Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Test of Fatherhood

God doesn’t use the word Father lightly. Jesus told us to consider no one father but our heavenly Father.
Matthew 23:9
And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
Jesus even once implied that God was such a good Father that compared to Him, he considered our parents evil.
Matthew 7:11
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Yet God considers Abraham to be our father. In Romans 4:16, Paul calls Abraham the father of us all. In light of God viewing fatherhood as sacred, God also considered Abraham qualified enough to take on the title of father. What made Abraham stand out from everyone else that he could be known as everyone's father through faith, by God even?

According to human wisdom, Abraham could have been seen as a terrible father because he was willing to kill Isaac, the very son he should have lived to protect.

But according to Genesis 22:15-18 God actually rewarded Abraham the right to become the father of nation by his willingness to not spare Isaac.
Genesis 22:15-18
And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
This isn’t an accident because this mirrors what our heavenly Father, the best Father of the universe did. He was willing to sacrifice his one and only son Jesus (John 3:16) so that we could become his children. In turn, God went from being the father of one son, to a father of many sons. God actually expands his fatherhood in the same way that Abraham did by doing something seemingly "unfatherly" by being willing to give up the life of their only sons. It then makes perfect sense why God would have considered Abraham able to represent him as a father.

We know in John 3:16 Father God’s love for Jesus did not prevent him from expressing his love for the world by giving up the son he loved dearly.

Parallel to this, Abraham’s love for Isaac did not prevent him from obeying God. If God’s expression of fatherhood was love behind his willingness to sacrifice, what drove Abraham’s demonstration of faith in sacrificing Isaac?

The Old Testament mirror of John 3:16 which speaks of giving up an one and only Son could be Genesis 22:12
Genesis 22:11-12
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
It’s interesting that fear of God is mentioned as the motivation for Abraham’s obedience which demonstrated his faith. How else could he have unquestioningly obeyed God to point of being willing to kill the son he loved dearly?

There seems to be two kinds of fear mentioned in the bible. One is a fear can either drive someone away from the object of fear, another is a kind of fear that can drive someone closer and under the authority of the object of fear.

In Abraham’s case, the fear of the Lord drove him closer to God as he obeyed God. Scripture says God actually uses fear as a device to keep people close to him!
Jeremiah 32:40
I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
Yet in the parable of the talents, fear of the master is what drove the servant to disobey him
Matthew 25:24-25
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.
Isaiah 11:1-2 mentions seven spirits that rest on the Messiah, one of these is the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.

There is a difference between a spirit of fear (2 Tim 1:7) and a Spirit of the fear of the Lord. One causes us to be cowardly and run away from God, the other actually gives us courage and strengthens us to obey God and draw close to him, in turn making us better fathers.

The Hebrew word for fear used in the bible is "yirah" which can carry the meaning of either terror, trembling or reverence. It is spelled yod-resh-aleph-chet and in paleo hebrew would look like a hand (yod) of a person (resh) with strength (aleph) revealed (chet) in other words the hand of God revealed.

When we see the hand of God, the fear of man and everything else will disappear. When we do not see the hand of God we will fear whoever or whatever else we see.

Abraham saw the hand of God in his life through miraculous events such as the birth of Isaac in Sarah and Abraham's old age. Through this he built faith and attained courage to draw close to God and be in the center of his will. God then rewarded him to be the father of many nations.

As Abraham’s children get to inherit his blessing, so will our children if we pass the test of Fatherhood as Abraham did.

My father may have made many mistakes in his life like all other fathers, but one of the things I admired the most about him were the times in his life where he unquestioningly obeyed God. He gave up many things to go into full time ministry even if it meant he had to make sacrifices that seemingly affected his children negatively.

From an earthly view, some would say he was less of a father because he didn’t make much money for his family, but his obedience to God actually made him more of a father in my eyes and I can point to many spiritual blessing because of his choices.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Father's love for the prodigal son and the older son in Luke 15

I realized last week in our youth group that in the story of the prodigal son of Luke 15, the father actually revealed that he loved the older son more than he could have imagined. By throwing a party for the prodigal son, the father revealed that his love for both sons was unconditional and not based on their merit. The older son unfortunately didn't have eyes to see and misunderstood it to mean the opposite :( It's crazy how spiritual eyes often work the opposite of how our physical eyes see things.

Waiting on the Lord through Apartment Hunting

this is a post by my beloved wife Grace

I never knew how much space my 7 month old daughter, a little 15 lb-er can take up. And of course this is no fault of mui mui (Cantonese for little sister) who is content with water bottles and plastic cups as toys, but the first time mom who wants to give her everything she can to make up for not being able to stay with her during the workday. These weeks I felt myself easily irritated with the constant mess in our one room apartment which seems to have no space to even sit down. Our couch is the new parking spot for all of our folded laundry, our living room is mui mui’s crawling space, and our place is constantly filled with dust.

So I took it upon myself to start looking on Craiglist for a two bedroom apartment that we kept speaking of renting but never did. I came upon this post that looked to be an exceptional deal and asked Sam if we can go take a look. That day I felt very uncertain of whether the Lord wanted us to look at it because it was such a late appointment that ran into Mui mui’s bedtime and the rent is so much more than our current place but the morning of the scheduled date, I felt peace in going.

My first impression once I walked into the condo was…wow… this is so nice. It has the washer and dryer in the unit as promised, my one requirement of the new place. Not only so, the place is big and relatively new, and it looks like a place that can be kept clean easily on the third floor where dusty bunnies are hard to get to unlike our current apartment. And not to mention, this place has a golf course view… All in all it was perfect with just one shortcoming of limited visitor parking which we would really like to have for opening our home for meetings. My heart got lifted up after looking at the place, and I kept saying to the Lord, I really want this.

Two days later, Sam got the email from the landlord who gave us the bad news. Even though I told Sam I was just a little bit disappointed knowing that this is God’s sovereignty, inside I knew I was comforting myself and I was really disappointed. I asked the Lord why, and I felt like he said to me I will give you something even better, this is just to let you see what your standard should be.

The next day I thought, okay, so I will just take that as a promise and go all out with my search then. So of course I took matters into my own hands (my biggest weakness), got a little hesitant okay from Sam, and started searching. On the same day, I emailed four places. We ended up looking at three places, and I wanted to apply for all of them even though they weren’t that good. By the end of the day after the third place we visited Sam was exhausted, he told me frankly that I would never be happy in the place we just saw even though there was a washer and dryer. He was right, but I got angry with him and gave the silent treatment as we drove home and was denying the fact that he was right because of my pride. I thought it through long and hard as I put mui mui to sleep and do the rest of the chores to prepare for the next workday. The Lord reminded me of the children of Israel’s account I read two nights ago when I couldn’t sleep thinking what I would do to prepare to move into that really nice condo. After Moses went up to the mountain to be in the Lord’s presence, the children of Israel got so antsy thinking that their leader has disappeared and told Aaron to make something for them to worship. They took matters into their own hand and settled for anything even though they have seen what our almighty God could do for them. Isn’t that what I did?

So I told the Lord, I know you said it would be better, so when should I start looking then? I felt God respond saying that when I think I have cleaned our apartment up then I can start looking. I asked again, could I just look at the craigslist before now and then just so I don’t miss out on any good deals? The Lord reminded me of Sundar Singh’s experience of waking up next to a cobra in his difficult mission journeys where he couldn’t find shelter in bitter cold weather. He woke up scared and quickly departed before the cobra awakened and left one of his two possessions behind fearing to return to get it. The Lord rebuked him and told him he kept him safe throughout the night so how come he doesn’t trust him enough to go back to get his shawl. So there was my answer, I was not to go anywhere near Craiglist until I felt that I have cleaned out the apartment. Sam drew the parallel this morning for me, he said that this is similar to the fact that we need to clean out our heart because the Lord can come in and make his home in us. It’s so true, we build up so much clutter in our hearts throughout the years; sometimes we really need to stop and have a deep clean before the Lord can enter in. So here goes my cleaning :)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why outer darkness is for eternity and not for a thousand years.

Bible scholars seem to disagree if outer darkness is a suburb sitting outside of the kingdom of God, or if it's another description of the lake of fire, or just a suburb of that also. It's probably because there's only four references to it in the New Testament. Regarding this I'm not sure myself.

However most scholars contend that the judgment in outer darkness is for eternity. No where in scripture does it suggest that those cast into the outer darkness are offered another chance to enter into the kingdom of God. It seems like entrance into the eternal kingdom of God after a temporary period of punishment would be so important that at least one of the New Testament writers would mention it, but none of them have. Instead Jesus seems to warn us to make every means to avoid it in his parables. 

The scriptures never even hint that the kingdom of God when it's referred to is limited to the millennial kingdom. Verses like Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:3-5, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 all refer to the kingdom of God plainly when it warns that those who are mastered by the lusts of their flesh and thereby practice sin will "not inherit the kingdom of God" or "have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God". 
Ephesians 5:3-5
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Rather than hinting that the term "the kingdom of God" is referring to a temporary thousand year reign, scripture instead gravitates towards the "kingdom of God" referring to an "eternal" kingdom.
2 Peter 1:11
For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Luke 1:32-33
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.

2 Samuel 7:16
And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.
Jesus words in Matthew 7:21-23 to those who claim him as Lord communicate that he wants nothing to do with those who profess him as Lord with their mouth but not their heart or their actions thereby living in lawlessness. No where is there an indication that Jesus will accept them back after a thousand years, instead it seems like he wants them to leave his presence forever in disgust that they and others would think that he could be associated with their works.
Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
In the few references to outer darkness in the gospels, it's usually described as a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth":
Luke 13:28
In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.
If there were still hope of eternity with Jesus, then there would be at least some glory to look forward to. But one can probably infer that because there is no hope, all one can do is weep and gnash their teeth.

According to wikipedia:

The phrase "(there shall be) weeping and gnashing of teeth" (in the original Greek ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων) appears seven times in the New Testament as a description of the torments of the damned in Hell. It is thought to derive from a logion in the hypothetical Q source, which yielded Matthew 8:12 and Luke 13:28. The other five occurrences are all within the context of parables and are widely held to be redactional additions by Matthew.
In fact in Matthew 13:41–42, the phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" is used in the context of the "fiery furnace", presumably the lake of fire!
Matthew 13:41-42
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Lending credence to the idea that outer darkness is synonymous with the lake of fire or part of it. It's a place that's dark because there is no light, yet it is burning. This is because God is light and his presence is not there. Without God there is no light and only darkness.

Kingdom exclusion teachers such as Watchman Nee contend that when scriptures refer to "the kingdom of God", it's pointing to the millennial kingdom. Hence they limit the warnings by Jesus concerning outer darkness to one thousand years after which they will be granted entrance into the eternal kingdom of God.

So let's assume that this is true and see if it can stand up against God's word.

The bible teaches there are two kinds of resurrections in Daniel 12:2:
1. Resurrection of the righteous unto eternal life (1 Thess 4:16)
2. Resurrection of the wicked unto the second death (which is the eternal death) and the Great White Throne judgment (Rev 20:12-13)
So according to Revelation 20:12-12, the resurrection of the wicked happens after the millennial kingdom concludes in the preceding verse 6. The saints going to outer darkness do not participate in this second resurrection because they are still going to inherit everlasting life after a thousands years. Hence, the only resurrection they can take a part of is the first one which is the rapture if one is alive when Jesus comes back, or the resurrection from the dead to eternal life also at the time of the Lord's second coming.

So the only scenario I can see fit here where unfaithful believers can be thrown into outer darkness during the millennial kingdom is
1. first they get raptured or resurrected from the dead (1 Thess 4:16) where the saints will meet the Lord in the air.

2. Then Jesus will somehow divide the faithful and unfaithful saints who will inherit eternal life.

3. He'll then cast the unfaithful saints into outer darkness for a thousand years.
The conversation would be as such:
"Congratulations! You've been raptured/resurrected!"
"Ah wait... you've been a bad Christian... Sorry. Have fun in solitary confinement for 1000 years!"
"You look nervous. Relax, you'll have plenty of time to recover from 1000 years of isolation induced mental insanity in the eternal New Jerusalem!"
Not only is kingdom exclusion unable to fit within the timeline of Revelation 20, but teaching that you are saved after spending a thousand years suffering in outer darkness is adding works to salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 states that we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ Jesus. After God washes our sins away through repentance, he remembers them no more! Psalms 103:12 says our sins will be removed away from us as far as the east is from the west.

However if you say you're a Christian but you live like everyone else in the world and are in bondage to sin and your flesh, you're likely to spend eternity in hell or outer darkness. But don't worry, repent of your sins, make Jesus Christ Lord in your heart by fully surrendering to him, and ask to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. Praying a sinner's prayer is not enough to be saved, we also have to repent (Acts 2:38). 

For more on why repentance is necessary for salvation see here:

Rather than referring to a temporary kingdom, the kingdom of God is often juxtaposed against going to hell in many places in scripture.
Examples are Mark 9:47
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell
Matthew 18:9
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Notice how "enter life" and kingdom of God are used interchangeably in the same verses of two different gospels.

Also in 1 Cor 15:50-58, Paul talks about the the righteous being resurrected to eternal life in the context of entering the kingdom of God.

So in conclusion, there's no one thousand year outer darkness, rather it's likely for eternity just like the kingdom of God is. Jesus makes it clear there's no middle ground. It's all or nothing, either you are for him or against him.
2 Peter 1:11
For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  
John 15:6
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 
Luke 3:17
His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. 
Luke 14:34-35
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 
Children of God have no reason to fear God because they are born of him. Fear of God has to do with punishment. If there was possibility of punishment awaiting children of God at the end of our Christian race, then the Apostle John is lying in this verse bleow by saying that we should not fear.
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Suffering in outer darkness for 1000 years as God's children just doesn't jive with God's character because it's sadistic. I know my God and it's not like him to do this to his children. Nor does millennial exclusion fit anywhere in the bible. Instead it seems like a dangerous doctrine which can be used to keep members of church in line under an abusive ministry or leader, while at the same time preventing people from pressing into repentance so their hearts can become the good earth and they can become born again. Jesus said wisdom is justified by her fruit, and from the looks of it, this doctrine has produced nothing but bad fruit.

The lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. This includes children of the devil, which also includes men who claim to be Christians, but show that they are children of the devil by their works.
1 John 3:8
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
Life is a gift and all of us have a chance to repent before the book of our life closes. There's no reason anyone of us has to go to outer darkness or hell for eternity. Judgment comes at the end of our Christian race. God is able to keep us from falling if we're willing to repent and hold his hand and follow him.
Psalm 37:23-24
The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
Here's a testimony of a nominal believer who ended up in outer darkness after he had a heart attack in a casino. God told him it was for eternity and not a thousand years. After his experience he gave his life to Jesus and became a pastor.

Other Resources

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Healed after ministering to homeless

Today I experienced excruciating chronic shoulder pain from carrying my daughter for prolonged periods, preventing me from doing much so I went to the grocery store to pick up some Tylenol. On the way there I prayed that God would show me someone to share the gospel with since it had been a while. As I came out of the store, a homeless gentleman by the name of Tom asked me for help because the recycling center next to Nob Hill was closed prematurely. Long story short I got to help them out materially and minister to him and his friend Anthony by sharing the gospel and God's love for them. Tom was so touched that God cared enough about him to send someone to provide for their need that he cried. I felt blessed that God answered my prayer so quickly and gave me the opportunity to sow into their lives because God loves the homeless. 

However, after I left, I realized I had forgotten to pray for their healing to show them God's love via his power. It's something I've been reminding myself to do after watching so many of Tom Fischer's videos on youtube (see here: But then as I walked home regretting that I didn't push further towards healing in ministry, I noticed my own shoulder pain was COMPLETELY GONE. Praise God! It's the first time I experienced healing like this and I didn't ask for it then, though I'd been praying all day for it since the pain was so overwhelming. I may have forgotten to pray to heal them, but God didn't forget to heal me :) 

Most importantly God was able to show his love to Tom and Anthony. Pray that Tom and Anthony's faith would grow and endure to the end, and they would rely on God's promise in Matthew 6:33.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Paradise is in Heaven

It's true Jesus descended to paradise after his death and he confirmed this by telling the thief on the cross that he would see him in paradise that same day (Luke 23:43). According to Luke 16, paradise or Abraham's bosom was in Sheol at one time, which the Old Testament teaches to be a pit inside the earth in numerous places. But where is Paradise today? Is it still in the earth or is it in heaven?

I believe that the Apostle Paul had the revelation that paradise was taken to heaven by Jesus after his trip to Sheol. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says that Jesus led a triumphal procession presumably when he ascended to heaven.
2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
Another reference to this is in Ephesians 4:8-10
Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
where Paul clearly describes how Jesus descended to Sheol and then proceeded to ascend to heaven, all while leading a host of captives, which could be understood to be the triumphal procession in 2 Corinthians 2:14. The New Testament teaches that Jesus ascended to the Father in heaven forty days after his resurrection (Acts 1:9-12) where he is sitting at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19). It also teaches that believers who are absent from the body are present with the Lord in 2 Corinthians 5:8. Where is the Lord? But in heaven at the right hand of the Father as we mentioned earlier.

So by connecting the dots it becomes clear that paradise was taken to heaven via Christ's triumphal procession and it's where we will end up once we die until Jesus comes back for his bride. Many servants of God who have had out of body experiences and were taken up to heaven just like Paul described in 2 Corinthians 12 have reported the same including Jesse Duplantis:

The God of the Bible versus Postmodernism

Postmodernism speaks to the finiteness of human understanding and knowledge. By ourselves we can only guess and become "confident" of what is true and what is not true based on evidence we perceive.

However the bible clearly teaches that we can know absolute truth and not of ourselves but by the Spirit of God. This is because God exists in a realm outside of our time space continuum. Not only does he have the fullness of all knowledge but he knows every future event because he exists outside of time and has seen everything come to pass already in our time based existence.

This is why Jesus could say some very *concrete* statements that spoke to this absolute truth. If you look at his teachings, he wasn't one to equivocate and often preceded his statements with "truly, truly I say you to".

If we have the Spirit of God we can know his thoughts which point to absolute truth:
1 Corinthians 2:11
For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
Jesus said we'd all know the truth and it would set us free:
John 8:32
you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
How do we know the truth? Again by the Spirit of God, and Jesus affirms this again:
John 16:13
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
Jesus makes it clear we can know the absolute truth, which postmodernism vehemently contends is impossible. While we will know the truth, we'll never come to full knowledge of the truth until we become glorified, but we are expected to gain more and more knowledge with each day (see 2 Peter 1) which is part of confirming our calling and election- because the more of God's Spirit you enter into, the more truth will permeate you because he's the Spirit of truth.
1 Timothy 2:4
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
This is also why we can stand on the authority of God's word and trust in his promises. The bible was written by the Holy Spirit who the Spirit of truth (John 14:26, 2 Tim 3:16-17).

And God proves this by littering the bible with 2500 prophecies, 2000 of which have come to pass and 500 which are in the process of being fulfilled. He's already seen everything come to pass so he can declare future events with no problem and that's why we can be assured that he has already won the victory as the book of Revelation describes and Satan is thrown into the lake of fire. Even when the world around us is burning and telling us we're crazy this gives us reason to hope for the Christ that is in us, which is the hope of glory.
John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
More about fulfilled prophecy to those interested: