Blog.

Security or Privacy?

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The fight between the FBI and Apple has implications for us, even though this fight is in America. At the very least, we are forced to think about the morality of business.

The issue: the FBI wants Apple to disable the iphone feature that destroys all data when there are 10 failed attempts to unlock the phone. This is so the FBI can access the phone of the Muslim terrorists who killed 14 people and seriously injured 22 in San Bernardino. Apple refused to assist. The FBI secured a court order. Apple is seeking relief from the court order. This suggests Apple is planning to challenge the court order as being unconstitutional. The reason why Apple refuses to do as ordered by the court, in their own words: “In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.” The argument from Apple follows along the line of: (1) the customer’s right to privacy is sacred; (2) this is good for business; (3) if Apple creates this ability to disable, then other governments also demand Apple to do the same thing.

What is interesting is that the FBI is not asking for the “master key” it is asking Apple to disable the self-destruct feature, so the FBI can unlock. I think the analogy is false. Further, privacy is not sacred. Everything we do is open before God. Apple and other big businesses like Google, credit rating agencies, etc. are always collecting our personal information. A business that collects our personal information cannot claim it is sacred. If our privacy is sacred, why do the businesses themselves collect our information? Isn’t that hypocrisy on the part of Apple? The truth is that Apple, Google and other companies want control over our information without giving the government access. When a court order is given to search a house, that right to privacy is gone. But Apple refuses to acknowledge the authority of the State to access information even when the evil of terrorism has already been committed.

This matter causes me to ask about the ethics of Apple. Is Apple is morally right to refuse to do something even when their refusal supports the cause of Muslim terrorists? Apple has made privacy or business sacred. What does the Bible instruct me on Apple’s values?

Christians have a moral responsibility to influence businesses to do the right thing. Christian values must instruct businesses as they must also instruct governments. Our values are counter-culture. They are from our Creator.

Pastor Peter Eng

Loves Covers a Multitude of Sins

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Love changes the way we look at people. Love takes us from cold rationality to warm, fuzzy bliss. If love is not blind, it is at least near-sighted. Love makes us notice only the good things. It makes us delightfully bias, and unashamed of our bias.

Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Love empowers us with the remarkable ability to forget offenses. There have been times when I ought to be angry at a family member, but I can’t stay angry. I am sure you have experience something similar also. Love supplies this strange ability to make us forgive and forget.

Conversely, when we do not love, we are easily offended. There are times in our life when we are unhappy about something or someone, and we choose to turn that unhappiness over and over again in our minds. “I must not let this go” we say. “I must make that person realize his wrong. It’s for his own good after all.”

One sister borrows a dress from another without asking. The other sister gets upset. “I am about to use that dress” she says, full of hurt. “Why don’t you buy your own? Why do you always borrow my clothes?”

“You borrow mine more than I borrow yours!” her sister replies. And there is truth in it.

“But I always ask before borrowing,” comes the retort. And she is speaking the truth too.

“I didn’t think you would mind since you borrow from me so often. Also you were not around.”

The conversation spirals downwards and twenty years later, the sisters are still not talking to each other.

Looking back, the offended sister had chosen to be angry. She wasn’t about to use that dress. She was just saying it to win the argument. But that truth is suppressed because it makes her mean and small.

She nurses her envy towards her sister and wants to grind her down in a “gotcha” moment. She amplifies her grievance, modifies reality, and turns a harmless oversight into the crime of the century.

If her thoughts took another direction, “Oh well, I had not planned on using that dress” the outcome would be very different. Or, if she looks at her sister in her dress and said, “You look really good in that. You must be an head-turner today!” she would have totally ignored her sister’s oversight and delighted in her sister looking good.

There are people we love. And there are people who love us. These more-precious-than-gold relationships are also the ones most susceptible to damage. Our blood family, our spiritual family, our dearest friends, can all be lost in a moment. The Word of God urges us, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8).

The Holy Spirit of God lives in us and gives us the capacity to love. When we hate, when we are mean, when we find fault, it is not truly from within us, for we belong to God. When we allow the devil to whisper evil thoughts into our hearts and act according to those evil whispers, one thing leads to another and before we know it, the devil has succeeded in dividing us.

We can forgive when we recognize the negativity in us is from the devil. We can forgive when we recognize the negativity in the other person is also from the devil. Instead of resisting the devil, we can end up fighting each other, and hating ourselves.

But if love resides in our hearts, we forgive. We hope for the best outcome for the one we love. Love “keeps no record of wrong.” “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

It is my joy to observe that you have made provisions for each other in our community life and service, and that tells me you do love one another. Let us excel more and more in love. For by this, all will know we are disciples of Jesus.

Pastor Peter Eng

Celebrating Family

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Chinese New Year is that wonderful season when we connect with relatives, relatives with whom we have no reason to meet. The custom for us to visit the most senior matriarch (or patriarch) on the first day is a bitter sweet experience. We will run into relatives and delight in renewing ties with them. We may also run into relatives we would rather not meet. Both are important. But for tradition and propriety, we may never connect with more distant relatives, and forget that relatives can be adversaries at the same time.

For many people, the cost-benefit of running into adversarial relatives is not worth what we gain in reconnecting with distant friendly relatives. Yet we do it – because of tradition, because if we do not, we are seen as aloof. Acting with mixed motives is the reality in life. But there is great hope for us to sanctify our motives. We can begin to overlay these reunion events with goodwill and see how we can love and reach out to our relatives.

“By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you have love one for another,” Jesus gently explains (John 13:35). The language of love is universal. Conversion, evangelism, talking about Jesus, can be misunderstood as dominating behavior. This is why the actions of love must shine through clearly. Without love our words are like clanging cymbals. Love is action. This is vitally true in our culture where the verbal expression of love is restraint. CNY is a good time to show love and to follow it through beyond CNY. CNY gives us a traditional context to show love to relatives.

The tradition that promotes strong family ties is a sword that cuts both ways. It makes us responsible people towards our family, but it also tends to limit our generosity to family members. It doesn’t matter that some family members are of the worst character, we can enable them to continue in their waywardness in the name of family. Our love can be sincere but we do not take up the other duty of showing light to the ones we love. Our love can be so bound to earthly tradition that we ignore their spiritual need, in the fear that if we raise it, we lose our earthly relatives.

An event in the life of Jesus teaches us a lot about family.

Matthew 12 46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

We see the priority of Jesus’s relationship with his Father. Every human relationship brings meaning and joy only when it is placed under “Our Father who is in heaven.”

Earthly relations are important. Yet our earthly relations will not endure the curse that ends all relations. Death. The only means through which our earthly relations can be redeemed from death is when they also do “the will of my Father in heaven.” Jesus cares deeply for his mother and brothers. He cares too deeply to let them go their own way when their way is wrong.

Jesus is not asking us to love our family less. He is asking us to love our family right. When we love our family right, we love them more.

This CNY, I would like you to consider how you can love your family and other relatives right, and more. To love with deeds. To give both love and light. Let your hong bao be filled with prayer and love. Let your wishes of prosperity extend to the wealth that cannot be lost. Let your light so shine among people that they see your Father in heaven.

Pastor Peter Eng

Discovering Your Life Goal

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I asked my son when he was very little, “How much do you love papa? This much?” I asked, showing a little pinch between my thumb and index finger. “This much” he replied with a generous spread of his arms to the max. I was setting him up. I then asked, “And how much do you love mama?” It took him only a split second to extend his arms beyond the 180 degrees of his arms for his mother.

Kids tend to love their mother best, and their father next. Why? Someone suggests it is because mothers are unconditional in their love. Fathers love their kids too, but they tend to set goals for their kids more than mothers. Now we must not push this into an absolute statement. There will always be the tiger moms. But I find that observation true within my immediate circles. I think I am very engaged in my kids’ career and future. My wife is engaged too, but she engages them by simply loving, encouraging and supporting them. I deal with the nuts and bolts.

While I don’t tell my kids what they should become, I do tell them what they cannot become. There are perimeters, and my guidance is for them to have a vision within their God-given talents for God’s glory. Life must be lived for God if we will see abundance in our life. I see too many Christian parents talking about putting God first, but in raising our children we put their financial interest first. We undo our teachings with our life. We say put God first, but we put tutoring before worship, dance and music class before Christian community. We say God is priority, but when we deliberate on careers with them, it’s about money, prospects, benefits, or even their own happiness.

But Jesus is consistent. “‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.’” (John 4:34). Jesus lived his life on earth doing his Father’s will. It is like food to him. There is nothing better than living out God’s will in our life. Jesus lived it and taught his disciples to do the same. “When you pray,” Jesus said, “pray saying, ‘Our Father … your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’”

When I pray God’s will to be done on earth, I am also affirming God’s will must be first done in me. But it is not the will of God in opposition to my will. We want the best for ourselves. That is exactly what God wants for us! Tension arises is when we disagree with our Father what is best for us.

Let’s say there is this young lady who is gifted with a good voice. But she is not so talented that she can become a famous performer. However, her God-given talents are more than adequate for use in worship, for personal enrichment, to give her joy and satisfaction, etc. We need not think of every God-given talent as a career calling. Let’s say, she eventually becomes a dentist, or a store assistant, a counter sales lady, or a cleaner. These are God’s provisions for her daily bread. Her singing ability may be that area that connects her most intimately with God. Whatever she does to supply her daily bread, be that high or low in the eyes of the world, she continues to fulfill God’s calling for her because she uses her voice to praise God and to encourage worship.

We tend to think that if we are “in the center of God’s will” we will enjoy the type of accomplishment that the world recognizes as successful. Yet, if we look at the life of Jesus through the lens of the world, his life certainly did not qualify as success while he walked this earth. He wasn’t rich. He didn’t have a lot of disciples. He had no political success. But he was in the center of God’s will.

Similarly, look at the greatest prophet belonging to the old covenant – John the Baptist. John the Baptist did exactly as God wanted him to do, and he lost his head. Not the world’s idea of success. From what we know all the apostles died as martyrs. Is that success?

YES!!! According to God’s word! We all die, but they will forever be the 12 patriarchs of true Israel.

We are ready to discover our life goal when we have a different value system from the world. When we are ready to say our Father loves us, knows us, sees much more than we can, looks beyond this short life in this corruptible body, and we are ready to say, “Abba Father, not my will but yours be done,” we will discover God’s will.

Not everyone is worthy to die in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Most of us have a lower calling. But the principle remains the same. Until we are willing to let go of our own agenda, and embrace our Father’s agenda for us, we will never discover our true self, or reach the full potential God has for us.

I write to you, not as one who has arrived, but as one who has to learn to take up my cross daily and follow Jesus. I come to you as a fellow pilgrim who finds the surpassing liberation of surrender only to lose it when self takes over. The apostle Paul speaks to me when he says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Someone rightly observes the problem of the living sacrifice: “It wants to crawl off the altar.” That is what I tend to do, even though I have experienced the surpassing goodness of being a living sacrifice. If I will stay on the altar, I will find my greatest fulfillment. If I will trust my Father, that he does not make a mistake when he calls me to a certain path, I will not meander so much.

So let me affirm the goodness of my Father’s will when I pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” … and let thy will be done first in me.

Pastor Peter Eng

Matthew’s Story

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The Apostle Matthew begins his Good News with the birth of Jesus. Immediately after the account he tells us, “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:1-2) What it is about the kingdom of heaven that the people need to repent? Many Christians think of the kingdom of heaven as a place we go after we have repented. Here John the Baptist speaks of the kingdom of heaven in a completely different way. He tells his audience, the Jewish people, they need to repent because the kingdom of heaven is about to come.

In the tradition of the great prophets, John the Baptist gives the Jewish people a dire warning, “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:9-10). Unlike the great prophets of old who target their messages to the political leaders of Israel and Judah, John the Baptist was addressing the religious leaders of Israel and Judah – the Pharisees and Sadducees.

They are to repent because God’s judgment is about to fall on the children of Abraham in the flesh. The ax is about to fall on the roots of the tree. The Jewish people are about to be excluded from the kingdom of heaven. But God is faithful. He will keep his promise to Abraham by raising up children to Abraham “out of these stones.” From what seems to be impossible, God will perform the possible, and will raise up children to Abraham as people of his kingdom.

Do you get the sense that the kingdom of heaven is not about going to heaven after we die? John is talking about something else! He is talking about the impending kingdom of heaven that will impact the Jewish people in a certain way unless they repent. The coming kingdom of heaven will result in judgment on the Jewish people. At the same time, it will be God’s fulfillment of his promise to Abraham, that through him all the nations of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 18:18).

The kingdom of heaven is good news because it is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. All the nations of the earth will be blessed in a way the earth has never experienced. It will still come through Abraham, but it may not come through the children of Abraham who are children in the flesh.

Jesus then comes to John to be baptized by him. When that happens, the mandate passes from John to Jesus. Not long after Jesus’s baptism, John was imprisoned. “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus takes over where John leaves off. It is the same message. The Jewish people must repent because the kingdom of heaven has come near.

Jesus then begins to bring about the kingdom of heaven.

The very first thing he does is to call disciples to himself. Disciples who will make other disciples. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19).

John the Baptist, like every other Jew is still looking for a kingdom of heaven that involves the military overthrow of Rome, so he sends word of Jesus from prison asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

“Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:4-5) Jesus assures John he will bring about the kingdom of heaven.

One day, Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey as the Messiah king is supposed to do so. He then lays claim to the temple by cleaning it out. Next, he comes across an unfruitful fig tree. Jesus curses a fig tree, and it withers immediately (Matthew 21:1-17). The fig tree is the national symbol of Israel, even to this day.

Then he tells the story of two sons, one refuses to obey the father and one agrees to obey the father. But the son who agrees did not do as he says, and the unwilling son proceeds to obey his father. (Matthew 21:28-32)

Next he tells the story of how the tenants of a vineyard beat and kill the people the landlord sends to collect rent. Finally, the landlord sends his own son. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” The landlord removes the old tenants and brings in new ones “who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:33-44)

Jesus tells a third story. “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.” So the king opens the invite to all who are not on the original list.

The message is clear. The Jewish people are to repent because the kingdom of heaven is about to go to the nations of the world.

Jesus rises from the dead, and declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:18-19).

The kingdom of heaven goes out to all the nations through the disciples. The warning of John the Baptist and of Jesus comes to an end. The Jewish people do not repent. In AD 70, the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem. The ax falls. The fig tree withers. The disobedient son obeys. New tenants take over the vineyard. Strangers come to the banquet. Abraham blesses the world through Jesus.

Pastor Peter Eng

ABBA

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“Abba.” That’s how people call their father in Aramaic. Scholars debate what the equivalent in English might be. Some say it is like “Dad” or “Daddy,” or “Papa.” Others say it is not so casual, it’s like “Father.” Why the debate? Or even a discussion?

That is because Christians are trying to determine how to address God as Father. When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, he tells them, pray saying, “Our Father …” When Jesus himself prays, he says, “Abba, Father.” (“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36). When the early Christians pray, they are taught to address God as “Abba, Father” (The Spirit … brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15).

In the original language of the New Testament, we see “Abba, [ho] pater.” They used the combination of Abba (Aramaic) and pater (Greek). I believe the translators are exactly right to follow this pattern when they give us Abba (Aramaic), Father (English). So the Aramaic-Greek is now expressed as Aramaic-English.

The early Christians follow how Jesus teaches them to pray, calling on God as “Our Father.” In addition, they follow the example of Jesus, calling God “Abba, Father.” We should do the same.

When we pray ALOUD, and call on God as ABBA, FATHER, our prayer dynamic changes. We begin to understand God as Father. We are not petitioning to a King. We are not ordering a genie to obey our fancies. We are talking to a perfect, all knowing, all wise, all loving Father who knows our needs and will give us everything that is good for us, and withhold everything that is harmful to us. We begin to experience the presence of God as the Holy Spirit in us empowers us to speak to God personally, intimately.

Just in case you have not read the New Testament, I will present you a small sample of the hundreds of times God is referred to us Father. You will see it is the normal way Jesus talks about God. And he calls his disciples to do the same.

Pastor Peter Eng

A Sample of God as Father in John’s Gospel

1:14. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

1:18. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

2:16. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

4:21. “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

4:23. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

5:17. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”

5:19. Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

5:20. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.

5:21. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

6:40. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” 

God Our Father

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Let’s say you live in the constituency of the Prime Minister, and you have a problem that requires his help. You go at the appointed time, and respectfully present your issue to him and ask him if he could do this or that for you. You come before him as a citizen. You have the right to present your case both as a citizen of the country and as his constituent. But do his children take a queue number and wait to see him to present their needs?

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray to God, “Our Father …” He reminds us, this is how you are to pray to “your Father.” Yes, God is God. Yes, he is Lord. Yes, he is King. But the most personal thing to us is that he is Father.

Let’s think of our Prime Minister’s family. How would his children address him? Do you think they call him, “Mr. Prime Minister, Sir!”? What is the way they related to him first? Do you think he wants them to relate to him as their father or that they respect him as the Prime Minister?

In the Old Testament, Israel understood Yahweh is God and Father. But they have not addressed him as “Father.” God is only conceptually their Father. To Israel, God was more a King. And there is a need for that. The King provides national leadership. And God continues to be King for us. But Jesus introduces us to something radically new. He tells us that God is both King and Father.

God as King is true even to those who hate God. Everyone will stand before him and be accountable to him. As King he rules over both the willing and the unwilling subjects. As King, he exercises power. As the Righteous King, he banishes injustice. We must not undervalue God’s role as King of Kings.

Jesus calls God, “My Father,” never as “Our Father,” because he is the Eternal Son of God, and relates to God as Father differently from how we relate to God as Father. At the same time, Jesus also makes it clear that God is not the spiritual Father to everyone. God is King to everyone, because Kingship is an exercise in power. But God is Father to those who belong to him by adoption.

[Examples of the above: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Matt 10:32) “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt 11:27) “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. … You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires” (John 8:42,44). “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). ]

God as Father also means some are not his children. We are by nature alienated from God. Yes, God calls us to accept his kingship as obedient citizens rather than rebels. That is true before and after Jesus came. But after Jesus came he tells us there is something more personal than kingship. There is the Fatherhood of God to all who believe in him.

Do you have any relationship with God at all? Is he your enemy, your King, your Father?

Come to God as his child. Call upon him as your Father. That is the most personal way for us to relate to God.

Pastor Peter Eng

A Father’s Love

A father is respected because
He gives his children leadership…
Appreciated because
He gives his children care…
Valued because
He gives his children time…
Loved because
He gives his children the one thing
They treasure most – himself.

 

Are You Ready For Baptism?

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What is Baptism?

Baptism is the universal symbol that a person has become a Christian. By the same token, when a person is not baptized, the world does not recognize that person as a Christian, even though he may say, “I believe, I prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior.”

To believe in Jesus is to believe and act on what he teaches us. To believe, to have faith, is more than an agreement in the head. We can believe that a train brings us home, but unless we get on that train, we will not get there. To believe in Jesus is to get onboard! Sitting at the station and letting the trains go by will not bring us home.

The Apostle Peter declared to the people after Jesus ascended into heaven, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off. …” (Acts 2:38-39).

That day, about three thousand people were baptized and they were officially added to those who belonged to the Kingdom of God (Acts 2:41). This sets the pattern for all who belong to Jesus. The ministry @theWell is one local expression of the universal Kingdom of God. We follow this pattern and ask all applicants to membership to first consider baptism. Your inward faith in Jesus should be followed by the outward declaration in baptism. Through this, you tell the world that your sins are forgiven, you belong to the Kingdom of God, you are adopted by heavenly Father as his child.

Another event in the early church was when Philip (a church leader) spoke the Good News of the Kingdom to a eunuch from Ethiopia. They came to a place where there was water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” Of course, the desire for the Eunuch to be baptized into the Kingdom of God in itself meant there was nothing to prevent his baptism. So they stopped the carriage they were travelling in, went to the water, and Philip baptized the eunuch on the spot. (Acts 8:36-39).

Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33).

Apostle Paul explains, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be save.” (Romans 10:9).

Going back to the analogy of the train, we can say that baptism is like getting on the train. It is the public commitment to faith in Jesus Christ. It is the declaration, “I am not in the driver’s seat to become acceptable to God, it is the goodness of Jesus that takes me there.”

When do you get baptized?

The most common mistake we make is to think that baptism is something we do after we get certain things in order. It is the opposite. Baptism is the first thing we do to get things in order. Jesus said this very clearly. After Jesus rose from the dead, he “came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)

When the Holy Spirit of God works in you, and you believe the Good News of Jesus Christ, the devil is about to lose you from his kingdom. So he tells you a lie to keep you from God’s kingdom. He tells you, “You need to clean up your act first. After all, you can’t go to God when you are in this mess.” That is deceptive because it has a ring of truth to it. “After all, if I am invited to the President’s place, I cannot go as I am, I need to get myself in order.” What the devil is trying to do is to deny what God tells us. The Bible tells us clearly God receives us as we are. Until we are baptized and have the Holy Spirit of God in us, we will never get our act together.

This is the trick of the devil. He makes us think our acceptance to God is based on what we do. God has told us that if we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth during baptism, that settles it with him. God becomes our heavenly Father, not just some great Creator out there somewhere. It is like adoption papers. A homeless child does not wait to get his act in order before he is adopted into a good home. The good home is the place where he gets his act together. Baptism is the adoption papers getting you to become God’s child. First the child says, “Yes, I want to be adopted.” When he says “Yes” he is as good as being adopted – almost. There is a need to formalize that desire to be adopted. If the child says “Yes” but rejects the adoption papers, he still cannot be adopted.

Baptism is not an option if you want to be a child of God. It is the initiation into the Kingdom of God. Do not delay. To delay your public confession in baptism is to fail to confess Jesus publicly.

How is Baptism Done?

During baptism you will be asked to confess Jesus Christ publicly with the following or similar words.

I, _____________ (Name), confess Jesus Christ as true God and true man, that he died for my sins, was buried, and raised from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures.

I publicly declare Jesus Christ as my Lord, and I his disciple. As a disciple of Jesus, I seek a life that is transformed through the renewing of the Holy Spirit, to increasing obedience to Jesus. I will also seek a community of believers to help me grow in my commitment to Jesus.

We normally baptize by sprinkling / pouring during a worship service. You will be invited to kneel (if you are able), and the pastor will pour water on your head and say, “_____________ I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” He will pray for you briefly and raise you up again.

If you choose to be immersed for baptism at a special baptism service, we will try to fulfil your request. Please bear in mind that in this case, those witnessing your baptism will be limited to those who come to your special baptism service.

You will be asked to write out the story of your journey to faith. This is not a condition to baptism. This is your blessing to other people as they rejoice with you. It is also for your own benefit as your personal story of faith that you can tell and retell to bless others.

Conclusion

Baptism is the public confession of Jesus as Lord and it is the essential expression of faith for a person to be regarded as a child of our heavenly Father.

Baptism is the first public act of faith that empowers you with the Holy Spirit to live a transformed life, not the destination after you have achieved some personal goals in life.

The amount of water used in baptism has no spiritual significance, baptism is significant because it is your confession of faith.

Are you ready to confess Jesus publicly?

Pastor Peter Eng

Merry Christmas

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For sure, there is the problem of secularization and meaningless partying during Christmas. For sure, Christmas is commercialized. For sure, we need to keep reminding people that Jesus is the reason for the season. Not Santa, not sales, not lights, not snow, not jingle bells.

Our community is not in danger of the secularization of Christmas. So we are comfortable talking about what we are not guilty about. But we tend towards the other end – solemnizing of Christmas. I know my series about how Christmas is God’s declaration of war against Satan (Revelation 12) can add to our tendency towards a strict religiosity during Christmas, so I like to affirm for all of us that Christmas is reason to celebrate and be merry.

Christmas is the irruption of God on earth. While eruption is the bursting out of something, irruption is the bursting in of something. Christmas is God bursting into a world that is unable to save itself. It is our Everlasting Father engaging in a cosmic war to spread a table before us in the presence of our enemies. Jesus came to save us from sin, from alienation with God and man, from a world bent on self-destruction, and from a failed fatherhood (our theme for next year).

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Once a year, we set aside time to celebrate the birth of Jesus – the irruption of God into our world. We celebrate the Son of God becoming the Son of man that the sons of men might become the sons of God. And strangely, the world is willing to join us in this celebration! (Unlike the other Christian celebrations.)

I rejoice over the fact the world joins us in celebrating the birth of Jesus. Even though the birth of Jesus is both the liberation of humankind and the start of the battle to liberate humankind, we need to celebrate. Why? Because unless we celebrate, we forget why we are at spiritual war. Because even in war, soldiers pause to celebrate. Because celebration brings us together. Because God builds the love of celebration into our DNA. Because without the peace, happiness, and pleasure of celebration, warfare, even a spiritual one, will leave us exhausted, jaded, and unmotivated.

Don’t be afraid of a merry Christmas. There is time for somber reflection and active service through the year. We celebrate Christmas as a season of joy and invite the world to join us. Yes, they get carried away and forget Jesus at Christmas. So we don’t want to join the world in celebration. But this does not translate into not celebrating! We throw open our arms and embrace the world to come join us in our celebration.

We easily forget to accept, to include, and to love. Once a year, we remind ourselves to do that. We ask the Holy Spirit of God to transform in us from the indifference and selfishness that characterizes our life, to become more like Jesus. While most of us have not come to the point where we leave the comfort of home, as Jesus did, to bring joy to others, we have the capacity to celebrate and include others in our celebration.

Let’s celebrate, not furtively because we are afraid we will lose the meaning of Christmas, but passionately, and invite the world to share our joy.

Everlasting Father

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“And his name shall be called … the Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6)

We say, “Jesus is the reason for the season during Christmas.” Rightly so. But in what sense? The Bible gives us one surprising answer.

One reason Jesus came to earth as a child was to confront the failure in fatherhood and to restore fatherhood to its proper place.

“Really?” I hear some say. “Where does Scripture link Christmas to fatherhood?”

Everlasting Father

It’s a text you may already know:
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers ….” (Mal 4:6, KJV).

Strictly speaking, the verse refers to the work of the Elijah-like prophet (John the Baptist) who would come before the Messiah. But we need to bear in mind that Elijah does only in part what the Messiah does fully. Elijah will preach the redemption of fatherhood. Jesus will execute the redemption of fatherhood.

What is also truly significant is that this is the LAST verse of the whole OT. The verse calls on all Israel to look forward to the redemption of fatherhood by Messiah. The Holy Spirit of God chose to close the whole of OT Scripture with the promise of a redemption of fatherhood when Messiah comes.

“Why not motherhood?” you may ask. “Doesn’t motherhood need redemption too? Or maybe the patriarchal society does not recognize the role of mothers?”

To say that fathers need to turn their heart to their children and children to their fathers, is NOT a compliment to fatherhood. It is a statement of need, of brokenness. There is certainly brokenness in motherhood as well as fatherhood. But God has ordained the leadership of the father at home. And it is the brokenness of fatherhood that brings about the dysfunction of the family more than any other reason. Yes, there is brokenness in motherhood, but the fixing must start with the redemption of fatherhood. It is the root failure and demands priority. From this redemption, other familial dysfunctions may be fixed.

The brokenness of fatherhood is very real in our times. But it is not unique to our times. The entire OT Scripture is filled with broken fatherhood. There was no real solution to this brokenness, so that brokenness was seen but not talked about. There is no point talking about a failure to which we have no good fix. But the prophet Malachi speaks the promise of God to the people. When Messiah comes, he will heal the brokenness of fatherhood.

We close each year with Christmas, remembering God’s gift of Jesus as our Savior. And one key redemption of Jesus our Savior is the redemption of fatherhood. This is the perfect segue to our theme of 2016: “Our Father.”

I am both excited and intimidated by this theme. I invite you to join me as we explore the redemption of fatherhood together. We have reason to hope for a better father, a better man, better leadership in the home, and in the face of such failure to find in Our Father that father we never had—the Everlasting Father.

The prophet Isaiah declared our need for an Everlasting Father. The prophet Malachi told God’s people that the redemption of fatherhood is around the corner, when Messiah comes. Let us find that redemption as a community. Let us turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.