About bryanyee

Born and raised in Goleta (not Santa Barbara), he attended Cal Poly SLO, studying Business Administration with a concentration in Information Systems. He currently works at Amgen and is serving at the Chinese Christian Church in Thousand Oaks (CCCTO).

Reflecting on 2012

2 Corinthians 9:15

It’s hard to believe that just about a year ago the 4 of us committed to writing on a weekly basis again. We may have missed one or two here and there, but we’ll call it a good running start. We originally had not intended on including graphics with each post, however while Bryan and Kelly were visiting their parents for Christmas a “one-time favor” became a regular part of this blog.

Over the past 12 months quite a bit has changed as well! In 2012:

  • Dien graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and married his lovely wife, Loan
  • Helicon graduated from Western Seminary and accepted a full-time pastoral position at Chinese Evangelical Free Church of Santa Barbara
  • Tim began his last year at Biola University
  • Bryan shaved his head

As we spend time with family and friends this Christmas we invite you to take a stroll down memory lane with us as we recap a few of your favorite posts from 2012:

As we look forward to 2013, let’s focus on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith“ and “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

Thanks be to God for His undescribable gift.

From all of us at TemporaryVisitors, Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Let your worship be your witness

Let Your Worship Be Your Witness

In a sermon I preached a few weeks ago, one of our application points was:

let your worship be your witness.

We didn’t have time to unpack this so in the next few paragraphs we’ll make an attempt at scratching a little deeper. If you want to catch the entire message for context we were studying was Acts 3:1-10. Throughout the morning, we asked ourselves the question: “do you see the lame beggar“? You can catch the recorded podcast on iTunes, or stream it from the CCCTO website, where the PowerPoint is also available for download.

Nowadays it seems that the Christian faith has been reduced to “right living”. We spend so much time talking about what you should do so that people will see God through you. After all, that is what it means to be “kingdom minded” right? Live according to the Bible, and other people will see Jesus. May I propose that that statement is not incorrect, but rather that it is incomplete. If we are to be kingdom minded, we must see Jesus first.

How does this relate to the story of the lame beggar in Acts? Starting in Acts 3:2 we see the beginning of the incredible transformation of a man who was lame from birth. This man had never walked a day in his life. However after the miracle performed through the hands of Peter, the man regained strength in his feet and ankles. He is transformed from being lame from birth to having the strength to stand for the very first time. But did this man only stand? In Acts 3:8 we see that he leaps up, begins to walk, and then enters the temple with Peter and John, “walking and leaping and praising God.” Realizing the incredible gift he has received, not only does he stand, but he walks and leaps to the praise and glory of God, the giver of the gift.

If you have placed your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have received a gift that is incomparable to anything else. Remember that you were just like the lame beggar, lame from birth. It is only through Jesus’ death and resurrection for your sins that you could be reconciled to God.

The encouragement is simple.

Christian, if you have been saved, live like it.

Live like it in community with the local church, just as the lame beggar entered the temple gates with Peter and John (Acts 3:8). Live like it individually, just as the lame beggar leapt and danced.

And what is the result? As we continue on into verses 9 and 10 we see that, “all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” The lame beggar understood the depth of what had happened, and his joy was apparent to those around him. His worship was his witness. He did not just stand there.

Where every person is along that progression is different. Some may still be like the lame beggar sitting at the gate. Others may have received the gift at one time, but are simply standing. And others may be leaping and dancing.

We all were crippled by sin from birth, helpless to save ourselves from the penalty of sin, but God has shown us grace and mercy by sending His son to die on the cross as a substitutionary atonement. When we understand this and respond in faith, we will worship (we will leap and jump) and the world will see and come to know Jesus Christ is Lord.

Making Jesus the Main Thing in Ministry

1 Corinthians 15:3

I had the opportunity to teach from Acts 3:1-10 this past Sunday at CCCTO. Throughout the morning, we asked ourselves the question: “do you see the lame beggar“? You can catch the recorded podcast on iTunes, or stream it from our website, where the PowerPoint is also available for download.

Often when we approach the scriptures we instantly make assumptions. For example, Walt Russell in his book “Playing with Fire” describes how we often read the gospels with a bit of a tilted lens:

…the increasing tendency in our reading of the Gospels is to reduce them primarily to sources of insight about ourselves. For example, we read about Jesus calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and we think it is about the storms of our lives…However, the Gospels were primarily written to tell us about who Jesus is, what He did, and why He is the only, true object of our faith. If we change this focus, we distort the very essence of the Gospels…In other words, instead of putting ourselves into Jesus’ place and learning how to disciple others as we read the Gospels (a secondary emphasis), we should put ourselves into the disciples’ place by identifying with them in their relationship with Jesus.

Returning the passage in Acts 3, when we ask whether we see the lame beggar, we probably jump to the conclusion that we are like Peter and John and that there is more we need to do to reach out to others. We assume that others are the lame beggar and that we are here to help them (there’s quite a bit more that we covered such as the lame beggar’s progression from sitting outside to not just standing but leaping and jumping – for the rest of that message you’ll need to download the sermon). We emphasize what we should be doing as Christians. Before we realize it, we begin rallying ourselves around a cause to try and do more. And slowly but surely the focus shifts to morality.

While this may ignite a bright flame of active engagement in “doing good”, I’ve found in my own life that that flame burns out quickly. To be clear, I am not advocating that faith is merely an academic pursuit of knowledge. James 2:17 helps us to see that faith and works come as a package. However one leads the other, faith comes first. Just as the wise man built his house upon the rock, we must make sure that the foundation we’re laying for ourselves and the future generation is one that is set upon a solid understanding who God is, our sinful nature, Christ’s death on the cross, and the implications for mankind. The wise man both knew where to build his house and actual did build his house on the rock. Never forget that on the outside both of those houses looked the same. When (not if) the storm came, one stood and the other crumbled.

Unfortunately, this emphasis on “right living” leads us to a place where our so called “faith” is just another thing we “do”.  We spend so much time talking about what we should be doing and how the world needs us to do more that we forget what has been done (by Jesus) and what every person’s true need really is (Jesus). We miss the big picture and see the Bible as a book about “right living” rather than the story of God’s plan of salvation, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Growing up, I confused “right living” with true faith. I felt that I was “in good standing” because I was inviting others to youth group. I lived a relatively moral life by my own standards (which were in some ways influenced by what I learned in church). I wasn’t getting into too much trouble. By my own standards I was a pretty darn good guy. The world doesn’t need someone to make life better for them by telling them how they should live. Jesus didn’t come to earth to teach us about community service, Jesus came to die for you and I. Remember that He came to rescue us.

The plea is for church leaders, Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers, parents, and all believers to make Jesus the main thing in ministry.

Let’s consider how we can go from saying “let’s keep the main thing the main thing” to putting it into practice. May we all say as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Why we should study the Metaphysics of the Trinity

This month’s guest post comes to you from Isaiah Lin. Like many of us who write on this blog, his roots are in Santa Barbara. Currently, Isaiah is studying at Talbot. Isaiah’s family and my family have known each other for many years through serving together at the Chinese Evangelical Free Church of Santa Barbara. Over the years our families have gone on many trips together, but the sweetest memories are those spent serving together. This past weekend, Isaiah and I had the opportunity to serve at CCCTO‘s summer retreat, where Dien To spoke. You can catch Dien’s 5 part series called “What’s the Big Picture?” on the CCCTO website.  

Augustine (De Trinitate)

Introduction:

With the following post, I want to raise a concern that weighs heavily on my heart. My concern can be phrased as the following question: Why is it the case that most professing Christians know close to nothing about the triune nature of the God they say they worship? I want to raise and briefly address three questions in this post. First, what happens if we as the Church fail to study and teach the doctrine of the Trinity? Second, why should we bother studying the Trinity at all? And third, by what means can we begin a pursuit of the doctrine of the Trinity? This post will be far too brief than it deserves, but I hope it will nonetheless be sobering, motivating, and thought provoking.

Question 1: What happens if the Church fails to teach the doctrine of the Trinity?

In addressing this first question, let us broaden our scope and contemplate this quote:

“The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But
whatever the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied… Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is…” (Gresham Machen Christianity & Liberalism p. 176-177)

Now, whether you agree with Machen’s other works and systematic theology or not, he does put his finger on something quite relevant to our discussion today. What happens if the next generation of professing Christians believes that Jesus was fully man but not fully God? What would you say about them? With reverence, I dare say that whatever this hypothetical generation is, it is not a generation of Christians. The doctrine of Christianity is not the sort of thing that molds itself to whatever those who profess to be Christian at the time believe. I hope that this inspires some introspection on the part of those who would consider themselves Christian. Believing you are a Christian does not make you a Christian. Believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ does. But this implies a certain understanding of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ actually is, not whatever you want it to be. I take it there are many people who believe they are Christian, but are not genuine members of the Body because they have too far perverted the Gospel message. Scary? It should be. So it becomes clear that teaching an accurate account of Christian doctrine is of utmost importance. After all, Scripture tells us that teachers will be held to a higher standard (James 3:1). For clarity, I am not saying that unless we understand everything there is to know about Christian doctrine, we are not Christians. However, I am saying that what we know and teach about Christian doctrine matters.

So let us return to our first question. What happens if the Church stops teaching the doctrine of the Trinity? For one, Christians will begin to think that the Trinity is unimportant. Learning about effective evangelism and being a “good person” will be seen as a better use of time.

And isn’t this what we see in our churches? Clearly these other pursuits are good, but question why our churches emphasize certain doctrines over others. It’s worth thinking about. Another potential consequence, perhaps more devastating than the former, is the vulnerability it creates in the Body. If we do not teach our children something as fundamental as the triune nature of God, should it surprise us when they so easily get swept away by cults that make similar, yet heretical claims? It’s simple. If one does not know what God is like, then there is almost no way for that person to discern if someone else is wrong about what God is like. And as Machen writes, “…whatever the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied…”

Question 2: Why bother studying the doctrine of the Trinity?

As if the consequences of not studying the doctrine of the Trinity are not severe enough, is there a positive reason for why one should pursue Trinitarian studies? Clearly I think the answer is yes. I cannot begin to impress upon you the importance of pursuing knowledge of the Trinity. Whether we are aware of it or not, we now live in the wake of the anti-intellectual movement in Christian culture. Many have abandoned rational thought, believing that faith excludes reason, leaving devastating impacts on the teachings of Christ and Christian doctrine in general. Think back through all the sermons that you have heard, or Sunday school lessons you have taken. Do you ever remember learning about the Triune nature of God beyond the mere affirmation that he is Three in One? Further, it’s not only that Trinitarian studies have ceased in our churches, but it’s also often the case that the pursuit itself is actively condemned. People often say, “That’s too philosophical,” or, “we will never fully understand God in this lifetime, so what’s the point?” It may be true that we will not come to a complete knowledge of God in this lifetime, in fact that’s quite likely, but neither will we fully understand all of what scripture has to teach. But this doesn’t stop us from the pursuit of learning about God through scripture. The very fathers who established orthodoxy understood this clearly. Augustine, Richard of St. Victor, Aquinas, and countless others dedicated their lives to these intellectual pursuits ultimately contributing to establish the very orthodoxy that our evangelical faith is built upon.
The point is, the pursuit of knowing more about the Holy Trinity that we love is itself virtuous. Why study the metaphysics of the Trinity? When properly done, it can be worship in the purest of forms.

Question 3: How can we begin a pursuit of the doctrine of the Trinity?

Now, if you’re with me up to this point, you may be wondering how we can begin such a pursuit. I submit to you the following two ways are two incredibly vital means by which we ought to.

History:

Looking back at what scholars have discerned about Scripture is tremendously helpful in interpreting scripture. So it is also the case for Trinitarian theology. The early church had a lot to say about the Trinity. We need to ask ourselves questions like, why do we believe in a Trinity if the word ‘Trinity’ is not explicitly in the Holy Scriptures? Further, where did our Trinitarian doctrine come from? Simply put, the early church had to establish an orthodoxy to combat false teachings that were being presented. Essentially, these are the grounds for the establishment of the creeds. The creeds were a formal affirmation of doctrine put in place intended to combat unsound doctrine. Perhaps the best example of this is the heresy of Arianism. In the early church, Arius was teaching that the second and third persons of the Trinity were not eternal, but created by the Father. In the first council of Nicaea, Arius was deemed a heretic for this very doctrine. Following this, we can see these orthodox principles affirmed later on, the Athanasian Creed being one example. I mention these things because it’s obvious that studying the history of our Church can lead to a wealth of knowledge regarding accurate doctrine. When was the last time your church offered a class on historical theology?

Metaphysics:

First off, what the heck is metaphysics? Frankly, this is no easy question to answer. However for our purposes, we can settle on an ambiguous definition such as, metaphysics is the study of being. Now, this definition probably isn’t very illuminating, so for ease, let us look at some questions that would fall under this discipline. What is existence? Is it a property of a thing? What is a property? When we say that the grass is green, are we really saying that there is such a thing that is grass, and further, that this thing has the property of being green? What does it mean to be identical to something? What does it mean for two things to be related to one another? If you have tried to answer these types of questions about the nature of things, then you have undoubtedly attempted to engage in the enterprise of metaphysics. In this enterprise, we try to understand the way the world is. We try to understand all sorts of things like first causes, the human mind, possible worlds, and yes, the nature of GOD.

If we think for a moment about this, it really shouldn’t be all that shocking. Often times we wonder about the nature of God. “How is the Trinity possible?” we might ask. How is any god possible at all? Well, why might we have an intuition that He might be impossible? If we think this because of the natural sciences, such as physics and chemistry, we should pause for a moment and reflect. Physics and chemistry are in the game of describing aspects of the physical world. They use empirical methods to show patterns and probabilities in the physical domain. So ultimately, how much can those enterprises even say about the immaterial? Metaphysics, on the other hand, is not constrained to the domain of the physical realm. If there is an inconsistency in God, or one wants to argue that God is impossible, it must be demonstrable, at least in part, through metaphysical argumentation. After all, metaphysics is in the game of answering questions such as, what is a person? What is a substance? Both of these are critical in understanding the Holy Trinity.

So Metaphysics may seem a bit abstract at first, but hopefully, the more you study it, the more it becomes relevant, because the enterprise is not aimed at simply clarifying the terms used in the natural sciences, but to independently discern aspects of reality.

Final Thoughts:

It is clear that I have only touched on a miniscule portion of this topic and so much more can be said. This is an invitation for you to continue to pursue God in this way on your own. Make no mistake. The passion that many Christians have to live out their convictions is a good thing. The claim here is that sound doctrine needs to be the foundation for our actions. It ought not be merely a supplementary pursuit. That being said, hopefully what we have done here is a few things.

  1. I hope that you have begun to see the importance of the life of the Christian mind. Pursuing God with our minds is a calling for all Christians, not just those who want to pursue careers in theology or philosophy.
  2. I hope you have caught a glimpse of the vast amount of knowledge to be gained from historical theologians and the early church. I hope that you begin to see that learning about the development of orthodoxy, whether you adhere to every last bit of it or not, ought to play a role in the development of your theological positions.
  3. I hope you see that to become more resilient to cults who disguise themselves with the term “Christian,” we need to first understand what it is that we believe. Then, we need to encourage our brothers and sisters to maturity in the same way.

Lastly, I will remark that I am tremendously optimistic. I have seen an explosion in recent years in the number of people earnestly seeking after and glorifying God with their intellect. God will be faithful to his people.

So, why study the doctrine of the Trinity?
When properly done, it can be worship in the purest of forms.

Recommended Reading:

Something for us all to consider

Psalm 119:105

After graduating from college and moving to Thousand Oaks for work, I spent a few years serving in the youth ministry at Chinese Christian Church of Thousand Oaks. If you have served in youth ministry, you know that the high school life is full of many things that make for wonderful illustrations that can be used for teaching. What we have to be careful of however is the tendency to take the truth that falls from these or any other illustrations and simply see it as a lesson for “those who are younger”.

Those who are younger can be those physically younger in terms of age, or those who we view as weaker or younger in their faith (regardless of age). With that said, something that has been on my mind recently is how we approach learning.

Something that I know is a struggle for students is preparing for college. Everything is built upon two things: the goal (“success”) and the steps required (grades, tests, etc.) to get there. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, sooner or later we all learn how to “game the system”. With the right grades and the right test scores, we can improve our chances of achieving the goal that we have set. But are we simply cramming to pass a test in order to get to our goal, or are we studying to learn? While there is definitely some overlap, the motivation behind our studying may indicate how important thing the things that we have learned are to us. I can say that half the things I “learned” in school simply got me through the tests. If I were to have to recall all of it today, the outcome would not be the same. The things I learned served their purpose, and now it’s on to other things.

This isn’t meant to be a critique of our education system, however I believe a similar concept can be applied to our spiritual lives. How important is the Word to us as we study it? Are we reading or taking notes on sermons so that we can pass them on to that friend “who needs to get their life together”? Maybe the motivation for reading the Word is to be able to fit in with others that are always talking about the Bible or to be able to engage in theological debates with others. Perhaps we like being the person who is always able to share something really deep during Bible study. But once we’ve “used” it in whatever setting we had planned for it, then it’s on to other things. The Bible simply becomes another thing we only use in front of or on others.

To be absolutely clear, I am not arguing that a person who desires to share God’s Word with others has it all wrong. After all, we are commanded to, “…always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). However, if we back up to the beginning of verse 15, we see that it begins with: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.”

So instead of “using” the Word on others, let’s start by studying it with the desire and motivation to be reminded of the fact that Christ Jesus came to die for sinners such as ourselves. Remember that He came to rescue us and explode into doxology in response and revere Christ as Lord because of what has been done for us.

This is something for all of us to consider, whether we’re an attendee of a Bible study and especially if we have the responsibility of teaching and leading others. Sometimes the tendency is to immediately apply what we learn on others, however the Psalmist in Psalm 119:105 reminds us that, “Your word is a lamp to my feet. And a light to my path.” Allow it to light the steps immediately before you, and the path ahead of you.

For those in the Ventura County area feel free to join me and a few others at Element Coffee in Camarillo on Saturday mornings as we try and put this into practice. This isn’t a Bible study of any sort, simply a few folks studying on their own. I know how easily distracted I get at home. Having fellow brothers and sisters nearby to keep on me on track helps me get that running start I need sometimes.

Got a favorite spot that you spend time studying the Word at? Feel free to leave it in the comments (ahem…other contributors). Let’s start this 2nd half of the year off by resolving to commit ourselves to being honest with ourselves in how we approach the Word of God.