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Archive for June, 2011

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

As mentioned- the sermon notes from today’s sermon:

For most of you reading this, you would have received salvation. But do you fully understand what you have gained from it? Do you know what it means to have saved, and what it means not to?

Let me describe to you what I think heaven will be like when we get there.

Come, let us use our imagination a little- imagine Jesus has just returned, and all of us have ascended to heaven. We are immediately brought into this really big waiting hall, where we will be waiting to be judged. We will all be in this hall together, and there will be a lot of excitement. We will be talking about how God’s throne will look like, whether we’ll see people like Moses and Noah and Peter. However, there will be some of your friends you may not be able to find. Friends from school and from work- somehow you just don’t see them around.

Then, one by one, your names will be read out. So imagine there’s an angel who will call out, “Joel, it’s your turn to be judged before the throne of God.” So you will enter the throne room and see how magnificent it is. There will be people on all sides, watching you walk up to the majestic throne. As you walk, you might feel a little nervous, but you are confident. Then God will say “Account for your life of service.” And then the way you have lived your life will be recounted. All the bad and good things that you have done will be recounted. God will turn to His chief scribe and ask, “Is his name written in the Book of Life?” The Chief Scribe will reply, “Yes it is, my Lord”. Then God will say “Because you have called upon my Name and received my Son Jesus Christ, all your sins are forgiven, and you are welcome into my Kingdom.” There will be a lot of cheering and rejoicing from all the people at the sides, and you will take your place and join them. Eventually, all the people in the hall would have been judged and taken their places in heaven.

Then, you see another person, walking up to the throne. You recognize him- your friend from school a long time ago. You guys used to hang out together, and you have talked about religious stuff before. But you didn’t really feel comfortable plunging into the gospel so quickly. After you finished school, both of you didn’t really see each other anymore.

When it was time for him to be judged, his whole life was recounted. The chief scribe will say, “His name is not in the Book of Life”. And then God will say, “In this life that I have given to you, you have committed these sins, and therefore, you are not worthy of my righteousness.” He will turn to the chief guard and say, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Immediately, any love or goodness in him will leave him, and he will become completely evil. Then he will be sent to hell to be separated from God for eternity.

So think about it: somehow, by God’s love and divine purpose, you will not be condemned for your sins, but will receive salvation. You didn’t do anything amazing to get it. It’s just that you happened to be raised in a Christian family, or that someone who loves you chose to share the gospel with you. And there are so many more people out there, even people that you know, who have not heard, or seen, or felt this gospel of love before. Can you think of any friends who won’t be in that great hall with you when you are in heaven?

If God could love us so amazingly, and has made this love free, don’t you think that while we still have time, we should make sure they know about salvation too?

You know, when I mentioned evangelism today, what was the first thing that came to your mind?

For some, it might be bringing your friends to church, and those from the outreach ministry will say “hey let’s go for street e!” And for those who came from youth alpha it might be debating about Christianity and proving your faith to those who don’t believe.

And perhaps some of you may never have thought about sharing the gospel before.

But today, I want to tell you that evangelism is not just about waiting for outreaches to happen so that you can invite your friends; it’s not about debating and arguing about whether a God exists or not. Even if you win that argument, you may not be evangelising.

Evangelism is about love.

For those who have been around for a long enough time, do you remember that our church once had this “Be Gracious” campaign? Some of the posters are still around the church. They were encouraging the young people to take the stairs, not to use hand phones during service and so on. But of course, being gracious to one another is not just limited to church activities, but in anything that we are doing, everywhere we are doing it. And I’m sure I don’t have to talk more about this because for the past 6 months, YPM has been emphasizing this again and again – to love one another. Even though this love may be between fellow Christians, our behaviour has a very large impact on how people see us.

In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

You see, the ways we act and behave are a testimony of what Jesus has done for us- it is a testimony of God’s love.

Have you ever wondered why, after you received Christ, you couldn’t just be taken up straight into heaven? I used to wonder that when I was younger. But now I know that we continue to live here on earth because we are to be a testimony for Christ. We are meant to think and speak and act like Christ so that those who don’t know Him yet will know Him through us! The Gospel is about love. So if we are here to show people the Gospel, then we need to show them what love is; what God’s love is.

So we have love among believers; and we must also have love for non-believers.

 

I heard this quote somewhere before:

“So many Christians can win arguments, but they cannot win hearts. They can use logic, but they cannot use love.”

One of the first few times I did street evangelism was about 4 years ago. I joined a group of people from another church who were sharing the gospel with people every Thursday at Ang Mo Kio. Well since I was quite new to it, I tagged along with this other guy called Jon, and I’d watch and pray as he was sharing the gospel.

Okay, since I’m on this topic, let me share with you how we went about doing street e. First we’ll find some place to pray. We will pray for the Holy Spirit to speak through us, to lead us to the right people, and then pray for the hearts of the people to be opened. Then we will start walking around to find people who looked like they were sitting around doing nothing. We met many kinds of people. Some were content with life, and some were sad, so we prayed for them. And then there were some who spoke Chinese, so I couldn’t really say much to them, literally.

And there was once we started sharing with this Malay guy. Okay don’t ask me why we approached a Muslim, Jon did it, so I followed him. So we started sharing. Do you know that the Quran has the books Isaiah and Jeremiah in it too? We would use verses like “by His stripes we are healed” and “He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our inequities”, all those prophetic verses from Isaiah and Jeremiah to preach the gospel to Him. And the guy we were sharing with was very good with his religion too! He became very argumentative, and started using our points to shoot back at us. So after a while we decided to end the conversation and we told him that it was a good discussion.

You know, of all the times I have won an argument against an atheist, none of them have ever received Christ because I logically convinced them.

You see, the gospel is not about words that make sense to the human mind. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”. God’s wisdom is different from human wisdom! The gospel may sound crazy to some people, but to us, we know that it is the truth and the living Word of God.

It is not about winning arguments by our own logic.

The gospel is about love. And I believe that the gospel is fully empowered to change lives when it is shared by love.

I have thought of 2 ways we can be a testimony of love:

The first is to speak graciously to people.

In Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

What it means to have our conversations full of grace, is for it to sound nice to people, in a genuine way. If you would see how Jesus always spoke to people in the Bible, it was in a kind, non-offending manner, exception to the Pharisees. And if you speak graciously, people would be more likely to listen to what you have to say. In fact, they will be more accepting of your views even though they disagree. But what is more important is that speaking graciously exemplifies the spirit of love. It becomes a testimony that Christ lives in us; that’s why we speak like Christ.

And being seasoned with salt just means that we have to speak graciously all the time. Just like how every French fry in the box has salt on it, every sentence that we speak must be gracious and kind.

A Bible commentary puts it in a very practical way:

“If anyone asks you for proof of your religion, you will be able to reply to him.

If he is talking to you about day to day things, you will be able to answer him in a warm, kind and, friendly manner.

If he asks you of things which you don’t know about, you will not be too proud to admit it, and to ask him to teach you.

If he addresses you in a proud, rude, and arrogant manner, you will be able to contain your anger, and to answer him with gentleness and kindness.”

Not very easy right? We all try, but every day we try, we are perfecting our lives to be more like Christ’s.

So the way that Jesus loved and spoke to the people, let us also love the people around us, that we can be a living gospel of the love of God. When we start to speak like Christ, people will start to know Christ.


Okay, we will now be reading a passage from the Bible about “The Choosing of the Seven”.

When I first saw this, I thought that whoa, you know, like the choosing of the seven. They would be great preachers who will be sent to the 7 continents to have massive evangelism conferences.

But they were not.

Let us now turn to Acts 6:1-7.

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

And this is my 2nd point- that we must meet the needs of people.

In those times, the people in the community were very closely-knit. They would support one another in everything. Recently in Singapore we had the news about some old people who die in their homes without anyone knowing, and their families don’t turn up to collect the bodies. But over here, once some people didn’t have enough food to eat, it immediately became a concern for the church. It was such an important issue that all the disciples had to gather to think of a way to solve the problem. What do you think will happen in Singapore? Just send them to a home and the social workers will take care of them right?

But you see, the disciples chose men who were “full of the Spirit and wisdom” to ensure that people didn’t go hungry. These are members of the church- people like you and I. As disciples of Christ, all of us are called to love others by meeting their needs.

I understand that some people have the spiritual gift of helping others (1 Corinthians 12:28), but that does not mean that those without the gift cannot love. Maybe helping others doesn’t come naturally to us, but we should be making it our response to anyone who needs help. Let’s not just think about visiting old folks or children homes, or raising funds for charity. What can you do for your friends in school who may not be so well to do? Or those who are struggling with work- have you ever asked them if they needed help?

Or maybe you’re not able to help them physically, then you could also pray for them; ask them if you could pray for them so that they know you care for them!

You see, meeting needs is also evangelism. In all the gospels, before Jesus properly taught anything, he first met needs. He healed the sick, drove out evil spirits and changed water into wine for a wedding. Helping others will cause them to see God’s love that is working in you.

Through the things that you say and you do, you are showing them what Christ is like, what God’s love is like- you are already in the process of preaching the gospel.

Come, let’s go back to the passage. After they had chosen the 7 guys to solve the problem,

In verse 7 it says “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

Isn’t it awesome- that the most basic acts of love can bring people to see and know Christ.

Of course, I must add that eventually, the full gospel must be preached for anyone to receive Christ.

There was this young salesman who has just lost a big sale, and was quite disappointed. He was telling his sales manager, “I guess it just proves that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” The manager replied, “Take my advice: your job is not to make him drink. Your job is to make him thirsty.”

And our lives should be like that – not to impose the gospel on others by telling them what it is, our lives should make other people thirst for God!

If we can always speak graciously and meet the needs of people, we can testify to the love that God gave us first.

I will close with this verse:

In Matthew 10:7-8

7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Let us show people the Gospel by loving them.

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Back to Work!

Don’t be mistaken, I am extremely unexcited about work. What I mean is ministry- work in the church.

I’ve just returned from Annual Bible Camp, and I am glad I went. Taking four days off to spend time with good friends- that was a real break from life. The sermons were good, though they were preached different from how we usually do it. The camp speaker did not refer much to the Bible, and we had to discern for ourselves between the biblical and secular information. Most of it was of course, biblical. But not all things that he said were applicable in the Singaporean society, or COS, for that matter.

Nonetheless, I have gained much from the sermons, and have had quite a few good reflections about how I approach the different ministries that I am serving in now.

Meanwhile, I will be preaching for the youth service this Saturday. So I’ll conveniently use that sermon as an update for my blog 😀

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In Time to Come

I haven’t been around my blog for a while, and may not be around for another week.

Anyway, here’s what’s going on right now..

I’m preparing a sermon (my first one!) for YPM. So that has been taking up most of my nights. Work at camp has been getting heavier, so that takes up every day of my days. So that leaves me with practically no time to write! Ha! Justified.

I’ll be leaving for Annual Bible Camp next week! It will be a good time of rest. I haven’t gone for ABC for a long time, and I am looking forward to it very much. Especially since work has been getting so stressful, ABC will be awesome! Imagine waking up, not having any commitments, KPIs, superiors, etc.. I can spend the whole day meditating, listening to sermons, running and catching up with friends. Haha well if only every day were like that.

So anyway, that’s it for now! I will write again once I come back from camp!

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