Beat my Swing Coptors score?

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Ok it’s not that high but I am pretty darn proud of it. It took many bathroom sessions to accomplish this.

Sorry I haven’t posted for quite a while. It is kind of sad that the first post on return is about an app game, but I think I just need something to get the creative juices flowing again.

From the maker of Flappy Birds comes another instrument of torture, Swing Coptors! I must say that this is quite the infuriating game. I haven’t gotten this worked up over losing since Mario Kart and Street Fighter 2 Turbo on the SNES. I usually don’t get into these app crazes, but this game is strangely addictive.

If you haven’t played, you control this little guy wearing a beanie coptor hat, and with each tap he switches directions. It sounds and looks easy, but it gets tricky because the further he goes in one direction, his momemtum makes it harder to get him to straighten out. Those swinging hammer things don’t help either. The game was so hard that an update was created to make it easier.

Given how much time I have already wasted on this game, I should try to redeem that by drawing out some spiritual insights. The most frustrating part of the game is trying to get the guy to go the direction you want. Once he gets going towards one direction, if you are too slow, then it’s almost impossible to get him to switch back without crashing into the wall.

Trying to fly this guy through these little openings brought to my mind Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:13: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

This verse is a reminder that the Christian walk isn’t easy, that yes salvation is found through faith and grace alone, but after one enters into faith, there’s a lifestyle of godliness that accompanies genuine faith that we are to grow into as the Holy Spirit gradually sanctifies us.

Even with a regenerate heart, our sinful tendencies still pull us to one side and the other, and to make things worse, Satan throws in those swinging hammers from time to time to knock us down. But praise be to God that we don’t have to do life on our own power, that there is the Holy Spirit that lives in us to call us back to the straight and narrow.

Just as it got easier to control the little guy the more I played, the more we practice walking in step with the Spirit, the easier it will be to turn quickly from sin and remain on the right path. And for those who stray and get knocked down, my prayer is that you (and me) will get back up and start again, each and every time.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whateveryou want… Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16-25

By the way, I think the maker got the idea for this game from me. I’ve been drawing “Beanie Man” since Junior High.

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Revival

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Our church started Exodus, a mentorship program, years ago where we would take some of the youth on a camping/backpacking trip. The program consisted of an overnight backpacking hike and a shorter day hike, with a sharing at night from the Word followed by some one-on-one time with each youth paired with a leader. We just got back from I think the fourth trip, this time spending four nights at Yosemite national park.

This actually was my first trip since I was busy with either medical school or residency. What an amazing time we had these past couple of days. We went on the backpacking trip first, making our way up to the top of Yosemite Falls. The hike was only about 3.5 mi one way, but it utterly destroyed my quads. We basically climbed stairs for about 5 hours carrying 40 lb packs.

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We spent the night there and explored the river feeding the falls the next day before hiking back down. Going down was easier, but again quads-destroying going down those steps. We made it in about three hours.

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For our day hike, we made our way to Vernal Falls. The original plan was to continue on to the next waterfall, but we cut short the hike since most of us were out of commission. I was pretty happy about that.

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I prayed for this trip that God would work tangibly in our group and that we would come away with an unmistakable experience of His presence. I wanted to see revival happen in our church, starting with these guys and in myself. God certainly answered.

When we think revival, the picture we conjure up often is fire coming down from heaven Acts 2 style and miracles starting to be performed. That didn’t happen, but there were some close fire encounters back at camp with the lighter fluid…

I read something by Tim Keller recently that I really liked. He writes that revival is not necessarily seeing crazy miracles, but “is an intensification of the normal operations of the Spirit (conviction of sin, regeneration, sanctification, assurance of grace) through the ordinary means of grace (preaching the Word, prayer, and the sacraments)” (Center Church, loc 1253). Through the conversations on the hike, interacting with the messages shared, and one-on-one times, we saw hearts soften, sins confessed, relational issues confronted, and a deepening dependence on what Christ has done for us.

For myself, the Spirit convicted me again of my pride (and of course that would be the case since the topic I shared on was pride), from my silly pride in my thighs to again bringing to mind my strong tendency to depend on myself. Being in such close fellowship with the brothers made me realize again how independently I was living in all aspects of my life.

As a church leader I think the temptation is to always be in serving mode and it is difficult to open yourself up to be ministered to. There is a pressure to live a certain way, to have an image that I have everything figured out spiritually, and to have to keep that up is not just exhausting, but so stifling to my spiritual growth and what I can offer to others. We see this kind of dynamic in medicine as well, with doctors always having to do the caring while neglecting their self-care.

One brother made the comment that if he had to do the hike up to Yosemite Falls by himself wearing the pack, he wouldn’t have made it. I have to agree; I was already having second thoughts after the third switch-back five minutes in. We need one another, but it is so easy to isolate ourselves because of either shame or condescension, thinking ourselves better. The cross takes care of both of those, reminding us that we are all sinners on equal standing before God, but that in Christ we can be fully accepted through forgiveness of sins.

To all the guys that made it to the trip, I’m so thankful for the experiences shared. I pray that God would continue what He started, and that we will continue to grow as a church in dependence on God, and interdependence on one another.

Check out my Facebook page for more pictures! And if you are bored, there’s a silly game for a chance to win this!

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Merry Christmas!!!

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Merry Christmas from Taiwan!

How is it that Christmas is on the same day every year and every time it comes around I still get surprised. One day it’s turkey dinner and black Friday shopping, and all of a sudden it’s Christmas lights, caroling, and nativity scenes (although seems like there are less of those around these days). It’s such a great time: the air is festive, people are nicer, and we look forward to vacation and presents.

As I read through the account of the birth and early life of Jesus this morning, I was struck by how Matthew paints such a different picture than what we see all around us. Or rather, a more complete picture. I’m sure there were cute animals around and Jesus must have been an adorable cherub of a baby, but missing from the peaceful and happy scenes we see on Christmas cards and church displays is the every real and immediate evil that sought to kill the Savior of the world.

Matthew tells us that the ruler of the region, King Herod, “was disturbed” (Matthew 2:3) when he heard that the Magi were looking for a king. Herod sends them on their way and asks that they report to him when they find Jesus, pretending to want to worship as well. But, in reality Herod  intended to eliminate anyone who would be a threat to his reign.

In 2:13, an angel appears to Joseph with this warning: “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” And sure enough, when Herod realizes that the Magi tricked hm, he orders the execution of all the boys in and near Bethlehem two years and younger (v16). This reminds me of those old Chinese movies where assassins are sent to kill the baby emperor, and he has to be protected until he is old enough to rule.

The Bible is unapologetic in its description of human evil, even that seen in the heroes of the faith. And of course, that is why Jesus entered into this world, to overcome evil and open the way to salvation. Why God didn’t just surround Jesus with a host of angels at all times, or just do away with all evil in one instance, I don’t think we will ever understand fully in this life. But we do have the hope that our God entered into the sufferings of this world, not as one immune and untouched, but as a helpless and utterly dependent baby who was fully affected by the darkness of this world.

Yes, Christmas is a time of joy. But not (simply) because of presents, days off, and potlucks. It is a time of joy because we have hope in what God has done for us, which was foretold long ago. Genesis 3:15 says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” The birth of Jesus happened as God had said. We can trust that His return and ultimate victory over evil will unfold according to the Scriptures as well.

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

Finish Your Rice or Else Your Spouse Will Have Pimples!!@#

I think all our Asian brothers and sisters have been threatened by our parents in this way to finish all our food at meal times. Turns out this is bad advice according to this recent CNN article!

An interesting article looking at the cause of poor eating habits and possible contributions to obesity in the future. You don’t have to read the whole thing, the gist is that poor eating habits develop when food is restricted by parents, as well as when parents pressure their kids to finish their plate even after their kids say they are full. Here’s the reasoning:

Parental pressure to eat can be detrimental to children because it takes away from a child’s ability to respond naturally to their own hunger,” said Loth. “Instead, (it) encourages them to respond to cues in their environment which can lead to unhealthy weight gain over time.

Sounds reasonable enough. It probably does has an effect on molding attitudes towards food, and us future Asian parents will have to find a new way to teach not to be wasteful. What I did wholeheartedly agree with was how the article concluded:

And most importantly, “parents should also work hard to model healthy eating and a healthy relationship with food to their child” by eating a well-balanced diet

The obesity epidemic is actually pretty frightening. More and more kids are developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and liver disease from cholesterol issues. It’s going to be a sad day indeed when we start seeing kids on dialysis or the transplant list because of obesity-related complications. Our battle has to be in the homes, and until everyone is on board, then any medication, exercise regimen, or diet plan we prescribe will have very little lasting effect.

It’s interesting how much of who we are today has been influenced by the lives we saw modeled, especially in our parents, from as benign as using our dish washers as dry racks to very destructive and hurtful patterns of living. While the Bible is clear that each person will be held accountable to his or her sins, sin’s effects are far-reaching, often times propagating through an endless, terrible cycle across generational lines.

Being in church ministry I have heard often people share how they vowed they would never do what their parents did, yet when similar situations presented themselves, they did the same thing.  The good news of the Gospel is that in Christ there is new life, and in Christ there is power to cast off the old and embrace life as God intended.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; The old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

How have you seen yourself repeat things your parents did?

 

 

Does God Grade on a Curve?

If you don’t know, I am currently in my second semester at Talbot seminary. It’s been really interesting being back in school again. I finished medical school about four years ago so it has been awhile since I’ve had to do classroom-type work.

It has been an adjustment getting back into school mode again. And seminary definitely is a different kind of training. There’s a lot more reading, writing papers and my least favorite, class participation (Actually my least least favorite is role playing. Thankfully we haven’t had much of that yet). But I really, really dislike class participation. I rather memorize tons of obscure facts.

And the grading is different too. Throughout medical school we actually didn’t have grades. Some traditional med schools still give out letter grades, but most have adopted a pass/fail system where if you get above a certain percentage, then you pass. If you don’t, you fail and you have to retake the test, or sometimes retake the class.

Some schools have a grading-on-a-curve type system and award the top 10-15% an honors grade. But basically, once you get into medical school, almost everyone eventually finishes. There’s a joke, “What do you call a medical student who graduates at the bottom of their class? A doctor.” That’s comforting, right?

It’s interesting that in Talbot, they not only have letter grades, but the grading scale is much higher than I’ve seen anywhere else. In one of my classes, an A is a 94, and that’s an A minus. I’m glad that I’m doing this more for my own growth and for the benefit of the church, or else the Asian part of me would be giving me stomach ulcers.

We are going through Romans at my church, and the passage I just preached on yesterday (Romans 2:1-16) reminded me that God has an even more demanding grading system. It is pass or fail, except it’s more like you pass only if you get everything right. There will be a day of judgment where God judges our works,and I think many hold on to the hope that if I do more good than bad, then I’ll make it to heaven.

But Paul reminds us that God’s standard is not “good enough,” or “better than most.” God doesn’t grade on a curve. On the day of judgment, everyone will fall short of God’s perfect standard, no matter how much good we have done. Before a perfect and holy God, even one sin is enough to condemn us to eternal punishment in hell.

But the good news of the Gospel, and why Paul is eager to preach this message to all, is that while there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, God has revealed a righteousness, a way to be made right with God in Christ that is through faith. In God’s love, mercy, and grace, He sent His son Jesus to live a perfect life in our place, satisfying the requirements of God’s law, and died on the cross in our place, taking on the punishment for our sins.

Through faith in Christ, we have perfect obedience and forgiveness of sins, restoring our relationship with God. Judgment will be by our works, and all will be condemned. But salvation is by faith, praise be to God!

How good is good enough to get into heaven if we can be saved by our works?

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22-24

If you missed the sermon this past Sunday, feel free to download the podcast here! If you have any questions or thoughts regarding the sermon, please leave a comment or send me an email.

Yom HaShoah

IMG_1105Yom HaShoah is a day of remembrance of the 6 million plus Jews and the many millions more others who were killed during the Holocaust. This year it started last night and ends today. We were just in Boston over the weekend and happened upon the New England Holocaust Memorial while doing the Freedom Trail.

The memorial consists of 6 glass towers that has 6 million numbers etched into the glass representing the tattoos that were placed on the prisoners’ arms. The 6 towers also represents the six main death camps, and at each tower were quotes from survivors about their experiences.

It was gut-wrenching walking through the memorial and reading about the atrocities that were committed. It was such a powerful experience; the creators of the memorial did an amazing job.

Going through the memorial I was reminded of the degree of evil that we as humans are capable of. It was quite fitting that the sermon for church the very next day was on Romans 1:18-32, how our rejection of God and truth has resulted in ever-worsening depravity.

While we are not all as corrupt as we possibly could be, all of us have fallen short of God’s perfect standards. And our sins have permeated and affected all of creation. Praise be to God that He has provided the solution to sin and decay in the death of His son, Jesus Christ.

How have you seen the effects of our sin against God manifest?

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Romans 1:18-19

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Thanks Christina for taking us to the memorial.

Sermon Feedback/Discussion – Easter Service

Hi church!

Here’s a quick recap of my Easter sermon:

Jesus’ resurrection makes the Gospel good news. It gives credibility to all that He taught, and all that He promised. It shows that He is the Son of God and has authority to forgive sins and offer eternal life.

But why is the Gospel good news?

The Problem

We were all created to be in union with God, and living in union with God, He directs and aligns all our human capacities so we are the people we are supposed to be as God’s image bearers.

But because of sin, we are separated from the relational presence of God in our lives. As a result:

  • All our God-given capacities become corrupted (total depravity).
  • We become enslaved to idols (entertainment, job, relationships, drugs, etc) to fulfill needs only God can fill.
  • We bear God’s wrath, destined for eternal punishment in hell.

The Human Solution – Luke 15:11-32

We have tried to deal with the problem of sin apart from God in two main ways:

  1. Embracing our sinfulness by going the way of the younger son, indulging in all our sins.
  2. Living in obedience and doing good like the older brother to alleviate temporarily our guilt and shame, trying to earn our way into heaven.

Neither deals with the fundamental problem of our sins that separates us from God. We have sinned against a holy God, and the consequence is death (Romans 6:23).

The God Solution

God provided a way through His Son Jesus, who died to take the punishment of sin in our place. In Christ all my sins are put onto Him and all of Jesus’ perfect obedience is given to me so it’s as if I have obeyed perfectly all of God’s commands.

The Prodigal God*

This parable is known as the parable of the Prodigal Son. Prodigal means lavish, extravagant. The parable can also be called the Prodigal God. God is lavish in His love for us. Instead of His wrath, in Christ we are invited into God’s kingdom as His children instead. That’s the good news of the Gospel!

How have you dealt with the problem of sin apart from Jesus? If you are a Christian, have you trusted completely in the finished work of Christ on the cross, or are you still trying to earn salvation with good works?

I hope you were encouraged by the sermon. As always, please feel free to leave any feedback or how you interacted with the sermon. If you missed it, you can download the podcast in a few days.

SBECC Kairo English Ministry Podcast

*A lot of insights are from a sermon I heard by Tim Keller which later turned into a book