Teaching our family to love God

The pandemic changes the way we view things. It teaches us what is most important to us. Most of the time, the most important things are not the material things. The most important things are things which money can not buy: like relationships with our family and friends, health and the nature which God created. And of course, there are the basic needs that we must have: food, shelter and clothing.

Deuteronomy means “second law” or “repetition of the law”. The book of Deuteronomy is a farewell speech by Moses to the 2 million Israelites. Farewell speeches are very important. They are the last words of a person. Before the Israelites enter into the Promised Land, he wanted to equip this generation of the Israelites for a new life in the Promised Land. It would not be easy. They would be living among nations who did not know God and they had their own cultures and beliefs. The Israelites had to be mindful that they were the people of God, they were not to assimilate into the culture around them but to shine for God and live lives that glorify God. They were not to forget God for all the blessings He had showered upon them.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

“Hear” or in Hebrew “shema” means to listen with the purpose of obedience. This is so important that the Jewish boys are to memorise it as soon as they can speak. The nations around them worshipped many gods and idols, but for the Israelites, they affirm that there is only one true and living God.

The “one” (ehad) also means “a unity” in Hebrew. It is the same word used to describe the oneness of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:24). The Israelites are to remember that God is one. God was the One who delivered them from enemies and rescued them.

5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

We love God because He first loves us. We can only love Him if we know Him. Loving God means knowing Him and obeying Him. We know God through His Word: read, meditate, talk about it and share it with others.

To love God, to worship Him and to serve Him is the greatest privilege we can have. Our love for God involves our whole person “with all your heart, all of your soul and all your strength”, that means, all of us (Ps 103:1). Love the Lord with all that is within us.

Timothy Keller, a US pastor, “Love is never primarily defined in the Bible as a feeling. At its foundation love is at least a commitment and a promise”.

Loving God is not basing on feeling. Today I feel God, I will love God more and be kinder to people. Yesterday I didn’t feel like loving God so I did not read the Bible or pray. Loving God is a commitment. It is not based on our feelings.  

If we love God, we will love others in response to God’s love for us. if we love God, we want our family to love Him and enjoy Him too. We will want to talk about God to our family and what He has done because He is so great. There are so many things we can talk about Him to our family.

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

When we love God, we listen to His Word and we keep them in our hearts and we live them out. Someone said Christians are like a walking Bible. Others will know about God through our conduct, speech and behaviours.

Moses urged the parents to discuss God’s Word in the home and to allow God’s Word to guide them in their daily lives. God’s word also control who could come into the gate of their home and the door of their house.

The lsraelites took this literally. They wore a part of the Scriptures in little containers called phylacteries on their foreheads and left arms. They also had a small container of Scripture—a mezuzah, to the front door and on every door in the house. Every time the occupant passed through the door, he or she would touch the mezuzah reverently. By placing the Scriptures on the forehead, on the left arm and on every door, the Israelites were mindful that they themselves and the house was for the glory of the Lord. The home should be the place where the Word of God was taught, loved and obeyed. The home should be the place where loving God and loving one another is practiced.

May our home welcome God in their house. May each family reading this walk in love and unity in the Lord.

As Moses spoke to the Israelites, warning them of the challenges ahead, living in a pagan culture, the same challenge is for us today. We are to remember we are children of God. We do not assimilate into the cultures around us but to be salt and light in the society. One of the most important things we can do is to teach the younger generation about God and His Word. The world we are living in is a tough world, all the more we need to teach our children God’s Word and be grounded in faith, or else, the cultures of the world will push them to and fro. We need to teach the next generation the importance of being a follower of Jesus Christ. Teaching them God’s Word will save them from danger and harm. Not only that, their children after them will also benefit from the teachings we teach them, “These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” (Deut 6:1-2). In God’s Word, there is life. We want our children to live well. Something we have to strive to do is to teach them about God, and to pray for them.

It is a life journey. Some days are better than others. You will have good days and you will have better days and some days which are not so good. It is a journey.

Our God is not interested in looking at the results only. What interests Him and what He wants to see is the moulding of our character in the process, and deepening of our relationship with Him. He cares about the transformation of our lives too. 

May our homes be filled with God’s love and be blessings to the community.

The Joy of Feasting on “Vegetables”?

“Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17, NIV).

I had a picnic lunch with my buddy, Su Juan, today. We enjoyed the scenery, the melodic chirpings of the birds flying above us, and the soft and gentle breeze blowing on our faces.

As a full-time pastor, I realise what I eat and drink is important to optimise my health for ministry. What we eat and drink are important for our well-being but our attitudes when we are receiving our food are equally important. We may be having an abundant feast with the finest of food and in the grandest of place, but if we are not thankful for what we have, or if we do not get along with the people we are dining with, we will not enjoy the meal.

The next time we sit down together for a meal with our companions, thank the Lord for them. It may be a simple meal, it may be with your parents, it may be with your closest friends, it may be with your colleagues. It is the companionship that counts. Look them in the eyes. Pay attention to what they are saying. Show that you care. Minister to them.  Enjoy each other’s presence.

Life is short. We should treasure the people in our lives and appreciate them while we still can. Don’t take them for granted.

What is a Christian Community?

While we are in the midst of preparing for the reopening of the preaching centre, the members gathered online for a time of prayer, fun and fellowship. Connecting with one another in unity with Christ is the life blood of the church.The book of Acts talks a lot about the Christian community. Below are some of the lessons we can learn from the early Church:

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).

1.They devoted themselves

Some new believers among the early Christians might not have heard Jesus Himself. The apostles were taught by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and now they were passing along what Jesus had taught them to these believers. We could sense their hunger for the teachings of the apostles by devoting themselves to learning from the apostles’ teachings.They must have treasured the time together, breaking bread in remembrance of Jesus Christ and gathering together for fellowship as the body of Christ. They also spent time in prayers. They prayed in the Temple daily. They also met in private homes. They were living a vibrant prayerful and community life because they saw the importance of these and devoted themselves to these things.

2.They loved each other deeply

They loved each other so deeply that they were willing to share all that they had with those in need so that the poor among them were taken care of. Chapter 4 tells us:

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as who owned lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds from what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native from Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of Encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:32-37)

These Christians were different from the surrounding society. They understood that possessions and powers were not for the comfort of an individual but that all that they had was meant to be shared and used wisely to bless the broader Christian community.

3.They had an attitude of praising God with glad and sincere hearts

These believers were so in love with God that their responses were to praise God. They opened their hearts to the Lord and were filled with His joy and gladness. Their sincere love for the Lord is something that we should emulate.

4.They enjoyed the favour of all the people

As a community of faith, they must have shone so brightly for the Lord that the people around them were pleased with their behaviour, conduct and speech. May it be that we as Christians do not repel people from knowing Christ, but rather that we will be channels of blessings to others.From this passage, it challenges me to rethink about community: what does that mean? It means, loving others as you love yourself. It means “…in humility consider others better than yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-5). Apostle Paul, who wrote Philippians, urged us to learn from the example of Jesus Christ. He was in very nature God but He did not use that as an advantage to Lord it over us. Instead, He came to this world to serve us and died on the Cross for us (Philippians 2:6-8).

Let us have the mindset of Christ and look to the interest of those in our Christian community. May we be blessings to the community and the society.

A Lesson on Management?

I was walking past a cleaner who had just mopped the floor. I have never seen him before but he was friendly. He said I was leaving tracks behind me and he had just mopped the floor. However, he said that it was OK.

He went on to say that the management would check on him from time to time to make sure that he was doing his duties instead of loitering in the compound. His face was downcast as we chatted. It seemed that he was disheartened that his supervisors did not trust him enough to do a good job.

Now, I personally did not know this cleaner. I had never seen him before. I did not know his name. I did not know about his track record as a cleaner for that company. May be he was lazy, which might be why the management needed to resort to implementing this strategy. 

I don’t know what you think about this but I think as leaders, we should first learn to trust and respect the people under our care. If we go the extra mile to build a happy, supportive, safe and respectful environment for people to work in, they would be happy coming in to work everyday. There would be smiles on their faces. 

If we have the mindset that a company is one big family, and those working under us is part of our family instead of our servants to boss around, they will enjoy this sense of belonging and will thrive in their work regardless of their positions. 

A few days ago, I sent my parents’ car to the workshop. The mechanic had junior mechanics under him. This mechanic knew how to be a good boss. As he was chatting with my dad, he said that the workers were from different ethnicities and different races but he cared for them like his own sons. They had come to work for him and so he realised he had the responsibility to care for them. He gave them food and he taught them skills. He said that he hoped that these boys would grow up to be useful people in the society. No wonder these junior mechanics were happy working there. They gave us excellent service because they had been given excellent treatments from the boss. They felt that they belonged there. They knew that they were a family. That was why they went the extra mile for their boss and for the customers. The atmosphere was so different. 

Now, if you compare these two bosses, you would see how it would affect the customers. The first boss doubted his worker and so the worker was not happy. He gossiped, grumbled and complained about the management to whoever was willing to listen, even just a passerby. 

The second one might not be a wealthy man, but he loved his workers and treated them like his sons. He hoped to provide values for his workers. It was not so much what his workers could do for him, but what he could provide for them. He was training them to be good mechanics and responsible citizens of the society. 

I admire the leadership of the mechanic. Let us do good and spread love and kindness when we have the opportunity. Let us lift people up, regardless of what they do for a living. Let us show love and respect to the people around us.

The Significance of Holy Communion

Today is Holy Communion Sunday. Methodists partake the Holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month, calling it “the Holy Communion Sunday service”.

The background of Holy Communion comes from the Passover feast celebrated by the Israelites just before God delivered them from slavery in the land of Egypt. In Egypt, they were forced into hard, laborous work by their task masters. They were oppressed to the extend that it was unbearable for them. They then cried out to God for deliverance.

God heard their cries and sent them Moses to lead them out of the land of oppression and slavery into the Land God had promised them. This land would be a good and spacious land, and it would be fruitful too— “a land flowing with milk and honey.” What a beautiful promise it was compared to their horrible living conditions in Egypt!

On the night of deliverance, God would send an angel of death to strike down all the first born of the Egyptians. God told the Israelites to smear the blood of a sacrificed lamb on the door frames of their houses so that when the angel of death saw the blood over the door frames, he would “pass over” their houses and not strike their firstborns.

That was the original Jewish Passover. It is recorded in Exodus 12:1-30.

In the New Testament, on the night before His death, Jesus Christ deliberately celebrated the Jewish Passover Feast with His disciples. ‘And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For i tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16). He drew parallel of His sacrificial death to the Passover lamb. As the blood of the sacrificial lamb was smeared on the door frames and the Israelites would be safe in the house, the blood of Jesus would be poured out to save humanity.

During the Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus introduced the symbols of the bread and the wine. For those who have been baptized in His Name, we will take the bread (a wafer) to remember Jesus’ death on the Cross for us. We remember how He had given Himself up for us. He was crucified for us. He was just like the Passover lamb; He died, so we can live and have eternal life. We will then take the cup (grape juice) which symbolises the blood of Christ that is shed for us and washes away our sins.

Jesus commanded that this is to be done in remembrance of Him. He said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19b). We also remember the new covenant which Jesus made through the Cross.

I tell my church members to remember these few things every time we come forward for Holy Communion:

a. The Past

Jesus was crucified for our sins and He died for us. He who is without sins took the sins of the world upon Himself so that we sinners have a new life and a new identity in Him, the Giver of Life. We are reconciled to God the Father. In the past, we rebelled against His love, but through Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, our relationship with God is restored.

b. The Present 

Three days after Jesus had died, He rose again. He is alive! He is in Heaven now. The Holy Communion reminds us that Jesus is with us now. It is the time to examine our life: are we living a life that is pleasing to Him?

c. The Future

The Bible tells us that one day, Jesus Christ will come again in victory as well as coming as the Judge of the world. He will come and take believers with Him and we will be with Him in His Kingdom, forever. One day, we will all feast with Him in His Heavenly Banquet. The Holy Communion we partake every month is just a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet in God’s Kingdom someday.

d. Unity in Christ 

Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:17, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (NIV). The “one loaf” here refers to the unity of believers. When we kneel together for Holy Communion, we will realise we are all the same in God’s eyes. We are His beloved children; there is no hierarchy, no class or labels as “richer” or “poorer” people. God loves us all. Jesus died for all of us. There is no distinction. It is also time to examine our relationships and to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with each other before the Lord. God’s love will restore us.

I hope you have been blessed by this brief introduction of the significance of the Holy Communion. 🙂