Daily Bible Reading

Daily Bible Reading

One of the acronyms for the Bible is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It instructs us how to act: don’t lie, don’t cheat and so on and so forth. It instructs us how to interact with other people: love your neighbor as yourself and pray for your enemies. It instructs us how to pray: Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Yet, the Bible is more than basic instructions before leaving earth. In reading it, we get to know our God more. It is one of the ways to develop a deeper relationship with God. In reading it, we grow in holiness and we become transformed into the image of the only Begotten Son. We learn what it means to be a Christian.

Yet, the sad reality is daily Bible reading has ceased to exist in our lives. The Bible is forgotten throughout the week. The sad thing is we are okay with that attitude. We are okay with not reading our Bibles daily. We are okay with not communing with God daily. We are okay with not growing spiritually. We are okay, we are fine. That is scary, when our attitude towards not reading the Bible is we are okay with that.

Perhaps we don’t make Bible reading a normal part of our lives is because it is hard to understand. If we find that the Bible is hard to understand then we are in good company. The apostle Peter declared that the apostle Paul’s writings are hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16b). Just because it is hard to understand, it does not mean that it cannot be understood.

There is no doubt that there are some secret things in Scripture (Deut. 29:29), but the words of Augustine are suitable for the mysteries of Scripture. Augustine writes, “Although many things in the scripture be spoken in obscure mysteries, yet there is nothing spoken under dark mysteries in one place, but the selfsame thing in other places is spoken more familiarly and plainly, to the capacity both of learned and unlearned.  And those things in the scripture that be plain to understand, and necessary for salvation, every man’s duty is to learn them, to print them into memory, and effectually to exercise them.  and as for the dark mysteries, to be contented to be ignorant in them until such time as it shall please God to open those things unto him.  In the mean season, if he lack either aptness or opportunity, God will not impute it to his folly.” Too often, we declare Scripture too hard and mysterious because we don’t read other parts of the Bible. In others words, if one part of the Bible is hard to understand and mysterious then there are other parts of the Bible that might explain the hard and mysterious verses, chapters, or subjects.

Another factor that should encourage us to make Bible reading a part of our daily routine is we have the Holy Spirit. One of the tasks of the Spirit is to teach and instruct believers in the Word. We are not left alone to understand God’s Word when we read. We are not left to resources, human wisdom. We have the Author of the Scripture to help us understand the Word. We need to read prayerful and meditatively if we want to get anything out of God’s Word.

The question at the end of the day is do we want to know God more intimately? If so, make Bible reading a part of your life. It is okay if the Bible is hard to understand and has mysteries because we have the Spirit to guide us through it all.

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The Christmas Message

The below is a special guest post by my friend, coworker, and brother in Christ, Andrew Lin.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

Paul begins this verse or statement with the following: “the statement is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance”. This should immediately grab your attention. Paul prefaces his upcoming statement by saying that it is not only trustworthy but also deserving of full acceptance. In the Greek, it literally reads “trustworthy is the statement”, placing the emphasis on trustworthy; this statement is worthy of banking your whole life on. In addition, Paul adds that it is deserving of full acceptance. Here I want to draw your attention to the word full, it speaks to two possibilities here in which I think Paul is emphasizing both. Full implying the attention of all peoples that would hear this, and also full implying the entirety of one’s being. On the one hand, Paul is saying that this deserves the attention of everyone, all humans. But also, for each and every one of us, it deserves our entire, full, undivided attention. What an introduction to the following statement!

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” I want to draw your attention to the subject of this statement: Christ Jesus. Paul is talking about the person of the Trinity who took on human flesh. Literally Christ meaning the “anointed one.” It was his title. And Jesus transliterated from the Hebrew, “Yahweh-saves”, God saves. It is the person of Christ that the gospel centers upon, and it is the person of Christ that Christmas centers on.

“Christ Jesus came into the world.” This coming into the world indicates not a coming into being, but rather coming from another place. This speaks to Jesus coming into this world, taking on human flesh, coming from another world. Jesus came from Heaven where He existed from eternity past in perfect fellowship with the God and the Holy Spirit. John writes in his gospel “1In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God and the Word was God… 14And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us.” And lets not diminish the action of coming into the world. Jesus left his place in Heaven where he experienced full joy and satisfaction to come into decaying world, a world filled with sin, a world that hated him. This condescension demonstrates the humility of Christ. It demonstrates the ultimate sacrificial love in which Jesus would leave his place in Heaven to come into the world among sinners.

For what purpose did he come? Paul continues to write that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That was His primary purpose in coming. This is what the whole Christmas story is centered upon; not only did Christ come into the world, but he came into the world to save sinners! Christmas is not about gift giving, holly, Christmas trees, fat Santa, and apple cider, but rather is about God who comes to save His people, to save sinners.

Paul is specific here, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He did not come into the world to save the righteous or the holy or the unblemished, but that he came into the world to save wretched sinners. The distinction here is not that there are those in the world that are sinners and those that are not, those that need Christ and those who do not. But rather this is the mentality that is echoed in Paul’s following statement: “of whom I am the foremost.” It is the reality, made known through the word of God that we are all sinners. “None is righteous, no not one”–Romans 3:10. It is the realization of sin in the face of a righteous God in which Paul recognizes the greatness, the infinite nature of his sin. And in this humility he cries out “of whom I am the foremost.” It is this humble attitude and recognition of undeserved mercy and grace, that demonstrates true and authentic faith in Christ.

I think that if we are all honest, Christian and non-Christian, we would concede that we are somewhat sinful. However how many of you would tell your friends that you are the worst sinner, the worst person you know? Probably not many, but this is what Paul is saying here, that in contrast to God and his infinite holiness and a proper understanding of our sinfulness, this an appropriate response. And in this humble statement, Paul is direction our attention not to himself necessarily, but to what he finds his value in. He continues in the next verse saying that he receives mercy for the reason that Christ Jesus would be the foremost. His value, his joy, his assurance is not found internally, but externally. It is found in the person of Jesus Christ.

This simple statement is the gospel message, the Christmas message. You are wretchedly sinful against a holy and infinite God. This has separated us from true fellowship with Him and your sin demands payment. The Bible informs us of our utter need for a Savior and the insufficiency of imperfect substitutes. Just look at the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. But God in his grace and mercy provides for us the perfect sacrifice, the perfect substitute as payment for our sins. And He is Jesus Christ. The Christmas message more than anything is a message about the Savior of the world who has come to save sinners, to save us.

I encourage you this holiday season to consider Christ. Consider the depths in which God condescended from Heaven to come into this world. To be born into a filthy, ordinary manger in human flesh. That he lived a perfect life so that he could be the all-sufficient solution to our dire need. He has come into the world to save sinners. Understand that Christmas is not so much about a cute baby in a manger, but a God-man who came into this world; it is not so much about giving gifts to one another, but the ultimate gift God has given in his Son; and it is not so much about warm fuzzy feelings of joy in a festive season, but a humble recognition of our sin and Christ as the perfect atonement for us.

And be encouraged as well. The verb here that Paul uses is “came”. It is past tense, it means that it has happened. The gospels each testify to Jesus coming into the world and testify to Jesus living a perfect life, and finally testifying to his death on the cross. And it doesn’t end there, but that Jesus was raised from the dead in victory over sin, and sits at the right hand of God. This has been accomplished for the purpose of saving sinners. Believe in him, trust in the Savior.  Take joy in the fact that your salvation, that your assurance of faith, that your sanctification lies not in your own self, but rather in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

That is the Christmas message.

Cut Through the Noise

Recently, events going on at my church in San Diego have been testing my Biblical knowledge and understanding of God. I ask myself one question, which leads to another question, which builds onto a different topic with its own set of questions… on and on and on! I am confused out of my mind! Even more frustrating are all the voices around me, with different opinions on doctrine or how to respond to different understandings of doctrine. Each voice scrapes and scuffs me with its intimations of “I’m right!” and “I’m right!”

I don’t know if you have encountered a similar struggle, but I have found that, in circumstances such as these, it is crucial to cut through the noise and listen for God’s voice alone. Prayer and reading God’s word. These are the simple and solid foundations for your faith, for building your relationship with God.

Still, I am encouraged that, although current situations may be unsteady and unsettled, God is unchanging and steadfast. His character, His word, His promises are with us to anchor us through suffering and celebration, through peaks and pitfalls, from generation to generation. And I rejoice all the more knowing that these trials are God ordained and for His glory!

“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 NASB).

Preaching the Gospel to Yourself

Dear Beloved Reader,

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted.  Recently I got to journey back to my beloved old home of Santa Barbara to share with the graduating International Students.   Without spending too much time going over other things, I just wanted to flesh to paper my sharing from that graduation retreat because I feel as though it is very pertinent to many different people in different places of their lives.

Before I proceed, I want to give some kudos/credit to a few people for teaching/helping me to flesh out these thoughts over the past 6 months in random books, talks, blogs and conversations: Jeff Louie, CJ Mahaney, David Platt, Kevin DeYoung, Jonathan Acuff, … and those in my life that have continued to participate in my life experience “marinade”.

I was asked to share some parting advice to the graduating international students that I have had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with and getting to see them go from strangers, to friends, and now for many, to family as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.  I hope you as a reader would set aside time to reflect on my words and that it may be a blessing to you for the rest of your life.  This has helped me through some of the most difficult times in my life recently whether it is heartbreak, discouragement, loneliness, or doubts about one’s life.  My one word of advice that has come over the past few years of reflection and marinade of life is the absolute importance to daily and as often as necessary: preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to yourself.

It is important to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to oneself because it helps to have a healthy reset/reorientation/correction of one’s personal perspective of life, and also because it has an amazing ability to free you (the reader) from the world’s bindings of sin, guilt, and shame as you live unfettered to flesh out God’s redemptive purpose in your life and in the lives of others.

This mainly arises from many conversations that I have had over the past few months with people in relationships, trying to figure out which school/universities to attend, to decisions about career, and even about marriage.  The common fear or issue that arises during these conversations is the fear of making the wrong choice.  What if I make the wrong choice… what is the right choice?  This stems from a concern about the irreversibility of life… and that because you only get one chance or shot at life… we want to make it right. We don’t want to make the wrong choices.  This leads us to a LOT of worry, fear and guilt.

We feel these things because of a few competing factors: we do not want to let God down, we do not want to let our parents down, we don’t want to let ourselves down.  What this does s this leads us to a guilt and fear in our decision making process.  Note, now some guilt is healthy… because if it’s due to sin… then there is a need to repent and to come to God in those times to reconcile and reflect on the Good News of Jesus Christ.  But more often than not, guilt is the steady drumbeat of feeling as though our actions and decisions are NOT good enough… and this slowly accumulates and drags us down.

But life is not meant to be lived in this binding chain, or weight of guilt, because it is meant to be lived in the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished.  This is why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so essential!  This is why we need to daily and as often as we can reflect on the Gospel that serves as a lighthouse shining a beacon of truth/light in the midst of our dark, stormy sea’d lives.

Three things to reflect upon when sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with yourself:

1) Sovereignty of God.

The first thing we acknowledge in our acceptance of the Gospel is that God is always in control.  God transcends circumstance.  We need to have a better understanding of the will of God… to remember that nothing we do is going to be a surprise to Him.  Nothing is above His knowledge, because He knows all.  Now I’m not discounting the fact that God may reveal an answer through prayer, confirmations, or even the Word, but sometimes we find that God does not give us a discernable answer… so what do we do?  Maybe this lack of response scares or possibly creates even more doubt/guilt in our lives.

The point is that maybe you are going to make mistakes… you may make decisions that may lead to hardships, and perhaps you may even choose the less “popular” or “wise” choice because of whatever reasons.

2) Freedom in Christ

This is why you need to reflect on the Gospel daily… its to consider the freedom that comes by the blood of Jesus Christ.  You are NEVER to feel that you have made a decision that can not be redeemed.  He is always able to redeem.  Whether you pick the right/wrong school/job, bf/gf, or husband/wife, everything is redeemable in Jesus Christ.  It is amazing that whether good or bad, God’s grace through Jesus Christ will be manifested.  If bad, maybe you’ll get he privilege to see more of God’s work at hand.  You are free to make the wrong choice (NOTE: I’m not talking about drug dealer vs. teacher decisions that can be easily clarified in reflection to the Word of God and the laws of our gov’t).

You are free to make the wrong choice because Christ is so much bigger than that!  You grow in faith, and you apply your faith in the grace of God to the most difficult circumstances and situations.  In my own life as I have moved up to the Bay… there have been times of great duress in my heart as I struggle with the choice of walking away from everything I was happy with and comfortable with to pursue God… it has been a lonely journey in some parts, but now I am starting to notice how God has led and helped me through this whole process.  Marriage, work, ministry, relationships, school, and life… everything is redeemable in Jesus Christ!  We are free to make choices.

3) Radical Living through the Holy Spirit

The Gospel is NOT SIMPLY about salvation… and it does not just stop there, but it is the controlling theme and should encompass every aspect of our lives!  Victory has been won, Christ will continue to intercede for you and I… even beyond the circumstances or the wrong choices.  If you are free, you can live radically in Christ.

Life is not lived in guilt, or burden of not doing enough, or being good enough.  As David Platt writes: “True change can NOT be built on guilt, but true radical life change is through trust in Jesus Christ and the Gospel.” Now I’m not talking about going to live a life of legalism, but one of love and grace.  Freedom from low level of guilt… driven by grace!  It is in that freedom to make a choice, whether to do more or you do less… it is a privilege and a blessing to participate in God’s redemptive plan!  If you do NOT, you are still deeply loved by God!   It is in this freedom that you can live radically by the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit to do amazing things.

You are liberated to live a life of freedom to truly do His Work, not burdened by guilt… and to do so great or not great.  There is no guilt or doubt about being loved… in whatever context!  So let me write again, that it is important to reflect on the Gospel because what you realize is that you have great power that is not simply reliant upon you, but upon and through the work of God through the Holy Spirit.

It is in ending that I again return to what I shared in the beginning that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ… and that it does not simply stop at your point of accepting Christ into your life.  It is very important that you reflect on it daily and throughout your life.  Today’s sharing I hope does not simply leave you feeling sad but liberated and free to be joyful/passionate/excited in the Lord!  My hope is that you will embrace the grace and freedom in Christ and live life unburdened by guilt… and having to try so hard to be good enough in all your decisions… in whatever you do.

May you live with the absolute unbendable truth, and the flexible grace that comes only through Jesus Christ in whatever context you may find yourself in. May you constantly reflect upon God’s Word, seeking intimacy in prayer with Him, and seeing His constant physical example through the company and fellowship of the community family of His saints.  May you continue to live a life always in reflection of the person and work of Jesus Christ… sharing the Gospel to yourself…  and to others.

With His love,

Helicon

Love God, Love Others

I have a thesis that the command to love God and the command to love your neighbor as yourself are fundamentally the same thing. As Christians, we struggle with the fact that God demands 100% of our love, and yet He commands us to love others. As humans, we struggle with the fact that we find things closer to us—people, hobbies, stuff—far easier to love than God, Who seems so distant at times. I believe that truly loving your neighbor (or anything for that matter) means that you first love God, and that loving God inevitably means that you will love your neighbor. You cannot claim to love anything unless you first love God.

My thesis begins with the assumption of creation ex nihilo. God, we believe, created everything out of nothing and, as Genesis says, He created everything good, because God Himself is Good. Things exist and are good only because God has caused them to be. In terms of existence, apart from God, there is nothing, non-existence, nada. Outside of God, nothing exists on its own.

What of evil then? Evil exists; are we to say that it exists in God, that God is evil? Of course not. Existence is itself a good; therefore, evil cannot be said to exist apart from good, because evil is the deprivation of good, the lack of goodness. When a good thing becomes evil, it suffers loss of what it once was. Evil is the nothingness which once was good; it is the subtraction of goodness. But what remains is still good, if only because what remains still exists. Evil, then, does not exist in and of itself.

Thus, even though evil is nothing, God did not create from evil by creating from nothing. Before creation, only God exists. God cannot suffer evil, because He is incorruptible, undergoing no change in His Being; He is the Supreme Good. But created things like humans, although they are good, can suffer evil by becoming less good. By choosing to turn away from God, the source of existence, we are turning towards nothingness, and we suffer the loss of our goodness and existence, which comes from God. That is what it means to be evil.

And so we come to the problem of loving God and others, and we see that if we are to love one another, then we must love God. Any good that exists in a human being comes from God. If we do not love God in them, then it turns out that we do not love at all, for apart from God, a human being is nothing. Hatred, which is the refusal to love a human being who exists, is also the refusal to love God, who is the source of existence. It is the love of nothing. By the same token, idolatry is loving something in a human other than God, but outside of God, there is nothing to love! Idolatry, then, is also the love of nothing, and the love of nothing is more properly called the lack of love.

I hope it is clear by now that the only way to truly love a human, to truly love anything, is to wholly and completely love God. Let us recognize that when we love another person, we actually love God in them. Some may say that this is abusive, treating humans as a means to God, rather than ends in themselves. But isn’t obvious that the only way to love humans as ends, is to love God, the end? In fact, if we do not love God, we always end up abusing other people, either hating them or making them into idols. It is only when we are fully loving God that we are properly loving everything else.

This is why the mystery of the Gospel is so, so important. As evil, sinful people, we are broken lovers, lovers of nothing, lacking true love. The incarnate Christ, however, by His life, death, and resurrection, has redeemed us from the depths. His mission is to give us Himself, to restore our relationship with Him, true God from true God. In Christ, we become complete lovers of God, and it is because of this that we become right lovers of everything else.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? – Matthew 18:24-26.