There is a journalist being invited to make a speech in a University on the topic of the strength of America. I read his speech. It is quite reasonable and when I reflected on it. I feel like it can apply to the church as well (Of course with a different context).
So the first principle of how to make a church great is: how well we treat the outsiders who come to the church!
This is the scripture says, “34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34
There are few things we can learn:
- Treat the seekers and new believers well. When they come to church we welcome them warmly and treat them as if they are one of us, part of the family.
- It is because once we are stranger from outside. Just like the Israelites, they were sojourners in Egypt. As Peter reminds us, we are “temporary residents and foreigners” in this world 1 Peter 2:11
- It is God’s nature to love, to be patient and to forgive, especially those who are weak and vulnerable. We are doing the same to express God’s nature in us.
- New comers are not perfect, especially if they have not believed in Christ. We should show them love and patience. They indeed offer us an opportunity to learn and change as we are not perfect either.
Once I visited a well-known church in NJ when I was traveling. The church was very well organized. But I didn’t feel warm. I felt bad about this church.
Brothers and Sisters, in this special season, let us make our church a warm place for the outsiders, visitors and new comers. Bring them the love of Christ. Be conscious and actively reaching out the people you are not familiar with but sitting just next to you.
December 8, 2017
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
Today is Thanksgiving Day. It is a day of celebration and it is a day for gathering of family and friends. It is especially meaningful for those who came from other places and now live here in America. Perhaps, 2017 is not an easy year for many. In these days of troubles, Thanksgiving offers a nice break.
On Thanksgiving Day we may quiet down and count the blessings from the LORD.
As you read Psalm 136, you find that it is a reflection of the history of Israel. The people of Israel did not have an easy time either, they experienced a lot troubles and sufferings. Most of the times in their history were filled with injustice, oppression, grief, mourn and sin. However, when they look back to history, they found out that the LORD is good! He has been leading them in different places and different generations that they survive. They were not consumed is because of the love of the LORD. From the bottom of their heart, the worshipper sings “His love endures forever”.
I believe if you look careful in your lives, you can count the blessings, big or small, all pointing to the LORD of love. Therefore, Let us to “be thankful, let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” Colossians 3:15-16
November 24, 2017
“In this world you will have trouble”, Jesus told His disciples before He left. This is what we experience every day. We are under all kinds of trouble. Trouble comes to you, to anyone, there is no exception, rich or poor, healthy or sick, Christian or non-Christian (Perhaps there are more troubles for those who hold on to their faith). For example, random violence: tragedy comes in an ordinary day when we go to school or go to work. Sickness is another trouble we cannot avoid, no matter how healthy you are, you cannot control the person who is next to you. Frustration from work: You may put in a lot of effort to work, to help people, to do ministry, but there may be no result, no good outcome. This happens a lot.
Jesus told us that this is the reality. However, “take heart, I have overcome the world!” In Him, we can also overcome. As Jesus told His disciple, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” He gives us peace so that we can continue to live and continue to serve Him. We can be positive and we can give thanks!
May the LORD strengthen our faith to trust in Him even more when trouble comes upon us.
November 17, 2017
Someone came to me after the message Sunday. He told me about the shooting incident in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I did not know how to response with such tragedy. I believe we are still saddened by the tragedy happened. We may ask why? Why did those Christians die immaturely through injustice and violence? Talking about dying early, what about sickness? I have a high school classmate, a very good Christian doctor who always helped the others, both in Hong Kong and in Mainland, who went back to the LORD recently, leaving three young children behind. It is another moment I ask “why”.
“We often wonder what the value of their short lives is. It seems that their journeys have been cut off before they could reach any of their goals, realize any their dreams, or accomplish any of their tasks”, as an author once said.
But Revelation tells us their stories do not come to an end.
“They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence”
They continue in heaven with the presence of the LORD.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
May the LORD bring comfort to those who lost their loved one and wipe away every tear from their eyes also. Help us to trust that one day we will see them again in the LORD
November 10, 2017
There is a quite long passage covering the reign of King Hezekiah, one of the great kings of Judah in Chronicles. When we talk about King Hezekiah, people probably remember how the LORD delivered Jerusalem from the hands of Assyrians. But before the great deliverance came, Hezekiah showed his loyalty love to the LORD.
The letter he sent to Israel and Judah shows his faith:
“People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. 8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your ancestors were; submit to the Lord. Come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”
It is difficult to live against the tradition or the culture. At that time, the temple of the LORD was shut, no one worshipped the LORD. Instead, people worshiped idol, even his own father, King Ahaz was an idol worshipper. Hezekiah knew their affliction was caused by their unfaithfulness. But Hezekiah also knew the heart of the LORD. God would show compassion to His people if they return to Him.
The kingdom of Israel was destroyed by Assyrians in Hezekiah’s time. Perhaps it was the alarm that made Hezekiah change, we don’t know for sure. If so, let us be aware of what God is doing today. Help us to be alert and repent. Be faithful even though it may against the culture or against the tradition.
November 3, 2017
Habakkuk lived in a time of trouble. Judah was on the verge of destruction by the army of the Babylonians. Habakkuk had many questions to ask the LORD. Indeed, I believe the LORD wants us to do that: when we are in doubt, He wants us to come to Him and ask. Ask in faith:
2 Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy
We need you LORD. We are facing all kinds of trouble every day, the natural disasters and the calamities from men. There is no way we can deal with them by ourselves. The only thing we see from human is sin. Sin gives us more troubles. We need your mercy and compassion. We read and heard about your great deeds in the Bible and in history. We want to experience them today.
Strengthen our faith! keep us focus on you while we are waiting for your deliverance.
October 27, 2017
It was the Great Shakeout Day yesterday (October 19 10:19 am). The students at school they all practiced earthquake drill. “Drop, Cover and Hold On”. I don’t know how serious they practiced. I guess they did, perhaps because our memory on the disastrous earthquakes happened recently in Mexico is still fresh. Indeed, earthquake experience is not nice, even a small one, it leaves a strong sense of insecurity and destruction in people’s mind.
The Bible has some mentions of earthquake. Many of them connect to the wrath of God to the world. It is also a sign of the end time: 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. Luke 21:11, Jesus told His disciples. Besides earthquakes and other disasters, there will be persecution because of our belief in Christ. Therefore, let us take heart and prepare.
13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”
The promise from Christ is “19 Stand firm, and you will win life.”
October 20, 2017