Sunday, September 16, 2018

“Christ among the Churches” (Revelation 1:9-20)

Why Symbols?
What image comes to your mind when you think of Jesus? One of the most popular images of Jesus would be a good shepherd who is holding lamb. But in the Book of Revelation the image of Jesus is a little bit different. In fact, revelation is full of symbolism – unfamiliar imagery, symbols, and numbers. Why so many confusing symbolic languages? There are at least two possible answers. The first answer is that John had to use symbolic language because it was almost impossible to describe what he saw, the heavenly vision, in limited human language.

More importantly, the second answer is that John’s use of symbols is very similar to Jesus’ use of parables. Then why did Jesus use parables? In Matthew 13:13-14 Jesus said to his disciples, “I speak to them [crowd] in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand …’” By speaking in parables, Jesus did wake up his believing listeners, but for unbelievers parables made no sense. So when they heard it, their hearts became even more hardened. In the same way, John’s powerful and shocking images and symbols open the eyes of true believers, but they leave hardened unbelievers in deeper darkness. We hear this conclusion from Jesus: “He who has an ear, let him hear” (Rev 2:7, etc.) My prayer is that the Sprit will give us humble, listening, receptive hearts, so that we may understand the symbolism in Revelation and awaken our hearts!

The Imagery of Jesus
In verse 13 John sees “one like a son of man.” Who is this man? Actually, Daniel saw a very similar vision. In Daniel 7:13-14 he said, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him [God].” Here one like a son of man refers to Jesus as a great ruler. In today’s passage John describes the imagery of Jesus in this way:

“The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. 
His eyes were like a flame of fire, 
his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, 
and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 
In his right hand he held seven stars, 
from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, 
and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” (1:14-16 ESV)

Here we need to remember that the imagery John uses is symbolic rather than pictorial or literal. For instance, if we literally visualize Jesus with a sword sticking out of his mouth, it would be a horrible picture of a weird man. But it symbolizes that the words that Jesus speaks are as sharp and piercing as a two-edged sword. So here Jesus’ appearance that John wanted to describe as a whole picture is the glorified Christ, the exalted Christ – the Christ with dominion and glory and power and authority over all the nations forever. That’s the point. In verse 17 Jesus himself said to John, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Again we see the glorified Christ.

Jesus among the Churches
Then, in verse 12 John sees this vision: “I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man…” Now we know that one like a son of man is Jesus. But what are the seven lampstands? John clarifies what they are in verse 20: “… and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” We learned from last week that the seven churches represent the whole church. If we put together all this, the point is this: Jesus is among the churches. The glorified Christ is among the churches. He is not distant from the churches. He is in the middle of them. He moves among his lampstands, trimming the wicks and carving wax, keeping the light burning. Our church (Houlton and Hodgdon UMCs) is one of his lampstands. Jesus is here among us this morning. The One who died and is alive forever with everlasting dominion whose kingdom cannot be destroyed is in the middle of us today. We need to see this glorified Christ among us today and set our hearts on his kingdom.

Abiding in Christ
In today’s scripture the Christ’s churches are symbolized as the lampstands. In other words, we as a church are called to be light-bearers in the darkness of the world. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others!” (Matt 5:14, 16) But we need to remember that our light, the church’s light is a reflected light just like moonlight. Its’s not a self-luminous light. Just as the moon needs the sun to shine, we need Christ, the true light of the world (Jn 8:12). We must abide in Christ first in order to light our community, our world.  

Then, what does it mean to abide in Christ? How do we abide in Christ? Probably the best image of abiding is the vine and branches metaphor. In John 15 Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches” (5). In this context abiding is connecting – connecting to Jesus, the source of life. Abiding is receiving – receiving the “sap” (water, minerals, and nutrients) from Jesus. Abiding is remaining. It is to stay connected, keep on trusting, keep on believing, keep on depending on Jesus. In a word, abiding is connecting, receiving, remaining. So are you abiding in Christ? Are you connected to Jesus? Are you receiving the source of life from Jesus? Are you remaining in Jesus and staying united with Jesus?

Abiding in Christ is possible only by God’s grace and by the work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot make it happen with our own efforts. But that doesn’t mean that it’s ok for us to do nothing. Although abiding in Christ is all by grace, we need to do our part. We need to respond to God’s grace: “Yes Lord, I need your grace!” It’s called “means of grace.” As we read the Bible, study it, mediate on it, memorize it, we abide in Christ. As we set aside time to pray, we abide in Christ. As we come to worship, sing hymns, receive the communion, have fellowship with other fellow believers, we abide in Christ. By doing this, like a sailor we raise our sails. We cannot manufacture the wind, but we do all we can do to catch the wind. And God sends a gentle, powerful wind of the Spirit, that we may experience union with Christ.
Abiding in the Church
To abide in Christ also means to abide in the church. Some people say I like Jesus, but I don’t like the church. But it’s like saying, “I like your head, but I don’t like your body.” That doesn’t make sense. Christ and the church are inseparable. Jesus identifies himself with his church. On the way to Damascus Saul met Jesus who came as a light from heaven. Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” If fact, by that time Saul had never met Jesus in person. He was just persecuting his followers, his church. But Jesus was clearly identifying himself with the persecuted church.

To abide in Christ also means to abide in the church. It is true that Jesus died for each of us. But it is also true to say that Jesus died for his church. In Ephesians 6 Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (25) Just as husband and wife are one flesh, Christ and the church are one body. If we love Christ, we must love the church – his body, his bride. Few months ago I shared my epiphany experience while attending the conference in Georgia. At that time the word given to me was “abide.” I thought I always did abide in Christ. I thought if I had a good one-on-one relationship with Jesus, that would be sufficient. But God gently taught me this lesson: “To abide in Christ also means to abide in the church.” In that respect, I was not abiding; I was enduring.

Then I saw Jesus. He chose to abide – abide in a particular place and in particular people. He loved his people, his church to the end. In Revelation 2 and 3 we see that five out of seven churches need serious correction. Jesus rebukes them and calls for their repentance. But he still loves his churches. He is still standing in the middle of them. He moves among his lampstands (churches), trimming the wicks and carving wax, keeping the light burning. When we see the flaws in the church, we are easily disappointed and frustrated. When we face messy stuff in the church, we tend to stay away from it, or even give up. But, we are called to abide in the church. Then, how do we abide in the church? The same spiritual principle applies: connecting, receiving, remaining. Abiding in the church is connecting to the life of the church. Abiding in the church is receiving the “sap” from the church. Abiding in the church is remaining. It is to stay put, be present, and love the church to the end. St. Augustine said, “Let us love the Lord our God; let us love His Church. Let us love Him as our Father and her as our mother.” To abide in Christ also means to abide in the church.

See the Glorified Christ
It is hard to imagine what John saw in today’s passage, the vision of the glorified Christ. But when we abide in Christ, to be more precise, when we abide in Christ’s church – connecting to the church, receiving from the church, remaining in the church – we will see the glorified Christ, who is standing among us, the church. We will see his face shine like the sun in all its brilliance (16b). And we too will shine out for all to see, so that everyone will glorify our heavenly Father. Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2018

“I Can Only Imagine” (Revelation 1:4-8)

John to the Seven Churches
Suppose you have a close friend who is going through a personal crisis with no conceivable solution. What words of encouragement would you give to that person?

In fact, the Book of Revelation is the Apostle John’s letter filled with the words of encouragement to the seven churches who were struggling and going through a very difficult time. In the introduction John introduces himself in this way: “I am John, your brother and partner in suffering, God’s kingdom, and patience that comes because of Jesus. I was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony about Jesus.” (v. 9) John was not in any better circumstances. He himself was exiled and persecuted on a daily basis. His future was uncertain. He might be executed any day. But now he was sending out the words of encouragement to his fellow believers, the seven churches.

Then who are the seven churches? Biblically, the number “seven” signifies completion or fullness. For instance, God created the heavens and the earth for seven days. Yes, those seven churches in Asia did really exist. They were real local churches in the time of John. But at the same time, in the context the seven churches represent the whole church. So John’s message is actually for the entire body of Christ, the church in every age, including our church. The Book of Revelation is the letter written to us, our church, from God.

John received his vision during the reign of Domitian (81-96), who was the first emperor to have himself officially titled as “God the Lord.” He ordered people to give him divine honors like “Lord of the earth,” “Invincible,” “Glory,” “Holy,” “Master,” and “God.” And the people were forced to participate in the imperial cult. Jews and particularly Christians definitely didn’t want to do it. So many of them were persecuted, exiled, and executed.

Today we may not face emperor worship or physical persecution. But we are facing different forms of idol worship (esp. materialism), temptation (ex. all kinds of addiction, including pornography and substance abuse), and compromise (ex. self-consumed culture). Jesus says in Mark 4:19, “Some are like the seeds sown among the thorn bushes. These are the people who hear the word, but the worries of life, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing.” We hear the word. But we are overwhelmed with worries about all the things we have to do and all the things we want to get. The stress strangles what we heard. And we don’t grow. We don’t bear fruit. When we face such temptation, the message of Revelation puts everything back into perspective. Last time I shared that the purpose of Revelation is to open the eyes of our hearts, so that we may see our life from an eternal, heavenly perspective. No matter how difficult our situation, Revelation proclaims that God is still in control and that he will conclude this stage of life (history) the way he has promised. The Lord God says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” God is sovereign!

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus
Now let’s go back to the very first question: “What words of encouragement would you give to someone who is going through a personal crisis?” In addition to that, if that is your last chance to talk to that person, what would you say? If we ask this question to John, I believe his answer would be something like this: “Look to Jesus, who loves you, has freed you from your sins, and made you his people, his family. He is near. He is on the way. Be encouraged, strengthened, hopeful, and bold!”

For John, this letter might be his last words to his fellow believers. So he gets right to the point. He greets and blesses them in the name of triune God, and encourage them to fix theirs eyes on Jesus: “Grace and peace to you from God the Father (“who is and who was and who is to come), and from the Holy Spirit (“the seven spirits who are before his throne”) and from Jesus Christ.” Here Jesus is described in three ways: the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of kings of the earth (5). These threefold title sums up well the life and ministry of Jesus. It tells us who Jesus is. When Jesus was on earth, he was the faithful witness. He never compromised with the world. He did always bear witness to the truth and stand up for the truth. Because of that, he suffered and died for that witness. In Greek martyr and witness share the same root. Jesus was the faithful witness of God and martyr for God. That Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. At that time many Christians were facing uncertainty under persecution. They might soon face death for Jesus’ name. But here John was encouraging them (and himself!) to remember Jesus’ resurrection – a sure guarantee that they would also be raised from the dead; therefore, they had nothing to fear, even death! That Jesus is now alive, and reigning over all things. Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth. He is ordering the world for the good of the church. He is working all challenging situations for our good.

Then, John continues. That Jesus loves you! That Jesus loves us! Revelation 1:5 uses the present tense, “loves” to give us assurance that Christ’s love for us is a continuing reality. He will never leave us or forsake us as orphans. And he proved his love on Calvary when he shed his blood for us. By his precious blood Jesus freed us from our sins. So now we have freedom and ability to follow him. Jesus made us his people, his family, so that we may love him back, treasure him, worship him, and follow him.

The Eyes of Faith
But there are times when we feel like God is distant. We feel like God doesn’t care about us or watch over us. That moment what we need is the eyes of faith. The Apostle John encourages us and says, “Look, he is coming!” (7) “Do you see what I see?” In Acts 7 before Stephen was martyred, full of the Holy Spirit, he looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God. And he said, “Look! I see the heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

What is the crisis of the day? It could be the economy. As we think about our family finance, or our church finance, some of us may have the fear that we will run out of money before we run out of time. The crisis could be the health issue. It could be a relationship crisis. Whatever it is, our real crisis is not all the challenging situations we face today. Our real crisis is that we don’t see those situations from a heavenly perspective.

Corrie ten Boom lived through the hellish life of Nazi concentration camps, a place where hope was lost for most people. She saw the face of evil up close and personal. She saw some of the most inhumane acts man can do to man. But she was able to keep going because God opened the eyes of her heart to see things from a heavenly perspective. Corrie said, "If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you'll be at rest." She traveled around the world to share the message of hope and encouragement. And she often used the tapestry. First, she would hold up the back side of the fabric – with hundreds of tangled threads. It all looked so random. All the strings didn’t seem to make sense. Then Corrie said, “That’s the whole point. It doesn’t seem to make sense because of our limited vision, our limited perspective of what God is doing in our lives, that we question him.” At that point Corrie slowly turned the blue tangled mess around to reveal a beautiful tapestry – a crown of gold. Then she said, “This is what God sees… from his perspective … a masterpiece.”  

Cultivating a Heavenly Perspective
In our lives we often see the wrong [back] side, but God sees his side all the time. So we need to cultivate a heavenly perspective. Last time I shared that one of the ways is to hear the word and do the word based on Revelation 1:3. Another great way to cultivate a heavenly perspective is worship. When John is invited to a heavenly worship in chapter 4, all of the grief over his sufferings just fade away, and he sees God’s eternal glory and purposes seen from a heavenly perspective. When we worship, we gain heavenly perspective.

I believe “Week of Prayer” is a wonderful opportunity to cultivate a heavenly perspective, because prayer is the highest form of worship. Throughout this week we will take a time to show the worth of God above all things. I commend you to join me in prayer. If your circumstance is not allowed, I encourage you to take a certain time (preferably noon time) and pray where you are. By doing that, we are saying, “God, you are my MIP (Most Important Person)! You are my treasure! You are my all in all!”

As I close, I ask you this question, “Where are you looking? What are you looking?” Are you focusing on all the challenges? Are you gazing at yourself, hoping to find your own answers? Look to Jesus! Look to Jesus, until you clearly see the One who reigns over all things.  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

"John 3.16" (Outdoor Worship)

Most Popular Bible Verse
John 3:16. Probably it is one of the most popular Bible verses of all ages, and I assume that many of you recite this verse by heart. Why don’t we recite (read) it together?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)

John 3:16 is the entire gospel in a nutshell. But we must remember this great verse is the part of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. John 3:16 is Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus’ following question, “How can an old man like me be born again?”

Who Is Nicodemus?
So let’s start from the beginning. Who is Nicodemus? Nicodemus was a good man. He was an honorable, respected and moral man. In fact, he was a leader of the Jews and knowledgeable Bible teacher, Pharisee. He always studied and taught about God. He tried hard to keep all 613 religious rules and traditions faithfully for life. But for some reason he found no joy, no power, no life, no freedom in his religious life. He felt empty. He felt something was missing. The harder he tried, the more thirsty, the more empty he felt. But then, he saw Jesus. He was something different. Jesus had something that he did not have. One night Nicodemus came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what is it? I want to have what you have. What must I do to be saved?” This is the most important question in life.

Jesus gets right to the point. He says to Nicodemus, “You must be born again!” In Jesus’ time, for Jewish men there were 4 ways to be born again. First, when a Jewish boy becomes bar mitzvah (coming-of-age ceremony) at 13, he is said to be “born again.” Second, when a Jewish man gets married, he is said to be “born again.” Third, a person is ordained as a rabbi, he is said to be “born again.” And the final way to be born again is to become the head of a rabbinical school. In this respect, Nicodemus was already born again four times! He got through bar mitzvah when he was 13. Since he was a member of Sanhedrin, which required to be married, he must have been married. He was a teacher, rabbi. Not only that, he was a head of a rabbinical school (cf. 10).[1] So Nicodemus was already born again at least four times.

But now Jesus says to him, “You must be born again!” Nicodemus must be confused. So he says, “How can an old man like me be born again? Teacher, I was already born again four times. You’ve confused me!” Nicodemus thought if he stopped doing one or two bad things, and took up two or three good others, then he would be born again. He thought if he became a little bit better person by keeping the law, he would have eternal life, more satisfying and abundant life. But it didn’t work! We think that to be a Christian is just to be a little bit better than we are now. We say, “I am born again because I grew up in the church (or in Christian family).” We say, “I am born again because I am a long time church member, and I even hold a leadership position in the church.” We say, “I am born again because I have been leading a good moral life and doing good works for other.” But today Jesus says, “To be born again doesn’t work that that. You must be born again – born from above, born of the Spirit.” All of our efforts are no use unless we are born from above, born of the Spirit. To be a better person is not enough. We must be a new person in Christ. We must have a new nature, new spirit, new heart. But how? How can this be? Am I qualified? Am I too late to start all over again? Have I gone too far? John 3:16 is the answer to all those questions.

For God So Loved the “World”
It begins like this: “For God so loved the world.” Here the word world doesn’t simply mean planet earth; it means all people of the world no matter who they are and where they are in their life journey. God loves men and women, boys and girls, young and old. God loves the healthy, and he loves the sick, abandoned, and broken. God loves those from every people group, black, white and yellow. God loves the self-disciplined, and he loves the addict. God loves the married, the single, the divorced, the widowed. God love good people and evil people. God loves Christians, atheists, skeptics, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. God loves who take his name in vain. God loves those who don’t love him back. God loves those who take him for granted, avoid him, ignore him, abandon him. God loves religious hypocrites and irreligious people. God loves those who are tired of religion, sin, emptiness and hopelessness. God loves Nicodemus. God loves everyone. God loves the world. God loves you. He so loves you!

That He Gave His Only “Son”
But God doesn’t just love us in words alone. He showed his radical love for you by this: He gave his one and only Son Jesus.

Now I want you to call to mind two particular individuals. First, call to mind the person you love most – perhaps your child, your spouse, your parent, your best friend. And now call to mind the person whom you have the worst feelings. The person whom you just can’t stand, can’t forgive. Suppose this person is in terrible need. He is now in the hospital in critical condition, needing a heart transplant in order to survive. Would you be willing to help that person in costly ways? Would you sacrifice the person you love most to die, so that the person you dislike most could live? Would you do that?

That’s what God did for you and for me. The Bible says, “But God showed his great love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Here the timing is crucial. Christ didn’t die after we committed ourselves to him. He died while we were still sinners. He died for us while we didn’t know him, while we didn’t love him back, while we were still pursuing our own ways. The Bible says, “He [Jesus] was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isa 53:5-6, NLT)

God loves the world. God loves you.
And he showed his great love by giving his only Son.

Whoever “Believes”
Does that mean we can go on with our life just as we are now and have eternal life? No! John 3:16 requires one thing from us. We must respond to God’s love. We must say “Yes” to God’s invitation. John 3:16 says, “… whoever believes in him [Christ] should not perish but have eternal life.” We must believe in Jesus Christ.

But what does it mean to believe in Jesus? The story of Charles Blondin tells us what true faith is. Blondin was a famous tightrope walker. He would walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. He did it blindfolded! He did it on stilts! Once he carried his manager across on his shoulders. After they got safely to the other side, he turned to a man in the crowd and said, “Sir, do you believe that I could do that with you?” The man said, “Yes, I believe that you could do it.” Blondin said, “Fine, hop on!” The man quickly replied, “No way!”[2]

He “believed” intellectually, but he wasn’t willing to commit his life to Blondin. In the same way, many say that they believe in Jesus, but they don’t commit their lives to Jesus. To believe in Jesus means to make him your life coach. It means to follow him. It means to turn away from your way and turn to His way. To believe in Jesus is like you say, “I do” in a wedding ceremony. It’s commitment. It’s life-long, covenantal relationship.

Are you born again? Have you found the meaning, purpose of your life? Believe in Jesus, and you will be born from above, born of the Spirit. Believe in Jesus, and you will have a new spirit, new heart, new nature in Him. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will not perish but have eternal life – rich and satisfying life – now and forevermore! If you are willing, if you want to say “Yes” to God, please join me in this prayer:

Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner,
and I ask for Your forgiveness.
I believe You died for my sins
and rose from the dead.
Thank You for forgiving my sins
and giving me eternal life.
Now I turn from my sins
and invite You to come into my heart and life.
Take control of the throne of my life.
And Make me the kind of person You want me to be.
In Your Name. Amen.

[1] “Born Again: John 3:3,” The Complete Jewish Study Bible (Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, 2016), 1525.
[2] Steven J. Cole, “Lesson 17: God’s Shocking Love” (John 3:16-18),

Sunday, August 5, 2018

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1-3)

The Time Is Near
What kind of images come to your mind when you hear the word “revelation” or “prophecy”? For the last few days I felt like the burden of ministry was too heavy for me. I got tired and weary. My spirit became dull and almost fell asleep. No desire to read the Bible or to pray. In my wilderness I cried out to God, “Father, help me!” All of sudden, for some reason, one particular individual came to my mind. That was Pastor Gil, who was one of the Korean Christian leaders during the Japanese Colonial Rule. During that time Christians were severely persecuted. In order to endure those persecutions, Pastor Gil read the Book of Revelation more than 10,000 times. He did hold on to the word. God’s promises were what kept him going. After reflecting on his life and affliction, I reluctantly opened my Bible and began to read the Book of Revelation. As I was reading, I experienced that the word did wake me up, revive my soul, and bring new hope and encouragement to my heart.

In today’s passage, verse 3 says, “The time is near.” Here the Greek word for “time” is Kairos. The ancient Greeks had two words for time: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos refers to chronological time, while Kairos indicates a time of crisis or a decisive moment. As a pastor, I sense that now is Kairos for our church. My prayer is that as we study the Book of Revelation together as a church, we may hear what the Spirit says to our church and obey.

The Purpose of Revelation
As we begin to explore Revelation, the first question we ought to ask is this: “What is the purpose of revelation?” “Why did God give Revelation to John and other believers?” “Why does God give Revelation to us today?” The purpose of Revelation is to open the eyes of our hearts and to see our life with an eternal, heavenly perspective. So if we read and understand the Book of Revelation properly, we see that we are at war with Satan. We see that we have the final victory in Jesus. We see that our willingness to suffer for Christ is the path to that final victory. We see that even in the midst of tragedy and suffering God is sovereign – he is still in control and will fulfill his promises. This heavenly perspective gives us hope and power to face life’s challenges.

Between Two Worlds
Today’s scripture, Revelation 1:1-3, is an introduction or prologue to the entire book. Today as we begin our journey through the book of Revelation, it is very important to understand a battle between good and evil, a tension between two worlds – God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God created man and woman in his own image. He blessed them and let them rule over every living creature as God’s stewards. And God said it was very good. That’s how God’s kingdom began. But then, when Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Satan established his kingdom and continued to expand it. The Bible describes Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), “the god of this world” (2 Co 4:4), “the ruler of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). God is always sovereign. Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without God’s permission (Matt 10:29). This world is still God’s kingdom. But sadly, at the same time, Satan practically rules this fallen world. That’s why he said to Jesus, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to” (Luke 4:6). So there is a tension between two kingdoms.  

In ancient Israel when you waged war with another country, you must send a messenger first. The mission of the messenger was to declare war and to offer its people terms of peace. If the enemy country accepted your terms of peace and surrendered to you, then they would serve you and work for you (cf. Dt 20:10). If not, you would have a war with them and destroy them. Based on this context, we must understand John the Baptist as a messenger of God’s kingdom. As Jesus was coming to restore his kingdom, he sent John before him. And John declared war and announced that God’s kingdom was near. And the terms of peace were to repent. Many people accepted the terms of peace. They came out to John, confessed their sins, and were baptized. But there were many others, including Pharisees and Sadducees, who refused to repent. The messenger John warned them, “You brood of vipers! Bear fruit worthy of repentance… Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt 3:10). Then he declared Jesus the Lord and Savior of the kingdom, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

We used to live in sin and followed our sinful nature. We followed the devil (Eph 2:2-3). Once we belonged to Satan’s kingdom. But Jesus came to rescue us. On the cross he purchased us with his own blood and triumphed over Satan. He conquered the death, the last enemy, and destroyed Satan’s kingdom when he rose from the dead. And now we belong to God’s kingdom. If you like to play chess, this analogy might be helpful. The sacrificial move of Christ at the cross puts the devil in checkmate; the devil continues to play the game of rebellion, but his defeat is assured.[1] Although we still struggle and are in the middle of a fierce battle, the Book of Revelation assures that God is with us and will faithfully bring us through final victory.

You Are Not Home Yet
An old missionary couple had been working in Africa for years, and they were returning to New York City to retire. They had no pension; their health was broken; they were old now and afraid. They discovered they were booked on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his big-game hunting expeditions. When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there, but no one noticed this missionary couple. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap flat on the East side. That night, the missionary’s spirit broke. He poured out his heart to the Lord. He said, “Lord, I can’t take this. You are not treating us fairly. The President received this tremendous homecoming, but no one met us as we returned home.” But when he finished it, God simply said, “My son, you’re not home yet!”[2]

Yes, we are not home yet! The revelation of Jesus Christ is both encouragement and warning. On the one hand, revelation opens the eyes of our hearts to see things from God’s perspective. It encourages us to hold to the glorious promises of God and persevere. But on the other hand, revelation also challenges our complacency, especially if we live like we are already home. It says “Wake up! Arise! You are not home yet! Set your hearts and minds on things above, not on things on earth!”

How can we get this heavenly perspective? One of the ways to cultivate God’s perspective is to hear the word and do the word. Today’s scripture, verse 3, says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” The message of Revelation is not designed to merely satisfy our intellectual speculation about the end times, but it is given for us to obey what it says. My prayer is that God will give us desire to hear the word and do the word, so that we may be encouraged, awakened, corrected, prepared for Kairos, God’s time. Amen.

[1] G. K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.), 15-16.
[2] Ray Stedman, Talking To My Father (Barbour & Co. 1997).

Sunday, July 29, 2018

“Jesus and I” (John 6:1-15) - Healing Hands V –

“Michel and I”
One time Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan scored 63 points in one game. After the game, a reporter interviewed one of his teammates, Scottie Pippen. The reporter asked, “What’s the highlight of your life so far?” Pippen answered without hesitation, “Today’s game is the highlight of my life because Michael and I together got 65 points!”

5 Loaves vs. 5000 People
We, as an individual and as a church, often feel that what we have is so limited, whereas the needs of the world around us are so great. In today’s scripture the disciples worried about their limited amount of food and how it could reach a growing crowd. They said, “We only have five small barley loaves, but what good is that with this huge 5000 crowd?” (9) Like the disciples, we often feel like what we have is 5 loaves, and the challenges we are facing are like 5000 people. So we worry. We feel overwhelmed and powerless and say, “I have only such and such, but what good is that with this great need? What should I do now?” Thankfully, today’s story gives an answer to this question. In particular, I want you to pay attention to the following four verbs that Jesus used: “take,” “give thanks,” “break” and “give.”[1] (cf. Matt 14:19; Mk 6:41; Lk 9:16; Jn 6:11)

First, Jesus takes what we bring to him. The story of feeding the 5000 is written in all four gospels. In fact, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus asks his disciples, “How much bread do you have? Go and see! (6:38)” Here Jesus gently invites us to think about what we already have. His point is not to literally check and count how much bread we have. For Jesus, five loaves or seven loaves – it doesn’t matter. His point is for us to see what we are already given. Because so many times we tend to focus on what we don’t have: Our church is so small. We don’t have enough money to meet the budget or do missions. We don’t have young people. We don’t have children and youth. Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, had a similar mindset. He basically said to Jesus, “In order to feed all these people, eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread.” He focused on what he didn’t have. But then, another disciple, Andrew did go and see to find something what he had. And he found one boy. He brought the boy to Jesus. Jesus took what the boy brought to him – five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes what we bring to him – our bread, our prayer, our work, our strength, our weakness, our hunger, whatever we are. Jesus takes who we are.

“Give thanks”
Jesus then gives thanks for what we bring. He blesses and celebrates. He doesn’t criticize or condemn or reject our offering, who we are in our bringing. Jesus welcomes us just as we are. God loves us not because we did something good or impressive for him. God just loves us even before we commit our lives to him. When Israel, God’s people, was still in their sins, God said to them through Prophet Zephaniah, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (3:17) Our giving does not change God; it changes us. In today’s passage Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread to feed all these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Here Jesus was inviting Philip to see the way he saw.

A few years ago, in an interview Dallas Willard was asked about the challenges facing the church. Dr. Willard spent much of his life addressing the problem of why the church isn't raising up more people who look and act like Jesus. At the end of that two-hour interview, Willard was asked this pointed question: "When you look at how off track the church is, do you ever just throw up your hands in despair?" Willard smiled and said, "Never." "But how can you not?" the interviewer asked. "Because," he said, "I know Christ is the head of his church and he knows what he's doing."[2] Jesus knows his church. Jesus knows us. And he loves us even before we turn to him. But when we turn and come to him, when we bring ourselves to him, we hear him say, “You are my beloved child. I am well pleased with you!”  

Jesus takes and gives thank for what we bring. But then Jesus breaks what we bring to him. Once we ourselves are in Jesus’ hands, we are not permitted to remain self-sufficient. We ought to be broken or pruned first before feeding the world. I like the story of “mashed potato love” told by Juan Carlos Ortiz. I know many of you in this room are very familiar with potatoes. Hope this analogy helps us to understand what it means to be broken. The story goes like this. As you know, in growing potatoes, each potato plant in the garden has three, four, five or more potatoes under it. Each individual potato belongs to one particular plant or another. When the potatoes are ready for harvest, we dig up all the potatoes and put them into one sack. Now they are all “regrouped” – but they are not yet “united.” They may say, “Oh, praise the Lord! Now we’re all in the same sack.” But they are still not yet one! To prepare the potatoes for use, they must be washed and peeled. Now they think they are closer yet. They may say, “How nice is this love among us!” But that’s not all. Next they must be cut in pieces and mixed. They have now lost a lot of their individuality. However, what God wants is mashed potatoes. Not many potatoes, but “one” mashed potato! The word “I” no longer exists, but only “we” do.[3] So we become one with Christ, and one with each other. In John 12:24 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Jesus takes, gives thank, break, and then he gives back what we bring to him. But it is no longer what we brought. Something happened. It’s new creation, new bread that feeds thousands of people.

Do you remember how God fed the Israelites in the wilderness? God said to Moses, “In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want.” But Moses said, “I’m with 600,000 people on foot… Even if we butchered all our flocks and herds, would that satisfy them? Even if we caught all the fish in the sea, would that be enough?” Then God said, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true.” Then what happened? Now a wind set in motion by GOD swept quails in from the sea. They piled up to a depth of about three feet in the camp and as far out as a day's walk in every direction (cf. Num 11:16-23). So they all ate and were satisfied. It’s still a mystery how Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. But the Bible says, “They all ate and were satisfied” (cf. Mt 14:20). And it still happens today when we share what Jesus gives back to us.

“Jesus and I”
In today’s passage there is a boy who could be easily missed. It seems like he is from ordinary or even poor family. At that time, barley bread was very common, and it was typically for low class people. And the Greek word used for the fish the boy had was opsarion, which meant very small fish. So if this kind of fish was caught in the net, people released it back into the water. What the boy had – five loaves and two fish – was not great, but it was everything he had. By faith the boy brought what he had to Jesus. He had no idea what Jesus would do with it. But he had faith that Jesus would do something with it. Jesus wants us to have this faith: “If I bring what I have to him, he will do something with it.” Once one of my colleagues encouraged me to put the boy’s shoes on and asked me an interesting question. She said, “Have you ever thought what the boy would tell the story to his parents after coming back home?” Do you think he would simply say, “Mom, Dad, today Jesus fed the 5,000?” Probably not! He would say with excitement, “Mom and dad, today Jesus and I together did feed thousands of people!!!”

Through today’s story Jesus invites us to a rich and satisfying life. What do you see? Do you see what you don’t have? Or do you see what you have? For instance, let’s think about our church. Our church may not have enough young people, but we do have quite a few active and devoted senior members. Our church may not have enough money and resources, but we do have a good lay leadership. Each of us in this room has something to offer, something to share. This morning Jesus says to us, “Bring them here to me.” Jesus takes, gives thanks, breaks, and gives back. And all are satisfied. So what do you have? Let us bring them here to Jesus. And we will say with great excitement, “Jesus and I together did feed all these people!” With Jesus all things are possible. Amen.

[1] I must give credit to Eugene Peterson for how he expounds those four verbs as the pattern for our lives in his book Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life, kindle location 767-797 of 1446.
[2] Skye Jethani, Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc. (Moody Publishers, 2017), 49.
[3] Juan Carlos Ortiz, Disciple (Creation House, 1975), 60-64.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

“Life Saver” (Mark 6:30-34; 53-56) - Healing Hands IV –

Are you well-rested? Or in Wesley’s term, “How is it with your soul today?” In his talebook the Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery tells us about how much we are restless with our lives. In the story the little prince, who came from a tiny planet known as “B-612” on earth, visit six different planets, each of which is inhabited by a single, irrational, narrow-minded adult:

  • A king with no subjects, who only issues orders that can be followed, such as commanding the sun to set at sunset.
  • A narcissistic man who only wants the praise which comes from admiration and being the most-admirable person on his otherwise uninhabited planet. 
  • A drunkard who drinks to forget the shame of drinking. 
  • A businessman who is blind to the beauty of the stars and instead endlessly counts and catalogs them in order to "own" them all. 
  • A lamplighter on a planet so small, a full day lasts a minute. He wastes his life blindly following orders to extinguish and relight the lamppost every 30 seconds to correspond with his planet's day and night. 
  • An elderly geographer who has never been anywhere, or seen any of the things he records, providing a caricature of specialization in the contemporary world.

Then the prince eventually arrives on earth. The narrator describes the earth as follows: “Earth is not a simple planet! There are 111 kings, 7,000 geographers, 900,000 businessmen, 7,500,000 drunkards and 311,000,000 vain men. In total, there are about 2,000,000,000 adults.”[1] In other words, the earth is basically filled with those who are restless. Bonhoeffer rightly describes people’s restless condition today in this way: “There are questions but no answers, distress but no relief, anguish of conscience but no deliverance, tears but no consolation, sin but no forgiveness.”[2] Many are wandering like sheep without a shepherd.

But there is a remedy for this restlessness! This morning Jesus invites us, saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28)

Into the Boat
Today’s passage tells us how Jesus gives us rest in our busy, distracted lives. At that time so many people were coming and going. Jesus and his disciples didn’t even have time to eat. So what was the remedy? Jesus said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (31). At least two things are needed to rest: (1) We need a time to be alone (“by yourselves”), and (2) we need a quiet place (“to a quiet place”). Since there was constant coming and going, for Jesus and his disciples they had to take a boat – to be by themselves in a quiet place. Verse 32 says, “So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone” (NLT).

What does it look like to take a boat? What is your “boat” – to be alone in a quiet place – in order to rest? Sometimes it is very hard to find a time and place to get away. For me, every time I feel overwhelmed, I try to follow the example of Susanna Wesley, mother of John Wesley. She got married to a preacher. Sam and Susanna had 19 children to raise. One of their children was crippled. Another couldn’t talk until he was nearly six years old. Susanna herself was desperately sick most of her life. There was no money for food or anything. Debt plagued them. Sam was once thrown into prison because their debt was so high. Twice their houses were burned to the ground, losing everything they owned. Someone slit their cow’s udders so they wouldn’t have milk, killed their dog, and burned their flax field. It seemed almost impossible for Susanna to rest. She worked the gardens, milked the cow, schooled the children and managed the entire house herself. She struggled to find a quiet place and time to get away with the Lord. So what she did was to use her apron for her prayer time. She advised her children that when they saw her with her apron over her head, that meant she was in prayer and couldn’t be disturbed. No matter how hard life was, she always found a time and place to get away with Christ. For Susanna, the apron was her boat. Do you have your boat to get away with the Lord?

Is Jesus in Your Boat?
If we read Mark 6 we find a very interesting rhythm of life. First, the disciples are sent out to do God’s work. After they come back, they take a boat to rest. Then, they work and feed 5,000. After that, again they take a boat. Then, they work, healing the sick and preaching the good news in Gennesaret. Working – Boating – Working – Boating – Working… Here the disciples take the boat at least twice to rest. But there is a big difference between the two. What is it? First time they get in the boat with Jesus (cf. v.32), but second time without Jesus (cf. v.45ff). So when they got in the boat for the second time, they were not able to rest, even though they were by themselves in a quiet place. Instead, they were absolutely restless. The Bible says, “He [Jesus] saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves” (v. 48a).

Like the disciples, even though we take a vacation to rest, we often go back weary and exhausted. We often feel like we are rowing hard and struggling against the wind and problems – relationship problems, family problems, school problems, work problems, financial problems, health problems, and so on. And we feel overwhelmed and restless. Into such a situation of darkness, Jesus comes walking on the sea and approach our boat. And what he does is to change our minds, especially about him, rather than our circumstances. The Bible says that the disciples’ hearts were hardened, so when Jesus was approaching, they didn’t recognize him. Instead, they thought it was a ghost and were terrified. But then Jesus said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” Then they were willing to take Him into their boat. The wind ceased. The gospel of Matthew concludes this same story in this way: “And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."’ (14:33)

Boating with Jesus
The real issue is not outside of the boat. It’s in the boat. It’s within us. It has to do with our minds, our perspectives, our mindsets. That’s why the Bible says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That’s what we need. That’s what Jesus does for us.

In his book The Rest of God Mark Buchanan shares the story of Jason. One day a woman called Pastor Mark about her 12-year-old stepson. So the next day Mark met with the woman and Jason. The stepmom recited all the stepson’s wrongdoing: outright defiance. Abusive language. Extreme withdrawal. Vandalism. Threats and violence toward her and her daughter. Stealing money and so on. After five minutes, Pastor Mark realized that he was in trouble. So he prayed with eyes open. As he was praying for wisdom, the story of Solomon came to his mind. So he told the story of two prostitutes who had a dispute over their sons. Then he asked Jason, “Who do you think was the real mother?” Jason answered without blinking, “The woman who gave the child away.” Mark said, “Jason, you’re right. How did you know?” “Well,” Jason said, “because she didn’t want the baby killed.” Mark said, “Right, she loved her child so much, she’d rather see him alive and whole in another woman’s arms than dead and dismembered in her own.” Then, he continued, “Jason, was that your mother? Was that what she did with you? She’d rather lose you by giving you away than lose you in a worse way by trying to keep you?” Jason sat straight up. Light flooded him. His angry, bitter, ugly face turned youthful and hopeful. Jason’s circumstances never changed. The only thing that changed was his mind.[3]

Many of us think we believe in Jesus. But more important question is, “Which Jesus do you believe in?” In 2 Corinthians 5:16 the Apostle Paul says, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.” Once Jesus’ disciples looked at Jesus that way – good moral teacher, blessing-giver, and so on – and got it all wrong. Over the years Jesus changed their minds. And finally they knew him as the Son of God.

So which Jesus do you believe in today? Jesus is the Son of God. He came as the Lifesaver into this troubled world. We were helpless, restless. But to save us, Jesus died for us, the sinners. He shed his own blood so we could be forgiven. Not only that, but also Jesus rose from the dead! He opened the gate of heaven to everyone who believes in him. Even in the midst of the storm of life’s problems Jesus is able to give you peace and rest. He is able to bring you safely on your journey. So will you let him into your boat? If you are willing, please join me in this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I need you!
Thank you for coming as the Savior to this troubled world.
Thank you for dying for me and forgiving me of all my sins.
Lord Jesus, I believe in You. I receive You right now.
Fill me with peace and be with me on my life’s journey.
Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen.”

[1] Antoined de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince  (Strelbytskyy Multimedia Publishing, 2018), Kindle Locations 503-505 of 851.
[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Macmillan, 1963), 224.
[3] Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (Thomas Nelson, 2006), 31-32.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

“Send Forth” (Mark 6:7-13) - Healing Hands II -

Church Today
In 2017 Barna research reported the number of born again Christians has declined in recent years. Barna used three criteria to evaluate who is born-again: (1) if a person has confessed their personal sin, (2) asked Jesus Christ to save them, and (3) believes they will live eternally in Heaven only because of His grace toward them. Barna reported that the proportion of adults who meet the born again criterion has been on a downward trajectory since 2010. As you see the chart on the screen, for about 20 years from 1991 through 2010, an average of 40% of the adult population in the US qualified as born again. Since that time, however, the number has been declined. The 2017 average indicates that just 31% of adults are born again. If we analyze demographic data by age group, this trend would be going to be worse in the near future, because America’s older generations are more likely to be born again than are younger adults. That means, as older Americans pass away, the population proportion of younger adults will increase, continuing to reduce the number of born again Christians in the years to come.[1] Beyond these numbers, a real crisis of faith today is this: Basic Christian beliefs are now considered strange, irrelevant, extreme, and in some cases, dangerous by mainstream American culture.[2]

But in fact, this is not new. In Jesus’ time Jesus and his followers were often rejected, hated, persecuted and considered a threat. Right before today’s passage Jesus was rejected in his hometown. People were impressed by his words and deeds, but then they were offended by him (3). And right after today’s passage we see John the Baptist is arrested and later he would die a martyr (14-29). In this unfavorable, hostile setting Jesus sends out his twelve disciples. And he still sends us out today to our challenging world, but with the words of hope and encouragement.

You Are Not Alone!
The first message is this: “You are not alone!” Verse 7 says, “And he called the twelve and began to send them two by two…” They were not sent out by themselves. The gospel is a partnership. The church is a partnership. We are called to be with each other. We are called to be sent out together. It takes two. It takes a community to build God’s church, God’s kingdom.

Who will hold the ropes? William Carey, who is known as the father of modern missions, told his Christian friend Andrew Fuller before embarking on his missionary journey to India, “I will go down into the pit, if you will hold the rope.” Andrew Fuller did hold the rope. He organized, raised funds, prayed, equipped and sent missionaries. In the meantime he lost his first wife and eight of their eleven children. But he kept holding the ropes. We need people like Andrew Fuller who would hold the rope when needed. Whether we go down into the pit or stay outside of the pit, both sides must hold the rope tightly. We need each other. We are in this together.

This partnership is well described in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s progress. As the main character Christian embarks on his pilgrim journey, God sends his travel companion Faithful to him. After Faithful dies a martyr in the town of Vanity, God sends another new companion Hopeful to Christian, so that he could make the journey to the Celestial City. Christian’s wife, Christiana, who ridiculed Christian at first, but later repents and leads her four children on pilgrimage. God sends to Christiana good companions, Mercy and later Great heart. There are times when we feel like we are the only one left, we are the only one who holds the rope. Even that moment we are not alone. I love Lanny Wolfe’s hymn, “Someone Is Praying for You.” The lyrics go something like this:

Someone is praying for you
Someone is praying for you
So when it seems you’re all alone
And your heart will break in two
Remember someone is praying for you

Here someone might be your spouse, or your Christian friend. But ultimately, someone is the Holy Spirit who prays for us with groans too deep for words (Romans 8:26). Someone is Jesus who is with us always. Let us remember our Lord Jesus himself saying, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20b). We are not alone!

You Have Authority!
The second message of encouragement is, “You have authority.” As Jesus sends out his disciples, he gives them authority over the unclean spirits (7). He gives them power to deal with the evil opposition. So today we don’t just go out with our own strength and wisdom and try to attract more people to the church. We are sent out with divine authority. We go out in the name of Jesus, as his voice and action, with his divine power. Matthew 28:19-20 is well known verses as the Great Commission to all followers of Jesus: “Therefore go, make disciples… baptize them and teach them.” But we need to remember the reason why we are able to do all this. In verse 18 Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go!” In other words, because Jesus has all authority and gives us authority, we can go out to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them with that divine authority. Remember authority is given to you. Take that authority, and go out and live with Jesus’ authority!

You Have a Story to Tell!
The third message of hope and encouragement is this: “You have a story to tell.” Verse 12 says, “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” To repent means to turn – turn around in our attitudes, motives and objectives of life and turn to God. To repent means to live life God’s way, not my own way. Repentance is the first step toward the kingdom of God. It’s the starting point in our relationship with God. There is an important point here. Jesus commands his disciples not only to preach repentance, but also to live a life of repentance first. They travel light (no extra bread, bag, money, and so on), endure hardships, are kind to unkind people, pray for them to cast out demons and anoint the sick with oil. So through their God-centered lifestyle of repentance (“Not my will, but your will be done!”) the twelve apostles lead people to repentance. In 1 Corinthians 4:11-13 another faithful apostle, Paul, shares his lifestyle of repentance in this way: “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it. When we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to his moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” Paul was hated by many. But ironically, by living this lifestyle, he did point and lead many to Christ.

Be the Gospel!
We, as a church, is called to be a repentant community. We are called not only to preach the gospel, but also to be the gospel. As I close, I would like to share the story of Sundar Singh, a Hindu convert to Christianity, who became a missionary to his people in India. Late one afternoon Sadhu was traveling on foot through the Himalayas with his travel companion. It was bitterly cold. Suddenly, they stumbled upon a man who had fallen and badly hurt. The companion said, “Don’t stop. Let us hurry on before we, too, perish.” Then without looking back, he set off down the path. Sundar Singh lifted the man on his back and carried on his journey. Soon it began to snow. With great difficulty, but with the help of God he made his way through the deepening snow and darkness. As he was approaching a village, he saw another frozen dead body, that was his companion, who had left ahead by himself. Later Sundar Singh reflects and says, “The exertion of carrying him and the contact of our bodies had created enough heat to save us both. This is the way of service. No one can live without the help of others, and in helping others, we receive help ourselves."

We live in challenging times as a church. Like Sundar Singh, we see great needs within and without the church, but we don’t feel like we have power to carry on. It seems difficult days are ahead of the church. But there is hope! Let us be encouraged by the words of Jesus Christ and the example of his disciples. We are not called to be successful, but to be faithful. Let us faithfully hold the ropes. We are called to be partners to each other. Children are not our burden. Seniors are not our burden. Missionaries are not our burden. People in need and in distress are not our burden. We are all called to be partners to each other. We are given to each other. Let us go out two by two. And in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit let us carry those who need help on our back, love them, lead them to Christ. By doing this, we will live. “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Rom 10:15b)

[1] George Barna, “Survey: Christians are not spreading the gospel,”
[2] For more details, please refer to Lynn McMillon’s “Beyond Numbers, A Real Crisis of Faith,”