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The More Important Question: Who Follows Us? or Who Do We Follow?

2021.10.23/24

From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Jason Cheung

To have a following is a weighty thing!

People gravitate to people.  Charisma and character attract attention.  Numerical follows on social media platforms can be a nice hobby, or a full-time, monetized income generator.  But numbers carry a weight that can become a burden.

As Christians, careful discernment is needed to understand which of these two questions is foremost in our minds and hearts.

Who follows us?

or

Who do we follow?

One of the traps of pastoral ministry, I’ve been warned, is the track to become “a better leader.”  The goals are admirable, and local churches can become well-tuned and efficient.  I have nothing against organizing well, as administration is indeed a gift of the Spirit.  (Right now, if you look at my desk, it needs some work-of-the-Spirit organizing!)  But, administration – like all spiritual gifts – are mere tools for the building up of God’s church, for the glory of Christ.  Leadership, however, in the church today has become such a principal focus that our call to follow Jesus has been blurred.

John Goldingay, an Old Testament professor, made this comment about this kind of obsession with leadership:

When my students are reading the part of the Old Testament that includes Nehemiah, they often want to write papers on leadership.  Come to think of it, whatever parts of the Old Testament they are studying, they want to write papers on leadership.  My heart sinks when they ask if they can do so, though I don’t ever expect them to understand why it does.  Our culture is deeply preoccupied with leadership, and so people assume that the Bible must be preoccupied with leadership, because we expect the Bible to focus on the questions that concern us.  Part of the reason the Bible itself is not very interested in the question is that it is more interested in what God has done to put the world right.  If you like, it is interested in God’s leadership not ours. 

Picture Christ’s church as counter-cultural families in which hierarchical structures are not what we’re known for, but rather sacrificial love (John 15:13).  Imagine a kingdom-minded church where mutual dependence and sharing is the norm and not the exception (Acts 2:42-47).   Envision a church where its mission is not first concerned of its own well-being, but that of the neighbour (Luke 10:25-37).

The way for our church to become like this is to determine which of these questions is top-of-mind, and at the centre of our heart:

 Who follows us? 

or

Who do we follow?

Jesus has inaugurated an upside-down kingdom where the poor will become rich, and the weak will become strong.  And in his church, any leader of any kind must be the servant of all (Mark 9:35).  So, strange as it may sound, if you want to be a leader in Christ’s church, stoop and serve.

And if this is too difficult to imagine, pause — and look very closely at Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man.

He dined with sinners and outcasts.

He washed the filthy feet of his disciples, his followers.

He carried the cross and bore the punishment for the sin of all.

Why do we even care how many people follow us

Our lives belong to Jesus, and our basic call is to faithfully live and speak and love in such ways that usher people toward Jesus.  Not to gain a following.  But to guide others to become followers of Jesus. 

And so, let us deny ourselves, pick up the cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). 

Our own importance is replaced with the glory of Christ.

Our way now is the sacrificial way of the cross.

Our only leader is none other than the Lord Jesus himself, our Good Shepherd.

Let’s faithfully follow him.

 

 

 

一個更重要的問題:誰跟隨我們?或者我們跟隨誰?

2021.10.23/24

作者: 張志成牧師

擁有追隨者是非常沉重的事!

人與人之間互相吸引,是因個人的魅力和性格吸引別人的注意。在社交媒體平台上能帶動有追隨者原是不錯的「嗜好」,甚至如果是全職,可以帶來經濟收入。但追隨者數字上升也同時可能會成為負擔。

作為基督徒,需要仔細辨別了解這兩個問題,哪一個在我們的思想和內心最為重要。

誰跟隨我們?或者我們跟隨誰?

我被提醒在牧養事工其中一個陷阱,是走上作 「更好的領導者」的途徑。作領導的目標本身是令人敬佩的,使地方教會可以變得協調和高效率。我不反對要有好的組織,因為行政管理確實是屬靈的恩賜。(此刻,你看看我的辦公桌,它需要一些管理屬靈恩賜去執拾!)但是,行政管理 - 就像所有屬靈恩賜一樣 - 是為建立上帝的教會、榮耀基督的工具。然而,領導-已成為今天教會一個主要的焦點,以至我們對跟隨耶穌的呼召變得模糊不清。

舊約聖經教授約翰戈爾丁蓋 (John Goldingay) 對迷戀這種領導的學生有以下的評論:

當我的學生研讀舊約尼希米的部分時,​​他們會想寫關於領導的論文。試想想,無論他們在研讀舊約的任何部分,他們都會想寫關於領導的論文。當他們諮詢我可否這樣行,我的心沉了下來,但我也不期望他們明白我為何沮喪。我們的文化非常重視領導,因此人們認為聖經也必然是關注領導,因為我們希望聖經是關心我們關心的問題。聖經本身對這個問題不在乎的部分原因是,它更在乎的是上帝做了什麼使世界變得正確。無論你同意與否,聖經是指向上帝的領導,而不是我們的。

把基督的教會想像成抗文化的家庭,其中的等級架構不是我們所熟識的,它是犧牲的愛(約翰福音 15:13)。想像一個有神國度的教會,在那裡互相扶持和分享是常態而不是例外(使徒行傳 2:42-47)。試思想一個教會,它的使命首先不是關心自己的福祉,而是關心鄰舍的福祉(路加福音 10:25-37)。

我們的教會能否成為這樣的模式是確定以下哪個問題是最重要的,並且是我們的核心:

誰跟隨我們?或者我們跟隨誰?

耶穌開創了一個顛覆的國度,讓窮人變富,弱者變強。在祂的教會裡,任何類型的領袖都必須是所有人的僕人(馬可福音 9:35)。所以,雖然聽起來很奇怪,但如果你想成為基督教會的領袖,就屈身服侍吧。

如果這太難以想像,停一停  ‒ 仔細看看耶穌,神的兒子,也是人子。

祂與罪人和被拒絕的人共進晚餐。

祂為跟隨祂的門徒洗腳。

祂背起十字架,承擔了所有人的罪債。

為什麼我們關心是有多少人跟隨我們?

我們的生命是屬於耶穌,我們被呼召是要忠心跟隨耶穌,作好見證,領人歸向耶穌;不是為贏得追隨者,而是引導他成為耶穌的跟隨者。

就當捨己,天天背起他的十字架來跟從我(路加福音 9:23)。

我們個人的榮縟被基督的榮耀所取代。

我們現在的道路是十字架犧牲的道路。

我們唯一的領袖就是我們的好牧人主耶穌。

讓我們忠心跟隨祂。

 

 

 

 

 

 

In His Time (3): The Ultimate Purpose of Life

2021.10.16/17

From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Simon Lee

Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,

This is the third article on Ecclesiastes 3 on “In His Time.” We have looked at “Appointed time vs Appropriate time,” “Life’s Certainties and Our Responses,” and now “The Ultimate Purpose of Life,” drawn mainly from Ecclesiastes 3:9-13.  My hope and prayer is that we will understand more about our timeless God and see how He works in our time and space.

  1. Life without God is profitless toil (9)

We all want to “profit” in the things we do. Solomon was clear to state that life without is endless and profitless toil. There is ultimately no real gain (1:3; 2:11) in man’s own effort and hard labour, if it is done without God. In this light, work is just “burden” that is joyless, just busy-ness.

Work is important to all of us, it is the means by which we meet our needs. But when work is just that, repetitive chores, then we can see why people wants “Freedom 55” to enjoy life. This is not the same as saying work is meaningless, it is saying life without God is profitless toil. Even though we may be able to earn a lot of money, it is ultimately “profitless” as we may lose our health, our relationships, and our life in working ceaselessly without rest and without purpose.

  1. Life with God is beautiful in its time (10-11a)

“The business that God has given” he makes “beautiful in its times.”  God in His providential plans and sovereign control has an appropriate time for everything and every activity. God’s design is inscrutable, timely and wonderful, in God’s special way. As we have seen previously, God has an appointed time and an appropriate time for everything and He also makes everything beautiful in God’s perfect time.

  1. Life in God is linked to unfathomable eternity (11b)

God has put eternity in the hearts of men, and we can see that people all have a longing, desire and yearning to know the purpose of life which is found only in God. As Augustine said, “God has made man with a God-shaped vacuum, and man shall find no rest till he finds it in God.” Human toil is profitless and meaningless when it is outside the eternal plan of God, a plan that will not be fully comprehended by humans until we enter eternity.

It is a joy to see baptismal candidates in their testimony express their joy in recognising that when they are in God’s eternal plan, they find the ultimate purpose in their lives. There is real satisfaction in God and there is peace, security and assurance in eternal life.

  1. Life in God is the gift of real enjoyment of life from God (12-13)

Meanwhile life on earth is a gift from God to human beings as long as we live (5:18; 8:15). We can enjoy life as God enables as we find our ultimate satisfaction in God. If anyone eats and drinks and finds joy in all his work, it is a gift of God as he live his life in God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states “Man’s chief ends is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. The Puritan pastor Thomas Watson said, “Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise.” We shall see how this can be achieved only in “the fear of the Lord” (14)

We are not saying “Don’t worry, just be happy.”  A person who walks with God is blessed with real joy and satisfaction in life, in both the big and small things that God provides. There is real contentment in enjoying the things that God provides for us.

I find this quote from Warren Wiersbe’s commentary very helpful “When the well-known British Methodist preacher William Sangster learned that he had progressive muscular atrophy and could not get well, he made four resolutions and kept them to the end: (1) I will never complain; (2) I will keep the home bright; (3) I will count my blessings; (4) I will try to turn it to gain. This is the approach to life that Solomon wants us to take.  Amen.

(Next: In His time (4): A time for Justice)

 

按祂時候(3):人生的終極目的

2021.10.16/17

作者: 李耀全牧師

列宣家親愛的兄弟姊妹:

本文是傳道書第3章“按祂時候”的第三篇文章。我們已探討過“定時與適時”、“人生的確定性和我們的回應”,以及今期圍繞著傳道書 3:9-13所思想的重點 –“人生的終極目的”。我所祈盼的是,我們能更深地瞭解我們永恆的神,並看到祂如何在我們的時間和空間中行事。

  1. 沒有神的人生徒勞無益 (9)

我們都希望從所做的事情中“獲益”/ 獲利。所羅門卻清楚地指出,沒有神的生命是無止境和無益的辛勞。如果沒有神,人靠自己所有的努力和辛勤勞動最終不能有真正的收益/獲益(1:3;2:11)。從這個角度來看,工作只是沒有喜樂的“重擔”,只有勞碌。

工作對於我們所有人都很重要,是我們滿足需求的途徑。但若工作只是乏味的例行工事時,我們就明白為什麼人們想要《自由 55》(“Freedom 55”–具雄厚實力及穩健基础的理財保障計劃) 以享受人生了。這不是說工作本身沒有意義,而是說沒有神的人生是徒然勞碌的。即使我們可以賺得盤滿砵滿,但最終是“無益的”,因為我們可能會在沒有目的和缺乏休息的無休止工作中失去健康及在人際關係破損之間耗盡了生命。

  1. 按祂時候萬事萬務各按其時成為美好(10-11a)

神使“萬事萬務”、“在祂賜予的適合時候成為美好”。神在祂的旨意計劃和主權掌管中為每一件事和每項活動都有其適當的時間,按照神的設計以祂高深莫測的適時及美好的方式而進行。正如我們之前所看到的,神對於一切都有其指定的和適當的時間,並且在祂完美的時間裡,祂使一切成為美好。

  1. 在主裡的生命連繫於高深莫測的永恒(11b)

我們可以看到,神把永恆放在人的心中,人內心中存著一種渴求、渴慕和渴望,要尋找認識而只有在神裡面才可以找到的生命意義與目的。正如奧古斯丁所言:“人是按著神自己的形像所造,人內心的空缺無法得着安息,直到安息於祂裡面!” 人的辛勞在神永恆計劃之外是毫無益處及毫無意義的,除非我們與永恆連繫,否則人類不會完全理解神的計劃。

很高興看到受洗肢體們在他們的見證中流露出內心的喜悅,當他們認識到自己在神永恆的計劃中時,他們找到了人生的終極目的。在神裡面得著真正的滿足,在永生中得到平安、安全和保證。

  1. 在神裡面的生命是從神而來真正享受人生的恩賜(12-13 節)

只要我們還在世上活著,生命就是神的恩賜(5:18; 8:15)。當我們在神那裡找到終極的滿足時,我們就可以享受神所賜予的生命。人若能吃能喝,並能在工作中找到快樂,那是神的恩賜,因為他是活在神裡面。《威斯敏斯特小教理問答》說:“人的終極目的是榮耀神並永遠享受祂。” 清教徒牧師托馬斯沃森說:“對敬虔人來說,永恆是沒有日落的美好時光;永恆對於惡人卻是永遠沒有日出的黑夜。”由此可見,真正能享受人生是唯有“敬畏耶和華”才可得著的。(14)

我們不是說“不要擔心,只要快樂”。與神同行的人無論是在神供應的大小事情上,也會在生活中得到真正的喜樂和滿足,即享受神所賜予我們一切的真正滿足。

我發現沃倫·維爾斯比 (Warren Wiersbe) 引述的這些話很有幫助“當著名的英國衛理公會傳教士威廉·桑斯特 (William Sangster) 得知自己患有慢性肌肉萎縮症並且無法康復時,他立定了以下決心實行並堅持到底的四方面:(1)我要絕不抱怨; (2)我要保持家中燈火明亮; (3) 我要數算我的恩典祝福; (4) 我要努力把虧損變成益處。這就是所羅門希望我們採取的生活態度。阿們。

(下期待續:“按祂時候”(4):公義的時候)

 

 

回到神的殿—合一敬拜事奉的喜悅

2021.10.09/10

作者: 龔敏光牧師

詩122:1人對我說:“我們到耶和華的殿那裡去”,我就歡喜。

這節經文正正道出我們眾弟兄姊妹從十月起回到列宣家實體敬拜的心情。昔日神要以色列人一年三次上到耶路撒冷聖殿敬拜祂,對很多以色列人來說,這是長途跋涉的旅程,當他們結伴同行,一起唱著這首朝聖之歌,一邊遙望在錫安山上矗立的聖殿時,他們的心又興奮又雀躍!

十月2、3日標誌著列宣家一個新里程–各堂崇拜從網上敬拜全面回復到實體敬拜。作為牧者,這是我心中的喜悅:

弟兄姊妹一起敬拜的喜悅

  • 由於防疫關係,我們設定150人實體敬拜人數的上限,讓弟兄姊有寬敞的空間敬拜神。會眾都非常守秩序,預早到達登記,並安坐於神的殿中,靜默地預備自己的心敬拜神。他們在悠揚悅耳的序樂中默想神。當主席宣召,會眾同聲歌唱,同心合意地唱詩讚美神。歌聲響遍整個禮堂,大家都興奮雀躍,我也手舞足蹈起來。跟在網上敬拜不同,缺乏了集體敬拜的氣氛。

傳講神話語的喜悅

  • 自從去年三月中起,我們牧者要透過預先錄影的講道信息,在網上播放。我們過了一些日子,才適應對著攝錄機,對著空氣講道。每一次都要想像有會眾在前面聽道。但現在重返實體,面對面與弟兄姊妹有眼神的交流。看見他們的反應,實在有說不出的喜悅。感謝神!讚美神!

同心合一事奉的喜悅

  • 在這次恢復實體崇前,我們教牧團隊用了很多時間商討,預備技術升級,我們升級了我們的網絡及網速。增添影音器材,以方便未能參與實體敬拜的弟兄姊妹透過ZOOM平台觀看實體崇拜,同步敬拜。在技術上,英文堂的技術團隊支援中文堂的技術團隊,他們付上額外的時間在音響室幫助我們運用新器材,讓我們中文團隊能循序漸進地學習。這是一幅極美麗同心事奉、彼此幫助的圖畫。
  • 我們亦小心翼翼,按照省衛生當局的規定,制定各項防疫措施,令弟兄姊妹安心回來敬拜。
  • 此外,感謝國語崇拜及AYAYA青崇率先於9月18日試行實體崇拜,讓我們其他各堂崇拜能從他們身上學習,總結經驗,改良進出流程及防疫措施等等。
  • 我們亦建立了各事奉團隊,彼此聯絡合一,讓整個實體崇拜的運作暢順,為他們忠心事奉感恩。
    • 接待團隊:提醒大家量體溫, 幫助登記。
    • 歡迎團隊:關懷部的弟兄姊妹送上問候。
    • 司事團隊:協助弟兄姊妹尋找寬闊的合適位置,預備敬拜,並協助會眾於崇拜後有秩序地離開。
    • 技術團隊:支援影音及ZOOM平台的運作。
    • 兒童事工團隊:讓成人敬拜時,兒童同步學習。
    • 敬拜團隊:帶領我們預備及進入敬拜。

 

In His time (2): Life’s certainties and our responses

2021.10.02/03

From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Simon Lee

Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,

Finally, in His time, we are going back to worshipping in the sanctuary of our Church. We have been unable to do so for the last 19 months! All throughout this period, we had been wondering when we can return to in-person worship and little did we know we have to wait so long. When we had to lockdown in mid-March of 2020, it came at such short notice, and we were all scrambling to put our five services online. I personally had thought (from my experience during SARS in Hong Kong years ago) that by the fall of 2020, we should be able to return. When that did not happen, then I had thought maybe by Spring, 2021, believing that with more people getting vaccinated, we would be able to return. When the provincial government announced the 4-step plan, I had thought that by September (Step 4), reopening will be fully in place. Who would be able to predict that at this time the number of people infected by COVID daily in BC would still be as high as 800? Yet, despite of that, in our prayerful discernment process, we have decided to cautiously reopen for in-person worship in October. So here we are!

In my last article, In His time (1): appointed time vs appropriate time, I ended with this conclusion: From the context of Ecclesiastes 3, I believe the thesis of Eccl. 3:1 may be understood as “There is an appointed time (from God) for everything, and “an appropriate time” (for man or woman to act accordingly) for (his or her) every activity. Simply put, in everything, God has His appointed time, and it will be done in an appropriate time (sovereignly through His human agent). Let us now return to the text, dig deeper into it, and consider “In His time (2): Life’s certainties and our responses.”

From verses 1-8 we see God has an appointed time-table for all human activities or actions, and in His providence, these happen through human agents who are accountable to God, in a proper and suitable time (“an appropriate time”). The 7 pairs of realities (of 14 opposites) listed in Koheleth (by Solomon), using a poetical device called merism, suggest the concept of totality. Solomon wants to state that all a person’s event and activities in life, both constructive and destructive, including all his responses to people, objects, and events happen in their times. The 7 pairs of realities form a picture of all of life’s certainties, both positive and negative. These can be summarized as follows:

  1. The natural cycle of life: beginning and end (2-3)

The beginning and end of a person’s life cannot be controlled by human beings (2a), and they happen “in His time.” In like manner, planting and uprooting (2b), killing and healing (3a), and breaking down and building up (3b), all these beginnings and endings are part of the cycle of life, they will surely happen. I believe the emphasis is not on the morality or ethics of these actions, rather on the certainties that both extremes of these realities will happen in life. Just like life and death, they are all life’s inevitable eventualities and therefore need to be recognized and accepted by us. The underlying message is that they are all “appointed” by God Himself, in His sovereignty.

  1. Human’s natural reactions (4-8)

In response to the above-mentioned events in life, the range of human responses include weeping and laughing (4a), mourning and dancing(4b), scattering and gathering (5a), embracing, and not embracing (5b), searching and give up searching (6a), keeping and throwing away (6b), tearing and mending (7a), keeping silent and speaking out(7b), loving and hating (8a), and finally, warring and keeping peace (8b). Again, the emphasis is not the morality (while not denying their morality exist), the right or wrong, of these responses, but on their “appropriateness” or the “timing.”

The best Biblical example to illustrate this that I can think of is in the story of David and the death of his baby with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12: 1-24). When David saw his baby was very sick, he prayed and fasted and could not be consoled. But when he knew his baby was dead, he went to the Lord’s house to worship and resumed his normal life. When questioned by his servants on why he did not continue to weep and mourn, he said: 22 “While the baby was still alive, I fasted, and I cried. I thought, ‘Who knows? Maybe the Lord will feel sorry for me and let the baby live.’ 23 But now that the baby is dead, why should I fast? I can’t bring him back to life. Someday I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.” David prayed fervently for a miracle for his baby while he was very sick, but when the baby died, he accepted the judgment of God and stopped his mourning. There is an appropriate time for every action and reaction, recognizing the sovereignty of God.

I do not know what will happen in the progression of the COVID pandemic, but I do know God is in control, and I will act by faith on what I believe is appropriate and right at this time, to the glory of God. Yes, He makes all things beautiful in His time. Let us all worship Him.

(Next: In His time 3: the ultimate purpose of life)

Your servant in Christ,

Rev. Simon Lee

按祂時候(2):人生的確定性及我們的回應

2021.10.02/03

作者:李耀全牧師

列宣家親愛的弟兄姊妹:

終於,按著神的時間,經過了19個月,我們可親身回到教會裡敬拜了,這正是我們期待已久的!於此期間,我們一直不能確定究竟何時能恢復實體崇拜,但我們絕對想不到需要等待這麼長的時間。在2020年3月中旬由於疫情關係,令實體聚會被迫封鎖時,我們速決速策地將教會的五堂崇拜改為在線上舉行。當時我個人認為(根據我多年前在香港SARS非典期間的經驗)到2020年秋季,我們應可以回堂敬拜,可是卻不符所望。我也以為,或許到2021年春天,於大眾接種疫苗後,我們就可以回堂了,但卻是大失所望。當在年中政府宣布重啟四步驟時,我還以為到9月份第四期時已可以全面開放各就各位了。誰可預料到,現時本省每天感染新冠病毒的人數還會高達800人?然而,儘管如此,經過長期的禱告,在我們的審慎部署中,我們還是決定謹慎地在10月重新開放實體的敬拜。至終我們能得償所求了!

我在前一期的教牧心聲:“按祂時候(1):定時與適時”一文中,得出以下結論:從傳道書3章的上下文而看,我認為傳道書3:1的論點,可以理解為“凡事都有指定的時間(來自上帝),以及祂對每樣事情的適當時間,” 故此人也以應該相應地按照神的時間行事。簡而言之,在任何事情上,神都有祂指定的時間,並會在祂適當的時間成就(透過祂主權的安排調校)。讓我們回到經文,更深入地研究,並思想“按祂時候(2):生活的確定性和我們的回應”。

從第1-8 節我們看到神為每一個人和一切事情,在祂的旨意裡,都按照祂所指定的時間表發生,並且,各人也必須按著神所命定託付的,在合適和適切的時間向神交代(“適當的時間”)。傳道書,希伯來文為Koheleth(所羅門著)中列出的7對(14個對比)實況的描述,使用了一種稱為對句(merism)的文學修辭結構,用詩意的體裁手法,展示出一個完整性的概念。所羅門是要說明每個人在生活中的所有事情和活動,無論是建設性的還是破壞性的,包括對人、對物和事件的所有反應都發生在神所定的時間之中。這7對包括積極的和消極的實況,構成了生活中所有確定性的圖景。可作出以下總結:

1.生命的自然循環開始結束(2-3The natural cycle of life: beginning and end

一個人生命的開始和終結是人所無法控制的(2上),都發生在“祂的時間”中。同樣,栽種和連根拔起(2下),殺戮和醫治(3上),拆毀和建造(3下),所有提及的開始和結束都是生命週期的一部分,必然會發生。我認為重點不是在於這些行動的道德性或倫理性之上,而是這些現實情況的兩個極端會在生活中發生的確定性。就像生與死一樣,都是人生必然會發生的,需要我們去確認和接受。背後的信息是,他們都是神自己,在他的主權下所“任命”(指定)的。

2. 我們的自然回應:雙極的回應 (4-8) Human’s natural reactions

回應上述的生活情節,一般人對不同情景的自然反應,包括:哭泣與歡笑(4上)、哀慟與跳舞(4下)、分散與聚合(5上)、擁抱與拒抱(5下)、尋找與失落(6上),保留與丟棄(6下),撕裂與修補(7上),沉默與發聲(7下),愛護與恨惡(8上),最後,戰爭與和平(8下)。同樣,重點不是在於其道德性的反應(也不是否定其道德性的實質)、或是指對與錯,而在於是否“適當” 或“適時”(“適切時機”)[聖經新譯本] 。

我認為最能說明這一點的聖經例子,是大衛以及他與拔示巴所生的孩子死亡的事跡(撒下12:1-24)。當大衛看到他的孩子病重時,他禱告禁食,痛不欲生、拒絕慰問。但當他知道他孩子死了,他就去到聖殿裡敬拜,恢復了正常的生活。當他的僕人問他為什麼不繼續哭泣和悲痛時,他回答:“孩子還活著的時候,我禁食哭泣,因為我想:也許耶和華憐憫我,讓孩子可以活著。現在他死了,我為甚麼還要禁食呢?我還能使他回來嗎?我要到他那裡去,他卻不能回到我這裡來。” (22-23)。大衛在他孩子病重的時候懇切禱告祈求神蹟,但當孩子死了,他接受神的旨意(審判),停止了哀傷。大衛的表現和反應顯示出他承認及接受神的主權。在一切事上都有其適當的時間。

我不知道新冠病毒大流行的疫情將會如何,但我知道神在掌控一切,我會憑著信心行事,為著神的榮耀而行適時和適當的事。是的,按祂時候,祂使一切成為美好。讓我們敬拜祂!

(下期待續:按祂時候(3):人生的終極目的In His time 3: the ultimate purpose of life)

主僕,
李耀全牧師

Our God Who Knows Our Routines

2021.09.25/26

From the Pastor’s Desk: Pastor Alex Poon

Just like you, I’m adjusting to a new routine.

September has always been a hectic month. Students going back to school, parents juggling carpool schedules, sports team and extracurriculars releasing their calendars… we’ve all longed for more sleep during this month. But this year, add in face masks and a mix of Zoom and in person event and doesn’t it all seem a bit too much to handle?

I’m adjusting to a new routine too. After 18 months of not going to the gym, I’m back at it… and I’m sore all over. But the ache I feel, the limp in my legs, it’s all teaching me a great lesson – slow down.

Pace yourself. Don’t do too much at once. Practice self-forgiveness when I don’t meet my targeted goals, reach out to friends for kind words of encouragement when I’m in need of support. But most of all, I’m being reminded that while I’m in the thick of the chaos, I can turn to a loving God so in control yet so compassionate He knows my every weary thought, sigh, and
groan. While I may feel out of control – He is not. While I may become lost and tired, He is bountiful in strength and generous in comfort. And He by His grace comes to find me – us.

This is God, so attentive to detail. This is God who knows the flight pattern of every bird in the sky. This is God who times the crash of every ocean wave against the rock. This is God who has set the sun and moon in its place, delivering to us the precious gift of rhythm.

And this is God who keeps attentive to those made in His image. As the Psalmist declares, He inclines His ear to hear every cry and every plea from all those calling out His name (Psalm 116).

Feel lost amongst the tasks? Feel the burden of the incoming events? Face anxiety from the daunting University syllabus? Know your compassionate Father is by your side. He has a plan for you this year, there is a point to it all. Know He works in all the beautiful yet busy parts of your day to reveal to you His good character. And know that as you cope and adjust, He is offering to you the precious gift of His love that will bring you strength by grace.

May you notice Him in your hours. May you notice how the rhythms of your day proclaim His dwelling in your life. May the opportunities each day turn your heart to marvel at His excellent greatness, and may you turn to Him to see Him receiving you in your weariness.

May you find stillness to know that He is God.

 

上帝看顧我們的生活是無微不至

2021.09.25/26

作者: 潘啟華傳道

和你一樣,我正在生活中適應新的常規。

一向以來九月是一個忙碌的月份。學生返回校園,家長忙於為子女編排輪流接送時間表,體育活動和課外活動等等…我們都渴望可以爭取多一點休息時間。尤其是今年,再加上口罩、Zoom網上和實體的活動一併進行,這一切似乎令人有點難以應付?

我也在適應新的常規。我已經有18 個月沒有上健身室,再回到健身室健身…一下子我感到渾身酸痛,雙腿無力,這一切身體的疼痛正正在告訴我—我也要慢下來。

調整自己的節奏。不要一次過做太多。學習放鬆並原諒自己沒有達標,當需要支持的時候,向朋友尋求鼓勵幫助。但最重要的是,當我身處忙亂之中時,曉得轉向我們那位慈愛的上帝。祂在掌管,滿有憐憫,我身心疲憊祂是知道的、祂聽到我的呼求。我或會感到失控-但祂不會。我或會迷失和疲倦,祂有無盡的力量和慈憐,靠著祂的恩典祂來尋找到你和我。

這就是上帝,祂無微不至,祂認識天空每隻飛鳥的飛行模式,每一次浪濤拍岸都在祂的時間計算當中。是上帝設立日月星晨各按其位,將節奏這份寶貴的禮物傳遞給我們。

這就是上帝,祂一直關心那些按照祂的形像被造的人。正如詩篇作者所宣告,祂側耳傾聽所有呼求祂名的人的每一次的呼喊和每一次的懇求(詩篇116)。

在工作中感到迷失?為應付即將到來的工作感受到壓力?面對排山倒海的大學課程感到焦慮?要知道慈悲的天父就在你身邊。祂今年為你制定了一個計劃,一切都是好的。要知道我們的天父每天在你忙碌的工作裡向你揭示祂的慈愛和恩典,我們靠著祂支取力量。

願你每時每刻都想起祂。願你留心聆聽祂在你的生活裡祂的節奏。願你每天都讚嘆祂偉大的作為,願你轉向祂,看到祂在你疲憊無力的時候祂的安慰。

願你們尋找到憩息,知道祂是神。

 

In His time (1): appointed time vs appropriate time

2021.09.18/19

From the Pastor’s Desk: Rev. Simon Lee

Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,

In His time, in His time,
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord, please show me every day,
as You’re teaching me Your way,
that You do just what You say, in Your time.

The lovely song, “In His time,” was written in 1978 by Diane Ball, when she was a busy mother of 4 children ages 10-14, trying to juggle many things in her life. She was a camp director of a conference center in northern California. On one occasion she was behind in attending her scheduled luncheon speaking engagement which was to start at noon, all because her husband was busy till 11 am. Being a perfectionist, she was furious and asked God to give her peace. The words of Ecclesiastes 3:11 came to her” “He makes all things beautiful – in His time.” Amazingly she was able to finish writing the song before she arrived. Not only that, the luncheon was also delayed, and she and her family arrived just in time … in His time!

I too am a planner and a very impatient person, and I often get very frustrated when things do not go according to plan for no reason. This song reminds me that we need to trust God’s timing for when things seem to go wrong, and we are anxious and frustrated. For nearly two years during the COVID pandemic, my patience has been pushed to the limit so many times. Most recently the test comes in the plan and the timing for “Return to Church” for worship. We keep having to adjust our plans for the last three months, up until announcement time. I am learning that while it is true that if we fail to plan, we plan to fail; it is also equally true that while we, as humans, plan it is God who brings realization of our plan, in His time. It is a hard lesson!

Re-examining the text from which this song come from (Ecclesiastes 3:1-13), I would like to share some thoughts I have been able to glean from the passage. First of all, the main theme is set out in the first verse:

For everything there is a season,

and a time for every matter under heaven. (ESV)

You may be interested to note according to biblical scholars, verse 1 is arranged in an ABB’A’ chiasm, which simply mean parallel elements are arranged like a mirror. Verse 1 is arranged as:

“for everything” (A); “a season” (Hb. zeman) (B);

a time” (B’) (Hb. ‘et); “for every matter” (A’).

The terms “season” and “time” are parallel. In light of the parallelism with “every matter”, the term “everything” must refer to every event or situation in life. The NET Bible translate the verse as:

For everything there is an appointed time,

and an appropriate time for every activity on earth. (NET)

Exploring further in Scriptures, “a season” (Hb. zeman) or “an appointed (designated) time” was used in the context of the appointed or designated time for the Jewish feasts (Esth. 9:27, 31) or the length of time (duration) for Nehemiah set for his absence from Susa (Neh. 2:6). The word is related to the noun for “plan or intention” (Job 17:11) and the noun for “purpose, plan, project” as in “the purpose of God” (Job 42:2; Jer. 23:20; 30:24; 51:11) and man’s plan (Isa. 5:12).

Also, “a time” (Hb. ‘et, a point in time) or “an appropriate time” has a two-fold range of meanings: (1) time of an event) and (2) time for an event. The latter has a range of usage such as ‘the usual time’, “the proper, suitable or appropriate time”, “an uncertain time” (Eccl. 9:11), as for example, “the time for rain” (Ezra 10:13); “the time for harvest.” (Hos. 2:11; Ps 104:27)

From the context of Ecclesiastes 3, I believe the thesis of Eccl. 3:1 may be understood as “There is an appointed time (from God) for everything, and “an appropriate time” (for man or woman to act accordingly) in (his or her) every activity (desire or delight). Simply put, in everything, God has His appointed time, and it will be done in an appropriate time (sovereignly through His human agent).

Rev. Warren Wiersbe summarizes the theme this way:

In fourteen statements, Solomon affirmed that God is at work in our individual lives, seeking to accomplish His will. All of these events come from God, and they are good in their time. The inference is plain: If we cooperate with God’s timing, life will not be meaningless. Everything will be “beautiful in his time” (v. 11), even the most difficult experiences of life.

In His time, in His time,
He makes all things beautiful in His time.    (To be continued)

Your servant in Christ,

Rev. Simon Lee