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Archive for April, 2010

Luke 20:27-47

The clarity and reality that there are only 2 Kingdoms in this world is something that is pressing on my heart.  There is the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of man and they are at odds and opposed to each other.  The religious leaders regularly wanted both God and religion, but they also craved the praises of man and the glory that comes from man.  And Jesus is clear that there is no serving two kingdoms.  By their hearts desire wanting men’s commendation, Jesus is clear that they will receive great condemnation from God.

That is why church membership is so important.  Ephesians 3:10 shows us that the local church is to be a visible display of God’s glory, of the Kingdom of God.  So we must take church membership seriously.  9Marks is one of the best ministries to help you think more deeply about church membership and how to grow in it and make membership matter in your church.

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1 Samuel 1-3

I am so thankful for all of God’s Word.  For everything is His Word and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.  Few things that jumped out to me in this passage.

1) Hannah’s prayer is so heart-affecting.  I encourage people to read it and pray it.

2) The Lord is the Lord of the womb.  In our day and age with birth control  and ovulation calendars, it may be easy to forget that the huge gift of children comes from the Lord, not from careful family planning and right timing.  The Lord opens and closes the womb.

3) Parents have a huge responsibility before the Lord to train up their children according to the Word and in righteousness.  Eli was a priest, but even as a leader, he failed in his parental responsibilities.  And for that, God judged his family.  I pray that as a parent, I would not value athletic training, academic training, and proper manner training more than training in the Word of God and prayer and obedience  to everything God has revealed in His Word.

4) The Word of the Lord was rare in Samuel’s day.  I think people in our day are not thankful enough about the reality that now, God’s Word is not rare.  It is complete, translated, reproduced, and distributed widely.  I can’t imagine being in the OT where the Word of the Lord was rare.  People were hungry for God’s Word.  And yet, Christians in our day often don’t see the banquet table God has laid before them in God’s Word and often voluntarily choose hunger and famine of God’s Word.   Yet, it is also crazy to realize that there still are places around the world where the Word of the Lord is still rare because the Bible has not reached those places.  These places are called the “Unreached.”  I pray that Christians would see the abundance they have in God’s Word and that they would long to go to the Unreached so that the Word of the Lord would not be rare among those nations and people groups.

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Luke 20:1-26

Running late, so the one thing that continues to amaze me is Jesus.  He is the focal point of all of history and there are only 2 ways to live living in His creation.  We can believe in Jesus and believe everything the Word says about Jesus and live or we can reject Jesus and try to find ways to trap Jesus and discredit Jesus, like the chief priests and Pharisees, and we will die.

There is no neutral ground in relation to Jesus.  Jesus life, death, and resurrection changes everything!  I pray that all Christians and all churches would regularly meditate on how to center everything we do, say, pray, and strive to do in life and in our churches on Jesus and His Gospel.  Jesus changes everything!

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Ruth 3-4

My heart was affected this morning by the sovereign mercy and grace of God as I saw God’s sovereign hand in Ruth’s life.  God took a seemingly random individual out from Moab, connected her to one of God’s people (even though God’s people were commanded not to marry foreign wives), but even in the midst of God’s people’s disobedience, God redeemed Ruth, the Moabite.  And not only did God redeem Ruth, but He sovereignly used her to be in the lineage of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.

How great God’s redemption is.  I was a worthless sinner living for myself, and God, in His sovereign mercy and grace, showed me undeserving favor.  And He has placed me in the lineage of Jesus Christ as well, as an adopted son of God.  Praise God!

As I reflect on my life, I realize that if God’s power is able to save me, He can save any sinner.  All He calls me to do is declare His Gospel to all those around me.  I want to be faithful to simply speak His Word.

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Luke 19:28-48

God is worthy to be praised.  God is the only one worthy to the praised.  All creation declares the glory and worth of God.  Jesus rebukes the Jewish leaders when people praise Him by saying that if people should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.  The glory of God is so great that none can prevent the worship of the King.

The mission of Urban Grace and of my life is to make Gospel disciples who declare the Supremacy of God for the joy of all peoples.  I love this mission because I love God. May God help us and me be faithful to this mission because the mission of God is to make Gospel disciples who declare the Supremacy of God for the joy of all peoples.  To Him alone be all the glory!

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Ruth 1-2

This book reminds us that life in this sinful and fallen world is full of both joys and suffering.  We see the reality of God’s bitter and sweet Providences in life.  We see that suffering, both personal and communal is real and we should expect it.  Naomi experiences both. Her family and country experiences the suffering of famine.  And she personally experiences the suffering of losing her husband and two sons.

Yet, even in the midst of such bitter providence from the Lord, somehow, God used Naomi’s family and suffering to be sweet providence in another person’s life.  Ruth was exposed to her family and to the One true God of all creation.  Ruth, a Moabite, a foreigner, received eternal life in the midst of temporal suffering in Naomi’s life.

How can we continue to be God’s hand of blessing to others even in the midst of our suffering?  Suffering tends to turn us inward on ourselves, focusing on our suffering.  Let us look up and exalt the supremacy of God in the midst of suffering so that through our suffering, not only would we grow, but others would be able to testify like Ruth, crying out her desire that “your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”  Let us not waste the suffering in our lives that will come.  And if we are not suffering much right now, let us earnestly pray for God to help us prepare for suffering so that we would not waste it when His bitter providence comes for a short and fleeting season in this life.

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I have way too many thoughts on this for one post.  And just a few weeks ago, I was at the Together for the Gospel conference, and there was a pre-conference on Building Healthy Asian American Churches.  They also have a website here with a blog and a way to begin thinking about this topic more and dialoging about it as well.

Below are some of my initial thoughts along with a proposal for the Asian American Church (particularly focusing on those with immigrant-language only speakers).  For the non-immigrant language speaking church, Thabiti’s Anyabwile’s talk on the church and culture and God’s call for church’s to be multi-ethnic and mono-cultural (the Jesus culture of a new creation) would be very similar to my thoughts on the Asian American church that knows and speaks English fluently.

So here are my thoughts, focusing particularly on multi-language congregations.  In reading the blog and talking to many people from Asian American churches, often it seems that we may be beginning with the wrong starting point. I did a pastoral internship in Washington, DC and during the CHBC internship, I am so thankful that a good bulk of our time is spent studying the Word and reading books on ecclesiology (doctrine of God’s church) so that the basis of our view on what a church should look like is based on the Word and not anything else (not culture, not pragmatic reasons, or anything else).

It was beginning with God’s picture of His church in mind that the elders of the church began to labor and prayerfully consider how to reform the church by His Word so that the church would increasingly be conformed to God’s picture of the church as revealed by His Word.

Yet I don’t see Scripture as the starting point in many situations. (this may also be said about lots of other churches too)  So what is a church according to the Word?  There is so much more, but at the heart of a church is the right preaching of God’s Word and the right administration of the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s Supper).  The right administration of the ordinances implies a right understanding of church membership and church discipline to guard the Lord’s Table.  Please visit 9Marks ministries for further theological treatment on what a church is.

And by definition, a church is a congregation because simply put, the people congregate, assemble, gather together to do what a church does (preaching, ordinances, membership, discipline – which implies and includes all the “one-anothers” in Scripture).

Maybe I am too simplistic, but as I look at Scripture, that is what a church is.  Simple, yet a powerful display of God’s glory as the church seeks to be faithful to preaching, ordinances, membership, discipline, love, one-anothers – basically Dr. Mark Dever’s sermon at T4G 2010).

As I survey the Asian American church, it seems that whatever reasons are listed to have multiple congregations or different language ministries (like an English Ministry), whatever benefits may be gained come at the cost of something greater (the simple and powerful picture of God’s church as the display of God’s glory).  Some great costs I have seen is the confusion of membership, the inability to properly do church discipline, love and one-anothering to a small subsection of the body (usually to only people like you – but sinners and tax collectors also do this), and divided preaching and shepherding.  (Also, one big question is this: Is the local church the institution to preserve ethnic culture?  Or is the local church to be a display of God’s glory, God’s new creation culture in Jesus?)

Therefore, my prayer is that all churches would begin with the Bible to build God’s church, and within that picture of God’s church, to see how to partner with other local churches for the Gospel to together magnify God in ways each individual local church could not do by itself.

So given that picture of God’s church in mind, my proposal for Asian American churches that began as a ministry to immigrant-speakers, is that instead of starting English Ministries and confusing what God’s church looks like, immigrant-speaking local churches should prayerfully seek out a like-minded English-speaking local church to partner for the Gospel.  OR, to plant an independent English-speaking local church to partner for the Gospel.

Can you imagine the beauty and unity of the Gospel to see a multi-ethnic English-speaking local church that works in strong partnership for the Gospel with an immigrant-language-speaking local church?

Wouldn’t much of the confusion and problems within churches be resolved if we just stuck to God’s simply yet powerful picture of His church as the display of His glory?  I welcome all thoughts and comments as I pray all of our desires and motivations is to be committed to and reformed by God’s Word and not any preconceived expectations, hopes, and desires.

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