after day”?

Here is a quote from C. S. Lewis from Mere Christianity in his chapter on Sexual Morality which may be helpful:
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Revival Begins With Oneself

We Christians want a revival in our own ministries, churches, nation and world. But no revival happens corporately before it happens individually. No revival happens in non-Christians unless it first happens in Christians. In Isa 6:1-7 Isaiah saw God who is holy and a revival began in him. No revival ever happens without seeing the (“triple”) holy God (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8). Meeting God transformed him from a “regular” believer to a “revived” believer. There are at least 4 signs of revival in Isaiah (4 ways to assess whether or not there is a revival in ourselves). Continue reading →

Pious Fellowship Permits No Sinners

A Christian’s “wish dream” destroys Christian community. In Community (Chap 1 of Life Together), Bonhoeffer explains that it is a Christian’s “wish dream” that is the cause of breaking a spiritual Christian community or fellowship. Why? It is because a serious Christian “is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it.” But God shatters such a noble Christian’s wish dream and causes great disillusionment in the Christian community. This is very good when it happens because “every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” Frank Viola regards these observations as “one of the most profound and helpful things that Bonhoeffer ever wrote.”
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Elijah Blew It (T4G 2012)

This week, my wife and I attended the T4G (Together for the Gospel) conference in Louisville, KY from Apr 10-12. 7,000+ attended with the majority age group being men in their 20s and 30s. T4G started in 2006 when 4 long-time pastor friends joined together to encourage other pastors to stand together for the same gospel. It was repeated in 2008, 2010 and this year. The 9 excellent plenary sermons are available on video or audio. Rather than review the conference, I am sharing my reflections on the sermon that most touched me. It is by Ligon Duncan based on 1 Kings 19:1-18: God’s Ruthless, Compassionate Grace in the Pursuit of His Own Glory and His Ministers’ Joy (transcribed here). I retitled it “Elijah Blew It.”
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My "Worst" Sin: Losing $1,000,000!

What is my “worst” sin? All sin is serious (Num 32:23). All sin leads to death (Rom 6:23). So “worst” is relative; it does not in any way lessen the severity and seriousness of “lesser” sins or other sins.

I lost $1,000,000! Over 6 months in 2004, I gave 1.1 million USD in cash to a conman, believing he would invest the money, and give me 20+% interest rates yearly for the rest of my life. It is beyond reason and rationality. Also, I was the only victim! I was stupid beyond belief! Give cash…at a gas station…with no paper trail! Seriously?? That’s my “worst” sin.

Why did I do it? Greed? Pride? Self-sufficiency? Yes. But basically, I wanted to retire ASAP! Continue reading →

Joe Paterno’s One Mistake: Should it Define His Life and Legacy?

Should one mistake define your life and legacy?

Greatness and Shame. Joe Paterno (1926-2012) died yesterday. No one can take away his greatness as a head football coach of Penn State for 46 years. No one is likely to ever surpass what he achieved at one university. Yet, 2 months before he died, he was “dishonorably” fired, because of an ongoing sex scandal involving one of his assistant coaches who is presently being investigated for sexually abusing at least 8 boys over 15 years. As a result, Paterno’s name will be forever associated not just with “great coach,” but also with “being fired” and “sex scandal.” As a result, though Paterno died of lung cancer, some say that he died of a broken heart. In Paterno’s own words, he acknowledged that with hindsight he did not do enough.

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