Ronwad Thicke made this interesting comment about my attendance at Samuel Lee’s memorial service last month: “…most of you continue to engage in this form of idolatry. Even Mr. Toh, who–for all his recent enlightened and reformed thinking–still cannot help but fall on his own sword for Samuel Lee…”
Though I do not know who Ronwad Thicke is, I usually enjoy responding to comments made about me, especially those that are not complementary, because they are simply a lot of fun. I especially love his statement that I “still cannot help but fall on (my) own sword for Samuel Lee.” By the way, I think that some traditional UBFers would love such a statement, though I seriously doubt that they would believe that it is true of me! Anyway, here is my brief response. Continue reading →
Word clouds are fascinating to me. For example, copy and paste some text into wordle.net and you’ll be able to create a visual image of the most repeated words in the text. Someone did this with the bible, and found the word “Lord” is the most repeated word in the bible. I’ve since found a renewed interest in bible study through asking such questions. For example, what is the most repeated command in the bible? Many have done this research and found the most repeated command to be: do not be afraid! “Fear not” is the Lord’s repeated command throughout Scripture.
I am reviewing a new book Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret by Larry Osborne for Cross Focused Reviews. Osborne is a senior pastor at North Coast Church, a megachurch of 9,000, in San Diego County. He speaks extensively on leadership and spiritual formation. He is the author of many books and a consultant to non-profit and business leaders.
The book, which I recommend reading, addresses reasons why churches and organizations stop growing and what can be done about it.
Stuck in the past. Continue reading →
During this downtime for our conversations here, I thought it would be interesting to highlight some things we can learn from our “like” buttons. As I mentioned before, the buttons are anonymous. We do not have access to any user-specific data about the buttons, not even ip address or country. So here are some statistics for our 350+ articles and 11,300+ comments.
If. It is a small word, just two letters. I like the word better in Russian, “если”. Or perhaps in French, “si” or German “wenn”. And even though I can’t pronounce it, the word “if” looks better in Korean, “면” and in traditional Chinese, “如果”. Still, no matter what language you use to say the word “if”, the word strikes fear into my heart. Are you afraid of “if”? This week’s private discussions and in-person dialogues have prompted me to share my thoughts on this basic fear.
When the church becomes ugly. I often read a short daily commentary by Henri Nouwen. I find him insightful and inclusive, refreshing and renewing. An excerpt from today says, “When the Church is no longer a church for the poor, it loses its spiritual identity. It gets caught up in disagreements, jealousy, power games, and pettiness.” It quotes 1 Cor 12:24-25: “God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”
White boy sheep and HNWs. This reflection exposed my perspective and practice of Christian life. For two decades I was only interested in reaching, evangelizing and discipling young Caucasian Americans. The so-called “presentable parts” (1 Cor 12:24a) were the white boy sheep and HNWs (holy nation women or white women), terminology I no longer use. Thus, I ignored or despised anyone who is not white. They were “the parts that we think are less honorable” and “the parts that are unpresentable” (1 Cor 12:23). Continue reading →
I have been in UBF my entire Christian life since I became a Christian in 1980. A seminal moment occurred about 10 years ago when Dr. John Armstrong preached a sermon at Chicago UBF. He asked a question: “How many non-Christians regard you as their best friend?” I was stunned. The answer was obvious: NONE!
This convicted and troubled me greatly. It is because after I became a Christian, I cut off anyone and everyone who would not study the Bible, including my own family and old friends. I not only did not have non-Christian friends; in fact I had no friends outside of UBF.
12 UBF couples (10 from West Loop) renewed our marriage vows on Oct 12, 2013 after attending a series on marriage excellently led by Kevin and Julie Jesmer over 8 months at West Loop Church. Our happy pictures on Facebook had over 1,000 views and countless likes.
I would like to share what my dear wife wrote to me in a card celebrating this occasion. I asked her and she gave me permission to share it. In my opinion, she is pretty blunt (thanks to my influence!) but also gracious.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35).
In June 2013, I was blessed to be part of an exploratory team to Northern Canada to explore the feasibility of sending missionaries to the Aboriginal people. There were five of us. Two of the members, the pastor and myself, are in our forties. The other three were in their mid twenties. We were all from the white, middle class suburbia of a Midwest university town nestled in the midst of corn fields. The trip lasted for eight days. We drove together for 15 hours, stayed in hotels, in two cabins, road in a train for 18 hours, and drove home 15 hours. We were in close proximity. We had many things in common, like a common faith in Jesus and a common calling to the North and a desire to serve Christ in the region. But there were differences. Continue reading →
In this article I’d like to discuss a clear ubf teaching that I heard very many times in my ubf chapter in Yekaterinburg. Brian provided us some space to discuss the ubf heritage through his series of articles. Somewhere he said that the heritage is very tricky and not clear so it can lead to different teachings in practice depending on the situation and “sheep’s spiritual condition”. But there are some very clear things in ubf teachings upon which the ubf practice and reality is based. And I want to discuss one of these clear ubf teachings.