January 19, Saturday

The AMI QT Devotionals for January 19-20 are provided by Tina Hsu.  Tina, a graduate of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), currently serves as a staff at the Church of Southland, Anaheim, California.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“A Listening King”

Exodus 2:23-24

Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It was my senior year in high school and I was at Starbucks with my dad, conversing about my future career plans. At that time, I had only been a Christian for one year, and every time I talked to my dad, who is an unbeliever, I wanted my faith to show in my interaction with him. I shared honestly with him that I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue in the future, but I would pray to God and find out from Him. He responded by saying that I should be watchful and don’t wait for God, because He may be too busy to listen to me. I didn’t have the quickness to respond to my dad nor anything profound to say to prove him wrong, but I remember riding in the car home that day having an inner confidence that my God could indeed hear all my prayers. It was God who made me a new person when I asked Jesus to enter my life, and as I was living in that newness, I had confidence that He was a trustworthy, listening God.

In his sermon called “The Prayer-Hearing God,” theologian Jonathan Edwards said, “It is the character of the Most High, that he is a God who hears prayer.” In fact, this distinguishes God from false gods as the one true God, for false gods “have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but they cannot hear; they have noses, but they cannot smell” (Psalm 115:5-6). God who is enthroned in heaven listened to the groaning of the Israelites in bondage, and acted according to His promise to their forefathers. He does not share the disconnect of most humans who hear, but do not listen.

As central as it is in our faith to listen to the word of God, I believe our view of God and ability to listen to Him begins with experiencing how He, as our heavenly Father, loves us by attentively listening to our prayers. This opens us and sustains our hope and trust in His goodness. He does not listen dismissively, but gives us the gracious gift of being heard. Moreover, He acts upon accepting the prayers of His people. Today, let’s give thanks to God for being a God who speaks, as well as a God who listens. May the Holy Spirit give you confidence to approach Him with your prayers and supplications.

Prayer: Dear Father, thank You that You are the One with prayer-hearing power. I may not always know how to express and articulate my prayers, but Your Spirit enables me to pray, and You are God who listens attentively to my prayers. I know I am welcomed into Your presence, so help me to deepen my trust and confidence in You. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 21-22

January 18, Friday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.  

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Prophetic Witness to Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and Antifa”

John 17:17b

“Thy word is truth”

1 Thessalonians 5:21

“But test them all; hold on to what is good”

Black Lives Matter, #MeToo movement, and Antifa: Through the rubric of prophetic witness, these significant sociopolitical movements—fast becoming institutions in and of themselves—should be tested through an unbiased reading of God’s Word to appraise their biblical merits.

“Do Black Lives Matter?”

Absolutely. But the public outcry for social justice over a disproportionate number of African-Americans killed by the police, whether legally justified or not, shouldn’t be the main reason for supporting it. The primary reason black lives matter is because African-Americans “are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9b), and as such, they have an intrinsic worth. Civil rights, such as the ability to vote, may be taken away from convicted felons but never their intrinsic value before God.  Consequently, every human being bearing God’s image should be treated with “respect” (1 Pet. 3:15b) to whatever extent possible in any given situation. Thus, Blue Lives matter too (despite a few acting unjustly), as well as Unborn Lives, since God’s image is infused in them the moment they are conceived in the mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13).

As for the #MeToo movement that has exposed the hypocrisy of powerful people in the Hollywood and media (e.g., Charlies Rose, Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Ben Afflect who denounced Weinstein before getting exposed himself), I agree with Idris Elba who said, “[#MeToo movement] is only difficult if you’re a man with something to hide.” This is all too true, since Scripture declares, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23); “for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Matt. 10:26b).  

The church could never get people to stop smoking, but when social liberals began treating smokers as pariahs, smoking in public places became taboo—meaning, a lot of good came out of it.  That’s also how I see #MeToo, for it scares the wits out of powerful and arrogant men from treating women like things—and that’s a good thing. It’s about time these men, who say all the right things in public but behave very badly in private, stop their contemptuous behavior toward vulnerable women placed in precarious situations.

It should also be noted that what can diminish the credibility of #MeToo are frivolous and fraudulent allegations that are expected to be believed just because women made such claims. While the due process, such as “every charge . . . be[ing] established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matt. 18:16), isn’t always possible in sexual harassment cases, some type of corroboration is still necessary to avoid “condemning the innocent—[which] the LORD hates” (Prov. 17:15b).

Antifa activists say violence is necessary. Do you agree? Dartmouth history professor Mark Brady sure does, saying, “It’s basically a politics or an activity of social revolutionary self defense . . . for the . . . purpose of combating the far right.”  Perhaps, Brady was inspired by the brilliant German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, cited in yesterday’s blog, whom the Nazis executed for resisting the Third Reich. The official charge was plotting against Hitler’s life.  This is where I break with Bonhoeffer. The military does whatever it does within the rule of the Geneva Convention to win wars—that may not preclude assassination. But those who are ordained to preach the gospel and administer sacraments should uphold God’s command: “Thou shall not kill.” Jesus told the sword-wielding Peter, “No more of this!” (Lk. 22:51).

Antifa activists are civilians who resort to violence in peacetime to fight injustice, both real and imagined. Not only does the New Testament ethics (Rom. 13:1-7) counter that, Antifa isn’t even liberalism, for liberals have long believed in free speech and reasoned argument over coercive force. The Antifa of the 1960s was the Black Panther Party, who took arms to fight racism and what they deemed was police brutality. But the people who impacted scores of racially-insensitive white Americans were the civil rights marchers—led by Rev. Martin Luther King—  who were committed to civil disobedience—not violence—despite being battered, hosed and pelted. They were like “a sheep that before its shearers is silent” (Is. 53:7b), and it was their sacrifices that paved the way for greater civil liberty for all minorities in America. So, in no uncertain terms, Scripture (and liberalism) does not condone the violent antics of Antifa.

Prayer: Lord, we repent of our indifference and lack of sympathy toward those who are being harassed and exploited. Guide Black Lives Matter and #MeToo to avoid excess, but that they would focus on the main message. Protect our policepersons and encourage the Antifa to talk, not punch. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 20

Monday’s Blog: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Trump Presidency”

(The weekend blogs will be provided by Tina Tsu.)


Lunch Break Study

As I’m writing this blog, there is a controversy over whether the Christmas song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” should be banned from public air. Some feminists see this song as an anthem for feminism, since the woman in the song (living in the 1940s) is struggling whether to go home in fear of  a nosy aunt, or stay out all night to smoke, drink, and flirt with a man. In contrast, what #MeToo movement sees is an overtly aggressive man who won’t take no for an answer and will do anything, including putting something in the drink to conquer a woman.   

Read Ephesians 5:3, 18-19 (NIV):

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people . . . 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

1 Cor. 15:32b-33:

“If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ 33 Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning.”

Questions to Consider

  1. You are speaking to a feminist who thinks that this song paved the road for sexual revolution for women in the 1960s.  What would you say to her?
  2. Afterwards, you will speak to the advocates of #MeToo movement. What would you say to them?
  3. Should the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” be banned? Why or why not? What’s your reason?

Note

  1. My answer: “I differ with you on your interpretation of sexual revolution. God, who invented sex, designed it to be enjoyed between husband and wife within the bond of marriage. But by making sex easy to get at anytime, anywhere, and at any age, you have turned sex into nothing more than a biological performance. Its pleasure is momentary, and it does nothing to build what we all long for: a trusting relationship based on who I am inside, not what you can get out of me.”  
  2. My answer: “Yes, I see where you are coming from, but if you are looking for songs that uplift women, try “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” All these songs are pro-women because God loves women unconditionally.  
  3. While I don’t care whether that song is banned, my concern is that other groups will look to ban what they seem as offensive songs as well—maybe even Christmas hymnals. I wouldn’t listen to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” because there’s a hint of sexual immorality and impurity in that song. I wouldn’t play that or other songs that tout worldly values in my house lest my children get influenced, for “bad company ruins good morals.”

Evening Reflection

This evening reflect on Romans 12:16-21: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Now pray for the advocates of Black Lives Matter, #MeToo movement and Antifa in accordance to God’s Word.  Pray for yourself that you, too, will live accordingly.

January 17, Thursday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you. 

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Prophetic Witness in the Temporal City of Man”

2 Corinthians 5:20 (ESV)

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

In one sermon given after the 2016 election, based on the above Scripture, I declared: “As God’s ambassadors on earth—as representatives of the eternal city of God  in the temporal city of man—are you going to represent the interest of Hillary or Trump? You may love one and hate the other—which shows that you’ve been co-opted by the partisan politics—but they are alike: some good, some bad, and a whole lot of ugly! Know that we’ve been sent here to bear prophetic witness in the temporal city of man.” What is prophetic witness? It has less to do with predicting the future and more to do with declaring God’s pronouncement—based on an unbiased reading of Scripture—against unjust and unrighteous leaders or institutions, whether ecclesiastical, political or social.

And no one exemplifies this prophetic witness better than John the Baptist, who, while busily ministering to a multitude of desperate people who came out to the desert, still found the time to rebuke King Herod Antipas for “all the . . . evil things he had done” (Lk. 3:19).  In one particular message to Herod, John said, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife [Herodias]” (Mk. 6:18b). Both Antipas and Herodias had divorced their respective spouses to marry each other; the fact that Antipas was Herodias’s uncle made this union more unsavory.  Thus, John excoriated this political figure on grounds of breaking Jewish legal and moral laws.

The opposite of prophetic witness is when Christians allow themselves to become a mouthpiece for groups advocating partisan interests that benefit insiders but hurt outsiders. A very bad case of this occurred during the World War II when German Christians (who controlled the German Evangelical Church) wholeheartedly embraced Nazism, and gave Hitler the vote of confidence he needed to claim legitimacy in his own nation. They declared, “[We believe that] God intended the Germans to unite under a powerful leader [Hitler], to pour out their energies for the national good, and keep the Aryan race to which they belonged free from any taint of alien blood.”  And when Hitler pronounced the boycott of all Jewish stores in Germany, it was the German Christians who led the boycott. This is a case of the Right getting into bed with the reigning political power; the Left can and has done the same.

Amid this badly compromised German church appeared Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brilliant young theologian who clearly saw that the Nazis were a ruthless effort to remake history without God and to build it on the unmitigated power of single individual blindly backed by the collective. Foregoing the opportunity to ensconce in America, he returned to Germany to denounce the political system that debased and deceived a nation and made Hitler its idol.  He declared, “I am firmly and rightly convinced that it is . . . a Christian duty towards God to oppose tyranny—a government which is no longer based on natural law and the law of God.” For speaking prophetically against the corrupted regime that no longer served as God’s civil authority (Rom. 13:1-5; Dan. 3:16-18), Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for two years before being executed a few days before Germany surrender to the Allies.

In ensuing blogs, we will examine three groups (Black Lives Matter, #Me Too movement, Antifa) and one individual (President Trump) that have been rocking our nation, from the standpoint of prophetic witness. For now, be reminded of this: Christians should never be so closely tied to the agendas of certain sociopolitical groups that they become an enabler of them.  Remember this: Jesus is neither Republican nor Democrat. This mixing will make it even easier for those in opposite groups to reject the gospel—the only message that can reconcile spiritually broken people back to God—when the partisan believers share it. Meaning what? I wouldn’t want a liberal democrat, who cannot say anything nice about the current president, to categorically reject my gospel presentation because she is put off by her perception (both real and imagined) that Christians like me supported Mr. Trump with glee.  Neither am I saying that Christians couldn’t have voted for him, but his life—both past and present—does present challenges to Christians, who desire to imitate Christ, like no other previous presidents. To me that’s a great loss. Therefore, we have to safeguard the appeal of the good news from God to all lost people. That’s where the prophetic witness comes in. Meanwhile, we pray for our president.

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us the wisdom and boldness not to easily give into the push and pull of the Republicans and Democrats and any other groups in-between. Remind us that we are the citizens of Your Kingdom and that we are here to represent Your Kingdom agendas. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 19

Tomorrow’s Blog: “Prophetic Witness to Black Lives Matter, #MeToo Movement and Antifa”


Lunch Break Study

Read Daniel 3:3b-6 (ESV):

“And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace” . . . 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 . . . if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace . . . 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the nature of Nebuchadnezzar’s demand made on the three young men from Israel?
  2. Speak about the discernment of the three young men—why didn’t they bow?
  3. Ultimately, what motivated these young men to willingly die for their faith?

Note

  1. Nebuchadnezzar’s demand was for the three God-fearing young men to supplant God, their eternal power source, and replace Him with the temporal power of man.  What a raw deal!
  2. While they were certainly being faithful to God by refusing to bow to a human, the three young men were simply being very smart. Knowing that God’s eternal power could keep them from burning, they didn’t bow; but also knowing that God honors those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30b) gave them assurance that they were doing the right thing.
  3. They were motivated, first, by their desire to ensure that God and His Kingdom are not seen as no more important than man and his kingdom; second, concomitant to that, they knew that the switching of their allegiances would have discredited their witness on behalf of their God.

Evening Reflection

No doubt, today’s news was again inundated with the latest scandals, real or alleged, on the President who has been like no other president in recent memory.  Whether you like or dislike him, God commands believers to offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings . . . for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).  Would you pray for him? Maybe it will be the first time—pray that the President will humble himself and earnestly seek the Lord.

January 16, Wednesday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.  

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

Some Thoughts from the Kavanaugh Hearing (4):

“Senators and Media Dig Up the Distant Past; Does God Do the Same?”

Isaiah 54:4 (ESV)

“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.”

It was quite a spectacle to see some members of the Judiciary Committee—Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) in particular—trying to gauge the fitness of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court based on what he wrote in his high school yearbook. One writer summed it as “lots of football, plenty of drinking, parties at the beach.” Some keyed into a cryptic reference that allegedly referred to a sexual conquest.

No doubt, to the news media and senators, Supreme Court justices are far more important than ministers of the gospel, like myself, but not according to how God sees things.  Kavanaugh was trained in a law school to properly interpret the Constitution of the United States; I was trained in a seminary to properly interpret the Constitution of a Higher Order—the Scripture.  Thus, before the eyes of the Lord, what I’m called to do in God’s Court (i.e., church) ranks higher than what Kavanaugh has now been appointed to do in the Supreme Court. So, if what Kavanaugh did in his youth is grounds for denying his appointment to the lower court, then, shouldn’t I resign from the higher court since I also behaved badly in my youth?  Yes, I confess that I’ve done things in my youth that would greatly embarrass me if people were to find out. So did King David, who, recalling his youth, prayed, “O LORD . . . remember not the sins of my youth or my transgression” (Ps. 25:7).

Are you any different? It turned out that Senator Blumenthal wasn’t any different either.  This senator, who took a hard stance against Kavanaugh’s nomination, certainly felt the boomerang effect when what the New York Times first reported in 2010 resurfaced during the hearing: falsely claiming he served in Vietnam.  President Trump, not known to pass up opportunities to ridicule his opponents, quipped, “Da Nang Blumenthal.” The issue here isn’t whether to weigh one’s background to gauge the fitness of prospective employees (it’s a must); rather, it is how far back in time do you go back to dig.  For the 53-year old Kavanaugh, it’s high school; for 21-year old Kyler Murray, whose anti-gay tweet the media exposed immediately after he won the 2018 Heisman Trophy, it’s when he was 15 years old. Do you have anything to hide yourself?  At some point, the digger may need to be told, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone” (Jn. 8:7b).

Nevertheless, I have good news for people like Blumenthal and Kavanaugh, because God isn’t like the media that never forgets our most disgraceful moments, since these stories sell.  First, let me start with the bad news: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that [we all] face judgment” (Heb. 9:27). And during this judgment proceeding, “the Lamb’s book of life” will be opened (Rev. 21:26).  But the good news is that if your name is found in this book—because you have believed the promise that “whoever hears my word and believes him [God] who sent me has eternal life”—then, you do “not come into judgment, but ha[ve] passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:24).  In fact, God promises that “you will not be ashamed . . . disgraced,” for He says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 10:17)—that’s the New Covenant of grace!

But those who have not believed that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn. 20:31), then every single act of rebellion against God—including not embracing the gospel—will be remembered; and as a result, they are “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).  If this is you, then, be your own media and recall every sin you ever committed, but instead of being given into despair, turn to Christ and repent of your sins—He will save you. Guaranteed!

Meanwhile, try not to drudge up the past mistakes of others when it suits your agenda; rather, forgive and forget, like what God did for us in Christ.

Prayer: Father, there are absolutely no words that can adequately capture our shock at finding that You will claim amnesia, in Christ, so that You will no longer remember our most shameful and disgraceful moments. Thank You! May I extend that grace to others as well. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 18

Tomorrow’s Blog: “Prophetic Witness in the City of Man”


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (ESV):

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV):

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat [“bema” in Greek: elevated platform] of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

1 Corinthians 4:5 (ESV):

“Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”

Questions to Consider

I attended a dispensationalist seminary where it was taught that there will be an additional judgment (a.k.a., the Bema Seat Judgment) just for the believers to determine their rewards. Admittedly, there is a paucity of teaching on rewards. Today, we take a small stab at it.

  1. Based on these passages, what should the believers be concerned about regarding their present life on earth: whether going to heaven or hell or something else? Back up your response.
  2. What is one key area that God will examine to decide whether we will receive rewards (not salvation) for the things done while we were on earth? In other words, what are the things that we did that would constitute “wood, hay, straw”—combustible materials?
  3. Certainly, these verses seem to suggest that bad things we did on earth will be mentioned at  this judgement as well, which, then, goes against God’s declaration that “[I] will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12).  How can we reconcile this?

Notes

  1. The believers need to be concerned about rewards, not whether they are going to make it to heaven.  Whereas salvation is a free gift (i.e., the “foundation . . . which is Jesus Christ”), the rewards are determined by “what sort of work each one has done” while on earth.
  2. I am under the impression that “wood, hay, straw” do not refer to our sins (since we don’t expect to be rewarded for these); rather, these point to apparently good deeds done while we were on earth that were, nevertheless, done for our own glory, not God’s. Paul calls this “the purposes of the heart” and God will disclose the true nature behind each of our “good” deeds at the judgment seat of Christ.
  3. I wrote a book called Theologizing in the Radical Middle whose main thesis is this: when seeing two seemingly conflicting Scriptures that are, nonetheless, true, we accept both in tension.  We may have worked out positions that harmonize them (some more convincing than others) but never to a point in which we divisively argue (2 Tim. 2:14). My position has already been stated: in the bema seat judgment of Christ, what are referred to as “bad” things in 2 Corinthians 5:10 are apparently good things, but they were done for the sake of our own glory (“wood, hay, straw”), rather than for God’s glory.

Evening Reflection

Before going to sleep, review your day—focus on those things that you would consider good deeds. Maybe you bought an extra cup of coffee for your co-worker or gave money to a homeless individual. Were you cognizant of your motive in those moments? Looking back, what was the main motive behind those deeds? If it was done for God’s glory, what would that look like? Is this too much thinking for everything we do? Or, should we be more in-tuned with why we do what we do?  What do you think? Pray about it. It is important: salvation is free, but rewards are earned. But since our rewards will far exceed what was actually done to deserve them—I mean, who expects to be rewarded for giving a cup of cold water to a child (Matt. 10:42)?—you can say that grace is very much factored in determining our rewards.

January 15, Tuesday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.  

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

Random Thoughts from the Kavanaugh Hearing (3):

“Senator Hirono Wasn’t Entirely Incorrect”

Philippians 2:5-7 (ESV)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Perhaps, even Democratic senators were a little shocked when their colleague from Hawaii, Mazie Hirono, who, perturbed that questions were raised regarding Blasie Ford’s testimony, said, “Guess who’s perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It’s the men in this country. And I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up.  Do the right thing for a change.”  In a single breath, this female lawmaker managed to condemn all men as the culprit to sexual misconduct—a categorically untrue claim since not all men behave this way. To her, women are always victims of men’s sexual aggression, which isn’t far from the truth, but there are enough exceptions, and noting this will diminish extreme tribalism rooted in identity politics.

Many conservatives took umbrage at her diatribe against all males, but the Senator is correct if her statement against sexual misconduct is broadened to include other ways of exploiting people.  Grammatically, while the singular “man” can point to the entire human race, on occasions, its plural “men” (the term Hirono uses) means the same. Consider Zephaniah 1:17 that reads, “I will bring distress on men so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord.”  Therefore, Hirono’s statement is dead on if it’s read: “Guess who’s perpetuating all kinds of exploitations?  It’s the humans, that is both men and women, in this country. And I just want to say to the humans in this country: Just shut up before God and step up in repentance.”  

That’s not, of course, what she meant; nevertheless, what she intended to convey is still serviceable if some corrections are made, like this: “Guess who’s perpetuating all of these sexual misconducts? It’s almost always men but some women in this country as well. And I just want to say to the brass at NBC (where Matt Lauer worked), PBS (where Charlie Rose worked), Willow Creek Community Church (where Bill Hybels pastored), and New York University (where the world-renown professor Avital Ronell was found responsible for sexually harassing a male graduate student): ‘Just shut up and step up.’”

Hirono, and those who share her worldview, surely wouldn’t agree with that for two reasons:  

First, she is too heavily steeped in identity politics (IP), which is an unbiblical concept when weighed biblically.  The premise of IP is this: My primary identity derives from a social group to which I deem fit to belong—whether racial, sexual, socioeconomic and/or religious—that has been victimized by Eurocentric-white-protestant-heterosexual-capitalist-male. Subsequently, those who include themselves in victim groups feel more righteous than those excluded, which then leads to the expectation that their rights (i.e., demands) are prioritized over those who aren’t in their group. Contrary to this, Scripture recognizes only one group before and after Christ. First, before Christ, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), meaning, we—including women like Senator Hirono and men like me, are all aggressors to God—“there is no difference” (Rom. 3:22b).  Second, in Christ, we are “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). There is no room for IP in Christ, but it does  obligate those who are in Him to treat everyone fairly regardless of their social status (Acts 6:1; James 5:1-6; Rom. 12:16).   

Second, while it is true that sexual misconduct is committed by far more men than women, exploitation of any kind has to do with power, certainly physical but also hierarchical, in which powerful people take advantage of those whose livelihood depends on them.  And because most men can physically overpower women, and because more women still work under men than vice versa, men continue to be the main, but not the only, culprits of exploitation, including sexual harassment. What powerful men like Senator Al Franken, Lauer and Rose further show is that liberalism cannot contain the excess of power, because liberalism and power aren’t mutually exclusive.

The best remedy, then, is to “shut up and step up”—meaning, the power needs to be given up to serve. No one will do that voluntarily, but if they come to know Jesus Christ, “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7), it becomes possible. And as long as we “fix our eyes on Jesus” the Son of Man (Heb. 12:2), we won’t exploit the weak.  That’s the only way—not liberalism, not identity politics, not seeker-sensitive, consumer-driven, user-friendly Christianity.

Prayer: Father, we confess that although we are part of a rebellious humanity that has repeatedly digressed from Your laws, we point finger at each other while claiming moral superiority over others—how foolish!  We need to shut up in contrition and step up in repentance. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 17

Tomorrow’s Blog: Some Thoughts from the Kavanaugh Hearing (4): “Senators and Media Dig Up the Distant Past; Does God Do the Same?”


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 3:10-12, 23:

“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” . . . 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, . . .

Galatians 3:28:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Mark 10:43-45:

“But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Does it make any spiritual sense for males to claim moral and spiritual superiority over females and vice versa (Mk. 7:15)?
  2. Does it make any spiritual sense for Christian brothers and sisters to stand apart from each other as if they are about to engage in a tribal warfare?
  3. What can you do to change the overwhelming tendency for the powerful to exploit the less powerful?

Notes

  1. It makes no spiritual sense because the words “none,” “no one” and “all” refer to both males and females.  Both sexes are equally fallen because they inherited sinful nature from their common ancestor Adam.  Thus, Jesus says, “It is what comes out of a man [all humans] that makes him ‘unclean’” because they all have a deceitful heart (Jer. 17:9).
  2. It makes no spiritual sense because Christ broke the social barrier that favored men over women in antiquity—“there is no male and female . . . in Christ Jesus.” We belong to the same tribe, meaning the believing women and men are spiritual siblings in God’s family.
  3. We must intentionally divest ourselves of our power, literally for some and figuratively for the rest, with concomitant actions of service to prove it (Tomorrow’s QT blog).

Evening Reflection

As you review your day, how did you behave toward the members of the opposite sex (if you are married, that would include your spouse)? Why don’t you enter into silence (e.g., turn off your phone) and ask the Spirit to reveal how you truly acted. Were you being demeaning, suggestive, contemptuous, or even hostile? We’ve got to clean up our attitude.  Some of you men really need to stop looking at those sites that demean and objectify women. (Some women as well.) Start the change today with a simple, yet heartfelt prayer: “Lord, help me.” Then, seek help from your pastor or other trusted spiritual authority.

Ps. 139:23-24:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!  24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

January 14, Monday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.  

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

Some Thoughts from the Kavanaugh Hearing (2):

“If You Are Ever Accused, Would You Demand Corroboration?

Deuteronomy 19:15 (ESV)

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.”

thiefDuring my recent trip to California, I saw an elderly pastor whom I first met in 1982. At that time, he came to direct the Bible institute of the church where I was serving as a youth pastor.

One day, this pastor handed me an official check for $200, which was found in church’s mailbox, seeing that the name on the check was similar to mine.  But, since I didn’t recognize the issuer I declined; nevertheless, because he kept insisting, I relented and took the check; and my bank later cleared it.  I thought it was an unexpected blessing from God; boy, was I wrong!

Not long afterwards, a parent in my youth group accused me of being a thief; evidently, the check belonged to her acquaintance (a former associate pastor of my church) who told her to keep it for herself. While profusely apologizing and promising to return the money (which I promptly did), I explained the mitigating circumstance that led to my blunder. But, when I appealed to the pastor who gave me the check in front of my accuser, he flat out denied his role, saying that it never happened; apparently, he didn’t want to look bad.  Either way I erred, but his denial angered me since, to this woman, I was a thief and now a liar as well.

My problem was having no corroboration for my version of the story—the true account of what really happened.  So that gave me a window into how Blasie Ford might have felt when no one at the infamous house party, including her friend, where Kavanaugh allegedly attempted to sexually assault Ford, could corroborate her account. I know many of us really wanted to believe Ford’s entire story—perhaps long lapse of time (35 years ago) is why the friend wrote to the judiciary committee that she “has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where [Kavanagh] was present.”  After all, one reason behind the statute of limitations is the fact that the recollections of pertinent witnesses will be less accurate over time.

So, regardless of how we feel, some level or type of corroboration is absolutely needed to prove a charge. Scripture certainly avows for it. Deuteronomy 19:15 declares, “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.” First Timothy 5:19 states, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.”  Why? Because, “acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— the Lord detests them both” (Prov. 17:15).  So, to prevent these unjust outcomes from occurring, the requirement for corroboration was and has been established in theocracy, ecclesiocracy, and democracy.

Does that mean that the guilty are always found guilty and the innocent always innocent? Sadly, no—in fact, we see this happening on the day Jesus was tried: While Barabbas, the confirmed murderer (Mk. 15:7), was released, Jesus, sinless and innocent, was executed for the guilty.  That wasn’t the first time that happened and certainly not the last. However, it is true that our justice system, which requires substantive corroboration, has put away the guilty while exonerating the wrongly accused with a greater accuracy than almost all systems in the world.

What about when the system fails however infrequently? Ultimately, we rest assured in God’s eventual justice, that “there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known” (Matt. 10:26).  And if such disclosure doesn’t materialize this side of heaven, then, it certainly will at the judgment seat of Christ before which “we must all appear . . . so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10).  Meanwhile, we “ke[ep] coming to [God] with the plea, ‘Grant [us] justice . . .’” (Lk. 18:3a NIV).

By the way, don’t accept checks that don’t belong to you (trust me on this) and avoid places and situations where a large quantity of alcohol is consumed (you will thank me later).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I recognize today that Your concern for us is more than how to get to heaven. You also want us to live in a just and fair society. Therefore, remind me and help me to be just and fair to those around me, beginning with my own family members. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 16

Tomorrow’s Blog: Some Thoughts from the Kavanaugh Hearing (3): “Why Senator Hirono Wasn’t Entirely Incorrect”


Lunch Break Study

Read Matt. 26:59-67 (ESV):

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

John 10:17-18:

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is wrong with this legal proceeding?
  2. Is what the two witnesses said about Jesus (“. . . rebuild it in three days”) worthy of a death penalty? What does Jesus, in fact, do at this point to help the cause of His accusers?
  3. Why does Jesus give the Jewish leaders the information that will lead to His death?  What does this say about our Lord?

Notes

  1. The judges (the members of Sanhedrin—the ruling body), long before hearing from anyone who could corroborate allegations against Jesus, already decided on the verdict (“so that they could put him to death”), and then looked for witnesses who will back them up. That is a rigged trial.  Going back to the Kavanaugh trial, once the accusation by Ford became public, it is a fact that several unsubstantiated or fabricated charges were made (e.g., Judy Munro-Leighton), which, then were quickly believed by certain judiciary committee members who never wanted Kavanaugh in the first place.  We probably have all done something similar on a lesser scale in our private lives, but it (i.e., making up our minds before hearing from corroborating witnesses) would be very unkind and indecent thing to do to another human being.
  2. The charge the Jewish leaders are looking for is that Jesus calls “God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18).  The accusation that Jesus said He could rebuild the temple in three days is not quite enough to make the case of blasphemy against Jesus.  So then, what does Jesus do?  He voluntarily gives them the information that will make their case stick: “Yes, I am the Messiah, the Son of God.”
  3. No one, whether the devil or Sanhedrin, can take life from Jesus unless the Lord allows it.  By giving the Jewish leaders the information that justifies their charge that will lead to His death on the cross, Jesus is allowing them to take His life so that “we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24b).  This is all the more reason Jesus Christ is worthy of our praise.

Evening Reflection

What were your thoughts while following the Kavanaugh hearing that produced several unforgettable moments, including Senator Graham’s indignant outburst, Senator Booker’s Spartacus moment, Ford’s cogent accusation and Kavanaugh’s fierce defense of himself?  Truth be told, none of what I have been saying and will say in the next few blogs is something the secular media, whether CNN or Fox, will ever say. Why? Today’s media establishment is neither into objective reporting nor cognizant of the biblical metanarrative.  On the contrary, my attempt is to construe all that went on during this divisive hearing from the standpoint of God’s Word, which would ensure objectivity in my reporting.

Now let me ask you as a fellow believer: Are your values and beliefs shaped more by the secular media and academia than Scripture? That’s a fair and important question.  How well do you comprehend God’s Word (with all of its intricacies and nuances)? Pray about raising the ante and really study God’s Word and acquire a biblical worldview.  It’s about time Christians stop gullibly believing everything the media and academia purport. Pray about changing your study habit; pray about reading books that can help you with this (e.g., Total Truth by Nancy Pelosi Pearcey).

January 13, Sunday

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Who’s in Your Calendar?”

Luke 5:19

“Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.”

Luke 11:37

“As Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited Him to dine with him; so He went in and reclined at the table.”

Note: The topic of this devotional is inspired by the passage “The Brotherliness of Jesus” in The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson.

I have an aunt who we consider incredibly sociable; my relatives jokingly relay stories about how “nosy” (in my mind, ‘curious and bold’) she was as a child, how she would go to the local barbershop to shampoo other people’s hair or follow friends’ families to the market and watch over others’ vegetable stands. Once, when we passed by a swanky new high-rise, she remarked that she considered buying a unit but didn’t after chatting with a tile-layer who confirmed a rumor about poor installations. She is as comfortable with a storeowner of luxury goods as she is with the store’s security guards. She is not Christian, but despite that, when I spend time with her, I am left with a deep appreciation for the humility with which she approaches others. Her lifestyle indicates a belief that each person is incredibly valuable and important, so she is both comfortable and interested in getting to know people of all backgrounds.

When we read about how Jesus spent His time, we see that He spent it in the presence of both religious leaders as well as people of poor reputation. One does not get the impression that Jesus did so out of dutiful politeness or showed up purposely just to expose hypocrites and correct them (one might be surprised, after reading Luke 11, that He still receives invitations to dine in Luke 14). We see that He was accessible and made Himself accessible to people of all classes and reputation, and that they desired His company as well. Though we know with our minds that God loves the entire world, we rarely appreciate how marvelous this versatility was. He made time for people who were rich and poor, religious and non-religious. He was able to make good conversation with them and enjoyed them as well.

How many of us purposely plan our schedules or are truly interested in spending time with people different than us? I will confess that I usually do not, nor do I make myself available to receive invitations, and I rarely give up that prized pocket of dinnertime. In contemplating the life of Christ, we should be challenged to recognize that God’s heart is for people of all types and characteristics. My encouragement for myself and for you is to spend time assessing how our time is spent. Do we make room to fellowship with and enjoy people from all walks of life, including those who share differing or opposing views? Could we take steps towards cultivating a heart of love that looks more like God’s, roomy and spacious for many others? Perhaps we can start at church today by saying hello to and taking steps towards building friendship with people we do not ordinarily fellowship with.

Our hindrances may be fear of awkwardness or rejection, or of an attitude that it is impossible for us to learn how to love those different than ourselves. Let’s confess these to God and ask Him to replace our fear and our resistance with His heart. From there, He will reveal and grant us a heart that is genuinely interested in understanding and embracing the wide spectrum of the people He created and cherishes. Let’s be people who eagerly desire to see beyond our familiar worlds into all the others that God also loves.

Prayer: Father, thank You that You love me so deeply. Teach me what it is that You love about others, and give me a heart to know and love them as well. Help me also to better appreciate Your love as I begin to learn how it is so varied and thorough for each person that I encounter. Would You show me how You love people that I do not naturally gravitate to and give me a fuller heart of love that resembles Yours? Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 15