Our desire for significance

PrintTruly great people carry themselves with genuine humility through and through, and do not try to prove themselves to anyone.  We admire such people.  It is a godly trait and one that prideful people envy in humble people.  Pride is a temptation common to all human beings and is one of our bigger weaknesses. It’s traditionally known as one of the seven deadly sins.

St. Augustine said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”  Finding true humility in people is hard to come by and is an impossibility for most of us.  Even within the church, we all have a desire for recognition (including all human beings).  We want to be associated with people or things greater than ourselves.  I admit, even clergy/pastors do it, e.g., we like to claim we baptized x number of people on baptism Sunday.

In 1 Corinthians 1:14-17, Paul had lambasted some of the Christians for bragging they were baptized by Paul himself (as if his act of baptizing made them more special).

I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:14-17)

We try to associate ourselves with something greater than ourselves in order to alter how people perceive us.  Why do we do this?  As most human beings, at times, we feel insecure about ourselves or status.  We have an insatiable desire to be seen as more significant because we feel insignificant in comparison to others.  It comes from our sin of wanting to be God in God’s place.

Paul said he would rather have not baptized anyone except Crispus and Gaius–probably because they were the humble ones who did not brag about having been personally baptized by Paul. It sounds like Paul did not baptized many people, maybe for this very reason. He didn’t care to baptize more people.

Ideally, we ought to be satisfied with associating ourselves with God in Jesus Christ.  We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us forsake this deadly sin of pride.  He will help us.

Eating and drinking out of faith

The apostle Paul was very sensitive toward the conscience of fellow believers–especially those who were new believers in Christ.  Recent converts to Christ would have experienced a new-found freedom in Christ.  They came from either strict Judaism where rules and regulations binded them, and if from paganism, Gentiles would have had little or no rules. Jewish beliefs about eating non-kosher food or drinking alcohol would have diverged from Gentile beliefs.  Thus, the church may have been quite diverse.

Paul instructed Christians in Romans 14:20-23,

“Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.  So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

I am reminded about my fellow brothers and sisters of Asian cultures who eat solidified pigs blood (blood curd) like my Filipino friends.  Deuteronomy 12:23 advises not to eat pig’s blood,

But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.

What about after it’s been cooked?  When I was a younger Christian, I would have judged because others in the church were judgemental.  I guess it was a form of devout piety and a sincere but twisted desire to bind others with biblical rules.  Today that’s changed. Hopefully, some of the church is changing too. Does this mean I’m going to start eating blood curd? No. It’s just not in my taste in food. But I do love eating pork chops, pork cutlets, and pork bone soup (Korean). Yum yum.

The freedom that we are given frees us from the consequences of external laws–liturgical and ceremonial law.  It is the life of the Spirit in which we live–the interior life–which is not visible to human eyes but is spiritually discerned.

Laws are not disregarded or thrown out.  Laws are holy and good because they are given by God and inform us of what is moral and ethical.  They inform us that we are still sinners; while the gospel transforms us into saints.  Laws help correct us and steer us toward living a better life but they do not save us.  We thank God for good laws, but we also thank God more for freedom in the Spirit.

God’s election of a predestined group

The debate about Calvinism vs Arminianism sometimes center around the issue of predestination.  Everyone believes that God does predestine, but to what extent are we predestined to?  God has predestined that Christ should live within the believer in order to be saved, but the question is: Does God predestine a certain chosen or elected smaller remnant of people to be saved?  Scripture seems to point to this.

Certainly Israel was chosen, as the Apostle Paul points out here in Romans 8:28-30,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:28-30, NIV)

Calvinists would say that predestination is explicit in this passage of scripture, however, Arminians would interpret this verse to imply that God’s prevenient grace is universally offered to all people, regardless of whether or not they’ve heard the gospel. In a way, this grace also renders the person “neutral” so that they can decide themselves whether to accept or reject Christ (see Monergism).

In the Old Testament, Paul quoted Moses and makes it clear that only a remnant will be saved to continue on as the surviving and true Israel,

“For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children…” (Rom. 9:6-8)

Furthermore, the argument of whether God is truly merciful or not is clear in the Old Testament. Paul quotes Moses from Exodus 33:19,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Rom 9:14)

This begs us to wonder: “What if my son or daughter, brother or sister, is neither predestined or called by God?”  Ouch.  A loving father, mother, sibling or spouse, would feel a deep heart-ache if they knew that their loved one was not predestined to be with the Lord on the Last Day.

Another question might be: What about all the other millions of people around the world who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus?  Are they not predestined to be saved?

I still have unanswered questions, but for me, come what may, I still believe that God is a sovereign God and will place my bets on God’s mercy, grace and love.

 

 

A Father’s Letter to His Daughters…

Here is a blog post from Brandon Andress about his love for his daughters. It is beautifully written so I repost it here. It is found at: https://brandonandress.com/2013/02/11/a-fathers-letter-to-his-daughters/

brandon andress

I have been thinking a lot lately.

I have been thinking about all of our mornings at Starbucks and the conversations we have had about God and life.

I have been thinking about all the nights we laid in your bed and asked questions and talked about all of your dreams.

I have been thinking about all the hikes we have taken and how we talked about beauty and peace and contentment and joy.

Those are the most amazing moments I have ever had in my life.

I will never forget them as long as I live.

But while we have shared in so many special moments and had so many amazing conversations, in too many ways, I have been the stereotypical man, unable to fully open up and express my heart and my feelings to you.

So first let me say that, even though I tell you every night…

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Resurrection of Christ Jesus our Lord – Happy Easter!

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter.  This Sunday, Christians will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus whom God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit, raised from the dead to defeat sin, death and evil.  Praise the Lord!

The resurrection is God’s living proof to the disciples, and to us today, that he will fulfill his promise to also resurrect us on the Last Day.  It is the power of God that enables us to receive the good news…to see it and believe it that your sins are really and truly forgiven. The good news is that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven by God.  Praise the Lord!

St. John and St. Peter at Christs Tomb. Artist: Giovanni Francesco Romanelli

Easter Prayer of Confession

Gracious Father,
you sent your Son to die and rise to new life
in order that death might be brought to an end
and that we might live a new life in Him.

Yet we confess that we too often have chosen to remain
captive to doubt and fear and ways that lead to death.
By our thoughts, words, and actions,
we have scorned your love,
diminished the lives of others,
and defaced your image in us.

Father, forgive us for Jesus’ sake,
and enable us by His resurrection power
to live no longer for ourselves
but for Him who died and rose again for us. Amen.

(Prayer from: http://www.missionalchallenge.com/easter-prayer-of-confession/#.VtpVQpwrKhc)

Title: The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection.  Eugene Burnand (1850-1921)

In this painting, the artist captured Peter and John’s sense of urgency and determination.  There is also a sense of uncertainty and anxiety mixed with excitement (“could it really be true that our Lord is alive?”)  Some of us might have these same feelings. Pray that the Holy Spirit may give you certainty of Jesus resurrection and life hidden in Christ Jesus.

United Airlines disrespectfully kicked passenger off flight

Yesterday, we returned from Taiwan back to Canada on EVA Airlines (a Taiwanese airline).  I am glad to say that we received great customer service from their stewardesses and customer service reps on the ground. I was impressed with how EVA Airlines took care of us and treated us with respect.  I would fly EVA again and recommend them to anyone flying international. They even offered to change the date/time of our return flight free-of-charge (provided their were available seats due to cancellation), and by the way, the food was good too.


I just saw in the news today about a passenger who had a disastrous experience with United Airlines.  It was all over the news and on YouTube videos gone-viral. This paying passenger was violently forced off flight 3411 because they overbooked.

United Airlines needed to fly four of their own employees and needed passengers to give up their seats. No one volunteered when they offered $400 hotel voucher, which was then increased to $800 and still no one volunteered.  Then they randomly picked four passengers to remove from the flight. This last one refused to leave.  The passenger hadn’t done anything wrong but they treated him in an unbelievably disrespectful way.

United Airlines failed to plan, and handled this in a very disastrous way. First, this is not a criminal matter. It was their own fault of failing planning but yet, they brought in police who used force to remove a customer off the plane.  Unbelievable!  This customer was not a criminal.  Police should only be involved if it’s a criminal matter.  A very bad move by United Airlines. It showed disrespect toward this passenger who was a doctor and had patients to see the next day.

Second, they should have used persuasion.  Customers can be persuaded to volunteer to give-up their seat.  If they had offered a $1,500-2,000 cash credit for a flight of their choice to be used in the future, someone would have offered to volunteer… heck, I might even be tempted to. After this disaster, I think United Airlines will be losing millions of dollars in customer revenue–not just hundreds.  I certainly would not fly United Airlines and I foresee many thousands will not be choosing to fly with United in the future. No one should be treated in this abhorrently disrespectful manner.  Even if UA had a right to decline a passenger their flight, it should never treat any customer in such disrespectful manner.

Years ago, Air Canada messed up a flight my wife and I were on but I will always remember.  The airline asked the entire plane who leave due to engine problems, and it happened twice in the same evening.  It was way past midnight.  The only thing Air Canada offered us later was a $250 voucher off a future flight, without an offer for hotel over night. It was a joke, and I was furious and chose not fly Air Canada for many years after that horrible incident.

New domain name for this blog?

I have been thinking about getting a new domain name for this blog. Years ago, I lost a previous domain name for NewEpistles but didn’t have time to blog anyway.  Now, I’ve been thinking it still might be good to have a dedicated one that is free from WordPress’ secondary free domain.  I’m debating whether to switch.  I really don’t blog much but I’ve have had more time to blog more than usual while I’ve been vacationing here in Taiwan these several weeks (but returning today).