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.