“Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)” by Joshua Harris

WARNING: This post is not for the faint of heart. It expands on some of the core moral issues with our society today, and expounds on some of our cultural (and in some circles, even religious) taboo involving the topic of sexual morality. Material contents include discussions regarding lust, sexuality, pornography, and masturbation from the male perspective. Be forewarned before proceeding. Continue reading

“Disciplines of a Godly Man” by R. Kent Hughes

Of all the thing absent from my childhood, discipline would probably top the list. As a young boy, I lacked discipline in almost every area of my life. My time after school was spent entirely on playing video games or watching television, with almost no regard to homework, piano practice, or anything else. It would be a constant struggle for my mom to get me to work on anything. Things didn’t really change after I first arrived at UCLA: most of the time I first spent here was playing games and rarely did I study, exercise, or anything of the like. I was your typical sluggard, and that didn’t change until Spring Quarter of my freshman year, when I realized that God is glorified through my work. Doing any work less than high efficiency was robbing God of His glory.

Disciplines of a Godly Man helped me to reinforce my understanding of different disciplines in life, why we need them, how they can be used in our sanctification, and ultimately how they bring glory to God. Hughes examines different areas of the Christian, especially males, and charges us to live out these disciplines because of the implications that it had on our lives as well as leadership in the lives of those in our families and ministries. The Bible calls us to “Discipline [ourselves] for the purpose of godliness… godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:7-8 NASB). Paul exhorts Timothy to live in godliness because of the fruits it yields in his own life and the lives of those around him, and likewise we, as men with responsibilities in leadership and ministry, should do likewise.

Hughes explores a variety of relatable and applicable topics in the areas of relationships, soul, character, and ministry. Each chapter is relatively short and extremely focused in its application, making a chapter a day a short read but exhorting and convicting in nature. A typical chapter includes a survey of our current world and the absence of a proposed discipline in the men of our society today, a few reasons why it is necessary for us as men to have such a discipline, a  Biblical figure that exemplifies such a trait, and several sub-disciplines that entail the overarching discipline of the chapter. Woven throughout each chapter of the book is Biblical exposition and references that lead to a sound understanding of the passages and practical application to a man’s life. The book closes in full circle with an understanding of the gospel and how grace plays a role in our sanctification as we attempt to master over a hundred disciplines as presented in the book.

Disciplines of a Godly Man has had a profound impact on my own life. Through examining several disciplines of a man after God’s own heart, I have been able to grow in my comprehensive knowledge of what entails each discipline. Hughes does a beautiful job of breaking down each great discipline into several smaller ones, making application of these truths relatively simple, practical, doable, and fruitful. Through bathing each discipline in prayer, I have been able to see the impacts of each of these disciplines in my own life as I pursue leadership in ministry and working towards the glory of God.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

– Col. 3:23-24

Crosswalk Retreat 2012

Between Now and Then.

How much do I look forward to our glorification, when we will be brought up into the sky and back into perfect fellowship and community with the Lord, Most High? Whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Between Now and Then.

I can’t wait to live apart from this sinful body. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Between Now and Then.

O For That Day! Haste the day when my hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, prayer to praise!

When we’ve arrived, stunned and surprised, all things resolved in the blink of an eye; No more distractions, no sin left to fight. That first glimpse of Jesus and faith becomes sight!

(Italicized text from Rom. 8:30, Matt. 26:41, Ps. 73:26, “Jesus I My Cross Have Taken” (c) Public Domain, “Arrived” (c) 2008 Resolved Music)

If you haven’t guessed yet, the theme of this year’s Crosswalk Retreat was “Between Now and Then”. Our youth pastor Alan Leung helped us to examine several truths of our eschatological future (then) and the resulting impact it should have on our lives today (now). The hopeful goal of the conclusion of the retreat would be that we would be changed to modify our behavior now and live our time between now and then in light of the final days of glory.

Looking back more than two months after the retreat has reached its conclusion, it’s been difficult piecing my thoughts together regarding what I’ve learned and gained from retreat. I’ve had continuous writer’s block as I continue to struggle with what I remember learning and taking into heart from retreat. Looking back at the different sermons and discussions I’ve had with some of the people I grew up with ever since a child as well as those I’ve watched that followed in our footsteps has been inconclusive for the longest time. This, piled with the burdens (and joys) of other responsibilities such as reading, house errands, and later school have taken up the time that I could reflect and write about my experiences at retreat. But ultimately I believe that this experience has allowed me to extrapolate several new dynamics on small group leading and pushing me to work diligently, faithfully, and full-heartedly with other Christ-followers despite differences in theology, however major they are.

The first takeaway was learning the different dynamics of leading a small group. From my experience at Grace On Campus in large group Bible study as well as most small group meetings, most of the studies were lecture in style, especially large group meetings. And it makes sense; with almost 300 people attending our fellowship every night, it wouldn’t be feasible to go around a circle in a discussion style, but rather allow our shepherd Chris Gee to faithfully proclaim the truths of Scripture, exegeting and interpreting the true meaning behind the passages for us. In small group, it was similar; while we had discussion, most of it was guided by our small group leader by looking at selected portions of a passage of Scripture and forming convictions that lead to life change. Accountability and updates were also included in our small group discussions.
Retreat was drastically different: As Allen led most of the small group discussions, we used something I learned from InterVarsity’s websites known as the “inductive study method”. This includes 1. observing the text, 2. asking questions and noting things that leave strong impressions on us as readers, and 3. applying one truth from the reading to our lives. As one who usually was guided into Scriptural study, this method of study was definitely a new experience to me, and leading Bible study a responsibility that I wasn’t sure if I could faithfully take. This reflected in my own presentation when I switched with Allen to lead Bible study for one morning; rather than allowing and facilitating discussion, I began a monologue on emphasizing the main points of our youth pastor Alan’s sermon and critiquing those points rather than spending time in discussion for the youths I was attempting to minister to. Overall, the process was unfamiliar and I wasn’t sure how to facilitate a discussion on my own, leading to me drawing conclusions for those in my group. While neither method is more “correct” than the other, the overall experience opened up my eyes to more ways to study the Bible rather than simply preaching the Word expositionally. While I do believe there are wrong ways to study the Bible, such as applying bad hermeneutics or trying to derive multiple interpretations from a single passage of Scripture, ultimately I believe that any method that recognizes that there can only be one true interpretation in the inerrant and infallible Word of God and seeks to draw out that interpretation, preferably through exegesis and historical-grammatical analysis, works as the best methods of finding true applications for Scripture in life. The dynamics of study can be different, but the principle must remain core and the same.

A second lesson, and more difficult for me, was learning to work with those who had developed different theologies than me over the year. While not seeking to slander anyone, there were times when I struggled with the necessity to believe correct theology and doctrine in order to worship our Lord “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24, with emphasis). Because this necessity to worship God in correct and informed doctrine, whenever something came up that conflicted with my convictions and beliefs, I wasn’t sure whether it was necessary to correct them, and if so how to go about doing that. Nonetheless, it was a lesson in humility for me as I put down my unforeseen pride in my theological beliefs and instead did my best to respect others’ beliefs for the sake of working with them in order to further the kingdom of Christ through the power of the gospel (Col 1:16). While I still struggle in identifying my duties to correct “misinformed” doctrine (if such exist), my hope and joy would be for all to come to saving faith and active repentance, and being able to partner with others in ministry despite varying doctrinal beliefs.

But ultimately, as I focus on “between now and then”, more and more I realize how much I look forward to the day of Christ’s return. First developing at Resolved 2012 and continuing on throughout my summer listening to Enfield’s album O For That Day and reading countless literature causes me to long for the day when my pilgrimage on earth has ended and I am brought up to be with my Savior and Lord. It would be a glorious day indeed! Christ will bring us up to heaven and unite Him with us as His bride, where endless praise for our Redeemer will begin, never to cease for the eternity to come.

O For That Day! When our journey has ended,
All of our hope in heaven’s reward;
When we will have our Messiah forever
And we will dwell in the house of the Lord! 

O For That Day! When we’ll sing with the angels:
“Hallelujah! O Ancient of Days!”
When we will have our Messiah forever
Offering glory, and honor, and praise!
Offering glory, and honor, and praise!

“Courageous” (PG-13)

Ever since viewing Sherwood Pictures’ “Facing the Giants” in middle school at a cousin’s house, I’ve been following their works and have watched their major releases. In addition to “Facing the Giants”, I’ve also seen their major debut “Flywheel” and their more recently well-known “Fireproof”. A small ministry from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, Sherwood Pictures presents inspiring films that ultimately point back to the infinite Creator and our standing before a holy God. “Courageous” didn’t fail to achieve this purpose, and left a lasting impact on my role in my future family and society.

“Courageous” follows the lives of five policemen as they fight crime, especially those related to drug dealers. While trying to remain a family-friendly film, there are extremely dark moments and themes in “Courageous” that earn the film it’s PG-13 rating. The inherent nature of drugs and gang violence, as well as the film’s revolution around the death of a 9-year-old daughter, push this film to the envelope for what most children might enjoy. But the film is riddled with comedy, and I’ve definitely had my share of laughs from the crazy conversations and antics of some of the guys on-screen.

But the ultimate role of the film is to challenge society’s definition of “manhood”. With a worldview in America that trains men in ungodliness, alongside families without a positive male role model due to unfaithfulness or absence, it’s no wonder why our youth have no one to look up to, no one to admire, no one to cherish, and no one to follow in being a man of the Word. The subsequently egalitarian movement causes the male role to be downplayed and some members of society are even hostile towards men that are trying to take that true role laid out for him in Scripture. This film aims to provide the proper picture of a true man and what that means for his family. Partnered with my reading of “Disciplines of a Godly Man” (more on that in a future post), I’ve gained a lot from this film in terms of the different relationships men have.

Firstly, true men have dependent relationships with God. Until a man has a right relationship with God, understanding the sinfulness that he is in and the righteousness of a just Creator, there is no way that he can live up to any standards he may place upon himself. Ultimately it is by the grace of God, found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, His death on the cross and resurrection into eternal life, that one has any hope of changing in becoming a man for the rest of his relationships. We men are ultimately accountable to God for how we live our lives, because we have responsibilities to lead the rest of the relationships that He forms in our lives. He also gives us the power and the strength to live out the rest of the “true man’s creed”, because He sets the example for us in His Son and the criteria for us in the Scriptures.

True men have loving relationships with their wives. In a world where men’s and women’s roles have unified into one and the same, “Courageous” speaks light as to the specific roles of a man in relationship with their wives. They are to love and cherish them, and lay down their very lives for them, as Christ has for His church. Sherwood Pictures exemplifies these glorious truths from Eph. 5 throughout the film, and the importance of a man in caring for and loving his wife. Neither do we fall “into” love or “out of” love; when married, we look “beyond the romance” and ultimately reflecting the beautiful picture of the unification, sanctification, and covenant commitment between Christ and His Church. It’s a wonderful picture and depiction of marriage, and is marriage’s ultimate purpose. See more on this in the previous post regarding John Piper’s “This Momentary Marriage”.

True men have guiding relationships for their sons. In a world that believes in a phase and time called “adolescence”, where a boy conducts his actions like a man without being willing to take the consequences and responsibilities of his actions, it’s important for us as fathers to lead our sons and to “call out the man in them”, as Adam Mitchell puts it. We have a responsibility as fathers to instill these same moral values in our sons, leading them to one day lead their own families in their own household. We cannot simply allow them to live in ignorance and this terrible, false phase of “adolescence” and “rebellion”, but rather should lead and guide them to take responsibility and live out their own calling for their lives in Christ Jesus.

True men have protecting relationships for their daughters. Nathan Hayes works to protect his 15-year-old daughter’s purity, guarding her heart by stepping in the way of any man that attempts to date her. A disrespectful young man attempts to date her, but doesn’t want to deal with her dad, which is a sad reflection of the way that our society’s teens behave today. It is imperative for us as fathers to protect our daughters, ensuring that a man who would respect authority be allowed to court her, because only when he is a man of God and a man of purity should he have the privilege of marrying her, because at that point he too will bear the responsibility of denying himself and laying down his life for her.

True men have accountable relationships with other men. Each of the five men held themselves “doubly accountable” to each other and to each others’ families through signing a list of “Resolutions” (reminiscent of Jonathan Edwards). They promised to fulfill these vows and to hold one another accountable to do the same. Ultimately the sin of Shane Fuller (and the response to that sin from the other policemen) reflects the accountability we as men must have with other men. We need to find other godly men who, like us, desire to pursue personal holiness and to dedicate our lives to raising our families in the ways of God.

The only thing I would have liked to see more of is the reliance upon grace to perform all these duties as a true man. While signing these “Resolutions” (and making it quite an official agreement) is reflective of their hearts, ultimately it’s not the fact that they are accountable to one another or signing those resolutions that they have the power to live in righteousness, authority, and responsibility. It is the blood of Jesus that grants them the grace to live out their duties in accordance to the Word, not anything that they may say, do, sign, or ask others to hold them to. By God’s grace, and grace alone, are they privileged and given the strength to live for righteousness and holiness.

But aside from that small fact, “Courageous” is a herald of truth to a world that has no sense of true manhood, emphasizing on Biblical truths and Scriptures that ultimately make this a film worth viewing for both men and women alike. It paints just a small picture of what true manhood looks like according to God and His Scriptures.

An open letter to those entering college and searching for a local church to join

This was contained in an e-mail I wrote to my brother. He’s starting his first year at Biola University, a Christian institution in the cozy city of La Mirada, CA. Even though he attends a school where everyone professes to be Christian, there is a huge emphasis placed on the fact that Biola University is NOT a church. Rather, its students should be going out to join and serve local churches during Sunday mornings, so the entire campus closes down and they do not offer a chapel service during that time.

I wrote this letter to him urging him to consider some of the things that I would place strong emphasis on in a church. Although he might not end up choosing those things (and neither may you), they are things strongly worth considering and the things that I would place at highest importance.

I wanted to find you a solid church with a strong body of believers that can help you to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).

Do you remember Resolved? Steve Lawson told us that he knows everything about what we believe from the church that we attend. It is so true; the church that you choose to attend will shape your beliefs about everything and it is imperative and extremely important to find a church because it will change the way you view God, the Bible, the world, and your life.

I want you to find a church that preaches the Bible as the inerrant and completely trustworthy Word of God, completely sufficient to showing us how to live (2 Tim. 3:16-17, 2 Pet. 1:21) because you cannot have a proper view of God without first having a proper view of His revelation, the Bible.

I want you to find a church that emphasizes the true roles of men and women in the household (Eph. 5:22-33), because it will immensely help you to have a proper view of marriage (if you choose to do so someday) by showing you the roles that the men and the women play in that relationship as a reflection of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and His church.

I want you to find a church that will help you to have a proper view of the end times (eschatology) because as Uncle Alan [my youth pastor] always says, the beliefs that you have about the end times will shape how you choose to live your life now.

And most importantly, I want you to attend a church that has a proper view of the gospel and of grace: that proclaims the magnificent truth of the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ that allows us to live lives pleasing to God, ALL BECAUSE OF GRACE (Rom. 12:1, Rom. 6:1-2, 1 Pet. 1:13-16).

These are the imperatives that I would greatly stress for those of you beginning college this fall and are looking for a church to attend. The church that you choose to attend will be the greatest place of growth in your life, and where you decide to go to church will determine the beliefs and views of God, the Bible, the world, and yourself when you finish college and enter the so-called “real world”. Make it worth it, make it your home, and make it your place of service because it is an eternal institution, a small glimpse into the everlasting Reality to come (Matt. 16:18).

“This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence” by John Piper

The sanctity and meaning of marriage has been defiled and destroyed in a world where divorce, premarital sex, and homosexuality is so prevalent, even among professed Christ-followers. Through his powerful exposition of Scripture, Piper sheds light on the true, Biblical basis and purpose of marriage. As its basis, marriage is foundationally the doing of God, and ultimately the display of God. And the ultimate purpose of the existence of marriage is to reflect the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church.

In Mark 10:6-9, Jesus clearly illustrates the fact that marriage is of God, and that “God has joined together” the two so that they “become one flesh”. It is solely God’s work in holding together two sinners in the blessed, God-ordained covenant called marriage. And marriage, temporary and only lasting in our earthly lives, points to something greater. Paul notes in Eph. 5:31-32 that marriage parallels and reflects the union and covenant between “Christ and the church”. Piper builds and uses this foundation as the Biblical, grace-centered basis for the rest of his book, which ultimately elevated my limited understanding of the beauty of the marriage covenant.

I want to include a small excerpt of the last paragraph of this book because Piper’s beautiful words of thanks to his wife show the culmination of my thoughts, and ultimately those of the diligent reader as well. Piper articulates and conveys his extremely high view of marriage in such a perfect manner that allowed me to finish this book knowing for sure what I have learned and developed in terms of my view of marriage:

Noël, if we live another twenty years (till I am eighty-two and you are eighty), the marriage will be sixty years old. And judging from what I see in the Bible and my memory, it will have been a momentary marriage. But it has been so much more than momentary. It is a parable of permanence written from eternity about the greatest story that ever was. The parable is about Christ and his church. It has been a great honor to take this stage with you. What exalted roles we have been given to play! Someday I will take your hand, and stand on this stage, and make one last bow. The parable will be over, and the everlasting Reality will begin.

Reading this small excerpt even now, for the twentieth time, almost moves me to tears. It truly exemplifies the beauty of this temporary, momentary marriage convenant that God allows us to model, pointing back to the love that Christ has for us, his church.

The result of the diligent reader is a massive reconstruction of his or her view on the beauty of marriage. It explains Biblically why we have specific roles in the family, with the husband exerting leadership and headship over his submissive wife. It details Biblically why divorce is so despicable in the sight of the Lord in defiling this sacred institution. It Biblically instructs on the practical applications of reflecting the worthy love between Christ and His church displayed in the marriage covenant. And it even includes chapters on singleness and its importance, which is not any less (and may even be greater) than the role of marriage in our world.

This book is a must-read, and how providential that it is available free online from the Desiring God website: http://dwynrhh6bluza.cloudfront.net/resources/documents/5218/bmm.pdf?1340647786. I implore you to go through it and experience the radical love of Christ for His church in this temporary institution. Because when this earth fades away, and marriage with it (Matt. 22:30), we will all experience this bridal convenant in future glory with the Christ who sacrificed His own life on our behalf. Oh, what a glorious day it will be!

“I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris

The first time I heard of Joshua Harris was back in middle school. At the time, a lot of what he said, and what I remembered, was head knowledge; I was simply too young with not a lot of relationship experience to apply what I was learning. I simply thought that I was already following what God wanted me to do: avoid dating until “the time was right”, and not to do it like the rest of the world (which was pretty obvious to me).

But reading through “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” more recently (during the Resolved conference, actually) gave me a further glimpse into what Harris really examined in his book. It’s not about “dating correctly”, and it’s certainly not about “not dating at all”. Rather, it’s an examination of our own hearts when we pursue relationships with the opposite gender, and realizing that there is much more than just the “pursuit of happiness” in our relationships.

God created marriage ultimately as a reflection of the gospel, as Paul describes in Eph. 5:22-33. It’s a picture of service and sacrifice between the husband and the wife. If we could only picture dating relationships in that same manner: placing the other’s interests above our own.

Today’s view of the modern concept we call “dating” is so skewed towards pleasing oneself and fulfilling one’s own fleshly desires. From this selfishness spurs sexual sin and ultimate heartbreak as we carelessly give away our hearts to someone fallible, rather than entrusting it to the One who is constant, never changing, ever loving, and ultimate truth. He who gave His Son for our sake deserves everything in return, including our uppermost affections and desires, that He may be glorified in us in our pursuit of following and loving Him.

Although the biggest theme that Harris expounds in “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” is that “The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment”, I honestly think its something even greater. The ultimate goal of the book, based a lot off of the concepts found in Elisabeth Elliot’s “Passion and Purity”, is looking at our hearts. Are we striving after Jesus first and foremost? Do we long to love Him more and to make much of Him in our daily lives? And are we allowing that servitude permeate even our relationships? It’s when we truly realize that dating is less self-gratifying and more sacrificial-loving that we understand God’s highest priority in our relationships with one another: to bring Him the most glory, honor, and praise because He is most worthy.

That being said, much of the book examines emotional purity in two aspects: setting Christ as our highest thoughts in our own lives, while working to defend the emotional purity of those of the opposite gender. Rather than using relationships to satisfy even the smallest lustful cravings, we need to look towards bringing Christ more glory through those same relationships. And that means keeping our eyes and hands off of one another and focusing on expanding Him and His Kingdom in our singleness. Because in a world where dating is so flawed and self-seeking, why not just skip it altogether, for His glory’s sake?

I’ve heard many mentors in my own life say to take “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, the prequel to “Boy Meets Girl”, with a grain of salt. And although there are definitely some ideas in Harris’s book that are not most practical even in its proper context, the overall message of the book is clear, and one that I continue to seek prayer for and to hold dear: Making much of Christ first, and allowing everything to fall in place, including relationships, from that highest calling. Defending my own emotional purity, as well as those of the brothers and sisters around me, so that He may be made known and glorified in all that we say and that we do.