Be a Part of the Solution rather than the Problem

Chick-Fil-A

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

With the controversy of Chik-Fil-A and the boycotting, and many other circumstances that have come about as a result, I was most saddened and hurt by the outright harshness and bitterness that has come from within the Christian community regarding this whole situation.  Some of these statements are directed at the Church, and in many places de-value the Word of God to a place under the cultural perspectives that are prevalent and popular today.  Just in case you don’t realize, the Church is being persecuted and oppressed for the values it extols and loses out often because those that profess to be Christian have not adequately defended or lived out the Gospel truths in their own lives.  The simple truth is this, the people within this Church will never be able to live up to this high calling due to inherent fallen-ness of man and our sin.  So I mourn, because in one way Christians are called hypocrites for our poor living of God’s truth, and the other way is we are unable to speak our views because we are then considered ignorant/old-fashioned/hateful when we simply stand for the truths that we believe in.  The reality is we are in a dark time and if one side is unable to speak its views without an immediate angry reaction, then is this true healthy dialogue that is happening?  In many ways, I feel like folks are seeing the Church as this:

Church is like a toilet

Unfortunately, this is often how many view the Church today.

I want to make a point to state this: if you want to discuss my personal beliefs and views on this, then  please feel free to meet with me in person to talk more about the subject.  I am here to make this statement instead: Be a Part of the Solution rather than the Problem.

Recently, a sibling came to me complaining that our faith community does not pray enough.  She shared how she didn’t see us praying enough and was frustrated and disappointed at our community.  In the moment, I asked her this simple question: did you go to prayer meeting?  What essentially she was saying was that she had not seen our faithfulness to pray as a body.  Granted, she was right in some sense… our church struggles in praying together, but I knew that it was a bit unfair for her to make this assessment because I had never seen her at our meetings.  Her response that followed my question was one of acknowledging that she had not attended.  I replied then that perhaps her role then is to start praying for others and to start attending.  In doing so, one speaks with more credibility and sets an example for others, and you start to be a part of the solution rather than the problem.

Be a part of the solution rather than the problem, beloved brothers and sisters.  Just like you, I hate that there are many in the Church that make those in the LGBT community feel unloved, unwanted, and less-than.  But let me clarify one thing… not every Christian is like this.  There are a large group of Christians that are daily trying to take up their cross and to honor Christ in all that they do and how they live.  They are loving others and praying for others.  They are actively serving the LGBT community and dialoging with others and serving the less fortunate and preaching the truth about God… the amazing Gospel of Jesus Christ to others.  In attacking the “Church”, you are also unintentionally attacking your very beloved brothers and sisters that have been a part of your Christian life and all those Saints that have come before you.  By attacking the “Church”, I think we also reveal a poor understanding of what the Church is here for too.

So let me define Church in a very short brief explanation (off the top of my head)… the Church is a supernatural entity and gathering of God’s people for His purpose and plan from our time into eternity that will come to fruition and are linked by the life, death, resurrection, and promise of Jesus Christ.  God’s people whether local or universal (“Catholic”), is the Church, and are given gifts to be used to bring about His glory and purpose.  My Professor in Seminary, Dr. Tuck said that the church is: “the people of God, people of the light, the heavenly community and congregation.”  We are the body that serves to bring about God’s plan and purpose, we are the body of CHRIST!  Realize that the body of Christ needs grace just as much as the world does.

The funny thing is this, the Church, the people of God are NOT saved and being used because they are the Dream Team of good people; if anything it is because we really suck!  It is exactly because of their inherent brokenness and flawed-ness that the Church is called to be Jesus’ hands and feet and voice to this world that is lost.  It is taking the weak and the foolish and shaming the strong and the wise.  God does not need us to do His work, but by His grace allows Christians to participate despite our inherent and apparent imperfection and hypocrisy.  The irony is God can use the worst situations to bring about His greatest achievements; it is in doing so that humanity gets no credit and He gets all the glory.  If the Church consisted of holy perfect people, then we would not be about Christ but ourselves.  It is in this constant dependency and need that we constantly are seeking after God and crying out to Him for help.

Be a part of the solution rather than the problem, beloved brothers and sisters.  Jesus did hang out with society’s rejects and losers.  He also hung out with the popular and even super-religious folks.  Do you have a Jesus’ words in red letter Bible?  If so, then what you notice is this: Jesus in the words He spoke was filled with truth that was so beautiful and perfect and incredibly impossible to live up to apart from God; it had such holiness, power, and was without error.  Yet if you look at Jesus’ life in the black letters (normal print), what you see is a Savior that was incredibly gracious and loving.  He was patient with those that needed patience, and strong and firm to those that were self-righteous.  The truth is: “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17b).  Jesus was a perfection of both grace and truth lived out; He exemplified that paradox of being able to accomplish both.

The unfortunate reality is: we all desire to be both grace and truth and like all humanity we tend to swing like a pendulum overcompensating or undercompensating in our lives.  We can be incredibly gracious and yet truth-less, and we can also be incredibility truthful and yet be grace-less.  Either way is NOT Jesus because they are inherently flawed and may actually hinder others.  Being gracious and loving without truth brings about nothing that Jesus did; He extolled the Scriptures… He did not come to abolish the Law that was given, but to fulfill them.  Our righteousness needs to exceed even those of the religious people!  Being truthful and Word-centered without grace brings about nothing that Jesus did either.  Jesus perfectly loved His enemies and prayed for them as He died there on the cross at Calvary… He was perfect in His love as well.

You can’t have one without the other. Grace and Truth… and yet we each desire to find that balance. This is the Christian life inspired, guided, strengthened, reinforced and lived out daily until we are called home.  If you profess to know Jesus Christ and show very little grace; you have missed the point.  God is love, and in Jesus’ very act of submission and sacrifice… His life/death/resurrection exemplifies God’s love!  If you profess to know Jesus Christ and show very little concern for God’s Word, His truth; you have missed the point.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He is truth and He has brought about the Word to teach and show His Story!

If you disregard what the Word is teaching and saying, and sacrifice it all for “love” then you are NOT proclaiming the truth.  You cannot have grace without the truth; and you cannot have truth without grace.  When it is one or the other in extreme what you have is anti-nomianism, or legalism; it is an unhealthy imbalance.  Either way is not what Jesus teaches and NOT how he lived!  If you are not concerned with the inherent sin found in our world today that has been shown and addressed by God, then you are not seeing this world as God sees this world.  It is the very case that God loves this world so much that He has sent Jesus to address this sin of this world.  If one disregards this sin, then what was the point of Jesus’ life/death/resurrection?

Be a part of the solution rather than the problem, beloved brothers and sisters.  The world does not need any more people hating on those that follow Jesus.  The Bible already pointed out that there are folks that will do that and even kill Jesus’ followers, there is no need for more because if anything it reveals one’s own bitterness and hatred rather than truly helping the circumstances.  Be a part of the solution… have you ever thought that perhaps your insight into God’s truth and how to love the LGBT community is an opportunity to educate rather than to accuse?  Rather than pointing one’s finger, which is the problem, let’s be a part the solution by educating and setting an example for others.  Prayerfully and by teaching and gaining the trust of those we love and desire to encourage, we patiently point out how to love and to dialogue with those that may be ignorant within our Churches.

Here’s the thing too… for those outside the Church, we have an opportunity to be part of the solution as well. We don’t walk into conversations and start fights with the truth, but as God is the Creator, let us be creative in how we display, share and interact with grace and truth to those in this world.  In the same way, it is building relationships and trust and sharing with love and grace and showing them how a Christian is to be holy as He is holy; it is also sharing and telling others of the truths found in Scripture and sharing the Gospel (remember all Scripture is profitable for teaching/reproof/correction/training in righteousness).  It is showing our less-than perfectness and showing that only Christ has brought about perfection and it is not our actions and works that result in this, but His grace alone.  Let us not fight the world by the world’s ways, but through God’s way which is through love that is shown by both grace and truth.  Let us always remember this.

Lastly, you will be persecuted for your position.  You will demand truth and grace, but the world and even the church will perhaps only see one or the other.  Be persecuted, but keep running the good race.  Your life needs to continue to reflect His truth and grace, and your focus must be on Christ only.  Your first and only allegiance needs to be the Lord.  For others, you are called to love them and see God’s heart for them. It is through this then you are to manifest truth and grace.  Remember, the Church consists of sinners, and yet, this is the community which Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for!  God is somehow using this rag-tag bunch of folks to do His good work, and He loves them as well.  Let us be a part of the solution rather than the problem; let us not condemn those in the body, but let us teach and encourage them to love and pray for others, and to value the word of God.  Let us practice a balance of grace and truth.   Grace and peace to you.

Abiding in the Commandments of Jesus

John 15:11

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:9-11.

It seems to me that the word “commandment” earns a bad rap in many evangelical circles today. For some, it sounds too much like legalism. What we often forget is that obedience should not be equated with legalism. Neither does adherence to God’s laws and commandments mean that we are trying to earn our salvation. Recall that Jesus Himself amplified the Law in the Sermon on the Mount. Consider the following:

  • He has called us not to be angry (Matt 5:21-26).
  • He has called us not to lust (Matt 5:27-30).
  • He has called us not to lay up treasures on earth (Matt 6:19-24).

These are just a few of the things that Jesus has called us to in this life. Not that we earn salvation by doing these things; rather, having saved us by grace, Jesus invites us to begin participating in the new life that we have in Him. He doesn’t just save us and leave us to figure out the rest of our lives on our own. He calls us to a new life – a better way of living, here and now.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commandments and abide in his love. 

John says that as we keep the commandments of Christ, we abide in Him and His love. In the church today, there is much talk about having the love of Christ. There is comparatively little talk about obedience to Him. As evidence of that, consider the high rate of divorce and the increase of premarital sex in the evangelical church at large (see here). We say we love Jesus; there is hardly a contemporary worship song that doesn’t have the words “love” and “Jesus” in the same line. And yet, after Sunday service, we return to our own way of doing things, deliberately engaging in ways of life that Jesus forbids.

Perhaps one reason this happens is that we impose our own notions of love against Jesus’ command to Love. We think that love means that God affirms us no matter how we behave. God is there for our sake. True obedience, well, that’s for those who are super-super spiritual. For us regular folk, as long as we try, as long as we “love” Jesus (whatever that means), we’re okay.

The Bible is clear that we cannot love and follow Jesus on our own terms. Recall that Jesus believed that the commands to love God and love others “sums up” all the Law and the Prophets. This “summing up” means that the command to Love is grounded in God’s Law. Thus, true love and discipleship occur only within the limits of God’s commandments. Anything less than that is a distortion of what God has intended for our good. If we are to be followers of Jesus, we must follow Him, not as we wish but as He leads, according to His Lordship.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Let’s not be discouraged by our high calling. Jesus promises that in abiding in his commandments, we also abide in his love. When we keep his commandments and abide in his love, His joy dwells in our hearts. If we are reluctant to be obedient, it’s often because we forget that God’s commandments are for our good. His way is better. When we follow Jesus rather than ourselves, our joy is made full and perfected. Let us, then, set aside our own ways and cast ourselves into the way of Jesus.

God’s will

TemporaryVisitors - Guest Post

Whenever there’s a 5th Sunday in a month, we take a break from the regular rotation between myselfHeliconTim, and Dien to feature a guest writer. Since there were 5 Sundays in April, this week’s post comes to you from my good friend and younger* brother, Nathan Yee.

* He does not allow me to call him “little” for obvious reasons if you’ve ever seen us standing next to each other. 


Lately I have been contemplating what it means to ‘be in God’s Will’.  We always speak about and pray that we want the ‘Will of God’ to be expressed in our life and that we would co-labor in it.  The question I posed to myself in studying this was:

Am I not seeing an opportunity that is right in front of me which God has placed in my life, that I ought to be pouring into? 

I am reminded of Paul’s missionary work and how he had a genuine desire to go and share the Gospel to the Romans. Obviously Paul didn’t just wait and not do anything and wait for God to open a door for him to get to Rome so he could fulfill his desire.  If so, the book of Acts would have looked much differently, but on the contrary what we do see is Paul actively contending for the faith everywhere God sent him.  Even though Paul didn’t immediately get to Rome in the beginning of his missionary journey, he poured everything he had into what was before him. Acts 14:20 tells of Paul being stoned in Lystra and dragged out of the city presumed dead by the locals, but immediately re-enters the city which tried to kill him.  We do not experience that type of persecution today, but how often do we bow out of opportunities to share the love of God when confronted with the slightest opposition? Paul could of said at that point, ‘I’ve had it with Lystra, my desire is to be in Rome and that is where I’m going.’ But Paul didn’t allow life’s circumstances and his own genuine desires to get in the way of doing what God had for him and followed faithfully.

We can have our desires for our life but the Lord will take us ultimately where He sees fit. Even when our desires are praiseworthy and for the God’s glory, it may not be what God has in store for us at the moment.  We ought not to let circumstances dictate where we believe God is leading us.  God has not promised us comfort and ease in following Him but the contrary ‘Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’ 2 Timothy 3:12.  Easily we fall into a trap today where the most comfortable and logical choice is sought after as God’s plan for us.  We pour everything we have into obtaining this dream to where we have lost sight of what it says in Matthew 22:37 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’.  Lets be reminded that we are to love God for who He is rather than the blessings He gives.

I am reminded of the lyrics to ‘Give Us Clean Hands’ by Chris Tomlin, “Oh God let us be a generation that seeks, who seeks Your face, oh God of Jacob”.  We have an opportunity to have intimate fellowship with the one and true living God for all the days of our lives, let us not consume ourselves with the periphery.

For the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Shalom,
-Nathan

Struggling with Grace

In the past few years, God’s been teaching me more about grace. Having grown up as a Christian, I took it for granted that I was saved apart from works, to the point that I didn’t really know what it means to live by grace. And so, entering the last few years of high school, I was still struggling with grace, works, and sin, and frankly, my conscience was still bound to a very legalistic mindset.

Recently, I’ve been reading up on Paul’s theology, specifically as set forth in Galatians. The book of Galatians expresses Paul’s surprise and disappointment that the Galatian Christians would so quickly return to a lifestyle bound by the Law after accepting salvation by grace. Hearing that they are considering supplementing the Gospel with circumcision, Paul asks why they would want to “turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world” (Galatians 4:9, ESV). The Law, marked by the seal of circumcision, is powerless to save. For Paul, works cannot justify man before God, and to return to works as a rule of life is to take a step back in redemptive history.

This return to works is still prevalent in the church today. It certainly was my struggle in high school. Sure, I believed that I was saved by God’s grace, apart from any merit of my own. Christ died for me while I was still a sinner. This, I had accepted years ago when I was still a child; yet, for some reason, going through high school, I continued telling myself that I had to do something to prove my self. My faith had to be supplemented by works, by obedience to the Law, by a strict, moral lifestyle. Morality, the Law, good works—these are doubtless all good, but my motive in pursuing them was completely backwards. I was attempting to use these things to commend myself before God, to prove to myself and to Him that my faith was genuine. I was not “being good” out of a heart of love for God, but I was “being good” out of a heart of compulsion. I was, in fact, making the same mistake as the Galatians by turning to works rather than to God’s grace.

Ironically, it was through works that God once again broke me into returning to his grace. He allowed me to struggle with sin, time and time again. Despite my best efforts, I could not overcome even my smallest problems. I am not now referring to sin as a whole, but only to a very specific set of sins in my life, which I thought I should be able to conquer. But God allowed me to struggle, and He allowed me to fail utterly to commend myself before Him. Somewhere along the line, though, it clicked. I began to realize that grace is not a one-time event, but it is an ongoing gift that we rely on not only for our justification, but also for our sanctification. God finally got it in my head that just as works are powerless to justify, so they are also powerless to sanctify.

Grace means that I am already forgiven. It means that I don’t have to do anything to be saved. To continue commending myself before God through works is to take a step back and deny the efficacy of what Christ did on the cross for me. Being familiar with Christian lingo, I was using “sanctification” as an excuse to return to works as a way to secure a peace of mind. Subconsciously, I kept telling myself that I was justified by grace through faith, but I was sanctifying myself through works. But as Paul shows in Galatians, this type of thinking is totally backwards. There is no return to works for one who is saved by grace.

Here, I must insert the customary disclaimer and say that grace doesn’t mean I’m now free to sin. But even in writing this disclaimer, I’m once again tempted to think that I have to obey in order to be saved. Thankfully, the beauty of grace is that it releases us from compulsion so that we are free to live not according to the Law, but according to the Spirit. As Christians, saved by the blood of Christ, we are no longer compelled to fulfill the requirements of the Law, but we are called to bear the fruits of the Spirit. This is where I’ll end tonight, because (conveniently) this also happens to be where I’m at in my walk with Christ. For now, my prayer for myself, for all of us, is that we’d continue in God’s saving grace, relying in Him not only for our justification, but also for our sanctification.

Seek First His Kingdom: Thoughts From…Genesis?

Recently, I read Genesis. To be honest, once I was done, I felt a bit disappointed. It didn’t really change my life in any specific way. I did glean a couple insights about my own life from, I think, Abraham or Lot’s story. They were good reminders. Overall, though, it was like going to Panda One Buffet, eating the place out of business, and leaving just as hungry as I was when I came. I spent 3 or 4 hours reading Genesis, and God didn’t have a single thing to say to me.

Actually, He did have something to say to me. It went something like this:

Tim, it’s not about you.

God says a lot of things in Genesis, but what he has to say isn’t directly addressed to me as an individual (not that it doesn’t apply to me; more on that later). Genesis isn’t about me. For the most part, the entire Bible isn’t about me. It’s about God. It’s about who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing now.

Too often, I treat my relationship with God like I’d treat a relationship with a personal trainer. God’s here to teach me the right exercises, to feed me spiritual foods that satisfy my needs, to spot me when I do some heavy lifting…all so that I can become a strong Christian with a thriving ministry that gives me personal fulfillment. But God’s not primarily in the business of making pumped-up individuals. Last I checked, He has an agenda of his own. He’s working according to His own plan, not mine.

Now, I’m not saying that God treats people like tools. What I am saying is that we have to remember that God is perfecting a plan that’s been in the works since Creation—a plan beyond anything we’ve ever imagined. The exciting thing is that we are a part of this great work; however, it isn’t primarily about us as individuals. God does work to produce individual meaning and fulfillment for our lives, but, in the Bible, this is always done in context of His master plan. In Genesis, we see that God’s master plan is to bless all of humanity.

Genesis shows that God works at all levels of human history. At the top level, He’s dealing with Man and the problem of sin. Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the Tower of Babel—these are all events that affected humans universally. Through these, God reveals His wisdom, His power, and His benevolence towards the human race, the crown jewel of Creation.

At the next level, God begins working through a specific people group. God raises up Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the patriarchs of an ethnic group through which “all peoples on earth” will be blessed (NIV Gen. 12:3). God is at work among communities of people.

Finally, God uses individuals to accomplish his work. In Genesis, the prime example of this is Joseph. With God’s help, Joseph saves not only Egypt but the entire known world from a severe famine. At the same time, he preserves a remnant of his own family, which would later become the nation of Israel. Joseph understands that God didn’t make him the de facto ruler of Egypt in order to make his life personally fulfilling. He tells his brothers that what they intended for evil, God intended for good “to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (NIV Gen 50:19). Joseph properly recognizes his individual role in context of God’s wider plan for blessing the whole world.

Today, we know that what God has been preparing since Genesis is the Gospel of Christ for the salvation of men. Sadly, we’ve moved away from the universal and communal aspects of God’s plan in favor of individual fulfillment. We’re on a search for meaning in our own lives, and the Gospel’s supposed to help us get there. Even when we fellowship, the primary reason seems to be focused on building ourselves up spiritually. My point isn’t that these things are bad, but I think that by focusing on the individual joyride, we’re missing out on being a part of God’s bigger plan. Joseph found personal fulfillment in recognizing his part in God’s plan to bless the world. In the same way, we’ve got to start with God’s Big Plan and work our way down to find out where we fit in the grand scheme of things.

“…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”