Month: November 2015

Martin Luther’s Conversion Experience

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There’s a story about Martin Luther, a German monk, priest, and important figure to the birth of the Protestant Reformation in 1517. When he was traveling through a terrible thunderstorm, a lightning strike nearly killed him. He cried out a vow to God that if he survived he would live as a monk. And so he did.

He entered the Augustinian order at Erfurt. He prayed eight times a day, slept little, and performed painful self-infliction for his sins. He was attempting to love God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. Yet he was miserably bound by the law.

Luther was known for confessing his sins so often that he would stay up all night and the priests would grow weary. Whenever Luther showed up, they would exclaim: “Oh no, Luther is here. We are going to stay up all night now.”

It wasn’t until Luther meditated on Romans 3:20 that he finally understood what God desired from him. “By the works of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight; for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” Finally, Luther came to the brink of his own self-righteousness. He gave up in his works-based religion and asked for justification by faith alone in Christ alone!

As Christians, we can be tempted to view our salvation along with our commitment to attending church, reading the Bible, praying, and evangelizing. Yes, we are called to produce fruit. Faith without works is dead, as the Apostle James said. However, when it comes to our salvation and justification, it’s all the work of Christ. Let’s never forget that!

Thankfulness beyond Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving! The day we have all been waiting for. Turkey overload, tradition,  family, friends, Football, and more food. It’s a time to reflect on how thankful we are for life’s blessings. As I am writing this blog, my son Evan is jumping on my neck and laughing. He is reminding me of how thankful I am for my beautiful family.

The Bible tells us we should have thankful hearts. Not just on a day of festivities, but all the time. And not just all the time, but in all circumstances. Yes, even difficult ones. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Jesus Christ.”

In 1620, a group of 102 people set sail for the New World. These passengers were citizens of England. They called themselves Separatists because they wanted to “separate” from the Church of England and be free to worship God the way they believed the Bible taught. These brave men and women, who we call Pilgrims today, risked everything to go to America.

Did you know the Pilgrims spent more than three harsh months at sea on the Mayflower ship? They arrived in America on December 21. According to William Bradford, one of the Pilgrim leaders, when they made it to shore safely, he wrote in his journal:

“They fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean.” -Bradford’s Journal

Although their journey had been difficult, the Pilgrims thanked God for watching over them as they crossed the vast Atlantic Ocean. They made it safely, but were soon to face the greatest trial yet.

It was in the dead of winter when they arrived in the new land. The first thing the settlers did was build a sanctuary where God could be honored and praised. Temporarily, the families had to live on the wet ship while the men attempted to build houses. Because there were no places to buy wood, tools, or food, they couldn’t provide a furnace for heat or grow food since the ground was frozen. Consequently, sickness came, but there were no doctors or hospitals to go to. By the end of the winter of that first year, almost half of the Pilgrims had died.

How would you feel if you were a Pilgrim? Would it be hard to be thankful to God in these circumstances? I imagine it would be. Nevertheless, God calls us to be thankful. Romans 8:28 tells us, “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

The Pilgrims never gave up. Even though half of their family died, they still prayed for God’s guidance and provision. One day in March, God answered their prayers. An Indian chief named Samoset walked into their church service and noticed their needs. He came back with an Indian helper named Squanto.

Squanto had been captured in the past by Spain explorers and sold as a slave. He escaped and fled to England where he learned English. Then he met a nice Englishmen who helped pay for his voyage back to America, his native land. Because of his good memories with the English people, he decided to help the Pilgrims. The two Indians taught them how to hunt deer, catch beavers, grow crop–especially corn. They also trained them how to tend the soil with proper nutrients in order to have the best crops.

The following fall, because their crops were successful, Governor Bradford declared a day of giving thanks to the Lord. He invited the Indians to join them at the feast. The Indians brought a dozen turkeys to eat and 5 deer. The Pilgrims shared all their fruits and vegetables. It was a wonderful day. This feast is still celebrated today. You know it as Thanksgiving!

I want to remind you, and myself of course, to be thankful in every circumstance. Why? Because God is orchestrating every event, both good and bad, to a purposeful end. In addition, thankfulness is an attribute we should strive to possess. May thankfulness mold into our personality. May it be a part of who we are. In the end, when we are thankful in all circumstances, it reflects the love and positive nature of God who will truly bring a peace the world is longing to see! Happy Thanksgiving.

 

What does the Bible say about leadership roles between a husband and wife?

Christianity elevated the status of women more than any other religious or political system during the first century. Jesus’ disciples included several women (Luke 8:1-3), a practice very rare among the rabbis of his day. Not only that, but Christ’s first recorded disclosure of his own identity as the true Messiah was made to a woman (John 4:25-26). This woman, Mary of Magdalene, was an outcast Samaritan. Not even Jewish women would talk to her.

Moreover, Jewish tradition enforced women not to talk to outsiders or teach them their religion. Rabbi Eliezer wrote in the 1st century: “Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman. Whoever teaches his daughter the Torah is like one who teaches her obscenity.” Jesus overthrew centuries of this tradition. He taught that women and men both had equal value, but different roles.

In this paper, I will explain the biblical understanding of manhood and womanhood from both an egalitarian and complementarian perspective. I will argue that the complementarian perspective is the most biblical position.

There are two basic thoughts. The first theological view is called complementarianism. It argues men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and other areas of service. For instance, women have been naturally created to nurse and care for their children. The man has been designed to use his strength to work and protect his family. These roles are different, but both are of equal value. The Bible makes it clear that Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons yet distinct in their manhood and womanhood (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:18).

The second theological view is called egalitarianism. It states that “all humans are equal in fundamental worth and social status,” according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. To defend this argument, proponents quote Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11, which both state “there is no distinction between Jew or Greek, bond or free, and male or female, for all are one in Christ.”

Egalitarian advocates might argue women and men are both capable of governing and teaching roles within the church. If a woman is not allowed to have leadership power over their husband, some feel this is discriminatory and wrong.

I believe the Complementarian position is the most biblical for several reasons. First, God created both male and female anatomically different, which shows a distinction to begin with.

Second, while the Bible demonstrates the high value and dignity for both genders (Gen. 1:26; Gal. 3:28), it does affirm the principle of male headship in the family and church community (Eph. 5:21-33; 1 Tim. 2:11-15).

Third, the Trinity displays the role of headship, with the Son submitting to the Father, even though both persons are co-equal and fully God. God’s nature should be an example for us to follow with the wife submitting to the husband just like Christ submitted to the Father.

Fourth, The Danver’s statement says it succinctly: “In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and core for their wives; wives should forsake resistance to their husbands’ authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their husband’s leadership (Eph. 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; Tit 2:3-5; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).”[1]

I believe it’s important to recognize the distinction between male and female roles. Both genders are created with a purpose that can only be fulfilled if they are willing to accept how God created them. It’s indisputable that males and females are equal in their value and worth. And it’s not that men have special privileges over women when they have been commanded by God to take on a leadership role. In fact, men are called to sacrificially love their wives and protect them.

Unfortunately, men either abuse this power or they become passive and cowardly. In my opinion, it works best when the woman allows the man to lead, and when the man leads in a humble, gracious, and loving way that gives the most glory to God.

[1] The Danvers Statement – www.cbmw.org/core-beliefs

 

How to Share the Gospel with Confidence and Ease

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Last summer, Time to Revive, an evangelical non-profit organization led by Kyle Lance Martin, marched through the city of Kokomo, Indiana. They helped revive and equip our churches to share the gospel effectively with our neighbors and loved ones.

It was an exhilarating experience. The churches, who were normally divided by subtle differences in church government, politics, and end-times eschatology, came together with the most important common ground shared: Jesus, the God-Man, died on the cross for the sins of the world (John 3:16).

Instead of arguing over secondary issues, the churches imitated what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2: “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

This strategy worked. The churches were united. And they were not united by liberal ecumenicism telling them to forsake their core beliefs of Christendom to get along. Instead, the churches realized their differences were only preferences, not biblical requirements. Thus, unity came as a result of obedience for God to be glorified (Eph. 4:4).

In fact, one of the pastors belonging to the Wesleyan Holiness Movement was surprised he was praying with a Pentecostal. Baptists and Presbyterians were evangelizing together. Even predominately white churches were serving the community with black churches. This doesn’t happen that often in America. And that’s why I believe it was a move of God.

When God moves, he is not concerned with denominational preferences. He is not weighing the pros and cons of traditional versus contemporary service. And he surely is not involved in racial segregation–He died for that. Racial Reconciliation is not a social issue; it is a Gospel issue!

How was the gospel preached? 

Each individual involved with Time to Revive received a couple of Bibles and wristbands. The Bibles and wristbands are color-coded by themes: Yellow represents sin, black symbolizes death, red stands for God’s love, blue shows faith, and green corresponds to life.

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The first step is to walk up to someone and ask, “How are you? Is there anything I can pray for you about?” Nine out of ten times, the person says, “Of course.” After they inform you what’s on their heart, you actually pray for them…right there.

Next, you give them a color-coded wristband as a reminder you prayed. Usually the person looks at it. “What is this?” they may inquire. You tell them each color represents a theme of the Bible. Would you like for me to share these themes with you? Once they agree to this, you have your Bible ready to flip to each verse. The nice thing about it is these verses are already marked for you in the Bible. Because there are thumb-tabs that directly flip to your page, there is no need to panic. It’s all there for you to adequately explain the gospel.

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Once you go through the gospel, on the back of the Bible there is this question: “Is there anything or anyone keeping you from accepting the free gift of life in Jesus today?” If they confess there is nothing holding them back, you simply pray for them. There is a paragraph on the back that shares God’s message.

“Lord, I know I am a sinner, but I thank you for Your Son, Jesus, who died on the cross for my sins and rose on the third day so that my sins could be forgiven and I can be with you forever. Thank you for loving me. I am ready to follow You and give my life to You. Please help me along the way and allow me to know You better each day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

If you have any further questions, you can learn more on their website http://www.timetorevive.com. I hope this was an encouragement to you. Have a great day!

What Worldview Are You Looking Through?

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A professor at Duke University once said:

“Evidence strongly suggests that humans in all cultures come to cast their own identity in some sort of narrative form. We are deeply rooted in story-telling.”

Do you believe this is true about yourself? I think all of us have different ways we relate to stories. Some of us enjoy books. Maybe it’s fictional books like Lord of The Rings or some futuristic dystopia–Divergent. Perhaps it’s even non-fictional. Biographies of George Washington, LeBron James, or Donald Trump.

Others of you might say, “I don’t like reading books, at all.” And that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy stories. A story or narrative isn’t just a sequence of written words on a page. Movies also have an opening crisis, a developing plot, characters, a climax, and a resolution.

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy watching movies. Why is that? Because people find meaning and purpose in them. We cast our own identity in the movies. Maybe the main character has a similar flaw and you can empathize with her. If the movie is about winning a game, it inspires you to do better in sports.

Movies can also guide our ethical decisions. When the main character faces a crisis, we tend to agree or disagree with the choices and even ask ourselves, “What would we do?” It’s even true that we enjoy movies to escape from reality due to the dull nature of existence.

Whatever our motive is, movies attempt to answer the 4 big worldview questions: What is the nature of reality? What is a human being? What happens to a person at death? How do we know what is right and wrong?

Take Batman for example. He is a fictional superhero who fights crime in Gotham City. When he was just a boy, his parents were murdered. This was the nature of his reality. He promised at a young age that all criminals would be punished for their evil. Thus, Batman took justice into his own hands. This was his view of right and wrong.

What’s interesting about Batman is he’s not your typical superhero. He doesn’t possess any superpowers like Spiderman, Flash, or Wolverine. Instead, Batman uses his genius intellect, martial arts skills, detective reasoning, technological understanding, his wealth, and a passionate will to fight for the good. He does this all through human strength. Humans can relate to this hero because he is a potential we could all become.

Not only are stories shared through books, poetry, music, art, and the movie industry, but it’s also found within. You and I each have a unique story to tell. I want to encourage you today to tell someone your story and how it has affected the way you view the world.

Speak Out For The Civil Rights Of The Unborn

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The videos produced by The Center for Medical Progress has reassured the American people the uncanny fact that Planned Parenthood is making profit off fully intact fetal body parts. Since this is morally reprehensible, I find it necessary to use my freedom of speech to speak out for the civil rights of the unborn.

I use social media as a means to educate people about certain facts concerning abortion procedures, rights and fairness for individuals, the health and safety for both the woman and the child, and post-abortion counseling for healing and forgiveness. In my opinion, most people are not aware of the scientific, ethical, and philosophical underpinnings of this 40+ years debate.

For instance, Bernie Sanders, who is an educated man and political runner for the Democratic Party, said:

“When you tell a woman that she cannot control her own body, that’s extremism.”

This is a fallacious statement for many reasons. Firstly, every cell of the unborn’s body is genetically distinct from every cell in the mother’s. Also, humans are not independently generated from the mother. It takes both the sperm and the egg to create a zygote.

Secondly, the blood type of the baby is different from the blood type of the woman. Since you can’t have two blood types in one body to work effectively, the unborn’s blood does not belong to the mother.

Thirdly, when the embryo implants itself into the lining of the uterus, it emits a chemical substance which prevents the woman’s body from treating it as a foreign entity. If it was the “same” as the mother’s body, there would be no need for this biological mechanism.

Fourthly, the human fetus has it’s own endocrine system. And it’s the baby, not the woman’s body, who makes the final decision to induce labor by secreting the hormone oxytocin.

Therefore, the conclusion that a woman has a right to control her body is self-defeating by the very fact that its not her body. And to end with saying “extremism” as to suggest a primitive way of thinking by those who disagree  is an ad hominem attack which doesn’t help his case.

These are just a few reasons why I feel it’s necessary to inform others about what is empirically true. The argument: “A woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her body” can’t be defended from a scientific perspective. Simply put, the baby and the body are uniquely distinct.

In the end, I search for what is most logical and humane. If I am mistaken, I am willing to be challenged. Thankfully we live in a pluralistic society which welcomes debate. Please feel free to write a rebuttal in the comment section. Have a great day!

Counseling the Heart Through Proper Thinking

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Ever since Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, human thinking has been marred by sin. People distort truth, embellish stories, and abuse others with their words. The absolute truth-telling that exists in the mind of God is unfortunately uncommon in His Creation. In this paper, I will focus specifically on how sin has affected the world’s approach in counseling, and whether that approach can be redeemed through biblical counseling.

“We can show you the way to a happy, fulfilled, self-actualized living.”

This is the world’s approach to counseling. It is focused on the self, control, power, and the potential within rather than a way that honors God.[1] For example, Sigmund Freud believed the problem of the individual was societal because it built a wrong set of values into the individual—causing guilt. Thus, instead of owning up to one’s own mistakes, Freud advised the individual to blame shift his wrongful behavior.

This is counter-intuitive to the Bible. When God confronted Adam about eating from the tree, he said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it (Gen. 3:12).” Adam not only blamed the woman, who is part of his environment, but he also blamed God for creating her. Then, when God confronted Eve, she also blamed her environment. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate (Gen. 3:13).” God was looking for both of them to confess their sins and take responsibility. By doing so, God forgives and purifies us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9).

Another secular-focused counselor, B.F. Skinner, believed all humans were conditional animals. His treatment plan consisted of rearranging the environmental expectations by reprogramming the person through the use of reward and punishment. By training the person to behave in a manner acceptable to society, he or she would adapt and become fulfilled.

However, this mode of thinking doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. God’s word not only tells us to change our sinful behavior—anger, deceit, sexual deviance, bitterness, etc. He also tells us to replace those ill-behaved mannerisms because God’s word teaches us to conform to the image of Christ, not the image of society.

Carl Rogers, the founder of the humanistic approach to counseling, believed humans are essentially good and have the innate ability to handle their own problems. His treatment plan was to listen to individuals and urge them to look within themselves to discover their own solutions. He encouraged his clients to find their own solutions through self-discovery.

It is true that we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and can find solutions through self-reflection and introspection. However, the word of God teaches that we have a wicked and deceitful heart. We are not to lean on our own understanding, but rather let the Lord direct our paths (Prov. 3:5-6).

In conclusion, it is evident there are differences between secular-based thinking and biblical thinking. The world’s approach says man is essentially good, the environment is the main problem, and truth can be found through deep introspection. The Bible says man is essentially sinful, the environment and individual responsibility are the main problems, and truth is found in God (Jn. 14:6), not within our human psyche.

Logically, since both of these worldviews are diametrically opposed, only one of them can be right. In my opinion, I think the biblical perspective is truer because it corresponds more closely with reality. What are your thoughts? Please feel free to comment below.

[1] Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, p. 166.