Oct

18

2011

Commending Them to God

Those who read this blog have probably already heard the news by now, but figure it is about time to say it in public. Long story short is that I will be stepping down from the pastoral ministry, having concluded over a long period of struggling that I am not yet fit to be in the pastoral role, finding myself lacking both a clear calling and a sufficient training. 

I came here to Taiwan to try to serve the church here, out of love for them upon hearing that they would be without a pastor--but not out of a response to the call of God. Even now, it is still this man-centered desire ("I can still do it!") that makes me want to continue and be there for them. Yet, if God has not called me here, then I ought not to be here. I also came without finishing a full seminary training and without sufficient time "learning the ropes" in practical ministry experience, with the result that I really am just not equipped to do the work here.  

I have decided with counsel that I am not suited for this, at least not at this juncture. We will see what God has prepared for the future. But if there is a next time, it will be approached more cautiously and preceded by completed training. I plan for now to return to EBCB as a normal member, work as a programmer, and grow as a Christian.

Many have wished I would have continued and persevered. Many are possibly shocked by this news. Hadn't I just said I was seeking to grow in faithfulness and perseverance? What made this decision easy and fast at the end was when things came into clear focus and I realized it was not an issue of perseverance, but of principle. While the struggles here were the occasion of me asking hard questions about whether I am fit here, they were not ultimately the cause. In the end, if I am doing this only because I want to help people, and not in obedience to God's call, and if I am not adequately trained, then I simply should not keep doing it. So that is the plan for now. 

Pastor John visited here this past weekend to talk to the church about how this decision affects them. They will be continuing (at least for the next 6 months) to meet together and pray together for God's provision of another pastor. Please pray with them as I will surely be doing. The great comfort to me at this time is that the Lord is my Shepherd, and the Lord is their Shepherd. It has been an amazing privilege to serve them and be used for the salvation of some and the spiritual growth of others. Yet, it is time for me to set this lofty position down for now and entrust them to God.

Acts 20:32 seem to be the right words to close with:

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Now I get two more sermons to help prepare them to wait, and to prepare them to receive the next pastor who comes. Please pray I can invest as much as I can into them in these next two weeks. I will return to America on Oct. 31. Thank you for your faithful prayers on our behalf. Please keep them coming for the church.

Oct

01

2011

Are You Ready to Listen?

Sunday morning is coming soon. Are you ready to hear the word of God? Listen to Spurgeon about the importance of preparing to listen to God's word:

We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted. But we add, men ought not to hear without preparation. Which, do you think needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed and harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in. It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than by the preacher.

Cited in Ken Ramey, Expository Listening, (Woodlands, Texas: Kress Biblical Resources, 2010), 34.

 

Sep

28

2011

Reformed Christian Ministry

Carl Trueman has written an insightful post recently entitled "Is the Reformation nearly over? Perhaps, but maybe not for the reason you think", which is about the holistic pastoral concern which was a major in the Reformation and how this mindset is lacking in the multi-site model.

Now, I don't subscribe to the multi-site model, but I enjoyed this article not only for this reason; much more because I find these words equally convicting and challenging applied to myself! 

In the process, the importance of putting in place educated ministers who could articulate the faith and offer pastoral nurture to the people was never far from the centre of concern.

...

Further, they were too busy training people to go to places where there was no Reformation witness to have found the idea of church planting on the doorstep of faithful churches to be an attractive idea

...

The problem with the way 'Reformed' is often used today is that it divorces certain things (typically the five, or more often, four points of Calvinism) from the overall Reformation vision of pastoral care, church worship, Christian nurture and all-round approach to ministry.

...

The Reformation was about more than a doctrinal insight into justification; it was also about abolishing the fetishisation of certain great figures as if they possessed some special magic and about instituting an ideal of educated, personal, local ministry.

Sep

27

2011

The OT Conquest and Jihad?

Christians sometimes have a problem with the OT's record of the conquest of the land of Canaan (cf. Book of Joshua). I was just reading a review of a book on Muslim-Christian relations, which apparently attempted to establish a similarity between the conquest and the Jihad. The reviewer--in denying this absurd claim--made the following helpful assertions on how markedly different the OT conquest was:

  1. It is limited to one time, not all times.
  2. It is limited to one land, not all lands. It judges sin to fulfill prophecy, not to adhere to a religion.
  3. It shows God’s holiness, not his power. Its goal is to bless the whole earth, not subdue it. It is God fighting for his people, not the people fighting for God.
  4. It is according to God’s trustworthy nature, not according to a capricious nature.
  5. It prefigures God finally absorbing the deserved judgment and wrath on all nations in Christ’s death on the cross. Judgment deserved became judgment absorbed.

Imad Shehadeh, "Review: Allah: A Christian Response", Themelios 36-2.

Let us read the Conquest and tremble at the amazing holiness of God and the judgement we all should receive--without the 400+ year waiting period he gave them (Gen 15:13, 16). Let us rejoice that God clearly revealed this judgment so that we could understand more clearly what we deserved, and what Christ endured and exhausted for us.

Sep

18

2011

God Speaking Through Preaching?

Three quotes to think about:

The Second Helvetic Confession

The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.

John Calvin, Institutes, IV.i.5

It is a singular privilege that He deigns to consecrate to Himself the mouths and tongues of men in order that His voice may resound in them.

Al Mohler, He Is Not Silent, p. 57

I fear that there are many evangelicals today who believe that God spoke but doubt whether he speaks. . . . But if you call yourself a preacher of God's Word, and you think that all of God's speaking was in the past, then resign. I say that with deadly seriousness. . . . If you are not confident that God speaks as you rightly read and explain the Word of God, then you should quit.

Discuss.

Sep

13

2011

Encouraging Post by Keller

I am greatly encouraged to see Tim Keller's humble correction of his response in the interview posted about a week ago by Justin Taylor. Glad to hear that this is indeed not his first renouncing of these views but that he did so immediately. Wish this information had been made known and more communication had gone on before posting of the interview, since they appear to come from the same source: The Gospel Coalition

Praise God for humble leaders who readily and honestly admit their mistakes. I might add (in parallel to something I said in the previous post), that many who are willing to speak the truth in any situation are not always willing to admit their mistakes. Some who speak the truth no matter what have a harder time humbling admitting their faults. And thus, my hat is now off to Tim Keller, for whose example I am greatly indebted, and I hope I myself would be able to emulate.

Sep

05

2011

Faith Is Greater than Reason

I found an insightful comment from a puritan prayer I read this morning, entitled "Belonging to Jesus":

I thank thee for showing me the vast difference
    between knowing things by reason,
    and knowing them by the spirit of faith.

By reason I see a thing is so;
    by faith I know it as it is.

I have seen thee by reason and have not been amazed,

I have seen thee as thou art in thy Son and have been ravished to behold thee.

Indeed. I desire to know God not simply by reason as a list of facts which do not affect my heart and do not lead to amazement and worship, but rather to see him through the eye of faith to know him truly as he is. I desire to know God more and not simply know more about him. I so desire also to have God's blessing upon my ministry such that the Spirit of God might effect this in the hearts of others as well.

Sep

05

2011

Discouraging Interview with Bashir and Keller

I was happy to see an interview posted on Justin Taylor's blog between Martin Bashir and Tim Keller. I liked the honesty and directness of Bashir in his earlier interview of Rob Bell that I had seen, and I was excited to see how Tim Keller would answer him. The first 10 minutes were quite encouraging. Tim Keller gave insightful answers to tough questions. But starting around 11 minutes, Bashir asked about what happens to people who do not believe in Jesus, will they go to hell?

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Sep

01

2011

Children are like upset little gods

I wrote most of this down in my journal on Aug. 16. Don't remember now what my kids did that morning, but it brought about the following reflections:

While I do believe in a kind of varying "age of accountability" before which all children will go to heaven, it is not because of their sinlessness before that age. Anyone still holding on to the conception that all humans are basically good should spend some good time with children. 

Children are like upset little gods. They always want to be in control of whatever they're doing. Yet they're not in control, and so they're often upset. The one thing that every parent who has been embarrassed before in public (i.e. in the supermarket) that the one thing you "don't do" to make these little gods angry is say "no" to them. Try not giving them what they want, or taking away what they want, and they throw a fit: "Oh no you did not just say no to me!!"

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Aug

10

2011

Only One Life

"Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last." This oft-quoted line so succinctly puts into focus what really matters in life, and well summarizes how I want to live my life. However, it sadly is always quoted without any references. I think I heard first from John Piper in his book Don't Waste Your Life. Well, I finally and happily found a reference today! 

It was apparently written by C. T. Studd, a missionary to China, India and Africa (source). Here is the full text I found:

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Matt Hauck (郝柏昇)

A once enemy now son, forgiven and freed by Jesus' blood, adopted and called by grace for glory.   (more...)