Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ON BEING A LOVING COMMUNITY


Our Powerhouse+ youths’ vision statement is “A youth-led loving community, empowered by God; growing in faith and grace; impacting lives for Christ.” As we unpack this statement, one of the sub-themes that spring out is a “loving community”. I believe it is this defining characteristic that most establishes the church as God’s light to an unbelieving world, giving the irrefutable undeniable proof that Jesus Christ is Lord and, more than that, he loves and welcomes sinners to turn to Him.

One of the practices that define a loving community is accepting one another in love. In any local church, you find people different in ethnicity, culture, economic positions, personalities, upbringing, etc. It is very easy for such differences to become flashpoints of division between us. In fact, I am sure that in every Christian community, we will find people that we least want to have any contact with. How do we handle such situations? One way is to retreat into an exclusive ‘holy huddle’ and associate only with those with whom we get along with. The other is to accept one another, despite all the ‘flaws and failings’ that we see (and sometimes we are the only ones who ‘see’) in the other person. When we do that, we are living up to Jesus’ exhortation that “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

This is also the only way that a visitor to Hope Presbyterian Church will see the reality of Christ in our midst – in the way we accept one another. This thought should also compel us to go out of our way to accept those who are new in our midst and strenuously make the effort to integrate them into our community. We can start by giving them our phone numbers and making ourselves available to their queries, if any. We can also invite them out for lunch after service. Perhaps, after service, we will fellowship with them instead of our regular circle of friends. We can invite them to join our small group meetings. All of us can play a part in accepting and integrating newcomers into our community. All that is required of us is a heart willing to do so. And I believe that accepting these newcomers and integrating them is also an act of worship to God in that we are obeying his commands and building his kingdom.

Let us then be proactive about building a loving community for God’s glory. Let us, with God’s grace, actively choose to accept one another and help those who are new in our midst also to join our loving community.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Better or Bitter? Which One Are You?


If there is one thing that I hope 2010 will be, it is that it will be predictable. By this I mean that plans would turn out as I envisioned them or that people would act in the manner I have come to expect them to. The hope is that tomorrow will not spring any surprise on me. But it does not always work that way. We all know that the one thing we can be sure of in life, besides death and taxes, is unpredictability. We may have been working happily in the office for many years and, overnight, our future becomes uncertain because our company has been acquired or our department has been outsourced. We may have enjoyed a secure family life for some time but then sickness or retrenchment affects a family member and the dynamics and stability are affected and sometimes threatened. Life has taught me that one can never be definitely sure what tomorrow will bring.

We may never be able to control what happens to us most of the time but we can control the manner of our response to these situations. How we respond will determine if we become better people or bitter people. Just as good things happen to bad people (Matt 5:45), bad things also happen to good and God’s people. The only Christians that can claim to be impervious or resistant to pain, sorrow and suffering are dead Christians.

When we read Hebrews 11, we are encouraged to see their examples of faith. But we do so only because of the benefit of history and hindsight. Some of these heroes went through many years of trials before being delivered. Others were never delivered on this side of eternity but paid the price of faith with their lives. What made the difference for them in these adverse moments was their faith that God remained with them, even in the darkest moments.

Respond then by also walking in faith. Be reminded that God sees your destination even if you can only see the next step of your walk. He is the ultimate source of everything we have so we can trust Him to provide everything we need in a crisis. I have found that isolating oneself does not help. It is better to continue fellowshipping with God by praying and reading His Word for inspiration. This also helps us to deal with our emotions at such a difficult time. Let the trials we face be used by God to mold us into better, not bitter, people.

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who Am I?



One of my favourite Christian songs is that Casting Crowns song, ‘Who Am I?’ It opens with this question “Who am I? That the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name…” If we were to ask God himself, he might well answer us from Psalm 139, “I created your inmost being and I knit you together in your mother’s womb” (v13). This is what he will further say, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made and you know full well my works are wonderful” (v14). With these words, he reminds us, “Child, you are my beloved masterpiece. That is who you are – the crowning work of my creative ability.” This is who we are. This also shows us our true worth.

Some persons and things are loved because they have worth. We love our houses and we want to have bigger ones. A man looks at a beautiful woman and thinks to himself, “I believe I love her.” We love athletes, pop and movie stars, works of art, jade and gold because they have value. If you were to drop a $100 note in the mud, I am sure people will still pick it up. That is because the $100 note still has value! We will still want it. On the other hand, some persons have worth because they are loved. I read this story of a Bible College professor who had a daughter. His daughter had an old doll. She had played with it for so long that it had started to wear out with its threads unraveling. Yet it was his daughter’s most precious possession. When the lecturer and his family had to move overseas, the family members had to choose what to bring with them. The first thing his daughter chose was the dirty doll. The doll had no worth in itself. Yet, in the daughter’s eyes, that doll was worth everything because she loved the doll. We are just like the doll. As sinners, we are worth nothing and when we die, we become dust. Yet God loves us even when we are worth nothing. He loves us enough to let his Son die for us so that we can go to Heaven. That means we are very, very precious to him.

This is the ultimate source of our security - we are beloved of God. When we are secure in the knowledge of God’s love for us, we will not be overly concerned about the extra flab (unless it affects our health) and the hair we lose. We will not be emotionally affected by the kind of job or position we hold. We will not be troubled by the fact that others have letters before and after their names and we don’t. We will not anxious if the in-crowd in our school chooses not to associate with us. We will get an IPhone because it is useful to us and not just because everyone counts it among their latest toy. We will not be obsessed with keeping track on our bank accounts and our house size. If we have them, we thank God for his grace and enjoy them as his blessings. If we do not have them, we still can thank God because the lack of these things does not diminish our worth in God’s eyes.

What else is left for us to do except to gaze on our God with praise and gratitude and to live our lives purposefully for his glory.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

WHAT IS COMMUNITY?




















When my wife and I first came to HPC in 1999, then known as CBC (ES), the only familiar face that we knew was Pastor William Wan. Yet over these many years we have come to form many precious friendships in this community that accepted us. I am very sure that these relationships will endure and continue on and on into the future. Yet more than the mere building of friendships, we have also seen the willingness of the people here to work for and help one another. My experiences have taught me that community means, not just finishing the race yourself, but also ensuring that others lagging behind are encouraged to do the same, by running with them and ensuring that they too finish the race.

I can still remember clearly the comment my wife made when we joined the HPC community, “you can see that they really care for one another.” This has indeed been borne out by what we ha0ve seen in our years here. We (meaning our HPC community) have this capacity to care for one another. When a member has needs, others help in whatever way they can – helping them to find employment, giving financially, mourning with those who suffer loss, etc. This is what community is all about – caring for those burdened, who are at risk of being left by the wayside, and ensuring that they too finish this journey of life with us. That is why I believe HPC has the makings of a great community, if we do not give up on one another. We are still a young community but we can build on this foundation that is already there. Let us always ask God for spiritual eyes that will be able to look beyond our own needs and discern the greater needs of others in our midst. When we do so, we will enflesh the words of Eph 4:32a, “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” We will also then be able, as a community, to look to the larger Christian community and the world outside our gates, and ask God to help us fulfill his agenda for them.