“Found: God’s Will” by John MacArthur

For many, high school is a time where decisions about career paths are made, and for me it was no different. Yet, there was always an element of indecisiveness for me because of my uncertainty of the future. Thus, when asked about my future plans for career or ministry, it was easy, simple, and mindless for me to reply, “Oh, I don’t really know. I’m praying that God will reveal His will to me for my life.” Or sometimes I would even turn this into a prayer request: “Could you pray for me, that God would reveal His will for me to me?”

A lot of the material I wrote in a previous post hinges on the presupposition that God’s will is perspicuous and can be found in the pages of Scripture. I was first exposed to this idea in MacArthur’s book Found: God’s Will during my freshman year in college. Up until then, an element of immaturity may have played a role in my indecisiveness, but a full and accurate understanding of what the Scriptures teach on the will of God helped me to grow in this regard.

Briefly, as long as five presuppositions are fulfilled, Ps. 37:4 stands as the basic principle by which we can live our lives: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (ESV). There are a couple of different ways that I have interpreted this:

  1. Previously, I had believed that if I delighted myself in God, He would satisfy the preexisting desires that I had in my own heart.
  2. More recently, the view that I hold to now is that if I delight myself in God, He would place new desires in me as a reflection of His will in my life.

I don’t believe that these two interpretations are entirely mutually exclusive. It’s possible that preexisting desires in our hearts may indeed have been God’s will all along, and that He will fulfill them when we seek to honor and please Him first. But from my own experience, my preexisting desires were selfish in nature–I didn’t necessarily want those fulfilled because of His glory, but because of my own gain.

Thus, our desires are placed deliberately by God, and we should follow them! Of course, this hinges on the premise that you have “delighted yourself in the Lord”. John Piper discusses making Christ not only Savior and Lord, but Treasure and greatest delight, in Desiring God:

In recent years I have asked, “Do you receive Jesus as your Treasure?” Not just Savior (everybody wants out of hell, but not to be with Jesus). Not just Lord (they might submit begrudgingly). The key is: Do you treasure Him more than everything?

To expand upon this premise of “delighting yourself in the Lord”, John MacArthur pens Found: God’s Will. From Scripture, he presents five explicit instructions that God has commanded of us, which are His will (Scripture references are provided here):

  1. Saved
  2. Spirit-filled
  3. Sanctified
  4. Submissive
  5. Suffering

Within the pages of the Bible, God has clearly spelled out His will for us. Beyond these things, if these five conditions are true of our lives, then we should do what we so desire, for it is in those desires that God brings about His will for our lives.

Knowing this, our decision-making efforts is a practical implication of these God-given desires. When we live in such a way that desires to honor and please God in all that we do, fighting sin and suffering for His name’s sake, we can know that our desires are placed within us by God and should not cause us to do anything that would cause us to violate our integrity or to misplace our priorities.

Thus, we can go forth and know that whether the outcome of a decision turns out well or not, God is working our circumstances for our good and His glory–we only need to be faithful to act on those desires, because He placed them there for us.

Taking a step back, can we even say that the will of God, as revealed in the list of five items, is manifest in our own lives? I would ask these questions of myself:

  1. Am I saved?
  2. Am I filling my mind with Scripture?
  3. Am I actively fighting sin?
  4. Am I living lawfully?
  5. Am I suffering for professing Christ?

It is only when we glorify God in the specifics that He has prescribed in Scripture, can we then glorify Him in the desires that He gives us in our hearts.

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Quick Reflections on Honduras Medical-Mission Trip

I recently returned from a medical-mission trip to Honduras, working with an organization called World Gospel Outreach (http://www.wgoreach.org/) and sponsored by New Life Community Church of San Jose, CA (http://www.newlifesj.org/).

While I’m still working on putting together a newsletter for family, friends, and supporters, I recently shared with them two of the biggest lessons that God taught me during my trip.

1) The medical services we offered pale in comparison to God’s great gospel. This was something that I definitely knew and had in mind coming into the trip, but wasn’t really solidified in my mind until after I had arrived in Honduras and began helping during the medical brigades. We were blessed with the opportunity to offer numerous services to those that had come to our brigade sites (medical, optical, and dental) but the things we could give them to heal them of their physical ailments would soon pass (medications would need to be refilled, glasses could easily be lost/misplaced, and pulled teeth are gone for the rest of their lives). It’s because we could only help the Hondurans with these temporary things that the gift of greater value, the gospel, shines forth from the perspective of eternity. By the end of the trip, 219 people professed new faith in the Lord and 117 others made recommitments to Christ!
 
2) Christ’s example of humility and service should spur me on to do the same. One verse I had to constantly remind myself of is Matt. 20:28: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”. During the beginning of my trip, it was easy to be selfish even in my selflessness. Even when I was serving others, I wanted to do so in a way that was comfortable and easy for me, and it was easy to grumble and complain in my own heart and mind when I didn’t have it that way. By the middle of the week, the Lord had convicted me of my selfish heart of service and I hope that by the end of the week (and even back here in the States) the Holy Spirit will have grown me to be selfless in my service, giving and spending my all for the sake of those who have yet to know Christ.
 
As I get settled back into life in the States and prepare for upcoming exams as well as the new school year, I hope and pray that the Lord will continue to grow me not only in these two ways, but also in other ways that He has equipped me as a result of this trip.

“Grace” by Laura Story

After introducing my friend to Laura Story’s “Blessings” (which has also served me extremely well in the past!), she returned the favor a week later by sharing this song she discovered while browsing Laura Story’s other work. I wasn’t such a huge fan at first, but after listening to this song more and more, as well as reading over the lyrics, I’ve built such a strong and personal connection to this song in particular, because it illustrates my own testimony to God’s saving work in my life. Continue reading

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