Success through the Eyes of Faith


success-479568_1920
Public Domain via Pixabay

My apologies for not blogging for the last four to five months! Major transitions have happened in my life. It has been pretty busy, not to mention stressful, these past months! I am no longer a campus minister serving at York University, a role I served in for the past 15 years. Since August 2016, I am serving as the Editor in Chief of The Banner, the official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Hence, a new chapter has begun in my life of following Jesus and serving his church and the world.

I wish to make it clear here that my transition was more about following Christ’s calling rather than finding greener pastures. This “career move” can easily be made to fit into the world’s narrative of success, as in constantly moving on to bigger and better. But I had always said that I go to (and stay) where I believe God is calling me. Success, in my understanding of Scripture, means, above all, faithfulness to Christ’s call, along with the missional kingdom fruitfulness (which includes, but not exclusive to the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22-23) born of that. Continue reading “Success through the Eyes of Faith”

Cast All Your Anxieties


2015-11-28 15.35.52
My daughter Bethany with her piano awards

(When my daughter Bethany – pictured here – graduated from Grade 8 last year, I was asked to deliver the “Parent’s Speech”. This post was that graduation speech I delivered to my daughter’s graduating Grade 8 class of 2015 for John Knox Christian School, Brampton on June 12, 2015)

 

Text: 1 Peter 5:7-8a

Dear graduating class of 2015,

It is dangerous to ask a pastor, even a campus pastor like myself, to speak. Because you know that I am going to give you a sermon, right? Especially when you give me a bible text! You chose as your class verse, 1 Peter 5:7-8a – “Cast all your anxiety on him because God cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert.” (NIV) My thoughts are drawn to verse 7: “Cast all your anxiety on God because God cares for you.”

Let me begin with a question: “What do the Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner have in common?” Ok, besides being best-selling novels aimed at young adults that became movies. “What do the Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner have in common?” I think all three have the same basic plot when you boil it down: in the future, the grown-ups have created a mess of the world, often despite their best intentions, and it is up to the youth to rise up and save the world. Does that sound like the basic plot in a nutshell? Is that why these novels are so popular among your generation of youth and young adults? Do they touch a chord or a nerve deep inside each of you? Is that a generational anxiety or fear or worry that your generation feels about the future?

Continue reading “Cast All Your Anxieties”

Faith in a Time of Fear


fear-441402_1920
Public Domain

(Christmas Day Sermon for Kanata Christian Reformed Church Dec. 25, 2015)

Texts: Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 2:1-20

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Fear in Isaiah’s Judah

Every time I read that passage from Isaiah 9, I can’t help but think of Handel’s Messiah. You know that chorus, right? “For unto us a child is born, unto a son is given, unto us a son is given. For unto us a Child is born ….” And so it goes. And it’s a great song, as is the rest of the Messiah.

And of course, these words, as does the song, express joy, hope and optimism. On their own, out of their context! But when I understood the original context of Isaiah’s words, I see them in a different light. I still see joy and hope but I see them spoken in a context of fear and darkness.

Continue reading “Faith in a Time of Fear”

Helping Teens Keep the Faith


Jakarta Church photo from Wikipedia
Jakarta Church photo from Wikipedia

Today’s blog post is by a York student, David Ekere. David has been involved in my ministry since the 2013-14 academic year. By his own admission, he wrote a seven page paper on “Why Teens Leave the Church” one night when he was “bored from studying”! We might be seeing a future youth pastor in the making! And he sent it to me for my feedback. Part of my ministry’s mission is to develop the leadership potential in students. Hence, I choose to empower David’s voice and passion by posting a revised version of his paper on my blog. I have to edit the paper down to a more blog-friendly length, and also changed his paper’s tone. So, here is the David-approved edited version with my brief responsive remarks after the paper.

Continue reading “Helping Teens Keep the Faith”

When Certainty is Wrong


Hendrick ter Brugghen - The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (Public Domain)
Hendrick ter Brugghen – The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (Public Domain)

(This was originally published in The Banner, Nov. 20, 2000, pp. 33-35)

Have you ever asked yourself if you are truly saved? How can you be certain that Christianity is true? How can we be sure that the Bible is true and that God exists? If such doubts come across your mind from time to time, you are not alone. Every believer faces some form of uncertainty about faith at some point.

Many books have been written to address those questions, for example, Josh McDowell’s best-seller Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Here’s Life Publishers Inc., 1979). Most of them aim to provide logical, scientific evidences to support the Bible’s truth and, in so doing, to give Christians a sense of certainty in their faith.

I admire and respect the works of these Christian authors, but I fear that the form of certainty they offer may not be entirely biblical. Our modern idea of certainty differs from the Bible’s concept of “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).

This will be clear when we look at what modern certainty is and compare it with biblical certainty. We will see how the modern idea of certainty has affected Christian practices and attitudes. Continue reading “When Certainty is Wrong”

Counterfeit Faith 2 – Experientialism


No Experience Necessary

In my previous post, I warned against dogmatism as a counterfeit faith. In this post, I want to warn about falling into the opposite extreme. This post was actually published in The Banner (April 2014 print edition) as “The Idolatry of Experience“.

In addition to simply giving equal time, I also think this post helps to avoid some misunderstandings from my previous post and also to clarify some concepts. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not against theology or dogma or doctrines. I love theology. I think it is important. Neither am I suggesting that we get rid or do without theology or dogma. A previous post suggests that theology matters deeply. I was merely warning us from turning good, necessary and important things like beliefs, doctrines and theology into an idol.

Theology is an aid that helps us to love God. In fact, it is a necessary aid, without which we cannot know God. Everybody has a theology, which can be as simple as a rudimentary form of knowing what one believes to the more sophisticated academic style theology that you find in systematic theology textbooks, or even to more articulated ones like we find in church confessions and creeds. But precisely because it is so good and necessary and so helpful that we can be tempted to trust it or to love it more than we ought.

Hence, this article on the idolatry of experience also nicely illuminates how idolatry works – how we can be tempted to turn something good and necessary, even a gift from God, into an idol. And also explains why idolatry is bad for us. Although applied to experience, you can also see how to apply it back to dogma/theology/intellectual ideas.

Continue reading “Counterfeit Faith 2 – Experientialism”