Week of January 17th, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
I find that almost every time I wrote one of these pastor’s posts in 2020, I said something to the effect of “We live in unprecedented times” or “nothing has happened like this in history!” It seems the trend will continue in 2021. I’m sure like me, you watched with disbelief and horror at the attack on the capitol that occurred on January 6. I have seen my share of protests and riots, from the 1992 Rodney King riots in LA to the recent insanity in Seattle. I have never seen anything like what occurred last week. Protesters bearing US flags and Trump-supporting signs violently breaking into the capitol building to prevent Congress from confirming the election of Joe Biden. 5 people lost their lives as a result of the violence, including a Capitol police officer and a female protester who was shot. We live in unprecedented times, indeed.
As a pastor, what truly broke my heart more than the division in our nation is the division this has caused in the Church. Looking at my Christian friends’ responses, it seemed like they are living in 2 different worlds and responding to 2 different events. One side sees a president who has clearly instigated an insurrection against our nation, who is worthy of removal from office. The other side sees a president who is clearly the target of a Liberal conspiracy, falsely accused of the actions of a small minority, who is worthy of admiration and support. What are we to make of this? How can Christians who have the Holy Spirit, who love biblical truth, and who are submitted to Jesus as Lord and Savior be so far apart in their assessment of the president and his actions?
Sorry to disappoint, but I do not have an answer for you in this post, as this is a question I am still praying over and wrestling with. What I DO want to share with you, however, are some principles we ought to live by as we navigate these uncertain days and interact with those we may strongly disagree with.
1. Do not sacrifice the Truth for the “truth”
In this age of information overload, we can find evidence to support just about any viewpoint, and we can similarly find evidence to discredit any dissenting viewpoint. I see (and have participated in) many fruitless online battles where each side bombards the other with “our truth” while similarly discrediting and ignoring “their truth.” As Christians, we know that truth and accuracy are vital, but we also know that for many of these world-shaking events, we will never know the exact details or motivations. The only thing we CAN know for sure is the truth of Christ and His Word. The only thing we CAN do for sure is display Christ’s character in our lives. Exalting Christ and making Him known should be our priority in every word that we speak or type, and every interaction we have with others. Christ called us not to win arguments, but to win souls. If I may paraphrase ,
“19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to read, slow to type, slow to anger;”
2. The ends do not justify the means
King Herod the Great was, by all accounts, a shrewd politician, a brilliant architect, and a brutal, decadent tyrant. Though he was by birth an Idumean descended from the line of Esau, he clawed his way to rule over the Jews in Judea. He was able to accomplish this by appealing to the Jews’ religious fervor and cultural pride. Outwardly, Herod practiced Judaism, and the temple that he constructed for the Jews was a marvel of ancient engineering. To give you an idea of its grandeur, the enormous Western wall that still stands in Jerusalem today was only a part of that temple’s . With these grand gestures of Jewish piety, Herod was able to rule harshly over the Jews for 30 years, brutalizing the people and extracting large amounts of taxes for the Roman empire whom he ultimately served. Tragically, he is best rememberd in the Bible as the perpetrator of the Massacre of the Innocents in Matthew 2:16-19, when he attempted to murder the newborn Jesus by killing all the baby boys in Bethlehem. For the national pride of having a beautiful temple, the Jews ultimately supported a king who almost killed their Savior. There is much we can learn as the church in 2021 from the life of Herod the Great (whether we are conservative or liberal!)
Political compromises are a necessary evil in our fallen society. There is no candidate (liberal or conservative) that will not disappoint or fail in some way. However, Christians must never sacrifice discernment or accountability for the sake of political power or cultural influence. To turn a blind eye to dishonesty and corruption because “he’s done so much for us!” or “we can’t let the other side win!” is not only foolish, but sinful as well!
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” - Isaiah 5:20
3. Get out from your echo chamber
One relationship I have come to treasure these past 4 years is with my brother. As an atheist, a staunch Democrat, and a social progressive, his views are basically the opposite of everything I believe in as a Christian. While he has not changed my worldview or any of my foundational beliefs, our many conversations have forced me to challenge my assumptions, humanize my “opponents”, and hear his side without the filter of conservative media. Far from corrupting us or deceiving us, genuinely interacting with someone from the other side will only make your beliefs more trustworthy and robust.
Too many Christians only get their news and analysis of world events from single-sided news, friends, and (God-forbid) social media. When we are only surrounded by similar voices, we lose objectivity and it becomes nearly impossible to see the flaws and biases in our beliefs.
True confidence in “your side” means being willing to have your beliefs cross examined through genuine conversations (not internet posts!) with real people (not straw men!) from the other side. It also means being honest enough to admit our faults and see the merit in opposing views.
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”
- Proverbs 18:17
4. Count the cost of supporting “your side”
Jesus stated the cost of following Him plainly in Luke 14:26-27 - “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Unfortunately, I find that many Christians are foolishly paying this price as I see them double down in their defense of “their party” or “their guy”. Here are some important questions to count the cost the next time another political scandal or crisis erupts:
a. In order to support/believe this, will I need to include more and more people on my list of traitors and enemies?
b. In order to support/believe this, will I need to believe the very worst about my enemies?
c. In order to support/believe this, will I need to turn to an increasingly smaller and more biased pool of acceptable resources and allies?
d. In order to support/believe this, will I need to rely more and more on wild theories and explanations?
e. In order to support/believe this, will I need to overlook or explain away strong evidence of my own side’s wrongdoings?
If the majority of your answers are “yes”, you need to seriously reexamine your position. Remember that only Jesus is worth such devotion and sacrifice. And remember also that those very same “traitors and enemies” you are demonizing and fighting are people Jesus died for. If winning an election or proving a point costs you the ability to show the love of Christ or effectively share the gospel with your “enemies” then you have paid too high a price! Christ’s kingdom is built through our selfless love of others, not through conquering our political enemies.
We will have more controversy and conflict in the days ahead both before and after the inauguration. Will you be known as a follower of Jesus or a follower of a political party?
Week of January 10th, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
1Tim 1:15 “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
When did I develop my passion for evangelism? The day after my conversion! For I really could identify with Paul and knew how precious this message of the cross was. Even though I wasn’t trained in evangelism, all my buddies have heard about my testimony and a very simple presentation of the gospel—Jesus Christ and Him crucified. How can I stop my mouth from telling people! I even want to share the gospel to the least evangelized—the Buddhist monks in the monastery. They need the gospel too.
There was a monk who was a good friend of my father. Whenever he wants to do banking, he would give my father his seal and the bankbook for his bank transactions. Because of this special relationship with our family, I have this privilege to enter into his living quarter, which was off-limit to outsiders. I brought several booklets called “Who is the True God” with me. Inside the monks’ living quarters I slipped these booklets here and there. They may just throw it away or burn it immediately. At least I tried my best! Who knows? These booklets may help them to find the gospel truth. That was 6 months after my conversion.
When I was at college, with God’s help I overcame my shyness, even sharing the gospel to strangers in the dormitory cafeteria and doing campus evangelism. When I was a lay leader, I led my church’s evangelistic effort pioneering different outreach initiatives. After seminary I recognized the need to train up believers to do evangelism, so I took Evangelism Explosion (EE) training and started EE at the Dallas Chinese Bible Church in 1997. By the grace of God, DCBC just finished their 47th semester of EE training last December and entered into their 25th year in January. Knowing the effectiveness of EE, I also started the EE training at Sunset Chinese Baptist Church. There is only one U.S. Chinese church I know of that started EE earlier. It is CIBC-Oakland (1996).
Why am I telling you my life stories? It is because a Gospel-oriented evangelistic church is also a church blessed by the Lord and greatly used by Him, for in 1Tim 2:4 Paul said “(God) who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the (gospel) truth.”
Doubters think that this EE, an American invention, will not work in Chinese culture, for they find it silly to ask the question “If you were to die today…” With my many years of evangelism experience, I can affirm the wisdom of this question. The Chinese saying is true, “If the bull doesn’t want to drink, no way you can force it to drink.” But if you are able to feed the bull with salt, it will then want to drink water without force. The key is to feed the bull “salt”. Genuine friendship is that powerful “salt!” After many years of training, I can also affirm this “salt” wisdom. That’s why EE started only with three key elements—Evangelism, Discipleship and Church Growth—but now added “Friendship” as the fourth essential element.
Evangelism training is relatively straightforward. Developing genuine friendship is the most challenging. If you want to be effective in sharing the gospel, you need to be creative in developing genuine friendship with the people around you. And then when you share the gospel with them, it will make them thirst for the answer of life’s most important question.
Week of January 3rd, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
God has made all things new. “New” is a word that matches perfectly with the name and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. To create all things new is one of God’s most famous achievements. The Scripture reminds us of God’s lovingkindness which is always new and is lavished on us who look up to Him and depend on Him. There is no test of worthiness, no price attached but is given fresh every morning. “The LORD’s acts of mercy indeed do not end, for His compassions do not fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam 3:22-23).
Every morning brings a new mercy, because every morning ends the night. The night is the time of danger and dismay. Every morning brings new mercy, because every morning ushers in another day. This is a new reason for praise, for we have no right to an hour, or even a minute, and so much less to a day. The Christian may thank God that he has another day in which he may walk with God as Enoch did, another day in which he may trust God as Abraham did, another day in which he may work for Christ as Paul did. God gives us our days. May He teach us their value, then as each new morning breaks, we may truly say to him, “Your mercies are new every morning, for the morning has brought us another day.”
God has made us new. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). “If anyone is in Christ…” It implies that no man becomes a new creature apart from Christ. In fact, the things that are apart from Him become old and are ready to perish. Christ Jesus came when we were failing terribly as God’s creation and He made us anew. This is the reason to praise God each day because He made us new and paid a precious price to redeem us who were dying in sins.
A man in Christ is not a man purified, nor a man improved. He is a new creature altogether. You cannot change the old nature, it is immutably bad, and the sooner it is put away as a filthy and unclean thing the better for us. Prophet Jeremiah illustrated the problem of our old nature, “Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil” (Jer 13:23). However, a new creature has a new heart according to the promise, “a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” (Eze 36:26) He has new ears, hearing what he refused to hear before; he has a new tongue, and can pray with it as he never prayed before. He has new feet to run in the ways of God’s commandments.
May we always bear in mind in this new year the newest of each day, and fully live as our Lord intends for His beloved children.
Blessings in Christ,
Week of December 27th, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
Although the pandemic is getting worse recently, Shelter-In-Place can be a good opportunity to do outreach. You can invite seekers to join your cell group. You can discuss topics that are biblical and applicable to both believers and seekers, for it is based on scriptural wisdom.
There is no need for me to explain all the advantages of cell groups. Cell group’s online meetings can now reach even more people. Let me extract three principles from the book of Nehemiah chapter 3 to see how cell groups can do gospel outreach effectively.
#1: Total Mobilization
Those involved in building the Jerusalem wall are not professional builders but ordinary people. Nehemiah chapter 3 told us, “Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate… After him the Levites repaired… and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired… Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired… Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired… Next to them the ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired.”
People with different backgrounds are all involved in the building of the wall. Perfumers and goldsmiths are usually not involved in heavy labor, yet they are willing to do so because they are convinced it is God's work. Whether they are old or young, men or women, all are involved. Only the nobles are not willing to dirty their hands.
According to this Nehemiah principle, cell group gospel outreach requires total church mobilization to succeed.
#2: Small Group Action
Nehemiah mobilizes all the clans and families and assigns each to build a certain section of the wall. “The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate… And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired… After him the Tekoites repaired another section…”
Cell groups can also adopt such a strategy. Just as a family/clan is assigned a section of the wall, a cell group can form a self-contained gospel outreach team. It is effective because as a smaller team they can work efficiently with one another. For instance, they can invite seekers to join their cell group, to pray for their non-Christian friends and relatives, and also to work together in their own special gospel meetings. During their cell group meetings, they have numerous opportunities to share the gospel. This is just the Nehemiah’s “Small Group Action” principle.
#3: In Step with One Another
Neh 4:6 “And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” Since the people are building in step with one another, they are able to reach half its height at the same time. If not, the wall could be uneven and all the wall sections could not be linked up.
Whether the groups are large or small, as long as they are working in step with one another, it will be more effective. E.g., even a seeker didn’t trust Christ in the cell group meeting, the gospel seed had already been sown. Doing outreach simultaneously allows them to harvest at the same time. Suppose all cell groups are doing outreach in the Fall season, we can organize evangelistic meetings to harvest close to the end of the season. Remember! Without sowing, don’t expect to harvest. So, doing outreach in step with one another will be more effective than doing it alone. Many evangelistic trainings adopt this Nehemiah principle.
Brothers and sisters, if you have not joined a cell group yet, may I encourage you to join one. If you have already joined one, let me challenge you to equip yourself well so as to lead a cell group in the future.
Week of December 20th, 2020
CHRISTMAS OF THE SCRIPTURES NOT THE SONGS
Dear brothers and sisters,
Singing carols is a staple tradition of the Christmas season. As a teenager, our youth fellowship would fit as many people as possible in the church vans and sing carols as various designated church members’ homes then conclude the night at someone’s basement for hot chocolate, spiced apple cider and assorted cookies and holiday desserts. Some years, we visited shut-ins, the elderly, and nursing homes to bring some Christmas cheer by singing the cherished Christmas carols.
While singing carols has great merits in contributing to the holiday spirit of the community, a closer look at some of the lyrics may cause us to question what kind of contribution are we making to understanding what happened at the first Christmas. That is, how does the picture we are painting through the carols match with what the Bible says.
For example, “Joy to the World” actually refers to the second coming of Christ. When he comes, he will usher in a period when there is no more sin, sorrow or thorns because he will rule “the world with true and grace.” In the carol “Away in a Manger” we are told that Jesus was surrounded by lowing cattle and that the baby Jesus did not cry. Scripture does not mention the presence of cattle, sheep, donkeys, or camels as depicted in the Nativity scenes or whether the baby Jesus cried.
Perhaps the popular carol “The First Noel” contains more faulty notions about Advent than any other hymn. In verse one, we are told that certain poor shepherds were keeping watch of their sheep on a cold winter’s night “that was so deep” (we are left to our own imagination to complete the sentence with “snow”). Scripture does not tell us when Christ was born nor the economic or emotional status of the shepherds. Perhaps we are to feel sorry for them because they were struck with the thankless job of taking the night shift! The second verse confuses the shepherds with the magi who saw the great light and followed it. The shepherds went to Bethlehem because of the angel’s announcement, not a star. Also, they did not travel day and night as the Bible tells us that they were in nearby fields. Finally, the third through fifth verses focus on the journey of the wise men or magi. Unfortunately, the carol states that there were three assuming to correspond to the three gifts they were brought. Again, the Bible does not mention how many wise men went to see Jesus. The Bible does mention that the wise men bowed and worshiped Jesus which the carol in beautiful prose states “full reverently upon their knee.”
But don’t be too harsh on the carols or the carol writers. Most of them do get it correct by placing their focus on the birth of the Savior. As we sing these carols, we need to heed the words of the final stanza of “The First Noel”: Then let us all with one accord; Sing praises to our heavenly Lord; That hath made heaven and earth of nought; And with his blood mankind hath bought: Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel; Born is the King of Israel.
Pastor Philip Gee
Week of December 13th, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
This Christmas season will be one of the most unique in human history, in terms of how we will be forced to celebrate (or rather, not celebrate). Though perhaps more than any other year we are all yearning for the comforts of celebrating Christ’s birth with beloved family and friends, most of us will be spending Christmas 2020 with only our immediate families. Instead of letting this dampen our joy, however, let me suggest to you three ways our isolation can actually enhance our Christmas cheer.
1. Pursue what is truly important (Luke 10:41-42)
“Jesus is the reason for the season!” is the oft-repeated but seldom-remembered saying we hear with increasing frequency as Christmas approaches. Though the reminders of Christ’s birth are all around us, the demands of gift-buying, gift-giving, event hosting, card writing, card sending, meal prepping, and travel planning very quickly displaces our Savior as the centerpiece of our holiday festivities. Though she was not celebrating Christmas, Martha in Luke 10 fell into a similar trap. Overwhelmed by the need to play hostess, she neglected to sit and simply enjoy Jesus’ presence. Now, with most of our Christmas plans cancelled, we have no excuse but to heed Jesus’ gentle rebuke in Luke 10:41-42: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” May you spend the (hopefully) extra time you have this Christmas season in the contemplation and adoration of our Savior.
2. Invest time into “outsiders” (Luke 14:16-24)
The parable of the wedding banquet is not related to Christmas, but it is uniquely applicable to our current situation. Rejected by his original guests, the host of a lavish banquet did not let his food go to waste, but commanded his servants to “bring in the poor and the crippled and the blind and lame.” (v.21) After being told there was still room, the master then told his servants to “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” (v.23) In the same way, though we will not be able to entertain our intended guests for Christmas, our preparations and efforts can still be a blessing to others. Your relatives may not get to taste your amazing Christmas cookies, but they can be a taste of home for the young career guy or gal stuck here by themselves for the holidays. You may not get to go on that road trip to the in-laws, so why not spend those miles dropping off gifts to some of our elderly members? Your grandkids in SoCal may no longer be receiving those extra stocking stuffers you’d saved up, so how about giving them to the divorced/widowed/single parents in your neighborhood? Allow God to redirect your Christmas efforts, and be a blessing to an “outsider.”
3. Develop some new traditions for your family (Luke 2:1-20; Exodus 12:1-20)
Even as COVID has forced us to rethink some of our most treasured traditions for the holidays, it is also a reminder that many of the holidays and traditions we celebrate were born out of dangerous and uncertain times. For Jewish people, the ritual meal of the Passover (Exodus 12:1-20) remembers the life-or-death struggle to be free from Egyptian slavery. For Christians, the familiar imagery of the shepherds and the manger (Luke2:1-20) memorializes the meager circumstances of Christ’s birth. After a year like 2020, some new traditions would be entirely appropriate. Perhaps it will be an extended time of sharing and prayer before your Christmas meal, singing carols together with extended family over Zoom, or making and hanging special ornaments for your tree, but plan to do something unique with your family to recount God’s faithfulness in this uniquely challenging year.
My prayer is that this Christmas, though different, will become a highlight for you of God’s unfailing promises in the years to come.
Week of December 6th, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
The Christmas celebration is coming. Though the mood may not be as joyous as previous year because of the pandemic, you notice the decoration for Christmas has started to appear around your neighborhood. We pray that God will bless each of you fresh hope and peace that the message of a God-given Savior has realized.
Matthew 2:1-12 recorded the wonderful story of the wise men who traveled far to honor the newborn king. These wise men came from the East to the capital city of Jerusalem asking the question, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” For they had observed a special star in the night sky signifying a very important king had born. This newborn king is not their king, yet they came. The mighty God who sent this newborn king is not their God, yet they came. They came not to establish diplomatic relationships, their sole desire and purpose is to honor and worship the newborn king. God has made these wise men to recognize and demonstrate to us that this newborn king is not just king of the Jews, but this king has a rightful place in the hearts of all men. What a wonderful reminder that Christ the Lord is in the rightful place in our heart in the Christmas season.
Did the wise men make it in time to present the gifts to the king at the night of His birth? They have missed that Christmas night when the angels appeared in glory to tell of the good news for all men. They have missed that Christmas night when the shepherds gathered at the manger to witness the newborn Savior for all men. The wise men found the newborn king with His mother in a house but not in a manger. They worshiped the newborn king as a child but not a newborn baby. They have missed the birthday party! Yet for them it was not too late to worship and honor the king, they were overjoyed when they found the newborn king. God had accepted their worship from a pure heart, and it was recorded in the Bible for all of us to see. We should be encouraged that it is not too late to place the Lord Jesus in the rightful place in our heart and to worship Him with a pure heart. For God has given us such a merciful and gracious king that those who receive Him and believe in His name, have been given the authority to become the children of God.
Hope and peace in the Lord,
Week of November 29th, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
It is that time again, Thanksgiving. I am wondering: what do you give thanks for in this unusual and stressful 2020.
As I am reading John Piper’s book: Coronavirus and Christ. I am being reminded and challenged to give thanks for the coronavirus. Why? Let me share with you the reasons from this book!
1. Picturing Moral Horror
God is giving the world in the coronavirus outbreak, as in other calamities, a physical picture of the moral horror and spiritual ugliness of God-belittling in.
2. Sending Specific Divine Judgments
Some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions. (While not all suffering is a specific judgment for sins, some is.)
3. Awakening Us for The Second Coming
The coronavirus is a God-given wake-up call to be ready for the second coming of Christ.
4. Realigning Us with The Infinite Worth of Christ
The coronavirus is God’s thunderclap call for all of us to repent and realign our lives with the infinite worth of Christ.
5. Creating Good Works in Danger
The coronavirus is God’s call to his people to overcome self-pity and fear, and with courageous joy, to do the good works of love that glorify God.
6. Loosening Roots to Reach The Nations
In the coronavirus, God is loosening the roots of settled Christians, all over the world, to make them free for something new and radical, and to send them with the gospel of Christ to the unreached people of the world.
May I encourage you to give thanks for the coronavirus in addition to all the blessings the Lord had bestowed on you in 2020.
Blessings and have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Pastor Joseph Pang
Week of November 22nd, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
I have read an interesting article about the following situations:
“The mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
The taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.
A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.
The lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear.
The piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.”
During the pandemic and after the election, I can add some more to the list:
Some find having four years of presidency unbearable, yet many nations in the world have lifetime presidents.
You heard many complaints of our government about how imperfect it is. The reason you can hear those complaints is because you have freedom of speech. In many countries you can only hear praises of their perfect government and their faultless leader.
Some complained that our Electoral College system is faulty, yet many nations don’t even have words such as “voting, ballots, polls, democracy, political campaigns and debates” in their vocabulary, let alone election.
After watching YouTube worship videos for so long, many long for in-person worship, yet many countries don’t even have any Christian worship service, whether in-person or virtual, period. Any violation means execution!
When you look at those so-called “unbearable” situations, can you see God’s blessings in disguise? If you look at those from another angle, you may find more things to give thanks to the Lord. Let us remember Paul’s timeless exhortations in 1Thess 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Let us cherish this blessing of freedom of worship that the Lord graciously granted us! But don’t take it for granted! Remember, it is not our president or senators or governors or even our conservative Supreme Court Justices that can change our godless society. It is the gospel! If we evangelical Christians are not faithful in proclaiming the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to our neighbors, our most cherished freedom of worship may one day be taken away even from us living in the United States of America.
So, let us be faithful in praying for our newly elected government leaders, for Paul exhorts us in 1Tim 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Week of November 15th, 2020
Dear church family,
WHAT DO YOU SMELL LIKE?
The ability to smell indeed is a great gift from God. With it, we can enjoy the fragrance of flowers, the aroma of a roast, and the scent of exotic spices. The ability to smell is also a divine warning device- our noses can quickly detect the stench of rotten food, odor of gym clothes that need to be washed, and the ominous danger of roaring wildfire. Want to make a good impression on others? Try smelling good- take a shower; wear deodorant, cologne or perfume; use mouthwash to hide the garlic or bad breath.
The Bible tells us that God has the sense of smell or, at least, the divine equivalent to the human ability to smell. When the Lord gave instructions on how the high priests were to be consecrated, the burnt offerings were to be “a pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Exodus 29:18, 25). Seventeen times when the book of Leviticus mentions the sacrificial offerings, the phrase “a pleasing aroma to the Lord” is attached to them (similarly, eighteen times in the book of Numbers). God delights in the smell of the offerings. The delight must be bittersweet as the sacrifices were foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, on the Cross to pay the penalty for the sins of the world.
The Apostle Paul exhorts the believers in Ephesus to imitate Christ as he “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). Living on this side of the Cross, we are called to make a fragrant offering- not with animals but with our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). The Apostle Paul using the metaphor of scents exhorts the Corinthian believers to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ (i.e. share the gospel; 2 Corinthians 2:14). He expands the metaphor by stating that those who accept the gospel, smell the fragrance of life while those reject the gospel, the acrid odor of death (v.15). Our goal is to live such lives that when people hear the gospel and watch our testimony that they will smell the fragrance of the Good News.
When we think of the Thanksgiving season, what comes to mind are the pleasing smells of pumpkin-spiced pastries, roasted turkey, and hot apple cider. These scents bring happy memories. What do you smell like to people? Do they consider your testimony and presentation of the gospel as fragrance or odor? What needs to change so that sharing the gospel will be a pleasing aroma? What do you smell like to God? How well are you imitating Christ? Would being a fragrant living sacrifice aptly describe your worship and witness? What needs to change so that your worship and witness will smell good?
Grace and Blessings,