Ghosting God


The NYTimes fashion article above explains relationship “ghosting”. It basically consists of breaking up through non-responsiveness.

With our highly mediated modes of relationship, it’s often easier to just stop responding to someone, rather than confronting the person to make a clean break. Anything that allows our break-ups to have a layer of separation dulls the sting of conflict. It used to be the phone. Sometimes it was the friend. Later it was the text message. The facebook message. Lately, it’s becoming the disappearing act. It’s a break up without the painful resolution.

Sadly, that’s how many of us break up with God. It rarely happens face to face. There’s no grand exchange of words (or in our cases, a tirade), no big argument which ends up calling it quits, no final agreement to spend time apart.

We just ghost.
We stop responding to His word.
We stop speaking to Him in prayer.
We stop spending time with His adopted family.
We stop noticing that He’s not around.

What many of us don’t realize is that we’ve actually broken up. We think we can just stroll home one day and pull out our “I accepted Jesus in my heart that night” card, and simply decide (by force of will) to trust in Jesus again and become His disciple. His own words should sober us up-

13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. (Luk 8:13 ESV)

The implication above is that that kind of soil remains lifeless. The falling away is a permanent result of the planting. There is no death-bed repentance, because faith comes by God’s grace, not by human willpower. There’s no reason to think that you can simply switch on faith later if you refuse to do it now. What would drive you to it then, that doesn’t drive you to it now? Fear? Guilt? Children? A more welcoming church? Are you willing to stake your destiny on the power of any of those things?

Rather, heed the word of God.

15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Heb 3:15 ESV)

Every time you ignore God’s call, God’s text, God’s message, you are not just postponing a meeting with God, you are ghosting God, and eventually your heart will be a stone.

Today, if you notice some missed calls from God, call Him back in prayer. God has nothing but welcome for those who return to Him in repentance. In Christ, your repentance becomes a sweet and lovely thing to the Father. Peace with God, joy of the Spirit, and assurance of your good estate will be the rings and fattened calf that God has prepared for His prodigal son who comes back home.

What a wonderful Father we share!

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14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), (Exo 34:14 ESV)

We know from the scriptures that our God is a jealous God. The passage above affirms that. But never do we see God described as envious. There is a useful distinction there.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines the primary use of jealousy, especially as it describes God, as intolerance of rivalry or unfaithfulness. Envy, on the other hand, is resentful awareness of another’s advantage.
Our God is jealous, but not envious. He tolerates no rival to His glory, or to His children’s hearts. He will not abide entertainment of the idea of competition for His name or His people.

But this does not mean that God is envious. He doesn’t look upon idols and wish he had their worshipers. He doesn’t feel longing for the celebrity of another. Ultimately, there is no rival. He is completely secure in every aspect. God is sufficient without us, and nothing He created can challenge Him for worthiness.

So whence comes jealousy? I think the Lord’s jealousy is a gift to His people. He knows, like a loving Father, that a pedophile may give you candy and toys, but his real purpose is to use you and harm you. He is jealous of us because He loves us, and He knows that any other rival to God we entrust ourselves to will lead inevitably to misery.

How fierce is His jealousy. How fierce His love.


Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying,
 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
 (Exo 20:1-6 ESV)


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A Christmas Reflection on Shame

Shame(On December 21, 2014, I preached a 7 minute message on the Incarnation, teaching about the charge given to Joseph by the angel in Matthew 1:18-25- to follow through with his marriage, and to name the child Jesus. The main focus of the message was that Jesus was born into human shame in order to save us. Joseph’s fear was that he would be dishonored by taking an unfaithful wife, which was devastating in Ancient Near Eastern cultures. Christ was born into a scandalized family. He was poor in more ways than just material wealth – he was poor even in social esteem. He received human shame He did not deserve, in a wonderful exchange, so that we might receive divine honor that we do not deserve.)

So as a follow up to the sermon this last Sunday – sometimes there are things I wish I had said, or wish I had time to say. A quick reflection on how Jesus was incarnated into human hostility and shame for our sakes.

From even before His birth, there has always been a dual perspective on Jesus, the Messiah. He polarized opinions everywhere. Either He was the promised King, who would rule righteously and be the savior of His people (Simeon, Joseph, shepherds, Magi), or He was a threat to an established way of life, an established system of power and honor (Pharisees, Scribes, Herod, Rome). He was born into a two-layer system of honor and shame- he was honored by those who knew who He really was, he was shamed by those who felt threatened by who he was.

As Christians awaiting glory, we also exist in a two-layer system of honor and shame. The system of the world is passing away, it shall soon be reversed by Jesus, it is inherently flawed at the core by sin. But just as Israel awaited the Messiah to come and overthrow the unjust reign of evil men, so we await the second coming of Christ to truly judge rightly, to give honor, to designate shame, and finally to completely obliterate the old system of power and honor that would view the Christ as a disgraced man. One day we will see every atheist, Hindhu, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, animist, polytheist, etc, give proper honor and recognition to Jesus for who He really is. And the saints who maintained their witness will share in the fruits of that new, hitherto subversive, secondary system of honor and shame.

Let us live so as to pursue honor in Christ’s kingdom, scorning any shame the world can ascribe to us.

TL;DR – 16 “Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.” (Mat 20:16 NAS)

Praise be to God, for Jesus has pursued last place harder than all of us.

May you reflect on Christ, born for you, this Christmas! Merry Christmas, NHEM family!

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Two articles about Millennials and Church. Brain food.

Why Millennials are Leaving the Church by Rachel Held Evans

How to Keep Millennials in the Church by Brett McCracken (Response to above article)

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NHEM Vision pt. 2 – Multi-Ethnic Church


“The vision of New Hope English Ministries is to become an autonomous, multi-ethnic, multi-generational church…”

We learned last week that moving toward a more autonomous church congregation, i.e. a semi-church-plant, will yield multiple benefits for New Hope as a whole, the local churches around Buffalo, and the Kingdom. A newly formed autonomous church community can much more effectively reach new demographics including those of different ethnic backgrounds and those of different generational backgrounds.

First let’s focus on Multi-Ethnicity. Why pursue this as a component to our church vision? Shouldn’t our congregational demographics be made up naturally and organically, i.e. whoever comes to the Lord and/or joins our church is welcome? Won’t this dilute our own unique church culture?

The “why” is both biblical and strategic. The bible teaches us emphatically that neither race, nor gender, nor socio-economic status need be a barrier for fellowship or communal worship. In metropolitan contexts, the early church was also composed of much racial/cultural diversity. Unity was both possible and natural knowing that believers shared many commonalities in Christ and as His people. Ref. Gal 3:28-29, Eph 2:11-18. God does not show partiality when it comes to His grace nor His judgment, and therefore unity as God’s adopted children is based on our new relationship with Christ.

Now just because unity is possible, does not mean that any particular local church body should strive to be multi-ethnic. Many healthy churches remain mono-ethnic or pan-Asian or simply have no strategy or targeting priority with the demographics they reach. Why should we seek to “taste the rainbow”?

In short, it’s a question of evangelism. The church is called to reach their local community with the gospel and add them to their church numbers. Ref. Acts 2:47, 5:15. For us as a predominantly bi-cultural, or at best pan-Asian, congregation, what has that looked like in the past?

It has largely consisted of Christian migration. Christian Asian-Americans move to Buffalo for school or training, look for a church, find New Hope is alive and active, and join us. Once in a while we get a couple new believers through campus ministries that end up joining us as well. Each year we get a decent crowd of new community members to New Hope. So what’s the problem? It’s two-fold.

1) Problem: No lasting growth. The problem with Christian-migration growth is that Christians also migrate OUT of Buffalo. If we grow each fall because of new students, we also shrink each summer because of graduates. Those who stay behind and join New Hope long term are often too few, and those who finally leave are often too great. The composition of our membership should not depend on migration patterns, but on faithful witnessing, evangelism, deepening of discipleship, and commitment. Currently it keeps quite level in membership because very few people ultimately decide to live in Buffalo, but many people see the merit of coming through here for school. No bueno.

2) Problem: We’re not winning people to Christ. As long as we’re primarily composed of a mono-ethnic/cultural background, ethnicity/culture/language/expectations/etc will always remain a barrier between ourselves and our non-Asian neighbors. And if you haven’t noticed, Buffalo is about as yellow as salt and pepper (i.e. white and black, folks). For residents to evangelize their co-workers, neighbors, and general community, we hit a major wall when it’s time for them to commit to our church body. Missiological studies show that when a person is forced to assimilate to another culture in order to accept Christianity, they are severely inhibited in reaching their own peers of their former people group, and become largely ineffective gospel agents because they become an outcast amongst their own people. Ex. If a black person believes in the gospel and joins our church, he would largely need to understand Asian cultural motifs, expectations, and spirituality in order to fit in. This is a tremendous challenge for someone who has just met Jesus, and is an unnecessary burden on Christian faith, as James and Peter and the apostles deliberated upon in Jerusalem in Acts 15 (i.e. you don’t need to be circumcised to be a Christian). One should, by all means possible, be allowed to retain their own culture when becoming a believer. This leads to the fulfillment of the great commission that all nations will become disciples, i.e. all ethnic people groups. For us as New Hope, this limitation has inhibited us from reaching out with our faith. If we could break the multi-ethnic % barrier, about 20% non-oriental-Asian, we’ll have a much easier time integrating a non-believer into our church body and thereby witnessing Jesus to them. Long-term, this is the only sustainable growth and evangelism model- reaching our local community with the gospel and winning new converts.

The benefit of being able to effectively reach our community despite cultural/ethnic/socio-economic barriers are multiple, but a simple summary is this – if we grow by new believers becoming long-term resident believers committed to New Hope, NHEM will continue to grow, be revived in spirit and passion and energy, and will finally generate momentum to become a Kingdom-building force in Buffalo rather than a nice Asian club of Christians getting together to learn and worship. Christ calls us to have our joy-giving relationship with Him to be a contagion in every community we inhabit. When that never grows up to be a priority of a church, the greatest mission of the church shrinks in to a “should”, and where a church has no heart to obey Christ in increasing His glory among a greater network of people, the pleasure and power of Christ’s presence will ultimately leave.

TL;DR – we want to be a Multi-Ethnic congregation, not because God loves skittles, but because by doing so we will be a more revived, passionate, Jesus-obeying church.

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Vision for New Hope


“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Warren Bennis

“The vision of New Hope Presbyterian Church English Ministries is to become an autonomous, multi-generational, multi-ethnic church which celebrates the gospel of Jesus Christ in life and teaching and reaches the greater Buffalo area with the good news of Jesus.” – New Hope English Ministries vision

“Oh boy…” – Chris Jhu

Where are we, as New Hope’s English Ministry, going, and why are we going?I’d like to focus on the first aspect of our vision and why we should pursue its realization – Autonomy

1) Autonomy – to peacefully and lovingly particularize the English Ministries of New Hope from the greater congregational body. This means we would develop and install our own congregational leadership, i.e. session elders, and become a separate church body from that of New Hope Presbyterian Church. It will require us to take on greater responsibility and commitment for our own care and operation. To become autonomous would also allow us to more effectively govern our own members, so that we can become more mature in faith and praxis and so bless our community and bless New Hope as a ministering sister congregation. In many ways, it parallels many of the benefits and pitfalls of church planting- in fact, it is basically a church plant…a slow, planned, pre-membership-loaded church plant.

1a) Why? First, read this. summarize for the time-crunched or lazy – Jesus basically instructs us to multiply congregations, and not just increase congregational size. This was also the strategy of His apostles, particularly Paul. Secondly, new congregational bodies as you might see in a church plant is demonstrably the most effective way to reach new people groups, new residents, and new generations of believers (which will lead us to our other vision points). And lastly, new church congregations revitalize, revive, and bless other churches in the area, especially a “mother” church that gives it birth. Although it may seem like a new and growing church body would compete with and/or drain other church bodies, actually the reverse is true. New church plants/congregations bring life and renewed health to other churches.

For us specifically, particularization from New Hope will ultimately allow us to grow, pursue our church vision to more faithfully and effectively reach Buffalo across generations and ethnic lines, and ultimately will bless our mother congregation of KM as we develop newer, deeper, more responsible and mature membership and leadership.

To all New Hopers – please read the article above and get on board!

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Five Things the Pastor’s Wife is Doing for NHEM


“Happy Wife, Happy Life.” — Every experienced husband…ever.

Perhaps this post will be a little self-gratifying, but I thought I’d give some props to one of the most unappreciated servants of any church – the pastor’s wife! In Korean churches, this role is titled “Samonim”, or 3-5-nim. Figure that out!

Now the pastor’s wife has no biblical duties, qualifications, or particular roles other than that outlined for all wives. But here are some things your local church 3-5-nim is doing behind the scenes. In no particular order-

1) She’s developing relationships with the hard-to-reach areas of our church. Specifically, she’s spending time cultivating relationships with many of our KM member counter-parts, especially those who are younger parents sojourning in Buffalo. Why is this important? In our particular EM, we have charge over the children and youth of KM. Without some solid inter-ministry communication, it’s easy for hurt feelings to develop on both sides of the fence. KM parents may begin to brew discontent as they feel their needs are not being met, and EM servants may begin to feel resentful that no support is being shown. This is a recipe for fairly nasty conflict, and an easy way for a ministry to brew up some negative feelings. Enter 1st gen out-going pastor’s wife! She’s able to mediate and communicate expectations, feelings, and reasoning to a certain degree on both sides. She’s one of the few all important “bridge” persons in our church, which will be crucial for healthy particularization (autonomy) to occur. My wife and I both believe our family was called to New Hope, not just me, and I think one of her greatest contributions to our ministry will be in this area.

2) Noon-Chi (untranslatable…situational awareness, intuition, contextual perception, unspoken communication sensitivity…basically a female’s sixth sense!). She has the power to perceive things occurring in our ministry which may not be directly spoken. For some reason, my wife is always the first person to notice when two parties are not getting along with one another, when two people seem to be dating, when someone’s looking burnt out, when there seems to be discontent somewhere, etc. She’s not omniscient, but her sensitivity to unspoken things has helped me in my approach to certain issues with far greater wisdom.

3) A different perspective. Very often I’ll find myself thinking out loud about church issues, policies, history, precedent, decisions that need to be made, etc, and I’ll start to get set on a certain action, when Ji Hye will chime in and hit me with a lightning bolt of common sense. Sometimes it was such an obvious truth I was overlooking, and I just needed a voice to crystallize it. At other times it was really just my sinful, selfish complaining that needed to be shut up and put in check. Having another perspective on church issues can really help temper my approach to ministry to not be so egocentric and myopic. She’s also shot down some stupid ideas in the past with blunt truth, “No babe, that’s stupid. That’s never going to work.”

4) Keeps the pastor from getting too proud. My wife is the champion for shorter sermons, more diligent labor, a richer prayer life. She’s the one who will challenge me when I’m becoming idolatrous, when I’m being negligent of my responsibilities, when I’m being inappropriate or rude. Although rebuking laziness or sin may not be limited to the pastor’s wife, I think she does it best – with the most grace and the most insight (pay attention Eihing!).

5) Becomes a gap-filler, as much as she’s able, in church needs. She’s a Friday food purchaser, sometimes a cook or dishwasher, a fellowship hostess, a counselor, a new-member integrator through home lunches, and lately she’s even looked around for spouses for our single CSers. Before Collin was born she was a Jr. High ministry teacher, a pastor’s wife in a Korean Ministry (like deacon 2.0), an infant ministry caretaker, and lots of other roles.

These are just 5 things that came to mind as I reflected on the wonderful ministries my wife engages in behind the scenes.

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Video Games, Porn, and Addiction


An older article I had copy-pasted into my archives. Sorry no photos, they didn’t copy well.

* Not implying that video-games cause mass shootings or psychotic episodes, but there’s definitely a self-control problem in our generation of which these things are symptomatic…*

‘The Demise of Guys’: How video games and porn are ruining a generation

By Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan, Special to CNN

May 24, 2012 — Updated 1351 GMT (2151 HKT)

Video games can go wrong when the person playing them is desensitized to reality, the authors say.


  • Authors argue that video games and porn create “arousal addictions”
  • Young guys are digitally rewired in a new way that demands constant stimulation
  • Video games go wrong when the person playing them is desensitized to reality

Editor’s note: Psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo is a professor emeritus at Stanford University and is world-renowned for his 1971 research, the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo teamed up with artist and psychologist Nikita Duncan to write “The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It,” released Wednesday by TED Books.

(CNN) — Is the overuse of video games and pervasiveness of online porn causing the demise of guys?

Increasingly, researchers say yes, as young men become hooked on arousal, sacrificing their schoolwork and relationships in the pursuit of getting a tech-based buzz.

Every compulsive gambler, alcoholic or drug addict will tell you that they want increasingly more of a game or drink or drug in order to get the same quality of buzz.

Video game and porn addictions are different. They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.

The consequences could be dramatic: The excessive use of video games and online porn in pursuit of the next thing is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.

Stories about this degeneration are rampant: In 2005, Seungseob Lee, a South Korean man, went into cardiac arrest after playing “StarCraft” for nearly 50 continuous hours. In 2009, MTV’s “True Life” highlighted the story of a man named Adam whose wife kicked him out of their home — they have four kids together — because he couldn’t stop watching porn.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan are the authors of “The Demise of Guys.”

Norwegian mass murder suspect Anders Behring Breivik reported during his trial that he prepared his mind and body for his marksman-focused shooting of 77 people by playing “World of Warcraft” for a year and then “Call of Duty” for 16 hours a day.

Research into this area goes back a half-century.

Breivik claims killing was ‘necessary’

In 1954, researchers Peter Milner and James Olds discovered the pleasure center of the brain. In their experiments, an electrical current was sent to the limbic system of a rat’s brain whenever it moved to a certain area of its cage. The limbic sytem is a portion of the brain that controls things like emotion, behavior and memory. The researchers hypothesized that if the stimulation to the limbic system were unpleasant, the rats would stay away from that part of the cage.

Surprisingly, the rats returned to that portion of the cage again and again, despite the sensation.

In later experiments, when they were allowed to push a stimulation lever on their own accord, they self-stimulated hundreds of times per hour. Even when given the option to eat when hungry or to stimulate the pleasure center, the rats chose the stimulation until they were physically exhausted and on the brink of death.

This new kind of human addictive arousal traps users into an expanded present hedonistic time zone. Past and future are distant and remote as the present moment expands to dominate everything. That present scene is totally dynamic, with images changing constantly.

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “regular porn users are more likely to report depression and poor physical health than nonusers are. … The reason is that porn may start a cycle of isolation. … Porn may become a substitute for healthy face-to-face interactions, social or sexual.”

Similarly, video games also go wrong when the person playing them is desensitized to reality and real-life interactions with others.

Violence in video games is often synonymous with success. Children with more of a propensity for aggression are more attracted to violent video media, but violent media, in turn, can also make them more aggressive. This could be related to the fact that most video games reward players for violent acts, often permitting them to move to the next level in a game.

Yet research reported in the Annual Review of Public Health suggests a link between violent video games and real-life aggression: Given the opportunity, both adults and children were more aggressive after playing violent games. And people who identify themselves with violent perpetrators in video games are able to take aggressive action while playing that role, reinforcing aggressive behavior.

Young men — who play video games and use porn the most — are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.

Such new brains are also totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play and on long-term goal-setting.

Guys are also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which tend to build gradually and subtly, and require interaction, sharing, developing trust and suppression of lust at least until “the time is right.”

Less extreme cases of arousal addiction may go unnoticed or be diagnosed as an attention or mood disorder. But we are in a national, and perhaps global, Guy Disaster Mode that needs to be noticed and solutions advanced to fix a totally novel phenomenon, which will only increase in intensity and breadth without the concerted efforts of educators, gamemakers, parents, guys and gals.

It’s time to press play and get started reversing these trends.

Check out Zimbardo’s 2011 TEDTalk on “The Demise of Guys.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan.

Edit by Chris: As a Christian, I can’t help but notice how men like this can diagnose the problem so clearly, yet provide no real alternative to the hedonism-gone-wild mentality in our young men. If new life in Christ is not our alternative, than what is?

I wonder if we sometimes approach the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives much the same way we approach video games, porn, cigarettes, and food…sensation and stimulation on demand. It’s activity is only realized in our lives in as much as we “feel” it’s overt power to stimulate us, when the Bible teaches us that it’s personal, volitional, and always works to help us until Christ returns…

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Which Bible?

17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. (Joh 17:17 NAS)

So you’re looking for a bible, either for yourself or for a friend. But which one is the right one?

Bibles to take to church

  1. NASB – A literal translation, which tries to retain the word for word accuracy of the scriptures. This tends to be better when you are doing deeper studies in the scriptures, and need to know some of the exact phrasing.
  2. ESV – A cross between a literal and a dynamic equivalent translation. It tries to translate word for word except in those areas where the idioms or phrasings are too difficult to translate without some rewording. This is what New Hope EM uses for Sundays.
  3. The Message or Phillips Bible – This is a paraphrase translation, which takes a lot of freedom in language to express the basic ideas in scripture. These tend to be translated on a sentence by sentence, or sometimes, a paragraph by paragraph basis. This is helpful if you want a fresh read of familiar scriptures.

Bibles for your daily devotional/study

  1. ESV Study Bible – This was recently released a few years ago, and it is one of the best study bibles out there in my opinion. Awesome graphs, maps, thousands of notes, great introductions. This is a great bible to have if you trust the bible, but simply have a hard time understanding what it says.
  2. Apologetics Study Bible – The Apologetics Study Bible uses the Holman Christian Standard Bible as it’s base text. It’s real worth is in the fact that it provides some of the best treatment of problem passages, difficult theologies, and those passages that just cause you to shake your head. It adds an extensive amount of essays from the world’s leading Christian apologists. This is the perfect bible for those who are struggling with doubt, or with many non-believing friends who have a lot of questions.

Bibles if you’re a critical scholar

  1. Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament – Because seriously…

Where to buy them

  1. – Tends to be cheap, can opt for engravings, ships quickly.
  2. – Hit or miss on price, sometimes you can score awesome deals on used books

Hope some bibles make it into peoples hands and hearts this Christmas season!

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Jesus (Like a Boss)

No that’s not Jesus. Don’t be an idolater!

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
(Col 3:23-24 NAS)

Just wanted to keep New Hope updated with a clear sense of our vision and why we should pursue it.

What is New Hope EM’s vision?

“The vision of New Hope Presbyterian Church EM is to be an autonomous multi-ethnic multi-generational church which celebrates the gospel of Jesus in life and teaching and reaches the greater Buffalo area with the good news of Jesus.”

Today we’re going to focus on the last part of that statement- “reaches the greater Buffalo area with the good news of Jesus.”

Up until now, that part of the statement has concerned me. I was convinced, intellectually, that for a church to truly be obedient to Christ, that they must have a merciful, Christ-glorifying presence in their local community. However, it always remained as something we “should” do, but not something we “needed” to do as a church. It would be far more beneficial for us to focus on fellowship, squashing conflict, worshiping God, and learning about Him. The community-engaging part was something at the end- something that healthy/happy/big churches do. We don’t want to fall into the pit of a social gospel, right?

Brothers and sisters, I believe the time is now, and engaging our community with the gospel is something we “must” do, and not just something we “should” do. Unless we begin to make the presence of Christ known in our communities, New Hope will plateau, lose energy, and ultimately lose sight of it’s purpose in this present age. We’ll become a tired little Christian huddle. When the Lord accounts for all that He’s entrusted to us, He’s not going to be impressed with how many dinners we’ve had, how much basketball we’ve played, how many movies we’ve watched, or how many Sundays we went to church- He’s going to judge the boldness of our Kingdom investment, the tenacity of our witness, the depth and breadth of disciples added unto Christ because of our humility, trust, and work. Yes, these are all built up by the sovereign grace of God, by Him and for Him and through Him- but the human instruments will be held accountable, and even be rewarded with divine recognition (Matt 25:23).

In offering this challenge for our church, I have come face to face with the utter human limitations of my ministry. To be honest, I’m snagged by so many fears. I wonder if I could possibly develop enough trust and respect from our congregation members to lead them into unfamiliar territory. I whole-heartedly believe that if I start obeying God in more bold and even risky ministry, that antagonists will arise to criticize and oppose me. I fear failed projects and endeavors that will remove my credibility, maybe not only in this ministry, but my lifelong reputation as a minister. I’m worried that changing the status quo of our ministry (turning off the autopilot) will result in people leaving our church and joining some other big church around the corner where they can comfortably be a faceless customer of service. I wonder how I’ll give an account before our elders or committees if things just flop. I’m praying daily these days that our EM and our KM leadership has enough trust in me to follow my leadership, even though I’m young and prone to mistakes.

But the word of God has been goading me into action, and I hope it will for all of you as well. More and more now my greater fear is the Lord. I don’t think I mean that in a self-righteous way. I’m afraid that by playing it ultra conservative and careful, I’ll never develop the confidence of our mighty God. I fear that by placating the desires for security and comfort for all in our congregation, that God will become the antagonist for my ministry and withdraw divine support. And most of all, I’m disturbed by the real possibility that at the end of my life, when God asks me to give an account for all that He’s entrusted me, that I’ll return to Him exactly what He gave me- a few pleasant churches with great fellowship (and awesome food!). I would rather come to Him with nothing at all, having lost everything, but with the confidence of having tried everything to build His kingdom by the power of His grace. I would rather risk, lose, and be found faithful in His eyes than risk nothing, lose nothing, and be found wicked and lazy with the master’s resources (Matt 25:26). Fortunately I’m comforted to know that the Lord will supply divine empowerment for His saints when they seek to serve Him in the world. In poker terms, it’s not really gambling if you’re going all-in with “the nuts”. Christ’s sweet and powerful presence is a sure promise to those whom He sends, to those who faithfully go in His name (Matt 28:20)

So what might this look like? Practically a few things.

1) Evaluating and restructuring our programs throughout the year to conserve the energy of our church and spend it more faithfully in the things that matter. More events do not necessarily equal more ministry. Ministry activity without clear purpose or done ineffectively will lead to burn-out, which lowers the overall passion and energy of our congregation.

2) A “going out” emphasis on evangelism, rather than a “come here” emphasis on evangelism. Whereas historic Judaism was a temple-centric, Jerusalem-centric religion, Christianity is a mobile and infectious faith. It used to be where the whole world was invited to come and worship in God’s house – a centripetal model of worship sharing- i.e. come here and meet the true God. With the dispensation of the Holy Spirit and the elimination of the temple sacrifice system, worship is completely mobile- centrifugal – and that’s the way Jesus wants it. The command for making disciples was not, “Bring them here to Jerusalem and make them my disciples,” but rather “Go and make disciples.” This doesn’t mean that Lord’s Day worship service ceases to be an open door for non-believers, but it cannot and should not be the default method for faith-sharing. All believers are mandated to be engaged with the world in a benevolent, Christ-representing way. I’d like for our people to be empowered to share their faith and motivated to do so, rather than just inviting people to church.

3) Serve our community in some tangible way in the name of Christ. This needs to be generated by motivated congregation members, and not spearheaded by the pastor. I would love to support our own members ministry desires in helping our community somehow. Refugee ministry is already happening, but only involves one or two members of our EM. Other options could include a) convalescent home ministry, b) food bank ministry, c) international student assistance, d) Angel Tree gifts, etc. Possibilities are really only limited by us. It could be as simple as calling the police department/mayor’s office and asking them if we can give some volunteer hours as a church.

4) Lastly, a willingness to try new things and not be paralyzed by the fear of failure. Being conservative with true biblical doctrine is faithful, being conservative with God-given resources is not. Let’s take some risks, evaluate, reorient, and try again if necessary.

New Hope, the path is laid out- let’s start marching.

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