Category Archives: Christian

A Father’s Birthday Wish Come True

Today’s my birthday.  Not a big deal for me, but I have a wife and 7 children, so it’s impossible not to celebrate.  But I was given one of the best presents I could ask for yesterday.

My 2nd daughter, Eva, turns 16 in 2 days.  She’s very thoughtful and kind, friendly to most strangers, and has a heart especially for disabled children.  Sometimes, I forget how much she’s grown.  Below is one of her writing assignments for her Christian Growth class.

When I read this, I was immediately reassured that we are doing something right, homeschooling our children, raising them in God’s Word, and teaching them how to express not just their thoughts but more importantly, their convictions of faith.  This is no longer her parents speaking and teaching.  This is her faith and life she’s chosen to follow.


Committing to pray without ceasing

“Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy gave this command to the church in Thessalonica. (1Thessalonians 5:17-18) Why was this command so important, and is it still just as important? They, and other believers, were suffering imprisonment and persecution for their faith and spreading the Gospel message. Though the Thessalonians could not be with them in other countries, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy all knew they could be through prayer. The same goes for us; this command is for all believers today in this dying world, and will continue to be.

Committing to pray every day is important. It’s an appointment with God in prayer every day, for us to praise and thank Him, and intercede for others. It will take you a little bit of experimenting to find the best plan for you, but there are a couple of steps that you can take that might help you ease into it.  

1. Verbally declare your commitment.

You don’t have to announce with a megaphone in a town square, but it’s important to remind yourself (aloud) that you have to, and are going to have that time set aside today. Just like any other meeting, it’s important to be on time. Why should we strive to be on time for every appointment of our day, except for our appointment with God?

2. Fight all interruptions fiercely.

There will be times when Satan will try to slip little disturbances in the way of your appointments, but don’t let him! He knows that prayer is our greatest means of defense against his plans, and you should too! 

3. Develop a practical prayer plan.

Find the best time to have as your prayer time, and how long you have to pray. I enjoy basing my prayer plan on Dick Eastmans’ Scripturally-based Hour of Prayer, but again, it takes a little experimenting and practice to find what best suits you. I recommend setting aside at least one hour a day to pray when you first start out. You may find yourself at a loss of words at first, but this will give you time to fully enjoy having this appointment with God and God alone. After some time, you may find yourself wanting more than an hour a day! (You don’t have to pray for a whole hour straight; you could divide your prayer time throughout your day. Just remember to be consistent in your timing.)

4. Recognize the importance of your daily hour
 

Romans 10:13-14 says, ”For ‘Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Our prayers for our brothers and sisters-in-Christ, for the lost, for our leaders, and countries, make a difference. Even when you don’t know exactly what it is you’re praying for, “His (the LORD) ears are open to their (the righteous) cry” (Psalm 34:15)

Let us be “worthy of the calling” (2Thessalonians 1:11-12)! “For we are God’s fellow workers…” (1Corinthians 3:9) Let us work together to expand God’s Kingdom, and see other souls saved! Although we may lack opportunity throughout the day, there is always an opportunity to intercede for a lost soul in prayer. There is always an opportunity to pray for a friend, family member, stranger, etc. Let us take hold of this freedom and privilege to pray for others, and “pray without ceasing!” 

 

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How Healthy Is Your Local Church?

Been having a few discussions about healthy assemblies, so I thought it would be a good idea to capture some thoughts.  Depending on your denomination, the group of Christians that form a local body might go by a few different names – the Church, the body of Christ, the local assembly, the brethren.  My family and I have attended countless denominations over the years, so I’m not writing to split hairs over which is right.  Yes, I’ve gone through several studies of the greek word – ekklésia.  For the purpose of this post, I will use the names interchangeably.

Anyway, the point of this post is to discuss the health of your assembly.  How do you know if your congregation is new, growing, stable, declining, or even dead?  If you are visiting a church or looking for a new place to join in fellowship, one tell-tale sign is to observe the spread of generations represented.  Now, I’m not talking about “age diversity” like it’s some goal to manufacture artificially.  

What I’m referring to is whether you have large clusters of certain generations.  Does your assembly look like an old folks’ home?  Are your pews filled with mostly young couples or singles without any children?  Do you appear to cater to families with mostly toddlers?  I’ve even seen some mega-churches purposefully divide their congregations into these groups.  The older, ‘traditional’ worship crowd may meet at 8:30 am while the ‘modern’, younger Christians meet at 11.    

So why even bring up age or generations?  What does that have to do with a healthy church?  Everything.  Look at Paul’s letter to Titus.

Titus 2:1-8 (NKJV)

Qualities of a Sound Church

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.

(The bold emphasis was obviously added by me.)  Look at what Paul is describing.  The church is all about the older generations teaching, admonishing, and living out “a pattern of good works” to become examples for younger generations to follow.  The younger generations, in turn, should revere and learn from the older, wiser generations.  

Think about how our society behaves today.  How often do you hear the young praise the wisdom of elders?  Are you more likely to see the young dismiss, disrespect, and mock their elders?  How often do you see older generations complain about how spoiled and entitled millennials are? (I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this.)  By contrast, when was the last time you heard a parent or elderly person tell the younger “Follow me, as I follow Christ.“?  How many of these older generations can claim they are living examples of “integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech” — in other words, that they live out lives worthy of reverence? 

There’s a blatant lie that the secular world has come to embrace, and it has even permeated the Church.  It’s the idolatry of ME and ME TIME.  There’s a notion that we work hard for some 30-50 years of our lives and when we get to a certain age, it’s time to coast and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  No more kids to worry about or responsibilities other than fulfilling our own desires.  We save up for retirement and when we get there, it’s endless days of golfing, mimosas, and gossiping at the Club.  That or popping E.D. pills to bathe outside in a tub on a hill (not sure why these always seem to be together).

If this is what I’m working toward, someone please kill me now and put me out of my misery.  

At the fall of man, Genesis 3:17-19, God does not tell Adam that he only works until he grows old.  The curse to labor is for “all the days of your life” and “till you return to the ground“.  Now, as we age, we might not be able to do the same job or physical/mental labor that we had done in our youth.  But clearly, Paul instructs the older men and women to actively participate, even LEAD, in the matters of the church.  Think about how perfectly planned this is.  When you are young, you almost never had enough time or energy.  When you are older and wiser, you now have ample time to share your experience and wisdom.  

There’s something beautiful about a local assembly of Christians where the older, experienced ladies are helping young ladies, new mothers, or even struggling single mothers “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, [and] obedient to their own husbands”.  Likewise, when older men are preaching the Word, discipling the younger men to someday take up the roles of leadership in the home and the assembly, this is God’s design for how to build the Church.

To be sure, these principals of building the Church begin in the home.  Husbands and Wives have their own responsibilities for raising up godly children, teaching them the Bible, and earning the respect of their young ones.  The Church has a function to support and encourage Men and Women in their homes.  It can never replace a Mothers’ and Fathers’ responsibilities.

For decades, one alarming by-product of ignoring God’s design for building healthy homes and churches I’ve watched is the fallout rate.  Many churches have children that have grown up in the same assembly for most of their lives.  And yet, when they reach adulthood, not only do these children never return to the assembly of their youth, but they stop attending a church altogether.  

It’s amazing to me when local assemblies dedicate so much effort for preaching the gospel all over the world to complete strangers when we are failing to make disciples of Christ in our own homes.  What better opportunity for fertile soil will you have in your lifetime than to plant the seeds of faith in your own children?  Now I’m not saying missionary work isn’t important or Biblical.  Even Christ said “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”  

Still, the truth is that the health of our local assemblies hinges greatly on whether we are following God’s design rather than the latest marketing trend report.  The work of the body of Christ never ends, as even the Lord said, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” – John 9:4.  Each part of the body has a critical role to play in order to build and maintain a healthy, thriving church.  Let us focus on our calling, in our given season of life, to serve one another for His glory.

How Do You Measure Success as a Parent?

(I started writing this and I think I’m going to break this into 2 pieces.)  As our eldest daughter prepares to graduate from high school in less than 6 months, I’ve had this post brewing in my mind for a while.  We will soon have successfully taken the first of seven children through K to 12th grade of homeschool.  She’s even started her own blog, just like her old man.

As a husband and father of 7 children, I don’t take lightly the fact that there are 8 people in my home that depend on me not only to provide a roof, food on the table, and clothing on their backs, but most importantly, the family needs spiritual direction.

As a follower of Christ, I recognize that none of this is possible on my own ability, apart from Him.  It is only by the grace of God, that I’m able to do anything.  This is no small detail.  Christians may fall into a trap of losing the meaning of this word because we say it so frequently.  I literally cannot do anything apart from Him.  Scripture tells us that all things were made by Him and through Him.  I cannot wake up, breathe, eat, bathe, prepare a meal, go to work, or tie my shoes without Christ.

When it comes to my family, we’re definitely a peculiar bunch.  Everywhere we go, people take notice of us. It’s hard for a family of 9, Asian-American Christians to go unnoticed. We drive a huge, 12 passenger van.  We don’t curse, (at least we teach our children not to).  We don’t wear particularly fancy clothes. In fact, most of our children’s clothes were probably used or handed down.  And that might be what others see in us initially.  The exterior.

But then you start to notice some of the subtle differences in our family because of the values we’ve instilled in them.  If you’ve ever spent any time with my children, you’ll see that they like each other.  They deliberately include everyone in their activities. They speak kindly and respectfully to each other, offer to help one another, and talk to each other.  Now don’t get me wrong, tiffs will come up.  Arguments and tempers erupt.  Someone will push someone else’s buttons or get under someone’s skin.

My children don’t cower away from speaking with adults.  They know how to greet someone, introduce themselves, listen and have a conversation.  I’ve been told countless times that it’s amazing how comfortable my children feel, even the youngest 6-year-old, when speaking with adults.  I can’t even begin to tell you how often we’ve been approached by friends and complete strangers about how well behaved and mature my children are.

I don’t write these things to brag because, as I’ve already stated, none of it is by my own doing.  I write these because they are important to me and my wife.  We’ve made these things a priority.

My wife and I had chosen to homeschool our children pretty much from the firstborn.  We’ve lived in 3 different states where homeschool laws vary.  Though I completely reject the State’s presumed authority over the education of my children, we comply with their rules because I recognize the reality that the State could come into our home with guns and take our children forcibly away from us.  And though morally we would be justified, my children would be better served with parents that love them and are there to raise them.

Central to everything we teach our children is the Bible and our faith in Christ.  Reading, writing, spelling, literature, math and science – all these subjects are taught from a Biblical worldview. For almost 2 decades, we’ve raised them by teaching and living out our faith.  I’m not as close to their daily education as my wife.  We always say that I’m the Principal of our school and she’s the Teacher.  So it’s amazing to me when I realize just how much of our teaching is sinking in, to see our faith become their faith.

It occurred to me on a couple different Sunday mornings when I was sitting with one of the younger boys and the preacher would reference a chapter and verse in Scripture.  Not too long ago, when a book of the Bible was referenced, they would have to go to the Table of Contents to see where to find that particular book.  But now, they know (or at least have a general idea) where to look.  They know if it’s in the Old Testament or the New.  If it’s Old, does it come after Proverbs or before?  If it’s NT, is it one of the gospels or a letter from Paul?

And even more recently, I’ve heard about my children defending their faith, with Scripture. When challenged with new or unusual gospels, they rightly go back, not to their feelings or what someone told them from the pulpit, but to what they’ve read in their Bibles.

So I ask parents out there reading – how do you measure success for your children? What is it that you want to see most from them in their lifetime?  For some parents, getting their children into an Ivy League school or graduating with a 4.0 GPA or getting them into medical or law school represents the pinnacle of success.  Other parents may have aspirations that their children make the football team or earn 1st chair violin in the symphony orchestra.  Still others may have family traditions that are important like enlisting in the army or running a family business.  

Some parents say the thing most important for their children is that they grow up to be happy.

Or married.  

Or happily married.  

Or rich and happily married.

I’ve always believed my role as a parent is to train up our children in righteousness.  

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 NKJV (http://bible.com/114/pro.22.6.NKJV)

You shall teach [God’s law] to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  – Deuteronomy 11:19 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy11:19&version=NKJV)

We teach our children how to behave in society and in the home, to communicate with others, to live peaceably, to love one another.  We teach them that God provides so that we must, in turn, be generous and good stewards with the things He has given us.  We fill them with Salt and Light so that someday they can go into the world to be Salt and Light.

We teach our children that although I go to work every day, my job does not define who I am.  Jobs will come and go.  Paul wrote – “… for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  – Philippians 4:11b-12” 

As obvious as it may sound to read, our success as parents depends greatly on our presumed goals.  If you haven’t determined what your goals are, you are guaranteed to fail.  If you let the State dictate what your goals for your children should be, I have a strong conviction that you and your children will end up disappointed, depressed, anxious, and woefully unprepared to face the challenges of daily living.  In my next piece, I will touch on Education, Job Skills, and Return on Your Investment.

 

Wave That Flag

Once again, the flag burning debate has popped into the headlines.  Not sure what prompted it, but apparently your President Trump had an opinion to share:

A year in prison or loss of citizenship.

The obvious double standard that his fans seem to overlook is that Conservatives oftentimes defend anyone that burns an ISIL/ISIS flag. Or a Koran.  They stand behind their precious 1st Amendment and claim God is on their side.  These are the same people that laugh at French, satirical comics of Mohammed but cry foul when someone mocks baby Jesus or Mary.  It’s clear then that the rights protected by the 1st Amendment are not preeminent in their minds.  It’s only convenient when it aligns with their goal of preferential treatment for themselves.  The 1st Amendment is quickly discarded when any opposing values or speech claim rights to the same protection.

Liberals are logically inconsistent in similar fashion.  They stand up for anyone that’s not white, Christian, or ‘Murican.  They claim to fight for equality for the little guy, the minority view.  But they often get so wrapped up in the minority that they are willing to sacrifice the majority just to prove a point.  That doesn’t make a lick of sense either.  I’ve written on several occasions that equality is a farce and a mirage so I won’t get into it here.

But Free Speech aside, I’ve written quite a bit about the ideas of Imperialism and National Pride in the 21st century.  These flags we wave are designed to divide us and pit us up against each other.  Behind the flag, we take credit for things in which we had no participation, assume blame for atrocities we did not commit, and hate entire groups of people whom we’ve never met.  There are flags for clubs, religious denominations, sexual orientation, sports teams, professional associations, rock bands, corporations, and schools.  There are flags for cities, states, regions, countries, and continental unions.

Sure.  There are some that will claim the flag brings people together.  It doesn’t have to necessarily divide.  That’s all well and good if you agree with everything for which the flag stands.  But what if you don’t?  What if you are critical of some of the things that flag represents?  Well, if you’re talking to a die-hard flag fanatic, a flag-natic if you will, chances are you are now the enemy and just placed a target on your back.

Think about how inconsistently the American Flag itself is treated.  On the one hand, flag-natics will tell you that it should never touch the ground.  You should never leave it out in the rain (unless it’s specifically an all-weather flag).  It should be folded / stored / and retired in a precise, prescribed manner according to the code.  (Incidentally, when it’s time to retire a flag, you’re supposed to burn it.  You just have to have a little ceremony where you sing a song, recite your holy prayers over it, etc.)  

But with all this pomp and circumstance surrounding the idolatry of the national cloth, Conservatives don’t seem to mind if you fashion a bikini (or swimmers’ underwear) out of a flag.  You can make tablecloths and napkins that look like flags.  You can make shoes dressed to look like the flag.  I’ve even seen pictures of Muslims wearing hijabs (headcoverings) out of their Red, White and Blue flags (of course, this caused all kinds of confusing ruckus with Conservatives.)

And what should Christians think?  Can we, in good conscience, idolize the flag?  

We were reading the following passage in Hebrews at the assembly a few weeks ago.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

(Hebrews 11:13‭-‬16 NKJV)

http://bible.com/114/heb.11.13-16.NKJV

These verses are in the middle of the so-called Hall of Fame of the faithful.  I don’t know why American Christians don’t seem to understand the simple, yet crystal clear, statement made in Scripture.  And in the New Testament, no less.  

As Christians, this world is not our home.  Our primary citizenship is a heavenly country, not America.  We reside in these lands as sojourners.  Within our arbitrary borders, there are people that do not share citizenship to our heavenly country.  Conversely, we share citizenship with other Christians that live beyond our flag-based borders.  As Christians, we have more in common with other Christians in Canada, Mexico, China, Nigeria, Russia, Iraq, and Israel than we do with non-Christians (atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Humanists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons) that reside in the United States.  

When we bomb, spy, steal from or overthrow governments in countries with different flags than ours, we are most likely doing that to some of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  When we point drone strikes or nukes at our so-called enemies, we are taking aim at fellow Christians.  

And even if there weren’t a single professing Christian in the lands of the Other Flags, how does the Great Commission of Christ, to go forth and make disciples of ALL the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, reconcile with your platform of Nationalism?  

Brethren, don’t let the politics of the flag entangle you into fruitless and empty philosophy.  Our only allegiance should be to His Kingdom come.  When we buy into the Us vs. Them debate, we not only kill fellow followers of Christ, but we hinder our one calling from the Master to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.

 

 

 

Thoughts on Father’s Day

It’s a quiet, Sunday afternoon in our home. After breakfast, the children gave me some cards they had made for me. (In a digital age, I am so thankful that my wife has taught our children the dying art of handwriting letters and making cards for loved ones.) The rest of the morning was spent gathering with the saints, worshipping our Lord and Savior Jesus. As brothers led in prayer and song, our pastor shared a couple thoughts on our Heavenly Father. In Luke 15, Jesus shares 3 parables about the lost – the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Coin, and the Parable of the Lost Son (aka the prodigal son).

In each of these parables, Jesus reveals God’s heart to seek and save the lost. The man who lost 1 of his 100 sheep was not satisfied with most of them being safe. He left the others to search for the lost sheep and when it was found, “he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!

The woman who lost 1 of her 10 silver coins, likewise, lit a lamp, swept the house, and when she found her lost coin, called her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her.

But what always cuts me to the heart is the parable of the prodigal son. A son who had all the riches and happiness he could ever desire selfishly runs off to pursue fleeting lusts and foolishness. When he finally comes to his senses, in his mind, the son was already dead to his father. Crawling back with his tail between his legs after his rebellion, his only hope was to be allowed back in as a servant.

But our Heavenly Father stands waiting, seeking, hoping for us to turn back to Him. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (v 20b) He runs to us as we’re just coming over the horizon.

There are many so-called Christians that have this view of a God who is angry, bitter, and ultimately disappointed in His children and our imperfections. They live in fear that somehow they’ll lose their salvation because they fail over and over, despite the fact that Christ died, shed His blood for us, and “entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12)

These parables show a God who rejoices at our redemption. “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10). (Incidentally, our pastor pointed out that in this verse, it is GOD who is full of joy over the repentant sinner. The angels are simply there in His presence witnessing.) God doesn’t hold a grudge against us or take us back conditionally. To do so would imply we’ve somehow earned our salvation to begin with which is clearly heresy.

Our Father in Heaven is Holy. There’s no ambiguity or doubt that He will hold sinners accountable for every sin. Like our earthly fathers, our Heavenly Father also disciplines His children.  To teach us. Out of love, not anger or wrath. (Hebrews 12:3-11). Never forget that “The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” (Psalm 103:8) Matthew’s account of the Parable of the Lost Sheep adds – “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14)

Salvation for the lost is freely available. It is the free gift given to all who believe on the Lord Jesus. Those who know Christ know the Father. And it is only through Christ that the Lost can be Found.

On this day when we celebrate our earthly fathers, do not forget your Father in Heaven who stands waiting, looking for you to come home, to run out to embrace you.