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To Walk Away

Recently a few well-known ministers announced they are walking away from the Christian faith. Many friends gave their two cents on this through Facebook. What I surprise is the lack of mentioning the consequences of walking away from the Christian.

I have two disclaimers before I start. First, I haven’t read too much about these ministers and their stories. This post is not critiquing them on what they should have none or analyze why they come to such a decision. There are many articles online already discussing that. I don’t need to know these matters because they are trivial and sounds like Christian gossip. No one knows the truth except themselves and God. Frankly, what matter is themselves and God in the end.

What I want to write about is the consequences of walking away from one’s faith. Here’s my second disclaimer. I am not referring to someone new to Christianity or someone who is exploring Christianity. I am writing specifically about ministers, leaders who walked with the Lord for a Long time.

I am also not going to talk about theology on Calvinism versus Arminianism or predestination. There is a time and a place for that, but it is not in this article.

I am referring to those who deliberately walk away from one’s faith after following Jesus and was His fellow laborers.

The Bible never once mentioned someone who walked away from Jesus is innocent or not know what they are doing. In every case, those who knew Jesus, the Truth, and walked away always suffer negative consequences.

Here’s how Peter described false prophets and teachers who knew Jesus and ended up rejecting Him:

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” – 2 Pet 2:20-22 NIV

Peter didn’t mince his words. He described them like a dog returning to its vomit. The truth is not because they lost hope or are confused. The truth is that they rejected Jesus because they loved the sins of the world more than the One who saved them.

We either walk in the light, following Jesus or walk in darkness, by disobeying Him. There is no neutral position in this. No matter how sincere someone described why they are leaving the faith, it is because they love the sins of the world more than they love Jesus.

In John 3:19-21, Jesus stated that those who do not receive Him, the light, loves the darkness because their deeds were evil. One can say someone may not know Jesus; therefore, they reject Him. But what about ministers, those who know Him for a long time? We can tell someone is burnt out or push into ‘stardom’ too early and therefore they lost their way. I have no problem with someone burnt out. Take a break or set boundaries to protect yourself.

They may be doubting their faith. It is not wrong to doubt as long as the doubt is healthy. But for one to say to walk away from Jesus after serving Him, knowing His ways, for so long, is more than doubt. No matter how sympathetic we can be or how sincere the minister is, the crux of the matter is their heart loves evil deeds, sins, and walking away from Jesus, the light, so they are not exposed. The eleven disciples who followed Jesus also doubted, but they also worshipped (see Matthew 28:17).

Knowing the consequences of walking away is a sobering thought. I am not writing this article because I am angry or bitter when ministers leave the faith. I am writing because this is the truth which none of us want to discuss. The Bible states this very clearly. We live in a politically correct culture where we don’t want to anger others.

In short, no one ‘accidentally’ walks away. The hearts of these ministers, having found light in Jesus, are darkened with sins again and intentionally walk away from Him.

Demas, the minister who walked away

Demas is an example of a minister in the Bible who’ve known Jesus and walked away in the end. Demas was part of Paul’s ministry team (Phil. 1:24), and Paul commended him alongside Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke. These men were leaders and ministers. At the end of 2 Timothy, Demas deserted Paul because Demas loved the world (2 Tim. 4:10).
Demas is an example of a sad truth. Ministers who leave Jesus, or the faith, do so not because they doubt or are not sure. They rejected Jesus because they love the things of this world more than Jesus.

When a minister, especially a prominent one, left the faith, we are often in awe and confused why he/she can do such a thing. It is when he/she loves something more than Jesus and decided that Jesus is not worthy to be pursuit. That thing which the person adores more than Jesus, no matter how good it is, is a sin because it became an idol in his/her heart.

Is there no hope?

If a minister left the faith, does he/she forever condemned? Not necessarily. John Mark is an example in the Bible as someone who walked away from the faith and came back in the end. John Mark was a Barnabas’ cousin and joined them on their first mission trip. Because of the pressure of the mission, John Mark deserted them (Acts 13:13). The desertion had a substantial impact on Paul and Barnabas. When Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on the second mission trip, Paul rejected. John Mark caused Paul and Barnabas to separate from each other (Acts 15:37-39).

Despite Paul refusing to take John Mark back when Barnabas suggested in Acts 15, eventually, Paul took John Mark back. Paul mentioned John Mark in his epistles as a faithful laborer (Colossians 4:10). Paul asked Timothy to bring John Mark to him in 2 Timothy 4:11 because Paul found John Mark to be useful. The Bible didn’t say much, but we see a beautiful ending of John Mark missing the mark and restored in the end.

What does this mean?

There is a belief that once someone walks away from Jesus, he/she can always come back. Yes, some come back after walking astray. However, some walk away and never comes back.

We have to be very careful about this. We never know who will come back and who will be lost forever. It is wrong to assume that if we walk away from Jesus, we can always go back to the Lord whenever we feel like it.

We often think we are in control of our soul and our emotions. But we are being controlled by them. Every action and decision we make in life is either walk toward Jesus or away, light, or darkness. When we commit a sinful act, it messes our consciousness and distorts our mind from telling right from wrong. A person can end up loving sin, darkness, then Jesus, the light.

In Romans 1, Paul described those who knew the truth but refused to accept it. Instead, they committed themselves in sinful actions, and their mind became more corrupt. Their consciences are seared. They can’t even tell what’s right or wrong.

If this is the case, then how can someone like John Mark come back? It is only by the grace and the mercy of God. We are not to ‘test’ God in this. Our goal is to remain in Him as close as we can.

If God, all-knowing, will not bring someone back to Him when they turn away from Him, does this mean that God is not all-loving? Absolutely, not. God desires everyone to turn to Him. But at the same time, He gives everyone the freedom to choose. Those who do not follow God is because they love the world and love darkness more than they love Him (John 3:19). Those who rejected Jesus choose to do so, and God accepts that choice.

What about those who walk away?

For anyone who walked away, our goal is to help them come back to Jesus. James 5:19 teaches this. By doing so, we save them from death. If we know them, we are to encourage them back to the Lord.

The key is to pray for them. It is easy to read a lot of articles and talk about it with others like celebrity news. We need to intercede and pray for them. If we are in the position to do so, gently bring them back to Christ.

“And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him— the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”
John 12:47-48 NKJV

Side note: When we talk about walking away from the Christian faith, we think of apostasy. In this article, I didn’t use apostasy because they are only used twice in the Bible and not relevant to what I am discussing.

The Greek word is, apostasia, and it means to revolt or defect. It appears in Acts 21:21, when the Jews accused Paul leading the Gentiles to forsake (defect) from Moses’ ways, and in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, when Paul described the ends times when many fall away (defect) from the faith. In both cases, they are not talking about ministers who left the Christian faith. For more info, please see https://biblehub.com/greek/646.htm.

Papa Got You

Sarah-Faith’s first swimming lesson.

I held Sarah-Faith as she went into the pool for the first time. Ever since she slipped and fell into a deeper part of a pool, she was afraid of it. She would point to the water and cry, “Too deep! Too deep!”

Last week, we took Sarah-Faith for her first water lesson. At 2.5 years old, we are not expecting a Joseph Schooling. What’s important is for her to be comfortable in the water and not freak out.

Sarah-Faith held onto me like a Koala bear as we slipped down into the pool.

“Don’t worry, Sarah-Faith. Papa got you.”

I keep reassuring her that things would be ok. Holding onto her with both hands, she felt the awkward sensation of floating in water.

“Go back. Go back to Mama.” She wailed.

“Papa got you,” I said.

The swim instructor took out some toys and we started to fetch them in the water. From fear to fascination, Sarah-Faith clinged to the toys with glee.

In the short 45 min lesson, we started to see the swim-bunny inside of her come out. By playing different games, Sarah-Faith was becoming more confident in the water. We quickly ditched the floats because they were getting in her way to the toys. Instead of clutching to me like a Koala bear, she allowed me to let her float on her belly.

Then came the ultimate challenge. The instructor put yellow duckies on the other side of the pool. The kiddies were to ‘swim’ over and pick them up.

Now, there was no more fear. There was no more doubt. With excitement and determination, I held Sarah-Faith on her tummy as she kicked her way to get the duckies.

The fear melted away. With smiles and laughter, she held onto the duckies and swam back to the edge.

I am learning that one of my roles as a father is to help her overcome fear by encouraging her and building her confidence. I found that was the most effective way. Often the hardest thing is journeying with her step by step.

I don’t blame her for being afraid of water. Who wouldn’t be? Yes, water is to be feared if she is by herself without any swimming skills. But when Papa is with her, there’s no need to fear.

Fear is overcome when there is something solid we can lean on. What I find most puzzling in our culture is the idea that fear can be overcome by stating it is not there. To declare you are not afraid without anything to back it up, is pointless to me. It is the same as if I put Sarah-Faith in the water by herself and as she cries, I keep yelling, “Don’t be afraid. Fear doesn’t exist”. Fear cannot be overcome in a vacuum.

How did Sarah-Faith overcome her fear? It wasn’t because of the floats or a great program or fancy toys. It was when she realised her Papa was with her and things would be be ok. I don’t need her to be unafraid. She didn’t need to be afraid because I am with her. We are in this together and she knows I will not let her go.

This is the same when we follow Jesus and know that our Heavenly Father is with us.

After Jesus died on the cross and resurrected, He gave the disciples the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus reassured the disciples that He will be with them until the very end. Jesus could have told them that God has the ultimate victory in the end or He will send them armies of angels to fight for them. Or motivate them that they will receive heavenly reward. Instead, Jesus simply stated He will be with them.

Jesus being with me is more than enough.

I’ve been following Jesus for almost 15 years. Even now, there are times when I am afraid. As someone who had a liver transplant, one of the greatest concerns is health care. Who will take care of me if my liver fails? Is there a plan that can cover my costs? What if something happens to me when we are doing missions?

The fear is legitimate and it is real. But just as Sarah-Faith was afraid of the water and her Papa reassured her things will be fine, Jesus is with me (and my family) the whole time as we go in the water. And this is the most reassuring of all. To know that my heavenly Papa is with me even as we go into the deep end.

By the end of the lesson Sarah-Faith didn’t even want to leave the pool. She knew that when her Papa was with her, being in the water would be ok (and fun).

For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall. – Psalm 18:29

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”
-“God knows” by Minnie Haskins

Rush

Today I went to Toronto General Hospital to see my transplant doctor.

Traveling from Mississauga, I rushed to downtown at 7:30 to make it to the 9:30 am appointment.

Rush out the door and stuck in traffic.
Rush to find a parking lot and run into the subway.
Rush past people to check myself in at the Transplant Out-patient clinic.

By the time I see my transplant doc, it was 12:30 pm. I was anxious as I wanted to rush back home to supervise a contractor.

The meeting lasted no more than 5 min.

“Your numbers look great. You look good. There is nothing we can do with your medication. Take care.”


There are two ways to look at this…

I can be upset thinking about the fact that I traveled so far and waited so long for a measly five-minute appointment. Do I really need to be in person for them to tell me I am ok? Can’t they simply put me early in line, so I don’t have to wait so long?

On the other hand, I realize I should be grateful. A five-minute meeting means I am healthy. An extended meeting says the doc found something wrong and did more follow up and tests.

There are probably others who need more of the doctor’s attention than me. There are others who would love to hear that they don’t need another test or change/add more medication.

I am learning, after having my transplant for almost 30 years, this is a good type of wait. It seems and feels like a waste of time, but it is a time to give thanks.

Cliff’s guide on how to become a better paintball player

Taken by a friend during a paintball game at church camp.

Taken by a friend during a paintball game at church camp.

 

Last week during church camp, some of the younger fellas (in their early 20s) asked me to join them to play paintball.  Growing up, I never played any team sports or considered myself athletic (I still don’t).  The first ‘sport’ I got into was paintball.  Though many do not considered as a sport, for me, it is the first sport I got serious (next to triathlon).

Normally, I try to write a spiritual posts but I like to use this post to jot down some pointers on how to be a better paintball player. Not that I am an expert at it. I just want to recollect some of the thoughts I picked up along the way.

It was my close friend, Len, who I met in 2nd year in University that got me hooked into the game.   Other than getting the adrenaline rush, we treated the game like chess.   We focused on technical skills (shoot straight, run fast) and tactical skills (work as a team, flanking).

Once a week, we go to a paintball field and run drills.   One of the skills I learnt which was very useful was to shoot with either hand.   We would spend countless hours kneeling behind a bunker popping out to shoot a box or some target down the field.  Being able to shoot with both hands allow you to be a better player with greater flexibility.

For me, the first thing most important is work together as a team.  It isn’t even about having better equipment.  Team work is essential in a game where everything can change in split seconds.  Team work means communicating with each other where the other team is.  Usually there are two teams competing against one another in a field filled with bunkers.  Since you cannot see everything at once, your team is like your eyes to the field.  It is also important to communicate what is the other team is doing.  Are they pushing one side?  Or are they playing defensive?  By understanding what the other team is doing (or not doing), we can adjust our plan accordingly.

In the game, I try to keep tabs on how many players are tagged (shot) out.  I need to know the game situation.  If my team members who are supposed to defend are getting tagged out, then my base (if we are playing capture the flag) is vulnerable.  Depend on the situation, I either move back to play more defensive or risk it and play more aggressive to surprise the other team.  This is the same for the other team. If I noticed more of players from the other team are getting tagged out, then I realized we have a numerical advantage (aka keep pushing).

If they don’t see you, they can’t shoot you.  This is key in paintball.  Have they spotted me or not?  A good indicator that they spotted me is when they start shooting at me.  Then I need to response accordingly.  Should I move up to another bunker where they will not see me?  Is my position vulnerable for them to hit me (and I can’t shoot back)?  Should I shoot back and make a stand in the fight?

If they haven’t spotted me, that’s great.  I will keep poking left and right of the bunker to see where the other team are.   I will try to keep ‘hidden’ as much as possible.  This means staying in the shadow.  This also means not sticking your head over the bunker (because everyone will see you as well).  There are many advantages to being discreet.   There are few games where because I remain ‘hidden’, the other team run toward my bunker thinking I am not there.   Stay discreet is a huge advantage because you can surprise the other team.  Since a game can be won in a few seconds, these surprises can make you win the game (even when your team is losing).

Every field has a boundary or a border, it is always better to move along the boundary because you are not facing the whole field and just the front and one side.  Whereas if you are in the center, you have to be mindful of the front and both sides (left and right).  If you can work along the whole edge and reach to the other team’s base, you can practically flank them on the side or even from behind.   Of course, there are games where you have to move up in the center.  But since most players focus their effort on what’s in front of them, as oppose to what’s on their side, if you can sneak around, you can hit them without them knowing.

Lastly, going back to teamwork, it is important to be aware of where my team members are as well.  If they are moving up, I will try to move up and avoid staying in the same bunker with another person.   There are times when you cannot move up.  If the other team has four players coming your way and there are only two of you, the wiser move is to stay back and fight defensively.  This may mean moving back a bunker or expecting them to rush you.

We tend to be more aggressive right from the start of the game because the further we are in the field, the less field the other team can move.  From that point on, it is a matter of working the angles (positions where you can shoot them but it is much harder for them to shoot you in return).

Paintball tends to reward those who play aggressively (aka run very fast and far into a bunker at the start of the game).   Yes, there is a risk of getting shot but sometimes the risk will pay off.   The best part is that it is not about equipment or even experiences, often times it is come down to out-witting your opponent.