Well this is my appreciation to my first worship team.
Mimi: I can’t believe it’s already that time for us to move on with bigger things in our lives. You did such an awesome job leading worship. We have so many memories together. I hope our little gig plan will work out and unfold for us….
When it comes this thing called “religion,” we just think too much.
We try to figure out this person called “God” when in reality, we don’t even know where to begin. Yes, we have theologians, seminarians, pastors, teachers, priests, and all of the above; but even with all those people, we can’t put a book together that agrees with one another. In the church, we got pro-life and pro-choice, we got Calvinists and the Armenians, we got Catholics and the Protestants, we got charismatics and conservatives, we got presbyterials and congregationals etc. What is the right combination? How do we know? and Why?
The right combination is all of them because we have been called to be all things to all people because God is all in all. So don’t think too much. Just keep your eyes focused on this one thing: His glorious presence. The wisest man ever to live, King Solomon, said these very words, “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:18).”
When you live from the mind, you live in the past and put your faith in your personal experiences or occurences in history; but when you live from the heart, you live in the present. Your brain is a great student but a horrible teacher. Your heart is a much better teacher for the brain. Think of it this way. When you go brain dead, you are still alive because your heart still brings forth life; but when your heart dies, everything goes with it.
Even for myself who belongs to the Church of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I think my ways into encounters with Him. I get too practical and stuck in my mind, allowing my brain to get in the way of my heart. 1 Corinthians 8:1 says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
Cut your head off and live from your heart.
All throughout history, people have been trying to figure out the purpose of life. If you were to search “purpose of life” on Google, you will get 360 million hits on the meaning of life and how to figure it out. As Christians, we face a similar dilemma: What is God’s will, and how do we figure it out? As His people, we need to understand His will and what He desires from each and every one of us, because our one and only purpose is to glorify God in everything that we do. If He isn’t Lord of all, then He isn’t lord at all. Douglas S. Huffman’s book, How Then Should We Choose?: Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making,is a compilation of essays that focus on three different approaches to understanding the will of God – “The Specific-Will View” by Henry and Richard Blackaby, “The Wisdom View” by Garry Friesen, and “The Relationship View” by Gordon T. Smith.
As one progresses through the specific-will view, he or she will find that there are four means of decision-making:
- Scripture: The Word of God is active and alive (Hebrews 4:12) and guides us (Psalms 119:105)
- Prayer: We don’t know what to pray about without the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27)
- Circumstances: The events in our lives are all decided by God (Matthew 10:29-31)
- Fellow believers: using other people to speak into our lives (Acts 11:27-30)
Much of the specific-will view focuses on impressions that are seen, heard, felt, or expressed through Scripture, prayer, circumstances, and other believers. “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15), and it is up to us to be able to recognize His voice. According to Blackaby’s, God gave us the Scripture as a guide for Christian living; but He does not merely give us doctrines and morals, God gives Himself to us. When Jesus ascended to the heavens, He did not say, “I will send you the Scriptures,” instead He said, “I will send you the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised” (Luke 24:49).
It is evident throughout the Bible that God has specific plans for each and every one of us to accomplish His will (Jeremiah 29:11); He loves us too much to not communicate what is best for us and not orchestrate His purposes into the lives of His people. Through a close, intimate relationship with the Lord, we will be compelled to submit to His will and live in a way that accomplishes His purposes and glorify Him and Him alone.
According to Garry Friesen, the Wisdom View can be summarized into four principles:
- Where God commands, we must obey. The first principle is very straight forward – where there is a commandment of God, it is not only good, but also wise, for us to be obedient to His commandment. For the matter, He is God.
- Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose. The second principle focuses on the freedom and responsibility that God has given His people to make choices that honor Him.
- When there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose. This principle suggests that when we are lacking wisdom, we should ask God, the Giver of all knowledge and wisdom, and it will be given to us (James 1:5). Friesen points out that there are four sources that can help us gain more wisdom: (1) prayer, (2) Scripture, (3) outside research, (4) wise counsel (biblical and experiential), and (5) life itself.
- When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good. The fourth principle states that after we have chosen what is moral and wise, “God will work for the good those that love Him” (Romans 8:28).
The basic understanding of the Wisdom View is that an individual calling is given to us through a special revelation rather than a simple impression we feel or experience. Basically, God reveals Himself or makes Himself known in a supernatural way – whether it is through a burning bush, writing on a wall, or an angelic encounter – and gives the individual his or her calling in life. According to Friesen, we, as His people, propose a plan and God disposes or directs us according to His will; but, it is our responsibility to use the brain He gave us to create something. Special revelations aren’t given to anyone or everyone that proclaims he or she is a son or daughter of Christ. It is given to those that the Lord has specifically called to do a specific task and is undeniably too real to be considered an impression. Friesen stresses that we should “not give any impression the same authority as divine revelation [from God].” For those of us who have not received a special or divine revelation from the Lord, it is our job to prioritize our decisions and make responsible, wise choices everyday that glorifies His kingdom. Ultimately, when we are left with several equally great choices, they are all equally pleasing to God for He has given us the will to choose “to eat from any tree in the garden,” except the one that goes against His commands.
When looking at the relationship view, Gordon T. Smith observes, “We cannot not choose.” If we choose not to eat, then we choose to starve. If we choose not to talk, then we choose to stay silent. According to Gordon T. Smith, the fundamental issue is whether or not the person lives in immediacy with God – a relationship of intimacy and communion – that makes it possible for him or her to receive the knowledge of the particular will of God for his or her life. The Lord has given us three gifts to help us better recognize what He desires from each and every one of us: the Scripture, a community of faith (or believers), and the Holy Spirit. There are two words to keep in mind when exploring the relationship view: particularity and ambiguity. Particularity suggests that “God has always chosen to work in a specific time and place in human history and works with particular guidance and instructions for specific individuals,” like Esther who was told you were born for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). The other word, ambiguity, remarks that our hearts are easily deceived and there is uncertainty about our motives, and the choices are rarely clear.
In combination of the previous two views, Smith notes that in our choosing, we should listen with our heart [emotions and feelings] and our mind [knowledge and wisdom]. He supports this by pointing out that Christianity is about a relationship with Christ and how He is near, not distant or apart, from us. He is never changing and He is the same God from the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the days of Old, the prophets prophesied the word of God, and they were reinforced by their faithfulness to the Torah, the prophecies coming true, and the content of the prophecies. In the New Testament, God speaks through His Son and the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sent in the name of Jesus to teach us all things and remind us of everything He had said to us (John 14:26). Smith comments that as we, the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), commune with God, it is our responsibility to discern His will. Smith provides two guidelines: (1) Do not act or make a choice or decision in desolation and (2) if you are experiencing consolation, test the spirit (1 John 4:1).
As a result of reading of Douglas S. Huffman’s book, How Then Should We Choose?: Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making, and reflecting how the three different approaches play out in my life, I believe that all three of these views are necessary as well as great in figuring out the will of God. I believe that each of these approaches manifest more in specific times of one’s walk with Chris, but I would be very careful to lean on only one of these approaches.
During my fast this week, I delved into Luke 15:1-7, “The Parable of the Lost Sheep.”
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying:
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
As I was reading this, I came to realize that what the Lord does for one sheep, He will do for another. His pursuit for the one lost sheep stirs a confidence that cannot be shaken in the other ninety-nine just sheep. What He did for the least, He did for all; and all one hundred of them will know of His goodness and His faithfulness. Regardless of all our shame and guilt, He is in the business of restoration, redemption, and reconciliation.
Yesterday, as I was preparing my heart for worship, my heart became heavy. There was a great mixture of emotions stirring in my spirit. My heart felt like it was in a game of tug-a-war. My senses became sharper and more cunning. I could feel a hunger in my spirit for something more real – something with more meaning and weight. It became apparent to me that I needed to press in with prayer and worship.
As the team walked into the sanctuary and began setting up, my heart continued brewing with a holy passion – a passion uncontainable, fierce yet focused - in my soul. I continued pressing in, into the deeper things of God. I was furious to know what was on His mind and what was on His heart. The first song on the set was “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” As soon as we began singing “We’re gonna dance in the river, yeah~…” I got a clear picture, a vision [or whatever you want to call it] of a little Japanese boy and girl playing and dancing in a river that was formed by the tsunami. It was marvelous. In the midst of their calamity and troubles, they were rejoicing and singing songs of freedom. One day, they will cross into the Promised Land. This is when we began singing “They’re gonna dance in the river, yeah~…”
This is His vision for Japan.
For years, I taught that in the Last Days the light is going to get brighter and brighter while the darkness gets darker and darker, but I came to a realization that light and darkness cannot coexist. It is scientifically and physically impossible to increase light in a room while increasing darkness. The only way to separate light from darkness or darkness from light is to limit or confine the light to a certain location.
Jesus gave us clear direction in Matthew 5:14-16, when he said to be the light of the world – to be a city set on a hill. We have been called to give light to all who are in the house and let our light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father who is in heaven. We are not to hide it under a bushel; but it is to be placed in the highest, most visible location possible in all our cities.
Arise, shine; for the light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about and see; they all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, and your daughters will be carried in the arms. Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you (Isaiah 60:1-5).
The world that we live in today is no more different than what we know as 1st century Corinth. The Bible refers to Corinth as the epic center of pornography like some places we know today. The city had an integration of creativity and immorality and strangely spiritually. The city was built on the land that worshipped Aphrodites and there was a temple where thousands of prostitutes were known as “sacred prostitutes,” where they created a rather creative and inventive approach towards spiritually. They integrated decadence with sacredness and immorality with spirituality. In Corinth, you can go worship your god and have sex with a stranger.
As we know, Paul was there for two years preaching the message about how God values every human being, how every human being is created in the image and likeness of God himself, how God so passionately loves humanity that He came into human history in the person of Jesus Christ and lived a sinless and perfect life, and was crucified on the cross. Three days later, to be raised from the dead to conquer death to display how He longed for humanity to know Him and His love.
Even in this place of filth and immorality, people began to embrace this message. They were drawn to this so-called “God,” but there was slight a problem. The city of Corinth was so corrupt and immoral that there wasn’t any social pressure to change, except for one little thing. If a person declared that you were in a relationship to God through Jesus Christ, people began to look at that person differently and they would say things like, “Well you say you are in a relationship to God through Jesus Christ, but you look just like us.” So there was diminishing value of who Jesus was and is because people were just not different. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Isn’t it interesting that even a person who doesn’t believe in God expects us who believe to be different? That seems unfair, but it’s real. It’s so real that there are real people saying real things like, “I don’t go to church because there’s hypocrites in church. It’s filled with hypocrites.” It’s everywhere, it’s inevitable; but it’s real.
Paul writes to us believers, not unbelievers, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-20,
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make themmembers of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her?For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
When you enter into a relationship with God, everything you do, you bring God into it. Everything you experience, you bring God’s experience with you. You are a very sacred creation of God and we are the temple of God’s spirit. We are not only expected to be different by the world, but we are called to be different by God. We have a world mandate to make history so be different and change the world.
If you are not a follower of Christ, it is not my job as a Christian to confront you about the disagreements we might have with one another but all you need to hear from me is that God passionately and unconditionally loves you. May you be blessed with whatever I have to say and I would love to hear your feedback.
I’m becoming more and more aware that Jesus isn’t about don’t do this and don’t do that; but He gives us a very, very clear framework that when we enter a relationship with the Father, God will change us from the inside out. He will change the very core of our being, the very why’s of our life and produce the how’s and the what’s of our being. And in that freedom, we will begin to live the life that God created us to live.
As Christians, it should be our desire and calling to paint the picture for our brothers and sisters of the life that God wanted them to live and pursue that life with courage. In the midst of all the freedom, let everything else just melt away. When we live the life that we are called to live, none of the darknesses in the world compel us or move us because we are too busy being who we are and who we were created to be. When we begin to fully grasp the purpose of the life God created us to live, that purpose will pull us to emotion, relational, and spiritual health and we will begin to live a vibrant, emotional, and dynamic life.
Every conversation, every human decision, is moral at its core. Yeah, there is always talks in the church about how we shouldn’t talk about morals and legislate morality; but the truth of the matter is that humans cannot think without a moral template: that we are created in and exist in a moral universe.
The people who decide that we need to buckle up when we drive our cars or wear a helmet when we ride our bikes are making a moral decision. They are deciding that it is better for you and the society that you be told to be safe because we are irrational and don’t have the common sense to act properly so they make a moral choice that limits our lives. Like when we stop at a stop sign, we don’t have to stop. It’s a moral choice. You can go through it. There isn’t a force field or an electrical wire. You just have to make a choice. When you are the only driver in your car, you can get in the HOV (high-occupany vehicle) lane. It is physically and humanly possible to do it, all by yourself. Yes, you might get a $300 fine, but you might say “It’s worth it to risk that today.” Every single one of these are moral choices.
The truth of the matter is both, pro-life and pro-choice, are moral choices. If you decide that it is more important in your moral framework to protect the life of an unborn child, then that is your moral choice. If you decide that it’s more important in your moral framework to protect the right of a woman over her body, then that’s your moral choice. And what happens is when we don’t like or disagree with someone else’s moral choice, we say it’s demoralizing; but the truth of the matter is that human beings cannot exist without making moral choices.
The question for our moral decisions is not what we do or how we do it, but rather why we do what we do. If the why’s are completely different, then my how’s and what’s will most likely contradict with your how’s and what’s. So why do you do what you do? Why do you believe what you believe?