Monday, February 22, 2010

I am changed...

I am changed. I have changed. I will continue to change. But my God is unchangeable. As I am writing this, I am now a chinese pastor. Yes, the pastor in charge of the chinese ministry in my church. Therefore, my blog also change. I will be posting some of my devotonal thoughts on a new blog website. Of course, it will be in chinese.

The new blog website is

Hope that you will be blessed too. Thanks for reading...


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Going Deeper Week 8

Going Deeper (Week 8 Day 2)
This passage is based on the writer’s understanding of Genesis 22. Can you do a study on the context of Gen. 22 (also in reference to Gen. 12 and 21) and discuss why you think the writer uses this as his illustration here?

FOR THOSE ORIENTED to the Jewish Scriptures the author could have chosen no greater example of faithful perseverance than father Abraham. Especially apropos, the moment at which Abraham offered his cherished son, Isaac, at Moriah (Gen. 22:1 – 18) forms the backdrop of the discussion at Hebrews 6:13 – 15. Abraham, caught in a crisis charged with yearnings for his son and even greater yearnings to obey God, believed that the promises of God would not fail (11:17 – 19). Consequently, he stayed the course of sacrifice through intense, prolonged testing and became a paradigmatic receptor of God’s covenant promise. Our preacher to the Hebrews uses the heroic figure of Abraham, therefore, as an especially apt illustration to encourage a community struggling with perseverance under trial.
In the Old Testament narrative (Gen. 22:15 – 18) God’s response to the faithfulness of Abraham goes as follows:

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I
swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not
withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.
Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and
through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have
obeyed me.”

This passage has two components on which the author concentrates. (1) The Lord’s declaration “I swear by myself” constitutes the main concern in the immediate passage and leads nicely back to a discussion of Psalm 110:4 in chapter 7, that psalm also speaking of God’s oath. (2) God’s pledge to bless Abraham and give him numerous descendants forms the heart of the covenant promises and corresponds directly to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the progenitor of that guaranteed host. That Abraham, “after waiting patiently … received what was promised” made him a fitting model for sluggish Christ-followers in need of refocusing attention on the promised rewards attending perseverance (Heb. 6:12).
[Guthrie, George H. “The Example of Abraham (6:13 – 15)” In The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews. By George H. Guthrie, 241. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1998. ]

Going Deeper (Week 8 Day 3)
Verse 18 speaks of God’s character. The writer goes on to explain that the two immutable or unchangeable things spoken of here refer to 1) God's promise and 2) His oath. God has declared His promise and His oath to be unchangeable, even by Himself. His will cannot be switched, transposed, or altered.
Because of God’s character, the writer also states two things which He offers. Can you identify them and explain their significant?
He offers… [Significance]
1. strong encouragement [This is very important for those who have fled for refuge. Though we are not sure who are these people the author of Hebrews is referring to, but they have to flee, they need encouragement.]
2. hope [Similarly, hope is needed for those who are at such situation of life, fleeing away for refuge. No one wants to be in hideout forever, they need hope so that there is something they can look forward to.]

Going Deeper (Week 8 Day 4)
Jesus did not become a high priest under Aaronic order, but rather in the order of Melchizedek. And this phrase, ‘the order of Melchizedek’ can be traced to Psalm 110:4. Can you do a comparison between 6:13-20 with Psalm 110 and discuss what the writer was implying?

Hebrews 6:13-20 [Psalm 110]
(v20) in the order of Melchizedek [(v4) according to the order of Melchizedek]
(v18) God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie [(v4a) The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind]
(v20a) Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. [(v5) The Lord is at Thy right hand]
(v20) He has become a high priest forever [(v4) Thou art a priest forever]

The idea of Psalms 110 actually runs throughout chapter 5 through 6 of the book of Hebrews. I think that the author is to highlight that what Jesus has done on the Cross is equivalent to a priest. But the author also tries to emphasize that Jesus is not the same as ordinary priest according to the Aaronic order; He is of an higher order; the order of Melchizedek which the audience are familiar of according to Psalms 110.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Obey and pray… (Hebrews 13:17-21) 121009

I love this passage. It really speaks to my heart. It really encapsulates my desire for the church; that is for the church to obey its leaders and submit to their authority (v17). As a pastor, also as a leader of the church, I constantly struggle with members challenging my authority. I am not an authoritarian person by nature, on contrary, I am one who do not like to confront or in conflict. But I am a firm believer that I have authority over my members, not because I am smarter or better or even more spiritual; but because of the authority of the Scripture.

As a pastor and a preacher, I have to constantly learn to lead with the authority of the Word of God. There are times I will be tempted to rely on my exegesis, commentaries, or my cleverness to prepare a sermon, but I realize that my preaching will be only like hot air balloon; look high and mighty, but without any weight. Unless I firstly submit to the authority of the Holy Scripture, no one else will submit to the sermon I preach in the name of God.

The author of Hebrews reminds his readers in verse 17 to obey their leaders, so that their leaders will continue to serve them with joy, without burden. I think this is an excellent win-win situation in a church. Can you imagine your pastor always have to come before God to pray for his members who are not submitting and creating problems, instead of praying for their welfare and spiritual growth?

And then the author of Hebrews also asks his readers to pray for him and his team of leaders (v18), especially for his restoration (v19). There isn’t much information about why does he need to be restored, but likelihood that the author belongs to the church whereby his readers belong to, and he might be imprisoned for his faith. Anyway, the author, also as a leader, longs to be with his congregation; just like me as a pastor, I always like to be with my members.

Then this passage ends with referring Jesus as the great Shepherd of the sheep. As I read to this point, I am reminded of my calling as a shepherd. I know that I have a great Shepherd over me. I know that I need to shepherd my sheep as the great Shepherd shepherds me. This is what pleasing to Him (v21).

This is it. The reason I obey, I pray, and I shepherd is to be pleasing to God, the great Shepherd. But start by obey and pray.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Do good… (Hebrews 13:15-16) 091009

I am trying to love. I am trying to love my wife by doing the ‘Love Dare’. I am surprised that it is not easy to love! I am surprised that it is not easy to love my wife though I think I love her. Love is not about thinking. Love is about sacrificing. Love is about giving of self to others. Love is about doing good and sharing with others (v16).

As a Christian, I am supposed to be a loving person; but it is hard. When the author of Hebrews wants us to continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise through Jesus (v15), he is inferring that ‘Since a loving God is working out his purposes all the time, there are no circumstances in which praise should not be offered (cf. 1 Thess 5:18). The sacrifice is further explained in an expression from Hosea 14:2 (LXX 14:3; cf. Prov 18:20), "the fruit of lips that confess his name." In the light of the Cross, there is no room for sacrifices such as those the Jews offered. Now believers offer the sacrifice of praise and acknowledge Christ.’ (Leon Morris, Expositor)

And such love must results in action: do good and to share with others (v16). I remember a sermon I preached in the Chinese Ministry some times ago, it is commonly called the ‘Good Samaritan’ (Luke 10:30-37). The main point of the parable is not about the Good Samaritan; it is about answering the question of an expert of the law: What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25) The final answer that Jesus gives is found after the parable: Go and do likewise. Do like what?

Do like the Good Samaritan does: loving people even he has to be inconvenient, even he has to pay a price, and even he has to do good to hi enemy (Jews and Samaritans are enemies to each other).

The standard for doing good in the bible is very high. I can do it myself. Will I stop by on the expressway if I see someone’s car is stalled and needed help? Maybe not. Will I pay to renovate the house of an elderly who is staying alone? Maybe not. Will I love and still do good to those whom have been opposing me and criticizing my ministry? Maybe not. Will you?

But such sacrifice and such action of love is what pleases God. So, do good.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

City that is to come… (Hebrews 13:11-14) 081009

Living in an urban city like Singapore can be very stressful. The pace of development is driving Singaporean to have a faster pace of lifestyle. We used to take an hour or more of bus ride from one place to another, and now we will consider spending more than an hour on the road to get from one place to another is unforgivable.

Recently, my family gave me a family car; and I find that I begin to be able to fetch people around and visit more people. In other words, I am doing more than before; I am getting myself more things to do. I begin to make more appointments, and giving myself lesser or even no room for resting. And this morning, when I woke up later than my wife, I knew that I have overworked in the past few days. I need to slow down, but how can I do so in this city?

As I read and meditate on today’s passage, I am being drawn to what Jesus had done for me. He came and died, so that I might have life. And the question I ask myself is: what kind of life Jesus would want me to have? I pause and ponder. I stop and soak in His presence. I know the answer: To live a life that is Spirit led and at peace with God; even in the midst of this busy and fast-paced city.

The author of Hebrews keeps using the idea of inside and outside to remind his readers about the work of Christ is to be among His people. There is no more inside, the grace of God moves to the outside. I think the challenge is for me to be in the city but not be of the city. Does it sound like Romans 12? How can we live a life which still in sync with God in the midst of this hectic society called Singapore?

I think the answer by the author of Hebrews is to look forward to the city that is to come, to be reminded that I don’t really belong to here; I belong to the eternal city that is to come. This is my hope. As I drive through a massive traffic jam, I praise God for freezing that moment for me to sing praises to God in my car or have a heart to heart talk to the one sitting next to me in the car; this has value to the city that is to come. As I am waiting for my turn during a medical appointment in a government hospital, I read and meditate on His Word which will never fail or exchanging stories with other patients; so that they may also experience my city that is to come.

Do you have a city that is to come? Start building that city, because we will be there in time to come.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Yesterday… Today… Forever… (Hebrews 13:7-10) 071009

I have not updated this blog for about 3 weeks! I have been lazy (though I may spiritualize it as being busy preparing sermons). It is now no longer secret that I will be moving on in ministry; from the English service over to the Chinese Service. I am going to be Chinese pastor! As I look at my journey in serving the Lord; I have served the youths as a youth director, I have being leading small group of young adults (now they are young working adults or young parents), I have also been serving children in Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade (BBGB) ministry, and my latest portfolio was Christian Education for the church. In other words, I have practically served all age-groups except the senior folks; and now as I move on to the Chinese ministry, which is mainly senior folks, I am completing my cycle of ministries.

On the other hand, as I moved around, or being moved around, I have to keep adjusting my style and method of doing ministry. I simply cannot relate or speak to the children in the BBGB ministry the same way I relate or speak to a youth in church. Sometime, I get so tired of changing. But there is one thing which will never change: Jesus Christ. He is the same yester, today and forever (v8). His Word also doesn’t change. And this is probably why it is important to have the Word of God in our life, and more importantly, to live it out, just like the leaders mentioned by the author of Hebrews (v7).

As I step into the uncertainty of my future in the Chinese ministry, I know one thing for sure; I have to be faithful to the Word of God. As I learn and adjust my mentally to plan and organize and lead the Chinese ministry, I have to keep this one thing in mind; to keep the Word of God central. As I may be discouraged and disappointed by people and even results in the future years of the Chinese Ministry, I have to keep focus and my hope in one thing; Jesus Christ who is in the Word of God.

The author of Hebrews warns his readers that there will be all kinds of strange teachings (v9) and also all kinds of strange practices (v10) which will distract us from going after Christ. But remember one thing: the teaching of the leaders which is from the Word of God. This will direct us to Christ, this will draw us to the Lord, and this will deepen our relationship with Jesus; because the Word of God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Trends will change, culture will change, ministry will change, people will change, government will also change, and even some time our views on theology will also change; but Christ never change, His Word never change. It is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Yes, forever.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Marriage and Money… (Hebrews 13-4-6) 160909

One night, I was trying to figure out how long have my wife and I been married. By next year, it will be ten years! Ten years, I have been living with my wife for ten good and bad years by the end of next year. We look at each other with amazement, and perhaps with amusement. For past nine years, we have gone through much in our marriage. We had lost almost all of our friends in the beginning of this relationship; we had a miscarriage of our first child; we had an income reduction when I decided to step into full-time ministry with the church; we had a further income reduction when I decided to stop working for three full years to study in a Bible College (it was when our daughter arrival); we had gone through a family crisis when my father had to go through a major surgery and I was experiencing a serious burnout and depression perhaps as my daughter arrival; and recently we decided to make a radical change in our service to the Lord to move on to something really new to us.

I am thankful for my wife, I think she is crazy and out of her mind, when she decided to marry me, and went through all these with me for the past nine years. I am really thankful to her. I believe this is marriage, it is when two share each other joy and struggles; it is when two share each other intolerable habits and behavior; but still honors each other. No wonder the author of Hebrews insists that marriage is to be honored by all (v4).

Then the author moves on talk about the love of money. He exhorts his readers to keep their lives free from the love of money. In other words, live a simple life. And the main trust here is to trust God, for He is trustworthy.

As I ponder and meditate on these verses, I think they speak about how we maintain a life which is simple and in contentment. I think when a man or woman commits adultery or sex outside the marriage; it is an expression that he or she is not contented with what his or her spouse can offer sexually. They are looking out for more, they are not contented. And it is the same with money, we can never have enough. The more we have, the more we want to have. This is utterly discontentment. This is greed. This is the root of our sinful nature. We want more than what God has given us. Adam and Eve wanted to have wisdom more than what God has already given them to be dominion over the earth. We want more sex than what our spouse can give it to us. We want more money than what we need. But our real need is to have God to be with us. If God has forsaken me and leave me, there is nothing else I can have to replace Him.

Are you unhappy with your marriage? Go home and give him or her a good big hug! And maybe have a night of good date and even sex (I hope this is not too R-Rated)! Are you loving your job, your money and your possession more than you need? Maybe it is time to learn to give away more (you can give them to me if you don’t know who to give them to) and learn to live simpler.

There was a saying: Live simple, so that other can simply live. But I would add that Live simple, so that God can simply live in you!