The Godly Thinker

selfie-413162_640It is ironic that Voltaire, the philosopher who was against the Bible said,

 “I cannot imagine how the clockwork of the universe can exist without a clockmaker.”

One of my most loved subjects in the Bible is the nature of God. It is because I really like to know the Lord regarding who He is and what He does. And it is just amazing to see that Moses began the Book of Genesis by stating and not arguing that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Many philosophers and scientists challenge the veracity of the Scripture by asking for tangible proof that God exists, but they are ignorant of the fact that the Bible does not try to prove that there is a “GOD” but affirms that there is God! God Himself is the Absolute Reality of the Bible! So those who deny God’s existence, they…

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Confucius said,

 “The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.”

 This is an insightful and timely thought for us today. Of course, for Christians, “what is right” is the truth of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). But in an age of fast FB-globalized expression of the self, it is easy to forget or disregard the principles of the long narrow gate of righteousness shown by Jesus (Matthew 7:13). What sells to people today are the things that are immediate, one-click, no-sweat, and easy – meaning, things that will instantly give comfort and pleasure to self-life. And since the virtues of patience and temperance don’t promise easy-to-get pleasure, people are naturally directed to enter into the opposite gate, the “wide gate” of self-comfort (Matthew 7:13).

One of the gravitating and selling features of the world’s wide-gate is the ideology of materialism. Backed up with humanistic and evolutionistic ideologies, materialism defines and shapes man according to economic-political conditioning. In this value-system, godly characters (spiritual-moral) that are sown, rooted, and growing on Calvary’s ground are rejected and opposed in a modernistic fashion. Materialism prepared a ground suited for itself, wherein the seeds of economic-political values (money, social status, and self-pleasure) are highly sought and valued.  In other words, the ground of materialism conditions man to live by his physical senses. By this view, materialism teaches man to interpret reality according to humanistic perspectives, driven by a desire to get and live what you want. In this kind of world, what is right is what you want – the very marketing strategy of materialism that is always best-selling in the modern world. And since humanistic modernity is governed by materialism, it energizes man to deny and ignore God.  The offer of materialism is this: “You don’t need a God to serve; you are the master of your soul.” That’s the kind of freedom that materialism gives; a life apart from God. In materialism, the love of God and the Cross of Jesus are not the absolute basis of human existence and ethics. It treats them as the obsolete, uncivilized, and marginalized views of ancient religion, like relics of the past.

But Jesus said,

 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19 ESV)

Essentially, to have a relationship with Jesus is to be at enmity with the system of the world (1 John 2:15-17).  “Sed quia non sunt de mundo, propterea odit vos mundus.” Thus, godly conviction or the courage to believe and stand for Christ is a vital part of Christian growth amidst the materialistic culture of the world.  But it must be understood that godly conviction is produced in our hearts by the electing and sacrificial love of Jesus. We, in and of ourselves, cannot hate the system (isms) of the world (lust, worldliness and selfishness) without first the work of the cross in our hearts. “We love Him (God), because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Therefore, the effective counter-attack against the materialistic-humanistic values of this world is love for Christ, energized by His love for us. Don’t embrace what sells; embrace what is right – Jesus Christ.

farmer-1367106_1280According to Webster, diligence is a “Steady application in business of any kind; constant effort to accomplish what is undertaken; exertion of body or mind without unnecessary delay or sloth; due attention; industry; assiduity.”

The definition is condensed with general ideas worthy of deep thought regarding its particular application in the details of life.  In this article, I’ll just comment on the phrase “steady application in the business of any kind.”

Now, it is common sense to observe that this lack of “steady application” of the mind and body “in business” is the reason why many people are not successful in their field of endeavor. This is one of the practical reasons why we are in poverty. We don’t give the effort of our hearts on the things that are entrusted to our hands. We procrastinate in our goals; we are sloppy in our work and deal things in an easy go lucky way. It is not surprising then that the thinkers and theologians of the past included diligence as one of the heavenly virtues that we should live by with emphasis. It is the enemy of Sloth, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

As you know, God created Man to work, not for sake of work itself, but rather, as created in God’s image, God has given us the capacity to express and exercise the personality and gifting that He designed in us and wants us to be through work (i.e. our vocation).  Thus, it is a privilege to imitate the creating power of God in our work. Of course, we don’t have the power to create, but God has given us materials or resources (it could be a job, relationship, environment, personality, talents, education, etc.) to produce or materialize the things that are not yet seen.

In light of Common Grace, every marvelous, scientific, and technological invention in history was a gift of God to humanity through the diligence of a person or people whom He had gifted to accomplish the work. Einstein was a gift of God to humanity (James 1:17a). Of course, people today praise Einstein solely for his genius, but for Christians who understand the sovereignty of God in His creation, the genius of Einstein was a divine gift for the development of civilization. God is the Absolute author of scientific modern civilization. Yes, Einstein himself (and others like him) will not acknowledge and praise God for the intellectual power that he had. But in light of God’s common grace, since all of us “live and have our being” because of God (Acts 17:28), therefore, even the brain of Einstein was a gift of God for common good. “Omne datum optimum et omne donum perfectum desursum est descendens a Patre luminum.”

You see, knowing, understanding, and living out your vocation is very important. And in some way, I think, for you to do this, you need to understand the theology of Creation and Calling. You need also to be honest in your self-reflection (who you are in light of God’s calling), and most importantly, you must trust God that He is powerful and caring to provide and sustain you in the fulfillment of that vocation (big or small, celebrated or typical).

Another thing that I want to note is this: There’s a saying that says,

 “Diligence is the philosophers’ stone that turns everything to gold.”

 Wow, I like that. The philosophers and alchemist of the past had searched for a magical stone that supposedly had the power to change everything into gold. But in their search, they only realized that what they were looking for was not a stone, but a character; an attitude with a steady application of the mind and body to whatever work a person does. That kind of attitude really turns everything to gold.

diligence-the-philosophers-stoneNow, when it comes to the synergistic nature of the Christian life (i.e. the harmony of divine providence and human responsibility), of course, diligence is a very important character. I have so many things to say about this, but let me just put it this way: If we believe that our God is a faithful provider to His children, then it means, that in whatever situation that we are in, God always gives the resources (big or small) to enable us to work on something that He is calling us to do in that particular situation (1 Corinthians 10:13) – even if it is in the midst of persecution or suffering for the sake of the Gospel, or standing for Biblical principles. The life of Joseph in Genesis is a very good illustration for this.  In whatever situation that Joseph went through (good or bad), what matters was not the situation but that “the LORD was with Joseph,” blessing the work of his hands (Genesis 39:2). Please give time to meditate the life of Joseph (even as you relate it to your work), for it is filled with spiritual insights that will give us wisdom to live our vocation.

Lastly, let me just quote Solomon in Proverbs 6:6-11, exhorting us to diligence. He said,

“You lazy people can learn by watching an anthill.  Ants don’t have leaders, but they store up food during harvest season. How long will you lie there doing nothing at all? When are you going to get up and stop sleeping? Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs. Suddenly, everything is gone, as though it had been taken by an armed robber.”

 What a beautiful description! Each description contains tons of wisdom to juice out. I think, the poem of Isaac Watts (1715) for children is a good descriptive interpretation for this. It’s about “Idleness and Mischief.”

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skillfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labour or of skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play
Let my first years be past,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

Awesome! I will certainly post it on the wall in front of my study.

You see, God is the Provider of our needs. But He is not a foolish God who just showers His blessings to the sluggard. And although the Lord wants us to be content with our lot, but it doesn’t mean passivity or that we don’t need to work hard and just pray to Him for whatever we need. No! Trust is not lazy. Prayer is not lazy. It is diligent! It labors with all its heart and power because it understands that God blesses active obedience, not laziness. So in your calling (however big or small, popular or not, high salaried or not), be diligent and do your best for the glory of God. For in the final analysis, what matters most is this:

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV, emphasis mine)

 

Show-Off

Posted: February 8, 2017 in Attitude, Self-Control

chess-1483735_1280One of the distinct marks of a wise person is the ability to control his tongue; oh yes, the ability to speak things in a right time, in a right place, and in a right manner. In light of Common Grace, Confucius was able to observed,

“The superior man acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his action.”

In other words, you walk your talk first. It is also said, action speaks louder than words. When you practice what you preach, your words become more weighty and beautiful. But of course, this doesn’t mean that we lower down the value of words or of speaking. We need to speak; however, we must do it with wisdom. Solomon in Proverbs 15:2 said, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.”  The question is: How does the tongue of the wise make knowledge acceptable?

John Hill said,

 “As the heart of a wise and good man is filled with useful knowledge, civil, moral, spiritual, and evangelical; so he takes care to communicate it, at proper times and seasons, in proper places, and to proper persons; adapting it to their case and circumstances, so as it may be for their comfort, edification, and instruction, and minister grace unto them; which is using knowledge “well,” as the word signifies: such an use of it recommends it, and makes it appear beautiful and lovely, decorates and adorns it.” (Commentary on Proverbs 15:2)

You know, I’ve acquainted people who are educated or knowledgeable in their own field of academic expertise, career, business, and ministry. They’re really good, well-groomed, bright, and look professional. But you know what, when it comes to relationship or communication with people – particularly to those who are marginalized – they’re not good and oftentimes a source of a headache. I’ve learned that even though you’re bright and skilled, but if you don’t use your knowledge and skills with wisdom (particularly with an attitude of humble sensitivity to others), you will become self-centered. Why? That’s because you’ll think people don’t understand you, or they’re not in your level or they don’t like you, or they’re envious of you because you’re special or professional and they are not.

You see, Solomon said, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable.” It means, you express and use what you know with right timing, with right placing, and with right manner.  It teaches us that talents, intelligence, and skills never make a person wise per se. And you know, when a so and so intelligent person becomes self-centered, people around him will begin to despise him in their hearts.

In light of what Solomon said, what makes a person wise is the right attitude and gracious manner that he puts in his knowledge and skills. However, there are those people who for without reason, they love to show-off, they so love publicity, so thirsty for applause, and hungry for thousand FB-likes for their featherbrained post of trifling trivialities. They want others to esteem them high – to see them like Hollywood celebrities, as if they have something or that they’re the only ones who are so experts and special in their identity, work, or in their gifting, or even in their craziness. Worse is, they call it a testimony, that is, showing how God is blessing their lives! Oh! Come on! What a show-off Information Age that we have!

show-offOn the practical level of conversation with people, here is my principal advice: When you’re with your friends, or with your workmates, church-mates, or in whatever gathering of people that you’re in, I suggest that you control your tongue or even your action about advertising or showing up your ability or your knowledge. Let your knowledge and ability be shown in a right time, in a right place, and in a right manner. It is not good and wise to be showy or pompous about talents or abilities. Solomon said in Proverbs 12:23, “A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims folly.”

If you’re really wise (as you might think you are), you’re supposed to know how to control yourself.  Be careful and considerate. For instance, when in front of people, don’t puff out that you can do this or you can do that, or that you have a high degree of education in this, or that you have a professional skill and a veteran experience in that, because I tell you, the world is big! There might be people around you, who maybe just watching and listening to you, who are more talented and highly skilled than you are. “Nam si quis existimat se aliquid esse cum sit nihil ipse se seducit.” Learn to control yourself. Only reveal what is necessary, let your actions speak for yourself, and keep your attitude amiable and humble before people because humility brings praise. I call that Zetsu.

 

Intelligently Proud

Posted: January 12, 2017 in Apologetics, God, Purpose, Science, Truth

space-shuttle-992_1280The arrogance of the modern man today is to view and live life apart from God. For them, “God” is not the intelligent or scientific way of understanding our origin (WHERE), existence (WHAT), and purpose (WHY).  Of course, I’m aware of the loaded whimpering arguments coming from the atheistic camps, which are scholarly propagated, for instance, by Richard Dawkins and noisily spearheaded by Lawrence Krauss, etc. There are some intelligent Christian apologists from the classical camp (Ravi Zacharias in my knowledge is the best) who with clever alacrity try to convince and shatter down the intellectual objections of these deniers of God, and yet despite solid arguments, they seem to fail to convert them because the root-problem is not actually in the mind but in the heart – the moral problem.  So however good and cogent the arguments are, if the heart is bias and sin-controlled, still, embracing God is impossible.  Remember, the psalmist said, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” (Psalm 14:1). Saint Paul also said,

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:21-22)

See that? Paul was referring to an unbeliever here when he said, “they knew God.” Why they “knew God”? Well, because of the scientific or natural evidence in verse 20, called in Theology as “natural revelation.” And yet, even though the clear evidences of God’s fingerprints are displayed in front of their very face, but Paul said, “They did not honor Him as God.” Why? That’s because within them, there’s already a presence of sin that made their heart “foolish” which in effect producing “futile speculations” and “darkened” desires that spew out the truth of God’s existence and evidences. And so, “professing to be wise” by using their so-called Science and methods of rationalizations, “they became fools” (literally “moron”) because they deliberately removed the Creator from the creation; they define and investigate the universe based upon the self-produced presuppositions that they have (humanism), instead of going back to the Creator as the ultimate definer and designer of all things. In other words, they invented[1] a subjective Science instead of approaching it objectively (pointing to God).  This is the prison-bias of the evolutionist and atheist, and they will be forever playing inside this loop, unless the Spirit of God will rescue them. This prison-loop is made by what I call, the Genjutsu of Satan, based upon 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

You see, the atheist has made his Science as the final authority of what is true and real. Consequently then, whatever Science (i.e. the science of the atheist) says (though not yet scientifically validated but opinionated) must be true, and whatever it disapproves must be false.  This is a complex discussion, but it must be said at the outset that, Science (in its objective sense) and Scriptures are never contradictory. The real facts of Science will support the truths of the Scripture and vice-versa, because God is the Creator of both realities – natural and spiritual.

intelligently-proudHowever, as a finite being, when you see a seeming contradiction between natural (Science) and spiritual (or special revelation, the Scripture) realities, it’s not because there’s actually an existing contradiction, but rather you as a finite (natural) and even sinful (spiritual) observer contradicts the realities made by the Creator Designer (Romans 1:21-22). But you may ask, “How do I contradict it? Well, simple. By imprisoning yourself inside an illusionary and sinful presupposition that there is no God and that His Scriptures, the Judeo-Christian Bible is wrong. That’s the root-problem!  “Cognovissent Deum non sicut Deum glorificaverunt.”  Though God is real, but you don’t want Him to be real. That’s the difference, that’s the root of the problem – the moral problem.

Moreover, the atheist appeals to Evolutionism as if Evolutionism is an objective scientific methodology inherent in Nature. But as the presuppositional apologist Michael Kruger said, “Evolution is more a philosophy than a science.” Evolution is a philosophical outlook of the observer, not a by-product of an objective scientific investigation. Thus, in the final analysis, the battle between Atheism and Theism is not what is scientific, but philosophical.  It’s a battle of worldviews, not basically about scientific investigation.

[1] Springing from sinful-heart-presuppositions

Living your Vocation

Posted: November 20, 2016 in Contentment, Motivation, Riches, Success, Work

tool-384740_1280Philosopher Confucius said,

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

Practically speaking, this is a wise counsel, particularly when you think about it from a Biblical perspective.

It’s been months already since I’ve started to meditate about the importance of living according to your passion or your vocatio, that is, your call or summon in life; to live according to your who-ness which God Himself has created and called you to be and to do.  And yet, nowadays, it seems to me that fulfilling your life’s vocation is now hard and risky because the world (particularly in the field of economic, advertisement, and business) sets or controls the kind of jobs that will help you live decently. And so, if your skill or education is not in-demand or trendy, then expect low salary. So, if you don’t want to be jobless, jump to what’s trendy and work there – though it’s not what you really want to do, not expressing who you are. Hmm, I believe that Christians must really think critically on this issue and I’m in a view to say that this is one of the great manipulations in the world, a form of survival of the fittest and Marxianism, against the concept of Social Theory. Oh, a lot to say about this, but let me just say that Martin Luther’s theology of work is a great help to me over this issue. And if you’re really interested, try to find or buy (online) the book of a Swedish theologian Gustaf Wingren, that is entitled “Luther on Vocation,” it is so….insightful!  

Now, let me get a little bit pastoral here….

I don’t know about you, but if I may ask you, “Is your work your passion in life?” Thank God if it is…oh thank God; but if it’s not, then “why?” You see, I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what your talents are, I don’t know what your work is, I don’t know your passion in life, but this one thing I know: God has called you for something He designed you to be. Luther said,

“It is much to be lamented, that no man is content and satisfied with that which God gives him in his vocation and calling. Other men’s conditions please us more than our own…The more we have the more we want. To serve God is for everyone to remain in his vocation and calling, be it ever so mean and simple.” (Table Talk, On Vocation and Calling, section 1,847)

Lots to think about from that statement actually, but let me just say this with passion: Don’t define and measure the success of your work (even of your life) based upon the amount of money that it puts into your wallet! Oh, I know we need money, but stop loving it! Don’t be defined and controlled by it! Don’t make a legacy to people (your spouse, your children, your friends) showing that your life is led by it. No! Rather, know yourself according to God’s calling and let the heart and hand of God provide.  Why? For the God who calls you to do that something is also the God who will provide the resources to accomplish that something. Yes? Of course!

Yet, let me just say that God’s provision does not mean worldly success and prestige, oh so far away from it! Look at Jesus, look at Paul, look at Peter, James and John; are they world’s idols? Of course not. But they made the world upside-down (Acts 17:6). And…surprisingly delicious to ponder, Paul while in prison said to Christians in Ephesus,

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord (not of Rome) beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Ephesians 4:1,kjv, emphasis and parenthesis mine)

Wow! Can you see that? I like it, I really do! What a delicious spiritual food!

Just food for thought:  Actually in Greek, the word “vocation” and the phrase “ye are called” are all related with Greek word Ekklesia, which is the Greek word for the “Church.”

picture1Now, one thing I’m sure – and I’m saying this deep from personal experience: God’s calling and provision gives joy, or in the words of Luther, “contentment” and “satisfaction.” And so “…digne ambuletis vocatione, qua vocati estis…” For as the fish cannot enjoy sand-bathing under the sun, so also the heart of a Christian who is called by God to do his/her vocation.

But as you see, the obvious simple challenge is this: Are you ready, willing, and courageous to risk (“risk” only because the world hates it) for God’s calling? Or like the world, you will just stay in your so-called “comfort-zone” – drinking and eating pop-foods, watching lots of movies on your Yalos Diamond cinematic size plasma-screen TV, or gimmicking and tripping around and around with your peers, joy-riding in your Porsche Carrera GT car while smiling all the time with matching selfy posture and publication on a very dazzling, affluent, and gorgeous background of overflowing money, food, cars, mansions, fashion, and power.  And… then……..die…..Hm?

Or you will start to go to your “Call-Zone” wherein for Christ’s sake, you will “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8, kjv).

Hm?

picture2The word “motivation” is of course comes from the word “motive.” WordNet3 defines it as,

“…the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior.”

Really interesting! The phrases “psychological feature that arouses”, “the reason” and “that which” are causal descriptions why one is motivated; well, in Latin word, “motivation” is “causam.” Anyway, observe that the description “psychological feature (take note of “feature”) is complemented by another description saying it is “the reason.” And yet on the third description “that which,” it seems the definer is now wondering what “motivation” really is.

Now, at first glance, you may define and describe motivation as mental processes or a kind of positive thinking (and there are those who define and describe motivation in this way) that lets you act toward your “desired goal.” But if I will define motivation based upon the observation of this definition, I see motivation simply as a “desire.” Instead of primarily putting the mind (mindset) as the “psychological feature” or the “that which” from which motivation comes, I put the heart (heartset) first in the order of place and time from which motivation comes. Yet by doing so, I don’t separate the mind, in fact I closely linked it to the heart, but in matters of order, I put the heart first in the order of psychological feature/s.

3 Actually, there’s already a hint in the definition by saying that motivation is that which “arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal.” See? Oh, I love to explain this more philosophically and biblically, but this is not my topic here. But simply put, when defining and describing motivation I put the primacy to the heart and then I will connect it to the doctrine of Total Depravity. That’s my position.

Now, let me say that compare to worldly motivation, Christian motivation is and must be according to the reality of new life in Christ – regeneration. For instance, read 2 Corinthians 5:17 and then connect it to verse 15.

Our new nature in us longs for its connection (that’s why we are “in Christ”). We are in a covenant-relationship with Christ on the ground of His cross and resurrection, and so St. Paul could say that we Christians “should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15, kjv). Being then in this relationship caused by the love of God and effected by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Paul has given us both the basis and source of our motivation. He said, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father”  (Colossians 3:17). Oh! This verse is pregnant with practical truths to live by.  The emphasis of the command in the Greek is this: “Panta en onomati Kuriou Insou,” all in the name of the Lord Jesus! What a motivation! Live by and for His name! Halleluyah! I call this the “Goldest Rule” in the Christian life.

 Thus, the basis and source of our motivation is Jesus Christ! Oh, I have so many things to say, but I want you to please ponder more upon this principle in your personal devotion.

But having said all these things, the objection may arise, “If Christ is my motivation, then, is He killing my joy or my desire? Since you say that motivation is desire, then if I will make Christ as my motivation, then how can I find satisfaction, that I myself will personally realize and experience?”

 picture1Some may see this objection so simplistic and may see the objection/problem as “self-centeredness” and “selfishness.” That is true in one sense, but when you analyze the objection against the issue of theodical problem (is God a kill-joy God?), then we need to answer carefully. Because even though God has commanded us to love Christ, to make Him the treasure and motivation of our lives, but that command does not force us against our will, breaking and denying our responsibility, that is, to respond by heart. On the contrary, the command to love Christ and make Him the motivation of our life is out of love and given to people (Christians) by virtue of the regenerating and indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, to receive and long it actually with love. Oh, this would take me to a long discussion. But I recommend John Piper’s book “Desiring God,” it’s the best contemporary book that I’ve read concerning this issue, or read Thomas Aquinas.

But let me close by saying, in the final analysis, if you’re a Christian, you know, as I know, that making Christ as our motivation in all of life is not kill-joy; on the contrary you realize that making Him your motivation is actually the summum bonum satisfaction of your desire, that of course, will make you heartily sing Gloria in excelsis Deo.