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Who Am I? Or Here I Am!
Jun 24, 2017
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When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” Exodus 3:4

The Bible is a fascinating book to read and it is rich in content. It is a collection of history, poetry, prophecy, law, the gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s letters, revelations and more. Personally, I find the story of Moses interesting because there are so many lessons to learn.

Moses lived approximately 1,300 years before Jesus was born. The name “Moses” (meaning "to pull out or draw out of water”) is very interesting and even prophetic. Moses was drawn out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus 2:5-10), and he was later used by God to draw God’s people out of Egypt.

Moses spent 40 years in the Pharaoh’s palace but God did not call him then. It makes me wonder why God did not use Moses when he was young and powerful with royal connections in the palace. One day, Moses killed an Egyptian and because he feared for his life, he fled to the wilderness and stayed there for 40 years. It was here on the far side of the wilderness that the angel of God appeared to Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-2). God only called Moses when he was old, weak and alone in the wilderness!

The conversation between Moses and God in the burning bush is exciting to read, as I could see myself asking God the same questions. To recap, God called Moses by name, “Moses! Moses!” and to me that is something really special or even intimate. Moses’ response was very positive, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4)

After finding out what God wanted him to do, i.e. to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Moses pushed back with this reply: “Who am I that I should go…” (Exodus 3:11). But, as we read in the following chapters in Exodus, we know God performed many miracles through Moses’ hands and drew the Israelites out of Egypt.

As Moses yielded, he became someone God could use for greater things. Moses became a great man of God. Exodus 33:11 says “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend." To me, it’s extraordinary and an extreme honour to be called “friend of God.”

Let us respond to God by:

  • Daily thanking God for inviting us into a living and real relationship; and,
  • Asking Him to help us choose to say “Here I am!”

Blog

Taste Test
Jun 21, 2017
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In my years in Hong Kong, I’ve come to observe that there are three Cantonese dishes that make even the most adventurous “I’ll try anything” eaters balk: sweet red bean soup, steamed chicken feet in soy bean sauce, and pigs feet in sweet ginger & vinegar sauce. To many non-Chinese friends, these form a gastronomical unholy trinity, like an eating challenge on a reality show. And yet those are three of my all-time favourite dishes in Hong Kong!

Yes, I know that pigs feet in ginger sauce is something that is traditionally for women who have just given birth. Yes, I am aware that two of three dishes are animal feet (well, actually I wasn’t until writing this), and no, I obviously don’t think “sweet” and “bean” are two words that shouldn’t go together.

But they’re good! Don’t judge until you’ve at least tried them! I can sit here and try to describe them to you and tell you how much you’ll like them; but in the end, there’s only one way for you to know: taste and see for yourself. 

Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Some people hesitate to experience God’s goodness—maybe for months, even years—because they’re afraid to have a taste. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience in the past that’s put them off. Or maybe they just want to go straight to dessert and God’s sweetness, and skip all the other parts of the meal.

To all these objections and rationales, the verse is succinct and the instruction is simple: Taste and see. One commentator on the Psalms says, “To taste fully, you must not slightly touch with your tongue, but eat or drink—receiving its substance. So in Scripture language, to taste death means to die. To taste God’s goodness means to receive and enjoy it in heart-felt experience.” In other words, you have to go all in.

The verses that follow in Psalm 34 give some other ways to “taste” and fully experience God, and also describe His goodness in other ways.

“Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (v.8): Go to Him when you’re in distress. Escape to Him when you’re in trouble. Look to Him when you need a rescuer and you will be blessed.

“Fear the Lord... for those who fear Him lack nothing” (v.9): Be amazed and in awe at who He is. Have a sense of worship and reverence for Him and you will find contentment. 

“Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (v.10): Look for God in the pages of the Bible, pray, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and you will have everything good thing that you need.

How will you taste the Lord today? Which of the above are ways in which you need to develop your taste buds?

(Which of those three dishes will you try this week?!)

Blog

Ultimate Sweetness
Jun 14, 2017
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We just started a new sermon series called “Sweet and Sour” that is taking a look at how we are to have life to the full, but there will also be trouble. I’ve been reading through the book of Acts lately and there was a passage that struck me as somewhat of a “sweet and sour” passage (or, “sour and sweet”). When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, many people were mocking them. Peter began to explain what was happening and let them know the truth about Christ and what they had done:

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him…."Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:22-24, 36)

Sour!  

Peter does not hold back. He let’s them know that they are responsible for the crucifixion. Could you imagine being a Jew hearing that? To know that you’ve been waiting for the Messiah for so long, but now you’re part of the reason he was killed. That had to be an extremely sour realization. But it doesn’t end there:

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. …With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:37-38, 40-41)

Sweet! 

Peter gives them hope. I’m imagining that they were in a very dark place after hearing what they had done. It says in the scripture that they were “cut to the heart” and wanting to know what to do next. Peter lets them know that there is salvation if they repent and be baptized. Even though the Messiah has been crucified, He has been raised from the dead. Peter himself was a witness to this. He gives the Israelites hope that they can be saved. 

And while these people physically didn’t nail Jesus to a cross, neither did we. But, all of our sins were on Christ as he died for us. Our sins are what held him there. It was a sour moment, but gave way to the ultimate sweetness. The weekend of Good Friday – Easter Sunday is the most “sour and sweet” period we can think of and aren’t we so thankful for that time? I hope as we think about sourness of Christ’s sacrifice that we can be reminding sweetness of the resurrection and forgiveness we enjoy.

Blog

Share Your Story: Daniel Storey
Jun 11, 2017
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Daniel was born prematurely which meant he had a lot of health issues. During that time, his non-Christian mother promised God that she will allow Daniel to read the Bible if He would let him live. As Daniel grew up, he was read the Bible for his bedtime stories and saw those stories as fantasies. In his teenage years, he was comfortable being an atheist but God found a way to bring him back into His fold through a high school friend.

Blog

Unity & Diversity in Christ
Jun 07, 2017
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Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Years ago, before I joined Island ECC as a pastor, I was leading the Hong Kong branch of a big international ministry. The experience of being a “CEO” was both fun and challenging.

To my surprise, the most difficult aspect of my job was not so much the “business” side of leading and managing. I was blessed with a team of highly competent staff. This made my job a lot easier.  

What I found most difficult was the constant challenge of remembering who we are as a ministry and what God is calling us to do. The challenge came from all sides.

On the positive side, there were ongoing invitations and “opportunities” for us to venture into supposedly newer and bigger ministries. Those initiatives were great, and I was sure that many people would be blessed by them. However, the more I pondered about some of these “opportunities,” the more I realised that they would distract us from our core calling rather than reinforce it.

On the negative side, and this is really the hard part, there were well-meaning people who would effectively tell us to modify our spiritual teaching in order to “partner” with them. It was very hard for me because we were mostly not talking about absolutely right or wrong theology (though some of them were very controversial), but what God is calling us to focus on.

It was not an easy process. I second guessed myself a lot. I had many doubts about myself. Did I do the right thing? Am I being too narrow minded? Did I just miss the next big thing?

I remember in multiple occasions I went to my team and said, “Why would someone go to McDonald and demand that they sell wanton noodle?” Thankfully, my team was very supportive. We learned that the enemy of the best is the good. We were convinced that only when we have clarity about our calling and conviction that we can be creative in our approaches.

A grounded identity gives us freedom to be creative in our methodologies

That clarify gave me courage both to embark on new endeavours and to say no to otherwise good things. In one particular case, by the grace of God, I was able to help some people set up their own ministry outside of our organisation. They are still flourishing today.

I learned some very important lessons during this process.

Firstly, it is God Himself who calls us into different ministries. Some people focus on reaching out to the poor while others on equipping Christians in the Central financial district. Some focus on social justice while others on evangelism. Let’s celebrate what one another is doing in our unique ministry field.

Secondly, unity is not uniformity. We are one in Christ (unity) does not mean that we all need to do exactly the same thing or to be in one single organization (uniformity).

Thirdly, as long as our core belief in God is the same, we should strive to respect one another’s diversities in other theological details. I am convinced that what unites us is far more important than what divides us. What we agree with one another is much more than what we disagree with one another.

One thing I am so proud of the international churches in Hong Kong is that the senior pastors meet regularly to pray for one another. These senior pastors come from churches/ministries with very different theological emphasis. However, they are one in Christ. If God gives you a certain theological conviction, you serve in this ministry. If God gives you a different conviction, you serve in another ministry. But ultimately, we are all one in Christ, we love one another, and we all serve the same God.

Finally, we must acknowledge that God is the author of the Body of Christ, and we are different members of the same body. We need one another to perform different functions. Paul says it very clearly when he says that God gives us different gifts “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). It is not about me. It is not about you. It is about how God is using us individually and collectively to serve His Kingdom.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

 

 

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