Wow.

“Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.”

― C.T. Studd

Brothers and sisters, let us have boldness in our God (1 Thessalonians 2:2)!

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Thoughts about Christmas

Now that Christmas has arrived, it is remarkably easy to be distracted by all the commercialism, traditions, and festivities that come along with this season. Christmas is known as the time of year when people remember the coming of Jesus into the world. However it is also at this time of year when nothing is distorted more than the identity of Jesus. Some things add confusion to who Jesus really is, while other things may even bring some clarity to His identity. Hopefully I can shed some light onto who Jesus is and why His identity is of the utmost importance to us in the present day.

In order to do this, we need to first look at the events that occur in Mark 8:27-29. If we pay attention and read the dialogue carefully we can observe that there are two groups of people.

The first group of people is the general public and Jesus gets their opinion by asking the disciples “Who do the people say that I am?” To this question the disciples reply that some people say that he is John the Baptist, or Elijah, or perhaps even one of the prophets from the Old Testament times. These people were great men in their own respect. They were all highly regarded by the people and viewed as great teachers. They were even considered to be God’s messengers to His chosen people, Israel. As great as these previously mentioned people are, they fail to address the larger issue of who Jesus is. This is apparent when Jesus is not satisfied with their answers and He asks the disciples a slightly different but similar question. Jesus asks once more “But who do you say that I am?

It is with this question that we finally move from the first group of people, the general public, to the second group of people, His disciples. Jesus realizes that the general public does not have an accurate view of His identity so His second question is aimed directly towards the people who knew Him the best, His disciples. His disciples answer the question with a simple but profound reply. Peter speaking on behalf of all the disciples calls Jesus the Christ.

Many people nowadays don’t realize the implications of this statement. People often think that Christ is just Jesus’ last name, but it is anything but that. It is a title that is bestowed to Jesus and it means that He was their Deliverer, He was their King, He was the promised one, whose kingdom would last forever, but most importantly, it meant that Jesus was God.

This was the last part of Jesus’ identity that the general public failed to realize. Jesus was not only a great man or teacher, but He was also God. This is Jesus’ true identity, fully God and fully man.

Now you may be asking yourself, “That’s cool to know, but what does it mean for me?”, and in order to answer that question, we need to take a step back and look at things through a broader scope.

The first thing we need to realize is that man has a problem called sin. Sin is anything we do that is in rebellion to God’s will for us. Since God is perfect it means that every time we fail to be perfect we are in sin. Therefore because of our sin, we are separated from God and have no relationship with Him. This is due to the fact that a perfect and holy God cannot accept anything other than perfection. Therefore when we die we all deserve Hell because of our sin. This is because the punishment for our sin is death, and God being perfect has to punish sin or else he would no longer be perfect and as a result he could no longer be God.

The reality of sin and its consequences leads to the question, “How can man ever go to heaven?

The answer to that question is a simple one. It is impossible. Man when left to his own abilities can never earn his own way to Heaven since we are tainted by sin. No one deserves to get into heaven, and the only way we can get into heaven is if we rely not on ourselves, but on someone else.

The reality that we must rely on someone else in order to get into heaven is what makes Jesus’ identity so crucial for mankind. Jesus being God could live the perfect life that none of us could live. Jesus being God could live up to that standard of perfection that none of us can ever reach. However it is equally important for Jesus to also be human. Jesus being human could sympathize with our humanity, but most importantly Jesus being human could die in our place.  The fact that Jesus died for our sins is exactly what allows us to be able to go to heaven. Out of everyone who has ever lived, Jesus was the only one who did not deserve to die. Yet Jesus willingly took the punishment for our sins and died on our behalf so that we may be able to be counted as perfect before God’s eyes. Through His death Jesus took the punishment for our sins, but it is through His resurrection that we can see that God’s wrath against us is truly satisfied. His resurrection demonstrates that Jesus’ death was enough to pay the price for the sins of all who believe in Him.

Therefore it is only through Jesus that we may be reconciled and have a right relationship with God. It is only through Jesus that we can have eternal life with God, and it is only through Jesus that we may get to heaven.

We can never get to heaven through relying on ourselves and our own actions, and therefore we must rely on the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. 

This leads to a final question of “Which group do you belong to?”  Are you part of the first group, the general public, who viewed Jesus only as a good teacher or a wise man, or are you part of the second group, His disciples, who recognized Jesus’ deity and acknowledged Him as the Savior of Mankind.

Getting Excited about Heaven pt.2

Mark Twain once wrote something along the lines of: Why would somebody subscribe to a religion where they, upon death, ascend to a place where they worship their god forever when they can not even stand to waste two hours at church on Sunday morning? Although heavily paraphrased, I think Twain’s criticism of Christians is clear. And it hurts. As Christians, we have many things to hope in. Chief among these is the hope that we will one day join our God in Heaven and worship Him forever. To be honest, however, hoping for Heaven isn’t often at the forefront of my mind. The following ideas will revolve around this question: how can I get excited about Heaven?

First, remember the Gospel in all of its glory. When I share the Gospel with others, or even when I preach it to myself, I often limit the glory of the Gospel. What I mean is this: I often (not incorrectly) place emphasis on the truth of justification. The part of the Gospel that I find myself neglecting so often is our reconciliation to God. 1 Timothy 2:5 says: For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (NASB). A mediator is required because we were enemies of God. However, not just any mediator could bridge the infinitely wide and deep chasm that separated us from God. It required the sacrifice of the perfect God-man Jesus to bring peace between us and God. Without Jesus as our justifier and mediator, we would not be able to have a relationship with God. A glory of the Gospel is that we, sinners, can have a relationship with God, against whom we committed treason of the highest order. The relationship with God that we cultivate does not end when our lives on Earth end. Can you imagine how glorious it’s going to be when we can spend eternity in communion with God in Heaven? I can’t. It’s too mind-blowing.

The second idea is better captured with this question: would Heaven still hold its appeal if God was not there? As I alluded to above, the hope we, as Christians, have is that we will one day spend Heaven’s eternal days with God. How can we get excited about God? Think of all that He is and all that He has done. When you learn of God’s attributes, think to yourself, “This is the God that I have the privilege, through Christ’s reconciling sacrifice, to spend an eternity with.” When I read Isaiah 40 this past week, I couldn’t help but get excited about Heaven. Our God is the incomparable Creator who is unequaled in power and might, from whose notice nothing escapes. He is omniscient, everlasting, and never-wearying. He exists outside of our world, and there is no dimension conceivable that can be used to characterize God. And the greatest part is that we will one day gaze upon this very same, unchanging God in the full array of His glory. If you have ever wondered about the significance of learning about God’s attributes, one application is to get excited about Heaven and meeting your Creator there, the application of which I must leave to be discussed in another post.

My final thought is this: think of the eternal fellowship with your brethren in Christ. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 reads: Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord (NASB). In the passage this verse is pulled from, the apostle Paul is comforting Thessalonian believers about the status of their fellow believers who had passed away. The hope that this passage provided for the believers is twofold: first, Jesus’ return is as certain as His death and resurrection; second, at Jesus’ second coming, He will reunite all the believers who had passed away with those being caught up via the Rapture. Not only this, but we shall always be with the Lord. In this way, all Christians will join together in eternal fellowship and worship their God.

In summary, 3 ideas to get you excited about Heaven:

1) Remember that the Gospel promises reconciliation to God, as well as a relationship that doesn’t end with the perishing of our physical bodies.
2) The very God that we strive to honor with our lives everyday will be in Heaven.
3) Our deceased brethren will be there in Heaven to worship God forever with us.

Stay tuned for thoughts on what to do with your excitement!

PS: I cannot listen to this without getting excited.

We will sing on that day, “Hallelujah, bless Your name!”
We will bow at your throne singing, “Hallelujah, we are finally home!”

Getting Excited about Heaven pt.1

“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” (NASB, Colossians 3:1-2)

Here’s a random musing for you: What is less earthly and “more above” (weird way of saying it, I know) than Heaven?

More on this soon!

Committing your Commitments to Christ

The day begins. You wake up groggily from your bed, hit the snooze button a few times before leaving the warm comforts of your increasingly cozy blanket. It’s the morning of another long day. Maybe you read a few pages of your bible before heading out the door. Maybe you listen to some hymns or a sermon on your way to class.

Your classes end and you head back up to your apartment/dorm for a bite, sit down for a few moments before you obligatorily pray for the food that you’ve been thinking about since class ended. And then back to the study grind before you go to work/meetings/lab/more classes/ministry team meetings/small group/the gym/sports practices (circle all that apply). You consumed enough caffeine to get through the day, but it begins to wear off while you’re lying in bed. You say a few words of prayer and read a few more pages and promptly knock out.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Sound familiar?  I’m no stranger to this rote life of a UCLA student who happens to be a Christian. But really it should be the other way around, a Christian who has been placed at UCLA to further God’s Kingdom.  But can I really say that I honor Christ in my actions and in my obligations?  Is what I do truly a form of worship?  Am I actually pleasing the Most High God?

Commitments and activities in and of themselves aren’t inherently sinful, and as Christians, we are not only called to bear fruit in our commitments, but also to fulfill them in His name. Titus 1:15 reads: “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” Though even nonbelievers can do “good” works, these are not derived from Christ. When we don’t consider Christ in our commitments, then we are just like the nonbelievers who are wicked and impure in mind and conscience. Before giving up my life to Christ, I spent a long period of time in the church and with my college fellowship essentially pretending to be a Christian. I was fake in my actions, fake in my commitments, and fake in my love for God. Even after God graciously saved me from my sin, I still fall short in honoring Him; I was constantly busy with classes, ministry teams, small groups, and ultimate frisbee and I was focusing more on how I was going to keep up with all of these commitments and balance my time.  Instead I should have been focusing on how God was working in my life.  That each of these commitments was a way for me to exemplify Christ in my actions through loving others, being a good testimony of Christ and sharing the Gospel.

James 4:4 reads: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  When we value the virtues of this world more than the blessings of our great God, we sinners fall harder than we realize. I sought the fulfillment of this fleeting world and neglected God. My vision was clouded and I let my worldly commitments compromise what my number one priority should have been. There is no gray area with loving God–in fact, it is plainly black and white. We were enemies of God and by none of our own “good works” did we deserve justification through the overwhelming love of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Not only that, we have been given the blessing to love and enjoy Him forever. It is through His blessing we can take steps to honor Jesus Christ in all we do.

We must first prayerfully consider what we are doing and why. Living a prayerful life is lifting up all your actions and commitments to God and trusting in Him to guide you in only the most perfect direction: the direction of His perfect plan. We must devote our commitments to the furthering of His Kingdom and actively keep Christ in the forefront of our minds, not leaving Christ as an afterthought.  When we stop, take a breath, and give God all the glory. Only then can we truly honor Him in all our commitments.

Hello, Soul

If someone were to ask you “How are you doing?” how would you respond?

If you were to peel back layers of “Better than I deserve,” and “Busy, but good,” my honest answer would be this:

I am frustrated. I am weary. I worry about the future.

This quarter has been a flurry of new challenges, and though there has been much joy and learning in these challenges, at the same time there have been coils of distress invading my soul. Some petty yet oh-so-weighty adversaries include sickness, lack of sleep(often self induced), struggles in school, lack of motivation, and worry about my future career. These pitifully small obstacles have in the past few days pushed me into a passive state of despair – a state where I externally hold it together but internally am defeated.

It is during times like these that I must turn to scripture, not out of obligation to do quiet times, but because I am very weak and have nothing else to hope in. 

If you are in the same dreadful state as me, I offer you comfort in Psalm 42:9-11(ESV):

I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Take a look at the Psalmist. Can you say that your circumstance is even comparable to his? If anyone has a right to complain, it is the writer of Psalm 42. Yet, instead of complaining, his response is rebuke towards his own soul. He talks to his despairing soul and asks “What right do you, soul,  have to be downcast? What right do you have to be in turmoil?” What a perspective! Despite being oppressed and ridiculed by his adversaries, despite being spiritually dry and thirsting for God, the Psalmist through his rhetorical questions states “Soul, you have no right to be in despair. You have no grounds to be in turmoil.” Why can he say this? Because his hope is not in himself or his circumstance. His hope is not in comfort or health or a future career. His hope is in God, his salvation and his praise.

In the spirit of Psalm 42, I have written a letter to my own despairing soul, and would like to share it with you.

“Hello, Soul

I know the state you are in. I can feel it. You are discontent. You bear many burdens and place your hope in many different things. Do you know that that is idolatry? Do you know that there is a reason God will not allow you to be satisfied with these superficial things? It is because God loves you and is faithful to bring you back to Himself.

Soul, I rebuke you for your foolishness. How can you be in despair? Just take a second to think! Think of the Spirit that is given to you in love, that even now is pulling you back to God. Oh foolish soul, think of the Father! When you depart from this cursed Earth, the Father will not greet you with a scowl. No, soul, the Father will greet  you with a smile! Not only that but He will wipe every tear away and you will forever be in His glorious presence. What more could you ask for, soul? Yet there is still more. Soul, know this and forever be amazed – Jesus Christ, the perfect Son, has died in order to purchase you from the darkness. Soul, why are you downcast? How can you complain?

Soul, complain no longer. Doesn’t your precious salvation outweigh any painful circumstance? Soul, complain no longer. It would dishonor the captain of our salvation. I care for you, soul, and am confident that these truths will change your countenance.

Your dear friend,

Michael”

Combating Secularism in the Classroom

As a bioengineering major, I realize just how hard it can be to biblically filter what I’m being taught. For example, some topics covered in my bioengineering ethics class are stem cell research, feminism, and euthanasia–and the list goes on and on. At times it’s difficult to respect my professor and the class he’s teaching when the topics are incompatible with a biblical worldview. It has also been brought to my attention that other believers may be struggling with this on a different front (LS1, anybody?). Here are some things (in no particular order) that I keep in mind when struggling with this.

First, recognize the opponent–that is, remember that you are contending with evil spirits. Resist the temptation to unleash your frustration with your professor’s/peer’s non-biblical teaching, which ultimately stems not from them, but from the perversion of truth. In an effort to confuse humans and cause us to sin and fall short of God’s glory, Satan has disseminated false religions and perverted truths. The believer’s mind will be bombarded by evil spirits, who will try to sow the seeds of doubt. Your enemy, ultimately, are these evil spirits, who promote the unbiblical ideas to the rest of the world.

Therefore, recognize the spiritual warfare, and equip yourself accordingly (see Ephesians 6:12-18). You need to take up your sword and fight against the secular values (not the people propagating them) that are being promoted by the devil. If you are bothered with doubt about the age of the earth, spend time in Genesis and other relevant passages of Scripture. Study the Bible as much as you study the secular subjects you’re being taught. It should not be that we are able to recount the Krebs Cycle and the timeline of the Civil War, yet struggle to recall the order of creation. So study His Word, and if the subject is complicated, like creation can appear to be, consult other resources such as commentaries (written by reputed authors of course!) and wiser people, such as elders, staffers, pastors etc. Wherever you are, there are bound to be people around who are willing to help you with whatever issues you are struggling with.

Brothers and sisters, I pray that God would increase and deepen our faith, which “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” (NASB, Hebrews 11:1) so that, like the saints before us, we may run hard the race before us.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (NASB, Jude 24-25)

Hello world!

Hello everybody!

Welcome to Coram Deo, a blog where myself and others will offer what little wisdom we have to the world. It is our hope and prayer that through our sharing of our own personal lives, you, the reader, would be edified and encouraged to pursue Christ all the more. But, before I go on I suppose I should probably explain the meaning behind our blog title. Coram Deo means “before/in the presence of God.” It is a call to live life as if God was watching your every move (which He is, of course) and to constantly bear this in mind, as Paul in Romans calls us to do: “Therefore I urge you, brethren; by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Hope to see y’all visiting here again soon!

PS: for a much more thorough and complete discussion of Coram Deo check this out.