Pastor’s Corner | “Social Work Without Christ is Dead”

Social Work without Christ is dead… something I learned in Social Work classes in seminary!  James 2:17 speaks of the balance needed between our faith and our works.  I have recently been confronted with some thinking that seemed to only focus on Social Justice, Reconciliation, and Social Action at the cost of ignoring foundational Christian redemption first.  The intense presentation was disappointing to hear as my background of having lived in China has taught me that societal actions, no matter how good the intent, should never be taken in isolation from the concerns for the spiritual health of man.  The temporary results of man-made reconciliation will last just as long as the memories of the men involved.  We must remember that we are sinful beings living in a world that daily compromises with the values of evil.

You see, the Jesus that I follow focused first on the heart of man and allowed a changed and contrite heart to be the motivator for how we relate to the world in which we live.  Social, Environmental, Political, Economical, and other human concerns are legitimate ones that should challenge the Christian disciple’s heart for action or aid.  Yet, one can be a person with these societal concerns and still have an empty spiritual walk.  This is evidenced by many of the governmental laws and actions intended to give equality or retribution as tied to past actions within society.

Adam & Eve had difficulty with the balancing of their work responsibilities and their need to keep their spiritual lives in good stead.  Sin was the result for them as they placed God, and His Will, behind their own desires.  To be a follower of Christ is to humbly repent of one’s sins because we see ourselves, and our sin, clearly.  It is through our repentance, and clear understanding of our sinful nature, that we view the world around us properly.  Yes, I am interested in evangelism, societal change, healthy churches, prayer, spiritual conversion, reconciliation, and other things as long as Jesus is the heart of all that is considered.  I Cor. 2:2 says it for me,  “For I am determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  With this Scripture at your bow, your ship will not become distracted for purpose or direction.

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社會工作沒有 基督福音就是死的…這是我在神學院修社會工作學時學到的。雅各書2:17說到我們的信仰與行為需要平衡。最近我遇到一些思想似乎只集中焦點於社會主義、和好關係及社會行動,付出的代價卻是忽視救贖為第一的基督徒基礎。極端的言論令人失望。我曾在中國居住的經驗教導我,忽視屬靈關顧的社會行動,要想得到真的改變是徒勞無益的。社會行動不管是否出於任何好意,但都不可脫離個人屬靈健康的關心;短暫的人造和好關係結果,只會維持在參與人記憶中一段時間那麼長。我們必須記得我們是有罪的人,生存在一個每天要和罪惡價值讓步的世界裏。

我跟隨的 耶穌焦點先集中在人心,容許被改變與悔悟的心成為我們改變社會的動機。社會、環境、政治、經濟及其他人類的關心本應影響到基督門徒行動及幫助的心。但是人也可以對這些有關心,卻仍然感覺靈命空虛。許多政府的法律及行動給予平等待遇或彌補社會對某人群的過錯正是反映這空虛的關心。

亞當與夏娃在平衡他們的工作需求與他們的屬靈需要碰上了困難。當他們把自己的喜好放在 上帝和 祂旨意之先,後果就是罪。要成為 基督的門徒就是要看清自己的罪惡後謙卑悔改。當我們能清楚明白我們的罪性,用悔改的眼光透視,我們才看清我們周圍的世界。不錯,我的興趣包含宣教、社會改革、健康的教會、祈禱、屬靈增進、和好關係、甚至其他,只要 耶穌是在核心。哥林多前書2:2寫說: “因為我曾定了主意,在你們中間不知道別的,只知道 耶穌基督並 祂釘十字架。” 當我們確定這終極時,我們的方向和目的就不會走错。

Pastor’s Corner | “Life is a One Way Street Headed Toward Eternity!”

Only you can determine whether you will be a “sold out 24 hour per day Christian” or a  “nominal follower.”  For my money, churches already have more than enough “nominal followers who treat attendance in their activities as their evidence that they are Jesus people!” Indeed, it is probably our “comfortable religious practices” that leave a gap between the church and those outside our circle who never come in contact with a relevant and vibrant faith.  Perhaps our church “issues” become the excuse for why many nominal Christians remain uncommitted and refuse to openly identify with a specific church body where they live? When I think of Jesus, I see a man of commitment as he did nothing with only 1/2 of his heart!  I seldom think of him inside a religious building for he was too busy being with the people where they lived as he focused on the lost!  Jesus loved and committed himself to the church, God’s people, even with its limitations and issues.

Does a person being baptized guarantee a relationship with God?  Not even close! Just because I can swim doesn’t mean that I am a fish.  Yet, the Scripture says that God was proud of His son for choosing to be baptized so it appears that modeling humility and showing a positive testimony are on God’s list of important things to do with our lives.   In Matthew 28: 19-20, it says that one of the responsibilities of Christians is to share the great news that Jesus loves them and then baptize the believers!  Baptism was, and is today, a contract of commitment for a believer who proudly says, I want to identify with Jesus!  Let us not talk a talk that we are not willing to walk. May we see life as a one way path that leads us to be committed beyond our own comforts and nominal habits.

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有你可以決定你是否是一個”每天24小時的基督徒”或是”名義上的的基督徒”。  對我來說,教會已經有過多“名義上的基督徒”,他們把參與教會活動當作證明自己是 耶穌的人。 實在上,這可能是我們“舒服的宗教儀式”造成教會及教會以外的人中間一個很大的隔閡,使他們無法接觸到與生活相應及活潑的信仰。 或許是我們教會許多的“事情”成為藉口,讓許多名義上的基督徒仍是不願委身或拒絕公開表明和他所在教會的關係。當我想到 耶穌,我看到一個不只是委身一半而是全然委身的人!我很少想到 祂在宗教建築物內,因為 祂忙於去到失喪人的地方專注服事他們。 即使教會有各樣限制及煩擾, 耶穌愛並委身教會—祂的子民。

浸礼就保證一個人和 神的關係嗎? 決不! 不會因為我會游水就說我是一條魚。 但是聖經說 神引以為傲,祂的兒子選擇受浸以表明 祂謙卑及積極見證的模範,這是 上帝要我們在生命中需做的重要事。馬太福音28:19-20節說基督徒的責任之一就是要分享 耶穌愛他們的大好信息,並為他們施浸!以往及現在,浸禮都是一個委身立約,能使基督徒驕傲地說:我是 耶穌的!讓我們不要只是光說不做。讓我們把生命看為一条單行道,引領我們承諾委身走向超越自己舒適及有名無實的習慣。

Pastor’s Corner | “Jesus is Lord… Sometimes?”

When in High School, I learned the term “Jesus is Lord.”  It was a very popular recognition for Christians who were seeking to be serious about their faith.  Yet, over the many years since then, I’ve come to understand that the very concept of “lordship” infers the importance of allowing Christ to have complete and full guidance of the daily decisions that we encounter.  It is, in all reality, impossible to truly have Jesus as our “Part-time Lord.”  We may live as if we saw this as an option for how we treat Christ but the fact is that we must make a solid choice about the role He has in our lives.  To use the term “Lord” is a mutually exclusive term demanding full allegiance or nothing.  We may “feel” it possible to be “sometime Christ-dependent followers” but that thinking only reflects our lack of “Christ-lordship.”  When our decisions, goals, attitudes, and the way we relate to people are only dependent on how we feel or judge things to be of value to us, it is wrong of us to say that “Jesus is our Lord.”  Indeed, the Lordship of Christ is a status for Christ in our lives that leaves us constantly asking ourselves if our lives are truly “Living Sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) or not.  Until that time when the desires and plans of God overcome our wishes and hopes, we are living a defeated life.  When we reach that point where our courage and conviction is married to our burden to be in the will of God for all things, we will find our lives meaningful and truly seeking His Lordship for all we do.

Let us not leave this as another theoretical philosophical concept.  Is it important for Jesus to truly be our 24 hour a day “Lord” or not?  Who cares?  Personally, I do have an illness that brings me in and out of a healthy relationship with Christ.  The “illness” is called pride and sin.  I relate only too well to the Peter of Scripture who had good and bad days in his relationship with Christ. Am I dependable daily for God to say that I treat Him as my Lord?  Not really.  Yet, our Lord is forgiving of us and provides us opportunities to repent and begin our relationships again!  None of us do much more than verbalize our desire for “Lordship” while we fall down and then stand up over and over in our faith.  Yet, the integration of our faith with our daily decisions and actions is something we must desire. My prayer for you, and me, is that we never allow ourselves to become too comfortable with calling Jesus “Lord” even though we know He is not.  May we all continue to seek His Lordship in our lives!

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在高中时,我学到「耶稣是主」这一宣言。这是认真追求信仰之基督徒的大众认知。但隔了数年后,我才认识到「主」的真正意义:就是允许基督做我们每日所有决定的完全与全部的主。我们不可能在所有事上,让祂做只是我们「部分时间的主」。我们或许把这看作生活的一个选择;但是事实上,我们要确实地决择祂在我们生活里所扮的角色。「主」这一词是相互唯一的,要求完全或完全不的忠诚。我们或许「觉得」我们可以是「有时依靠基督的跟随者」,但是那只是因为我们缺乏认知「基督是主」。当我们对人的决定、目标、态度和方法,只是依靠我们的感觉和判断它是否对我们有价值,说:「耶稣是我们的主」,那是错的。实在的,「基督是主」是基督在我们生命中的地位,我们需要经常问我们自己,我们的生命是不是真的是「活祭」(罗马书12:1)?若 上帝的愿望和计划不超越我们的盼望,我们的生命是失败的。当我们的勇气和信念达到 上帝的旨意是所有一切的时候,我们会找到我们的生命是有意义的,并在所有事上真心寻求祂的主权。

让我们不要把这当作另一个神学上的哲学观念。 耶稣确实做我们每天24小时的「主」,是不是重要呢?谁在意呢?我个人有一个病将我从与 基督的健康关系中带进、带出。这个「病」叫做骄傲和罪。我太像圣经里的彼得,他和 基督的关系也时好时坏。对 神,我是否每天都是可靠的?我尊敬对待 祂是我的主吗?一点也不,但是我们的 主原谅我们,给我们悔改机会,重新恢复我们的关系!当我们的信心一次又一次跌倒再站起来的时候,我们每个人都很想「做主」。但是我们每日的决定和行动,必须和我们的信心整合,这是我们必须期盼的。我祈求你们和我永远不允许我们随便称 耶稣是主,却不尊祂为主。愿我们继续在我们的生话里寻求祂是主

 

Pastor’s Corner | “Become a Great Storyteller”

He was a great teller of tales and stories. He knew how to draw in a crowd with his words and seemed to always be prepared to respond to almost any question by giving an illustration or idea to consider. Generally speaking, his stories have always proven to be fairly concise and seemed to never be shared without a goal of bringing in the audience for them to contemplate the truth of what his message might be. He seemed to see his thoughts as more than mere entertainment but as intense challenges for people to evaluate and integrate into their lives. As a result, his stories brought a mixture of response as some hearers were engaged by his words while others were repelled. He challenged lifestyle matters and pushed the listeners to action.

While sometimes offending those to whom he spoke, he never seemed to compromise from the truth that he felt must be shared. He did, at times, speak in rather indirect and creative ways that even frustrated his most loyal of friends. When this occurred, they showed a lack of understanding and had to ask why he wasn’t more direct and clear with his words? At other times, his target audience was “cut to the core” by words that were as sharp as a razor’s blade. Never intending harm with his tongue, he spoke with meaning, dedication, and sensitivity. Yet, the sensitivity was towards the urgency to see men and women do internal inspection of their own values and goals in their lives followed by lifestyle changes. The intent was to remind the hearers that we are responsible for the decisions and lives we lead. He cared deeply for the people he shared his stories with and loved them enough to be instructive and directive.

To be called a “Christian” is to be a follower of Christ. The Christ that we follow was far from the soft and gentle picture that we often see of Jesus. If we look clearly at the spiritual depth of Christ, we find his love blended with his dedication of purpose….what a model! Yes, Jesus was the model storyteller as he used parables and examples to encourage individuals to be bold and courageous with the lives they have. Love means being a person of conviction and integrity. May we learn to risk criticism, even to the point of rejection from some, in order that others may come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord. Not everyone will like how you tell your parables and stories but, then again, following Christ means that we understand this potential rejection, eh?

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祂是一個偉大的說故事人。祂知道如何用 祂的故事吸引聽眾,如果有人向 祂提出任何問題,祂永遠準備好實例或供回答讓人思考。 一般來說,祂的故事都很精簡,卻沒有不令聽眾沈思 祂的信息到底是什麼。祂的想法不僅具娛樂性,更挑戰人評估及整合他們的生命。結果,祂的故事帶來不同的反應:有些人服從,有些人拒絕;祂挑戰他們生活模式並推促聽眾行動。

有時 祂會冒犯聽眾,但 祂從不妥協 祂覺得需要分享的事實。祂使用的間接性及有創意的講述方式,有時甚至令 祂最忠實的朋友都氣餒。當這樣情形發生時,他們會說不明白而問 祂,為什麼不更直接、明白地說 祂要說的話? 另外有時,祂的言語銳利如刀、一針見血。祂從未想用舌傷人,祂說的話帶有意思,忠誠及敏銳感。敏銳感是要所有人急切自我檢視生命價值及目標之後,改變生活模式。這是為了提醒聽眾要為他們所要做的決定及生命負責。祂深切關心那些 祂分享故事的人;祂愛他們,所以教導、指引他們。

基督徒」是 基督的跟隨者。我們跟隨的 基督不是我們常常看到的那樣溫和軟弱的;如果看清楚 基督的靈命深度,我們會發現 祂的愛和 祂的獻身目的是合而為一的。耶穌是說故事人的極好榜樣,祂用寓言及例子鼓勵個人生命要大膽及勇敢!一個悔改、正直的人有愛;為了救他人認識 主耶穌基督,我們要學習冒險被批評,甚至冒險被人拒絕。不是每個人都喜歡聽你說的寓言及故事,但是我們都知道跟隨 耶穌會有被拒絕的潛在性,對不對?