While I love the fact that has made the Bible more accessible and put into more hands than ever before, statements like these make me sigh and wonder what kind of direction the Church today is going.

When Jen Sears, 37, a human resources manager in Oklahoma City, wants to pray these days, she leaves her Bible behind and grabs her phone instead.

“I have my print Bible sitting on my dresser at home, but it hasn’t moved” in the four years since she downloaded YouVersion, Mrs. Sears said.

I rejoice in the fact that the Word of God is made so widely available due to the benefits of modern technology, but when your phone is the first thing you reach for to do your devotions, it just doesn’t mean the same thing to the watching world that we slowly become more and more like.


And we know that…

… God causes  all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

– Rom. 8:28 (NASB95)

John Piper comments on Rom. 8:28, and refers to v. 35: “Tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and peril and sword all work together for the good of those who love God.” In the midst of trial and difficulty within our circumstances, however, remembering and meditating upon such a profound and comforting truth is sometimes the last thing we think about. It’s far more easy to fret, to worry, to allow our emotions to control us even when we know that God reigns sovereign over every detail of our lives, and working it to our good and His glory if we truly seek after Him and His will.

A few weeks ago, I struggled through a decision that would have massive implications on my time, my relationships with people I am close to, and my spiritual sanctification. Sound familiar? It’s not uncommon–many decisions in our lives involve risking the very things that we hold so close to us while our pilgrimage persists. Whether those decisions are in the realm of our career paths, role in ministry, relationships with the opposite gender… every day brings forth new opportunities to grow to trust Him and His sovereignty more and more. But when I pondered my own decision, and wavered and fluctuated in my indecisiveness, a leader and trusted friend in my life questioned, “How seriously do you take Rom. 8:28?”

Boom. Conviction.

Decision-making itself is a process for your sanctification. Provided that you are actively seeking after making a decision that would not compromise your personal holiness, ultimately there is no real wrong choice. What do I mean by that? Let me say it this way: if you make choice A, God will work it to your good and His glory. If you make choice B, God will work it to your good and His glory. If you make choice C, it’s the same deal. God will work all things to your good and His glory!

That’s not to say that we should not utilize logic and wisdom in our decision-making. What that does mean, however, is that we should not remain stagnant in our process, awaiting some kind of personal revelation from God or worrying whether or not we are making the right or the correct decision. If it’s not a choice between sin and holiness, good and better, pick anything! Be decisive and trust that God will bless it. And if it turns out well for you, praise God. And if it doesn’t, know this: that God is disciplining you and making you more like His very Son, that is, Christ Jesus your Lord. Whatever comes out of your decision is the best that God can offer you who are His own: you who were chosen to received His grace, ransomed from the pits of Hell, redeemed from the punishment of your sins, cleansed by the precious blood, adopted as His own children, and will one day be made perfect in His sight, complete and lacking in nothing (Jas. 1:4)

So let me ask you: How seriously do you take Rom. 8:28? Do you see pain in the midst of difficulty as discipline for your eternal reward? Do you see blessing in your life as praise to the Giver of life and all that is in it? Do you align yourself with the will of God, and trust in His plan and place faith in His promises, knowing that He is faithful (Heb. 10:23)?

And in light of what you know to be true, go forth and be confident. Make that career choice. Apply for that internship. Ask that girl out. Take that ministry position. Make yourself vulnerable and take the leap of faith. And be rested and assured that through blessing and bliss, suffering and sorrow, goodness and grace, tribulation and trouble, God is working it all for your good and His glory.

“To Be or Not to Be a Church Member?, That Is the Question!” by Wayne Mack

And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
-Acts 2:47 NASB

Before coming to Grace Church, I almost never have heard of anyone talk about church membership and its importance. The only time I’ve heard membership referenced was before my baptism at my home church. During the baptism class I asked what the difference was between being baptized with my parents’ Chinese congregation as opposed to with the English congregation I usually attended services at. The different ultimately lied in which church I would be a member of. And ever since then, until now, I’ve never heard a single word said about membership since.

Circumstances, along with my convictions, changed when I began attending Grace Church, where Pastors John and Austin frequently exhorted the church body to strongly consider membership. I couldn’t understand why it was so necessary; after all, it’s just another label… right?

But as I continued throughout the year, I came to understand that church membership was much more than simply a title. The Biblical model presented every single believer in the New Testament as associated with a local church body. It was simply ridiculous for a 1st century Christian to not be part of the local body of believers. You would never ever hear a 1st century Christian say that he “free-roamed” or “church-hopped”. New Testament believers of the early church engaged themselves in their local churches and offered their spiritual gifts to serve those believers whom they practiced their “one-anothers” with.

In To Be or Not to Be a Church Member?, That Is the Question!, Mack produces a convincing argument for why we, as followers of Christ, need to associate ourselves with a local church and become members. He paints a clear picture of why we cannot simply be “lone wolf Christians” and why it is imperative for us as believers to associate ourselves with a local church body through membership. Mack presents ten reasons, with just a few listed here:

  1. Following the “One-Anothering” commands of Scripture
  2. Biblical responsibility to elders
  3. Clarification in differentiating from unbelievers
  4. Public proclamation of one’s faith
  5. Accountability to elders and other believers

From these reasons alone, it’s easy to see why the Christ-follower simply cannot attend a para-church ministry or even attend a single church regularly without becoming a member (Biblical responsibility to elders would be lacking). And ultimately the biggest question to ask yourself is the reverse question: “Why not become a church member?” Christ loved His church enough to lay down His life for it (Eph. 5:25-27). Christian, you cannot love Christ without loving His bride as well! If there is something holding you back from joining a local church body, your salvation itself may be at stake. There is simply no good reason why not to join a church. And yet so many benefits!

Reading this book also gave me clear insight into one of the great responsibilities of church elders. Indeed, church membership is pointless for a church that lacks strong eldership. Biblical passages that Mack uses to argue for church membership have turned the tables on me as I continue looking to pursue church eldership in the future. As church members have obligations to follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), so also have I an obligation to lead my church members in strong Biblical example. I must care for my flock and watch over their souls, because of an account I will have to give for the stewardship that will have been granted to me (Jas. 3:1). And as a church elder, I must exercise church discipline as mandated in Scripture (Matt. 18:15-17). Otherwise, what good am I as a church elder?

But to my readers, I implore you to follow the Biblical example set before you and to join the local church! Do not delay in your ability and opportunity to publicly declare your commitment to the faith and to practice Scriptural commands through your association with your church body. There is a clear answer to the question contained in this title: YES!

“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.