Found it on the Web 18.09.12

I’ve wondered for a while if I’m allowed to do this. Tim Challies has an A La Carte post he does where he amalgamates interesting things from the web into a post, by providing links and a little blurb. These cover theology and beyond. I wasn’t sure if I should do this because often the things I’d want to post are just things he’s posted already. (Spell “redundant” for me please.) However, I’ve started to read a bit more far and wide, so I think it’s about time to give this a try, if only for the sake of organizing all these extra ideas I’m putting into my head.

On the gospel, expressed in the idea of 3, 2, and 1. Clearly expressed and the most logical I have heard thus far, perhaps because this way of presenting it is novel to me and not full of over-used phrases.
[vimeo http://vimeo.com/48734715]

On our responses to times in our life when we thought we were walking with and following God’s will on the road to blessing, but end up in a mess. How should we perceive these events?
http://www.ccef.org/blog/when-god-pulls-rug-out

On the wrong way to be faithful – the notion of “I must try harder” which is hopelessly oriented towards self-achievement.
http://www.ccef.org/blog/what-christians-really-believe-i-must-try-harder

On the criteria for baptism of children. A well-reasoned discussion that gives good points to extrapolate to understanding what conditions should be met for an adult baptism.
http://www.challies.com/articles/when-should-my-children-be-baptized

On solid advice for youth ministry.
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/08/10/some-advice-for-youth-ministers/

On the right way to “wait” for those who are single. “I Don’t Wait Anymore” also inspired another post.
http://gracefortheroad.com/2012/02/03/idontwait/
http://www.boundlessline.org/2012/09/what-are-you-waiting-for.html

On observing the responses to the anti-Islam video from the Muslim world. Consider the premise of Islam as a religion compared to Christianity: the effects of valuing honour versus valuing humility.
http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-mocking-of-muhammad-and-condemning-of-christ

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On 20 things that are useful to know for those in their 20s.
http://theburiedlife.tumblr.com/post/24011465597/20-things-i-should-have-known-at-20

On the magic of photography and the lapse of time, juxtaposed.
http://dearphotograph.com/

‘Fallen believers’ or ‘never believers’?

This long section quoted from John MacArthur’s book, Slave, brought to mind the uneasy question about why there are believers who ‘walk away’ from following Christ if we are sealed with the Holy Spirit and saved for good once and for all after our profession that Jesus is Lord. Is what MacArthur says here relevant to the question? In a few words, he seems to be saying that people may not be as good as their word (of profession), and that they may talk the talk but not walk the walk. It’s true: if one is soaked in Christian community, it is not too hard to assimilate the lingo yet resist the repentance and lack the regeneration and reform. A section from pages 90-92 is quoted below:

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As slaves to righteousness, believers are “under obligation” (Rom. 8:12; cf. 6:18) to honour God in how they live. Yet, for those who belong to Christ, the motivation to obey is far more profound than mere duty. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” Jesus told His disciples (John 14:15, emphasis added); and again, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word” (v.23). The apostle John echoed Christ’s words in his epistles: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3); and elsewhere, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (2 John 6). Genuine believers are characterized by a deep love for Christ, and that love inevitably manifests itself in obedience. [1] By contrast, those who do not love the Lord, either in what they say or by how they live, evidence the fact that they do not belong to Him. [2]

The only right response to Christ’s lordship is wholehearted submission, loving obedience, and passionate worship. Those who give verbal assent to His deity, yet live in patterns of unrepentant disobedience, betray the hypocrisy of their profession. To them, the terrifying weight of Christ’s question, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) directly applies. As He warned the crowds at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, after describing they dangers of hypocrisy:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:21-23).

Clearly, not all who claim to know the Lord actually do. Those who truly “belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). Rather than walking in the flesh, they now “walk by the Spirit” (v. 25), being characterized by a growing desire to obey the Word of God. As Jesus told the crowds in John 8:31, ‘If you continue in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” [3] After all, “each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44); and genuine conversion is always marked by the fruit of repentance and the fruit of the Spirit. [4] Loving obedience is the defining evidence of salvation, such that the two are inseparably linked; as the author of Hebrews explains: “He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (5:9). [5]

Notes:

1) 1 Cor. 8:3; Eph. 6:24; 1 Peter 1:8; cf. Mark 12:30; John 21:15-17; 1 John 2:3

2) 1 Cor. 16:22; cf. John 8:42; Rom. 8:9

3) Cf. John 6:66-69; Matt 24:13; Col. 1:22-23; 1 Tim. 4:16; Heb. 3:14; 10:38-39; 1 John 2:19

4) Luke 3:8; Gal. 5:22-23

5) Cf. John 3:36; Rom. 1:5; 6:16; 15:18; 16:19, 26; 1 Peter 1:2, 22

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Long Term Investing

Warren Buffet. The big name in investment. One of his principles of investment is that  investors need to take a long term approach.

The longer I have been involved in the church, the more it has become clear to me that it is the same in the kingdom of God. The Lord plans big.

He has plans for our purpose (For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10)

Once He rules in our hearts, He is in it for the long-haul ( I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:6)

He plans for “eternal destruction” and “eternal encouragement.” (2 Thess 1:9, 2:16)

Now let us consider the mental timeframes I function on as one of many a recent graduate from the education system; one of many a young person. Breakfast, (second breakfast,) Lunch, and Dinner. This week, next weekend. First Semester, Second Semester. This summer, next summer. Mission trip 2008, mission trip 2009. “What am I doing next month, next year?”

Sometimes when you have that great conversation with someone about the gospel or get a great moment of teachability it is so poignant and encouraging that you want to frame it and put it in the mantlepiece of completion. Score! But people you thought loved the Lord will walk away, and that adrenaline-charged passion you had to read the Bible in a year may fizzle. Hm, fail. Or is it not so?

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses a surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. -Hebrews 12:1-2

This is not a five year plan, but a life-long marathon. Didn’t finish your reading plan in time? (Yes, this might be me.) Continue in the coming months, and do it with great joy and thanksgiving.

The intricate timeline that has most recently weighed on my mind the gloriousness of God at work is that of a church’s ministries. The nursery, where parents are relieved of their child to listen to God’s Word preached on Sunday morning, and where others are given the opportunity to serve those parents and their child. Sunday School, where kids begin to learn who God is and what He has said to us. Children learn to enjoy the community of the church, and others including youth are given the opportunity to ‘feed’ children. Youth ministry, where young people decide the doctrines they believe, and where they are influenced by their peers and challenged to grow. Adult ministry, where the occasional efforts of youth can become established habits. And where believers are given a chance to gather with fellow believers away from whatever part of the world they are functioning in.

Someone is responsible for organizing that potluck. For arranging the Sunday School schedule. For ordering the pizza for movie night. For registering you at that camp. For preaching the sermon. That one success matters and it doesn’t matter: none of it would be very meaningful or effective if it did not flow continually from everyone involved so that God’s people are living entire lives dedicated to him

The basic measure of our walk with God is not whether we take big steps or loud steps or fast steps but that we endure. That is a good thing to remember in the frustrations and uncertainty of investing our lives and investing in others. This requires a lot of patience, vision, and regulation.

Take one from Warren Buffet: look into long term investing. Choose the Good News and ride out the ups and downs.

Following what

Trying to work out where ‘your’ heart is while centering on God’s ‘heart’ is a delicate process. I’ve learnt from last year that even if things seem utterly confusing, certainty does come, and every so often at inconvenient times. But the only way is to wait and heed, whatever the inconvenience. Because Jesus’ original command is simply, “follow me.”

Past and Future: Tense

Having finally gotten my own copy of Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, I am enjoying his brevity a lot. His language makes him the C.S. Lewis of devotionals. There were two very interesting ideas in the past few days’ reading.

The first is that the God of Israel will go before us. It’s particularly well phrased because it conveys both a sense of past and present: that God already went before us in that He set us apart as His own before we were born (Gal 1:15); and that God is going before us even in our future, for He knows the plans He has for us (Jer 29:11). Knowing that God will go before you is pretty huge. There is no need for regret about the past or anxiety for the future, and hence to be irrationally tense. There is only a need for “constructive thoughtfulness for the future.”

The second is about God’s Word and how it can seem obscured by “clouds and thick darkness” (Ps 97:2) as God himself is, and how this is different for someone before and after committing their life to Christ, or for someone being renewed by the Spirit. It is because these Words are spoken to us “in a particular condition” each time. It is so dynamic because the Word is living (Heb 4:12, 1 Pet 1:23).

Taking Steps

First, I must say that it’s oddly difficult for me to blog this summer. I have not written anything really, and there may not be much else, I don’t know. I think it’s because I still have to write a certain update letter. This task is lodged in between me and the freedom to write other things. I have actually finished writing it, but have not had it read by someone else yet, so it’s not quite sent and done. Also, I wrote a whole lot of stuff while I was away from my computer and want to post it, but the moment of me really ‘feeling’ what I was writing is past. So all that stuff that was once so golden to me processing is now… also lodged. To blog or not to blog? In any case, the final reason is probably that I’m struggling with my self-will. I can tell. Some sort of (temporary?) impasse is in my heart. At such times it is very difficult to write persuasively or with any sort of dedication because you are fluttering between stances (立場). I could try and write about other things, but that would evade the point of this blog, which is to process spiritually and intellectually. If not for what’s happening in the heart as you read and write words, they are empty. Mere squiggles. The most beautiful poetry is but cardboard to me if it does not move me inside. (Ahh I see that I have come to claim my stance on literature alongside the likes of Sir Philip Sidney? Roethke?)

Anyways, the following is something I found back around March when I was thinking about life direction.

From Stepcase Lifehack (http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/how-to-create-self-help-momentum.html)

How to Create Self Help Momentum

a.k.a. practical steps in non-spiritual lingo for the person in relation to following Christ / finding your calling

For some reason this completely unspiritual guide to ‘self-help’ actually provides some key insight to spiritual growth in faith. This is when you’ve reached the place where God has revealed all he really has to reveal and it’s up to us to take a step of faith, trusting and relying on the Holy Spirit. This is not the guide to follow step by step, but parts of it are put so succintly and in such different language from normal Christian reference literature that it serves to jolt thinking a bit. If you’re serious about reading this I’d recommend skimming the original from the link above – just the 5 points – in addition to reading my ‘Christianese’ rendition below.

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Take that first step and keep stepping.

Love = obedience. We don’t understand what it is to love God if we do not put energy into obeying him. Jesus was obedient to death. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.(John 15:9-15) Certain things have prerequisites; I feel that following God is one of those things that you don’t know is ‘a right fit’ until you have walked the path. Have you ever thought, after trusting God for something no matter how small:

“I wish I had done this years ago!”

“I don’t know what I was so afraid of.”

Consider the cost of not changing.

This was the one part I liked about this point:

“Change is rarely about the right time and [is] usually about the right attitude, choices and behaviours.

Sometimes picturing what we don’t want is enough to get us moving in the right direction.”

The Cost of Following Jesus (Luke 9)

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus [7] said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Gain some clarity and certainty.

Say “no” to a “repetitive existence of habit.” Say no to the law of sin.

Stop being so ‘busy’, and listen to the “still small voice.” [The Spirit, who gives us the mind of Christ]

When we find this clarity, “it scares the crap out of us.” Think of Peter walking on water, of Jesus saying “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” of Abram told to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” of Moses told to go to Pharoah, of the voice speaking “Samuel!” or of the Lord’s words to Jeremiah:

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7 But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

What do you want and not want for your life?

Get excited. Excitement creates momentum.

I have nothing to add to this point. Only again to highlight one bit:

“If you’re not excited about your goals, you may need different ones.”

Set deadlines.

Not some time in the future, as you approach Damascus and suddenly a light from heaven flashes around you, but the next five minutes. And this is the hardest hardest part. This part engenders the most feelings of failure.

But I’d say don’t worry about it. If God has a hold of you, he has a hold of you. In short time or long, he will reel you in, herd you back.

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What an eyesore of a blog post. I’d best publish it right now.