An evening with Tim & Kathy Keller-NYC April 2018

4/3/18 Tuesday Evening with the Kellers April 3, 2018 7-9 pm

IMG_20180403_211655.jpgA 20,000 people church (The Village Church) in Dallas’ pastor, Ps Matt Chandler said there is only one Tim Keller…and our Greek Prof Paul Jeong said, not everyone is a Tim Keller, don’t aim and compare with him, you will be disappointed.  And wow, yes, we the 3rd Cohort RTS students got invited to spend an evening in his apartment. It was an amazing evening with Tim & Kathy Keller in their apartment in Roosevelt Island, a prime nice area, with us the 3rd Cohort students from RTS-NYC. For a guy like me who has preached from his sermons, used his books for teaching and sharing, and  the fact that he is such a famous preacher/pastor/writer, it makes it real special to get invited to spend an evening with these great pillars of the evangelical world in America today. Tim Keller is such a well known and respected writer/thinker/preacher/pastor for American evangelical world, his graciousness and humility and learnedness are very appealing. He wrote “The Reason for God” which was published and became the New York Times Best Seller #1. He is also the pastor of a 5,000 people church in Manhattan, Redeemer, and the Chairman of City to City in helping and training church planters like us all over New York, and the world too. He teaches us Intro to Pastoral/Theology, and also “Christianity in the Secular Age” with Prof jame sHunter. I personally enjoyed very much his class on calvinism, Reformed Theology, it was so good, and we asked so many questions! When asked what’s his greatest pride in his work? He said that that his kids love him, and the church loves him. Wow, not the best seller books,  nor the strong Manhattan church that draws pastors from all over the world to investigate his success but just the personal part of that! He is living out what CS Lewis said as the biggest desire of mankind that is to be loved and to love. Amen! And we heard that he called his 39 years old son every Sunday night and go through the book “Knowing God” by JI Packer blew me away. I can only envy him on that! We heard that Tim used to take each son out for dinner one on one once a week or something, to communicate and talk with them. OMG, I wish I had learnt this 15 years ago! I would have a different family now!

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Doreen & I standing in front of this shelf of books of Tim Keller which are neatly catalogued. Amazing the number of good books that he has read. I get regular update of kindle books that he recommends in twitter, and I am barely 10% through. LOL.

 

 

 

IMG_20180403_223034_883.jpgOur fellow students from 3rd Cohort had been a blast, we dived in and studied hard.And Tim told us that the professors like us as we are motivated to put our learning into our ministry. He said they usually teach the undergraduates or the PhD students who don’t seem to have a minis

FB_IMG_1522811948641.jpgtry right on, unlike us. And the professors feel we are more hungry and wanting to put into practice and that makes them excited. (And of course, this is New York city!!–this is me 🙂 )

 

Here is Kathy Keller with the cohort students that evening. Such a transparent and strong firm character who supports Tim in the ministry. A lovely godly woman. She co-writes books with Tim.FB_IMG_1522812024096.jpg

 

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Jesus riding on a donkey-Palm Sunday (Matt 21)

Jesus chose a donkey to ride into Jerusalem in his final “big” appearance before his crucifixion on the cross is a powerful message to us today. What’s most powerful to me is the fact Jesus was proclaimed as the King of Israel as the people shouted Hosanna to him which means to the kIng who saves us. What’s so radically non conforming to the world’s view and perception, Jesus , on one hand, proclaimed as the King of Israel, chose not to ride into the capital city as a King, but chose to ride into the city on a ridiculously humble donkey! Not on a chariot with horses, and a herald blowing trumpet. That is so radically different. 

But the result He achieved far exceeded the accomplishment of any emperor on earth including Julius Ceaser of that largest empire at that time. What I get is that Jesus is rooting for the underdog. He is with the contrite in heart. He gives hope to you if you are downhearted, he is our comforter, and our hope. But this has to be anchored solidly in Christ, and not in our day dreaming. Because its easy to position ourselves as the recipient of such. But there is an element of our trying hard, our effort to reach that. Nevertheless, its amazing how Jesus established his kingdom via seemingly weakness, and not strength. So cheer up and look to the suffering King!

The last thing is Jesus is the King! Do you accept him as a blessing ? Or a King? Or are you the king of your own life. But now, as Christian, Jesus is the boss of your life. Come Lord Jesus!

 

 

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Calvin-the Theologian by J I Packer

 

J I Packer’s—“Calvin the Theologian” (by J I Packer)

These are the big points of take away I got from reading JI Packer’s writing on Calvin. Indeed very inspiring & God anointed or what he calls as “unction”. Love to be shaped and molded by his teaching.

  • For the latter part of his life and a century after his death John Calvin was the most influential man in the world, in the sense that his ideas were making more history than those of anyone else during that period.—This is very inspiring. Amazing thinker who loves the Lord.
  • Calvin’s doctrine of the state as a servant of God that established the ideal of constitutional representative government and led to the explicit acknowledgment of the rights and liberties of subjects.
  • He produced the most fundamental ingredients in post-Renaissance Western Civilization.
  • Common grace, operating through conscience, law, and civil government, constantly restrains the full outworking of human corruption, and moves ungodly men to social and cultural enterprises of abiding worth.
  • Each man is responsible to God for his won choices, and that God works out His purposes through intelligent action on man’s part.—WOW!
  • Calvin’s writings breathe more of the spirit of awe and adoration in the realized presence of almighty God.
  • Calvin has unction. Read him, and he brings you into the presence of the God before whom he stood. He is one of the few who have written of God in a way that makes their readers worship.
  • Calvin is the one to make the complete adequacy of Christ’s saving work explicit—to present Christ as prophet, teaching his people by his word and Spirit; priest, securing their salvation by his blood-shedding and intercession; and King, ruling, not them only, but the hole created order for their sake; thus, by His threefold ministry, compassing their whole salvation.
  • God’s sovereignty is absolute, that history was imply the temporal outworking of His eternal plan, that some had been unconditionally chosen for salvation while the rest had been reprobated.
  • The Calvinist is the man who sees God behind all phenomena, and in all that occurs recognizes the hand of God, working out His will.

 

 

 

 

 

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Waging a war that we will win (Numbers 22-24)

Introduction/Background

Our Covenant God is determined to bless Israel no matter what the outward circumstances are because He is a covenant God. It is comforting and reassuring to know that He is the one in charge. History is really about Him; it is His Story. The main character or protagonist is definitely Balaam, the pagan diviner. Israel was on the march after exodus from the land of slavery Egypt, God delivered them from all enemy fronts, and made sure they were protected. Balak, the king of Moab a godless nation, in fear of an invasion by Israel, tried to bribe the pagan diviner to proclaim cursing upon Israel. It seems that Balaam is a man of considerable power by the influence he can exert on Israel as we see in later chapters. And of course, God would have nothing of that. We need to see the subtlety of these all and be prepared to wage a spiritual warfare that we will win. In this passage under study, I will label Balaam and Balak as the enemies of Israel, and by extension, compared to the forces of darkness that war against the church today.

Balaam is no godly prophet, but a pagan wicked diviner

We need to, first and foremost, establish what kind of man is this protagonist, Balaam. There are many gifted people in the world today and at those times too, but being gifted does not mean you will be a good man. Characters trump gifting’s.

15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. (2 Peter 2:15-16). Balaam loved gain from wrongdoing. He was a greedy man. He loved money more than his principle. From here and also in Numbers 22:  And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.”

Balaam’s way was perverse to God. It seemed initially that God allowed him to go to meet Balak supposedly was going tom hire Balaam to curse Israel, but later he seemed to have changed his mind, but that’s because of Balaam’s evil intention in his heart. He wanted money. Balaam not only was greedy, but he was also wicked and evil. Therefore it is really hard to judge a person from his gifting. “14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.”  (Rev 2)

In Revelations, bible says that Balaam taught Balak (King of Moab) to seduce the sons of Israel to eat sacrificed food to idols and practice sexual immorality. That is evil. This reminds me of the liberal affirming churches that teach people of God that homosexuality is right before God and encourage inclusivity by their progressive and revisionist theology. This is particularly relevant and alarming to the churches of Jesus Christ today in America. Orthodoxy is under attack. So, Balaam is an evil man with foretelling ability. He seemed to fear God in some way but on the other hand he could be outrageously evil, like seducing young men of Israel to commit sexual immorality, which is no simple matter. This calls for wisdom and insight. It is particularly disturbing that Christians today are swamped with modern identity (abortion, homosexuality, co-habit) and we, the church, have lost considerable ground. And it is precisely this kind of subtlety that confused many churches because the enemy is not a straightforward bad guy. But the warfare runs deep. The entire modern city society and colleges of America are generally very much against the Bible identity, and they are very “smooth” just like Balaam. But while all is aghast, we take comfort that our God is still absolutely in control like the way he dealt with Balaam.

The subtle darkness of Balaam’s heart-as in the world today

And Balaam said to Balak, “Build for me here seven altars, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” 2 Balak did as Balaam had said. And Balak and Balaam offered on each altar a bull and a ram. (Numbers 23)

It is amazing that Balaam even asked Balak to build seven altars and bulls & rams for his sacrifice to hear from God. The entire intention of Balak is to have Balaam curse Israel, and Balaam knew that. But he also knew that God wanted to bless his people. In such tension, he chose to go with Balak and basically wait and see if God would change his mind. This is after God told him that his heart is perverse. He actually repented but his actions do not carry him too far. In fact, in Numbers 31, 16 Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. (Numbers 31) Six chapters down the line, it was written in Numbers 31 that he (Balaam) advised the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord which caused the plague to fall upon Israel that resulted in the deaths of thousands of young men in Israel. What an abomination! Life is almost too cheap. It is unbelievable how dark this Balaam really is. We can easily underestimate him, with the damage he caused upon Israel, is of unbelievable magnitude & grief.

I believe that Christians today underestimated the damage and grief that progressive Christianity has inflicted upon the body of Christ today. The damage is far reaching and growing. It is definitely fashionable to go with the liberals and with the state of our college campuses across the country; we have essentially lost the bulk to them. The wind of change is blowing and we need to have God’s direct intervention like what he did with Balaam and reverse it.

The Sovereignty of God in spite of the evils

“How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel! “Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from their buckets;  their seed will have abundant water “God brought them out of Egypt;  they have the strength of a wild ox. They devour hostile nations and break their bones in pieces; with their arrows they pierce them. Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse them? “May those who bless you be blessed  and those who curse you be cursed!” (Numbers 24)

What beautiful blessings that proceeded out of the mouth of Balaam, the pagan diviner, in spite of the constant barrage of pressure from the King of Moab, Balak, to curse Israel. The prophecy given describes the beauty of Israel like gardens, aloes, cedars planted by the Lord and the strength, power of Israel like a lion. God turned the evil intent of the bad guys into some of the most beautiful prophetic blessings upon Israel.

This should speak volume to us all in our spiritual warfare as we serve God in this broken and darkened world. And of course, God is not going to let Balaam curse Israel, and He will not let his church to be cursed by the forces of the world and powers of darkness. Even though we may feel weak and troubled at difficult times, we will soar because we have a God who watches over us, and promised to take us into our promised land. When God is on your side, nothing can stop him from blessing you & using you to accomplish his purpose. Remember, God is sovereign; He is not in the same league. He is transcendent and beyond the league of the forces of darkness, human effort and philosophers.

Amen.

 

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My reflections on Gospel Identity Conference NYC–Nov 2017

sermon-gospel-identityDoreen and I were blessed tremendously having attended the Gospel Identity Seminar/Conference just concluded in Redeemer church in NYC taught by Dr. Tim Keller. I have to say that we were blown away by the followings:

Modern Identity–I didn’t realize that there is such an identity all this time. In my mind, it’s gospel identity, worldly identity, and pretty much it. But this opens up a new dimension to me. Basically we can’t divorce ourselves from the modern culture we live in today because we are part of it. Most Christians have a mixed bag of modern identity and gospel identity and also traditional identity. I didn’t realize how strong the “Traditional identity” has been planted in my life. Coming from Asia and raised in Pentecostal church background, conservative traditionalism is a very strong and real factor. This actually clashes with a lot of the modern culture and liberal culture of the West today like in America. It’s generally frowned upon by the liberal society. Example: Our traditional identity says that we get our affirmation from our family. This is definitely a very true thing in most Asian families. In my case, we adhere strongly to that. Pride to the family etc. But the modern identity says you get your affirmation or validation from inside of you. You only look inside of you and take whatever that is important to you, and you decide. You are basically your own boss. But the ironic thing is, this kind of mindset is also seeking validation from all the people outside whom you think are important. The pressure is enormous, because you are constantly seeking validation from outside. Odd?

So example: I believe most Christians have a mixed bag of modern & gospel, or worse still modern and traditional. Modern says, it’s okay to be blended into the secular West and adopt some of their cultural preferences or creed like dating non Christians, abortion, cohabit, homosexuality. Christians envelope and embrace them and become the “modern” Christians. Or what’s called the “Progressive” Christians. Whereas people like me from the traditional evangelical background are against all those mentioned and rightly so in the bible.

Gospel Identity says, it’s neither conservative nor liberal, but it’s centered on Christ. It says we love and care for the poor, serve the City, and also stand for the righteousness of God which means those mentioned above are not acceptable in the sight of God. However, the difference is, the approach to this is far more organic and divinely empowered. Its also far more beautiful in my mind.  It’s the holiness of God and his love for us that drives our decision and judgment of life. Because how we live is a response to God’s love towards us and his redemption and renewal in this world, and we are part of that story. It’s a beautiful love story that melts us together, and not the legalistic laws that condemn and direct us on how to live. In other words, we do it not because we have to, but rather we want to (compelled by his love). That is Gospel centered, and that’s what Christians today must understand and embrace, and the world needs to know that.

Secondly, gospel identity seeks validation neither from within us nor from families. But seeking validation from the one who has already validated in front of our Heavenly Father, the Almighty God. Our validation in Gospel Identity is complete. And this becomes incredibly liberating and empowering to live a life that’s far more gracious, humbled, and loving. Humbled because its never been done by your merit being obedient etc., but rather on the obedience and accomplishment of Christ.

So be very careful about Modern Identity for its subtle and almost becomes a norm even among Christian circles. But Gospel Identity is the real deal.

 

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Make sure the truth of the Gospel remains in you-Gal 2:5

This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.–Galatians 2:4-5

You can see the determination and resolve of Paul’s life. He will not even budge a foot when it comes to the gospel. There is fierceness and tenacity in Paul’s spirit to defend the Gospel, defend the TRUTH of the Gospel. This is powerful because we go through life sometimes with a glib as a Christian regarding the truth of the gospel. Martin Luther said Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.

It is that kind of passion and love for God’s truth that burns in Paul’s heart that must also burn in our hearts and that will determine our passion for the Lord. You see it’s interesting that in the context of Galatians 2, the Christians brothers were there to spy on Paul’s new freedom in Christ (the Gospel) so as to make them slaves again to the law, and to that Paul fought immediately tenaciously. And that’s understandable and important. Because it’s THE Gospel! Now how about our own lives? We are also dealing with issues of decision and discernment, and I am saying that we should also approach them all in the light of preserving the truth of the Gospel in our lives in whatever prayers, desires, requests that we make in life. Ask the question: does that preserve the Gospel truth in me? So, example: I pray for good solid Christians who love the Lord and want to go into the ministry to join me in my church plant, and I saw this group of my classmates, young, reformed & some are even Pentecostal/charismatic, I pray O God may you add some of them to my team. But then I read this, I go, “Does that preserve the truth of the Gospel in me?” I feel not so much. Gospel spirit is blessed to give than to receive, and I said a prayer to surrender to God and a breath of freshness came over me in my spirit. That’s the truth of the Gospel. By that, God will work in His way to achieve the same goal. Be fruitful and harvest the field and make disciples of all nations. Amen.

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Pay the price for God’s guidance; never say “God is silent”

I was reading through the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 for my assignment in seminary study tonight, I was moved to tears when I came to the part when Joseph broke into tears and wept aloud when Judah revealed to him how their old father Jacob was heart broken when Joseph was “torn dead” by animals, and now feared Benjamin (Joseph’s brother from Rachel) would be torn from Jacob as well (with Joseph demanding Benjamin to be brought to Egypt).

Having built up in my emotion started in Genesis 37 on how Joseph was arrogant, shallow, spoilt by the foolish father Jacob for showing favoritism, and eventually sold as a slave into Egypt and then jailed for standing up for righteousness, and now established to be the Prime Minister of Egypt, has left me in awe of God. For soooo many years, Joseph cried out to God from being sold as a boy into slavery, to innocently jailed by being pure and righteous, God seemed SILENT. The question goes “WHERE IS GOD?” Because you never know! God seemed to be silent for many years over the time when Joseph suffered, and yet promoted by God in Potiphar’s house, and then in jail. Then God came through BIG time in promoting Joseph from a prisoner to be the most powerful man in Egypt after Pharaoh. That’s truly a “from rags to riches” kind of story or and makes it to Disneyland fairy tale story. But it’s a TRUE story. A story that stirs the hearts of men and women.

It gives you a glimpse how God works. There are many times God works very quickly. But there are time when God seemed to be very quiet, almost too quiet. Joseph’s story is a real renaissance. A true witness to God’s faithfulness. Never say God is silent. Because you never know. You can only know at the end.

People ask, “That slavery, injustice—is that necessary?” Why spend 40 years?” Real life—you never become wise like that by shortcutting. No one ever become wise by being told. It must be shown until you see you see your flaw. No one ever learn and grow by being told God loves you. You need to be shown over and over. Therefore by paying this price, and saturating, you see the solid line and also the dotted lines. Saturate yourselves. Unconditional trust. You need to have the unconditional trust in God.

Elizabeth Elliot says in her book ” You don’t ask God for guidance, you ask God for His will.” Asking God requires our utmost best. It costs everything. It requires abandonment. John Newton says “I trust you, give me, or withhold from me”. “What you will, when you will, how you will.” From this moment on, I will obey anything you tell me, whether I understand or not, I will accept anything from you. Bible says you do that and not bailing on God, your good times and bad times, your plan will be wise.

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