Week of April 11th, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters of CIBC,
As Spring season started and more people were vaccinated, we are itching to return to church for any type of in-person ministries. Yet, there are hesitancies among some brothers and sisters, how should we approach and handle this situation?
I would like to share some insights from Dr. Dan Reiland’s article “5 Essentials to Leading and Motivating Volunteers” with you, may the Lord grant us grace and wisdom for His glory.
By Dan Reiland (use with permission from the author, and full version can be assessed through the link: https://danreiland.com/5-essentials-to-leading-and-motivating-volunteers/)
Have your volunteers returned?
As more of your congregation return to church, your need for quality and committed volunteers increases.
However, that might produce a unique kind of tension. It’s good that people are coming back, and new people are coming, but my hunch is that some of your best volunteers haven’t returned yet.
Tension can increase at the thought of people returning to a sub-standard worship and ministry experience if you don’t have your full volunteer teams back.
You feel the pressure.
However, don’t pass that pressure on to your volunteers. Guilt is not a good motivator; instead, invite them back to a big vision. If a volunteer isn’t back yet because of heightened health risks, go slow and give them time. Pray for their health and encourage them. For your volunteers who have returned to most of their “regular” lives but not church, it’s good to engage in an honest and encouraging conversation.
Perhaps something like:
“We’d love to have you back on the team; you carry an important role in reaching people for Christ. Have you thought about when you will return? That helps us prepare for you.”
5 Essentials to Leading and Motivating Volunteers
1) Clear vision with a positive spirit
Recruit to a vision, not a job description; volunteers want to know they are part of something that matters.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking all your volunteers will come back at a phone call. Think about how long they have been gone. In many ways, you are starting over and re-recruiting. The vision needs to be clear and always presented with a positive mindset.
What is the vision for your ministry?
What’s the why behind the work?
How will life be better for those you serve?
2) Excellent training and necessary resources
When it comes to equipping volunteers, you must give them the tools and show them how. Your volunteers thrive when you set the example and show the way, then empower and get out of the way. When great training and the needed resources are provided, the result is a quadruple-win.
The volunteers win.
The people you serve win.
Your leadership wins.
The church wins.
3) Consistent communication
Few things will frustrate your volunteers more than inconsistent or non-existent communication. The church is complex. It exists both in the natural and supernatural realms; it’s led by human beings and can’t function without volunteers, all of whom have opinions. Of course, communication is challenging.
Tips on communication:
It’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate.
Keep it accurate and up to date.
Keep your communication creative and fresh, but not so clever that you waste time crafting it.
4) Clear and reasonable expectations
Your volunteers want to know what is expected of them, both in their actual ministry in outcomes. In terms of results, let your volunteer teams know what you are asking God to do through their ministry. Ask them to pray with you for specific outcomes, both in big picture Kingdom advancement and detailed specifics of the particular ministry.
For example, you want a nursery volunteer to know that ultimately, they serve so more people know Jesus, and more specifically, that parents can participate in the worship service to hear God speak through the message.
Even more specifically, that the babies would be safe, fed, changed if needed, comfortable, and cared for. And again, train them how to do that.
5) Genuine care and encouragement
Even the most dedicated and mature volunteers, leaders included, need to know you genuinely care about them. Volunteers need to be appreciated and encouraged, from your heart to theirs.
Express your care and appreciation by telling them, often. Thank them for serving, send notes, respond quickly when they call or text, help solve their problem or train them to solve it, and stay connected to their personal life as much as is appropriate.
Week of April 4th, 2021
Dear CIBC Church Family,
Happy Resurrection Day! The Scriptures tell us that the early church worshipped on the first day of the week because Christ rose on the “first day of the week” (Luke 24:1-Acts 20:7,6, 1 Corinthians 16:2). So, though we make Easter a special day to worship the risen Savior on Easter, essentially, each Sunday, we celebrate the risen Christ.
Today marks the end of my short tenure at CIBC. It has been a pleasure, honor, and privilege to serve each and every one of you. My family appreciated being welcomed with such open arms when we came eight years ago, and now, being blessed as we embark to our next ministry. Sadly, due to COVID restrictions, we will have to leave the “Good-bye” hugs virtually. We will miss the hustle and bustle of the church facilities when CIBC reopens- the roar of robust conversations, the sound of congregations singing in unison, the scent of food being catered in from Chinatown, the movement of people through the hallways, the abrupt laughter in fellowship meetings, the energy of children during SEC, the respect given when God’s Word is preached, etc. Thank you for these treasured memories
Might I encourage all of us to not wait till the church reopens to consider our participation in this local body of Christ. In other words, do not let gathering at 280 8th Street, Oakland, be the only way you define your association with CIBC. Please consider connecting with the church family by joining a prayer group, small group, or a fellowship. Please join a Sunday school class if one is being given in your language and age group. Please contact others through a phone call, sending a text, writing an email or letter, or mailing a greeting card. Please pray about volunteering to serve in this year’s Summer Enrichment Camp whether being hosted virtually or in-person.
Pray for our witness in Chinatown and the surrounding communities during the final weeks of the COVID restrictions. The church doors may be closed but various members are visiting the workers and owners of the businesses. Deacon Ken Wong and Church Council chair Wilson Young regularly attend the monthly Chinatown community leaders meeting to stay abreast of the ongoing activities. Pray for the witness of our church members who volunteer their time in various Chinatown community service projects. Pray for the revival of Chinatown businesses- when there is more foot traffic, the greater are the opportunities that people will see our facilities and read about our activities.
Finally, pray for CIBC. Pray for the leadership as they, in concert with the congregation, identify qualified candidates to fill the pastoral vacancies. Pray for the Rapid Response team as they prepare the church facilities for in-person worship. Pray for ourselves as we transition from virtual to in-person worship and participation. Pray that we would be excited to share the gospel knowing that just bringing a person to church does not save them- it is their positive response to the gospel.
Grace & Blessings,
On behalf of the Gee family,
Pastor Philip Gee
Week of March 28th, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
I have read a meaningful article published in a magazine by my alma mater, the University of Toronto. The author, Professor Barth Netterfield, is a well-known astrophysicist of the physics department. Below is an excerpt.
I came from two worlds. One is the world of science. The other is the world of faith. As a child, I felt the presence of God all around me…in stars, in trees, in insects. I noticed that the deeper you look at things, the more impressive they become. At the same time, I was fascinated by where things came from and how they worked.
I attended church every Sunday. My father and grandfather were both Baptist ministers. Although deeply religious, they never feared my interest in science or saw it as an attack on their faith. Not long before he died, my 91-year-old grandfather encouraged me to study science. He didn’t accept all of its findings, but he believed in the process. He said, “In science, you will see the glory of God.”
I enrolled at a Christian liberal arts college in Minnesota, where I studied physics and religion. I was taught that the Bible was never meant to be taken as a scientific account of how God created the world. God left that up to us to discover through science.
At grad school, a friend and I often didn’t see eye to eye on religion. He said, “If God is real, why doesn’t he make himself obvious? Why doesn’t he spin my chair around three times right now?” I said, “If that happens, would you believe it was God – or highly advanced aliens playing a joke on you?” He said, “Probably advanced aliens.”
I said, “See! No matter what evidence we could find for God’s existence, you would say there was some other explanation. In science, we base our view of the universe on observations. But using science, you’ll never be able to prove the existence of God. Doesn’t that bother you? Of course! But science can only describe how the universe behaves. It can’t explain why it behaves that way. What is my purpose? What is consciousness? Physics can’t answer these questions. To fully understand our existence, we need both physics and metaphysics.”
Now as an astronomer I use huge balloons to raise telescopes 35 km above the Earth – to avoid the atmosphere and get a clear view of deep space. In one experiment, we studied the cosmic microwave background – the faint afterglow of the Big Bang. But nothing we or anyone else has discovered explains why the universe exists, or what purpose it serves. And, as I tell my students, there’s still so much we don’t know. We’ve observed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. But we have no idea why.
What we do know is that, compared to the age of the universe, all of human history is but a moment. And that the universe is vast beyond comprehension. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, has a hundred billion stars and billions of planets, and the Milky Way is just one of hundreds of billions of galaxies. As we look deeper into the universe, peering back to the beginning of time … the more mysterious and breathtaking it becomes… revealing, to my eyes, on an ever-grander scale, the creative majesty of God.
I can really identify with what this Christian physics professor wrote. The psalmist said in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Again in Psalm 8:3-4, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
If you really believe in the majestic creation of God, you would know for certain that God is still in control. The pandemic may cause chaos, and we human beings are so helpless. Let it be known that God is still sovereignly in absolute control. Let us keep on trusting him in whatever circumstances you are in.
Week of March 21, 2021
Dear CIBC Family,
I am not a betting man, but I am willing to wager that most of you have asked someone this week: “Have you gotten your vaccine shot yet?” This is one of the most important questions of the moment, and for many of us, the answer to this question holds the key to our freedom. Freedom to travel; freedom to reunite with friends and family; freedom to work and worship; freedom to live normally again. Most of all, many are looking to the vaccine to give us freedom from worry and fear.
As important a question as this is, there is another that we need to be asking people. A much more vital and timeless question. That question is “Have you trusted in Jesus Christ as your savior?” COVID by itself is already a devastating disease, but it has harmed people in many other ways as well. Some are mourning the loss of loved ones, and are in need of comfort. Some have grown mistrustful of the government and media and need reliable truth. Some are suffering the effects of isolation and need friendship. Still others have lost jobs and income, and are in need of hope. Though the vaccine may protect us from the physical effects of COVID, only the gospel of Jesus Christ can save broken sinners and transform broken lives.
As Romans 1:16 reminds us: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Here are 3 ways you can be confident in the power of the gospel this week:
The gospel is 100% effective - As safe and effective as they appear to have been, no company has been able to create a vaccine that is 100% effective. Jesus, on the other hand, “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” - Hebrews 7:25
The gospel gives eternal life - When functioning correctly, the vaccine is able to guard our earthly lives, but only Jesus alone has “the words of eternal life” - John 6:68
The gospel defeats a deadlier disease - For all the damage it has done, COVID has thankfully not been as deadly a disease as we feared. Thanks to the tireless efforts of medical professionals and scientists, many lives have been spared. However, only Jesus can defeat the deadly disease of sin in our lives, which was guaranteed to kill every one of us. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 6:23
Dear brothers and sisters, even as we make sure we are all vaccinated, let us be even more eager to share the saving gospel of Jesus with those who need it!
Week of March 14th, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
The Convid-19 pandemic has been a test of patience and compassion for one another. On top of the distress caused by disruption of daily life in work, rest and relationship, for our church families we have to adjust to how we worship together, how we demonstrate our oneness in Christ, how we pray together, how we encourage one another in our own specific difficult circumstances. But instead of thriving in Christ we may feel more like surviving each day. Scott Peck shared in his book on spiritual growth and Christian discipleship “A Road Less Traveled,” he began the book with this truthful observation: Life is difficult. This statement seems obvious enough for everyone, but Convid-19 pandemic has made it plain to relate. Troubles tend to divide us from one another. The pandemic seems to separate our unity in Christ, and some how, we lost the fullness and joy of being members of one another.
But when troubles come, what would be a Christ-like way for you and me to respond? In James chapter 5, the Scripture offers some truthful principles to take to heart, so that our unity in Christ may be restored.
1. When troubles come, don’t be the cause of others’ misery because of selfishness (James 5:1-6)
The Scriptures use greediness for riches and possessions to visualize for us how a person's self-centered mindset would cause others’ misery. Before we brush off the idea that we will not fall into this kind of behavior, the fact is real that troubles tend to pull us to care for ourselves first. Have we been hoarding God’s goodness to us, and used the pandemic as a pretext to share less of God’s blessing in our lives? Have we used God’s given spiritual gifts to continue serving one another in a new way, or have we used the physical distancing as a reason to stop exercising our spiritual gifts for others in various church gatherings and ministries?
2. When troubles come, be patient (James 5:7-11)
Trouble is truly a test of one’s patience. Impatience traced back to a lack of trust and faith in God. The Scriptures use the farmer’s patient waiting for God’s timely goodness to send rain for his crops as an example for us to consider. Impatience reveals a lack of faith in God’s timely providence, and how we have forgotten that the Lord is near. Impatience leads to growing complaints to one another. Our complaints against others can be subtle. You stop participating in gatherings because you feel that you have better alternatives. And during the pandemic, have we been complaining to one another about how we have not been served or how we have not been appreciated or how draining to serve or participate in a new way?
3. When troubles come, pray earnestly (James 5:13-18)
Prophet Elijah had human nature just like us. Yet when troubles came, he knew the secret in Christ-like living, he prayed earnestly. On top of Mount Carmel, Elijah prayed earnestly for God’s promised rain. Seven times he sent his servant to look toward the sea for rain, and seven times he returned to pray.The pandemic should drive the church families to pray earnestly, pray persistently, pray confidently. Yet throughout this year, our prayer’s attitude has not changed or even gotten less urgent. Do you agree? Would you long for a change?
4. When troubles come, give your brother a helping hand (James 5:19-20)
There are brothers and sisters who long for encouragement, who may have strayed from the fellowship of the church families. And the isolating effects of the pandemic, make it even more difficult to give a helping hand when a brother or sister is discouraged. A phone call or a message from you can be the encouragement at the right time. Allow the Lord’s Spirit to guide your heart to pray for a brother, to show a kind gesture for a brother.
Week of March 7, 2021
Dear CIBC brothers and sisters,
As we entered in a whole year of SIP due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are facing changes in many areas. Yet, it seems all the changes are forced upon us and we tend to resist without much thought about change is good.
Paul wrote to the believers in Rome: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (changed) by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of god, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2 ESV)
I like to share a summary of an article by Dan Reiland: “3 Layers of Life Changing Transformation”.
It is my prayer and hope that “the transformative power of the Gospel” is at work in you and me daily.
Your partner in this spiritual journey,
3 Layers of Life Changing Transformation
The power of the Gospel is transformative in nature.
With that being true, why is it so challenging to see the change we pray for and desire?
Some transformation or change is more difficult than others. Change, in general, is resisted, some more aggressively than others.
In Jesus’ ministry, some situations were particularly difficult; other times, Jesus was frustrated with his disciples – his leaders, because of their lack of faith.
It’s not so different today.
If we have access to the transformative power of the Gospel, why is change often so difficult?
There are three layers of transformation that, if operating together, the results are exponentially more effective.
3 Layers of Life Changing Transformation:
1. Personal Transformation
Changing your community and changing your world starts with you.
It’s easy to get so busy that the transforming nature of the Gospel is no longer true in your life as the leader. I’ve been there. Same prayers, same problems, just kind of stuck.
Don’t settle for comfort or getting stuck spiritually.
It starts with desire
It’s activated by invitation – Desire alone is not enough. It’s important that you invite God in, tell Him what you need to breakthrough, and keep growing.
It’s experienced by action –You likely know what change you need to make, and you may even know how to do it, so take the first step.
2. Organizational Transformation
Healthy and growing leaders don’t tolerate unhealthy and stagnant organizations.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to lead that transformation, but the healthy leader never allows the process to stop because organizational health is fluid, not stagnant.
It’s about the organizational scope of your influence.
A) Is your staff culture changing in healthy ways?
Every time a staff member joins your team or leaves the team, your culture changes just a little. It takes consistent and intentional effort to create the staff culture you want. Start with values like trust, honesty, grace, and dependability.
B) Can you sense and see the presence and power of Jesus in your organization?
There are many ways you can see the power of God’s transformation organizationally, but one classic is that your ministry results are greater than your leadership efforts.
3. Cultural Transformation
When personal transformation is active among the leaders and organizational transformation is sought after and natural, your efforts to transform culture are much more likely to succeed.
The vision of every church is different, but the primary purpose is the same, to reach people with the transforming power of Jesus.
Figure out what God wants your church to engage.
A) Start with the needs, not your programs.
A common mistake of the church is to pursue the transformation of current culture by offering its programs without first asking what the community needs. Start there!
B) Think partnerships, not ownership.
When you engage culture out in the community, it’s there that you have the greatest impact. You don’t need to start new ministries that you own, partner with existing endeavors.
Create transformation together.
C) Jesus is always the bottom line.
As you continually engage transformation at all three levels, Jesus is the one who actually makes it all possible.
* Full version of this article can be assessed through the link:
Week of February 28th, 2021
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM LENT?*
Have you ever wondered why restaurants and cafeterias often feature fish on Fridays? It comes from the early church tradition of Lent where Christians fasted from eating meat for forty days (excluding Sundays) before Easter as a means of confession and repentance of sin. The Jews have a similar practice where they would focus their attentions on repentance, reflection, and fasting ten days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, considered to be holiest day of the Jewish year (Leviticus 16:29, 23:27). Traditionally, the blood of an animal was sacrificed on Yom Kippur as a way to remove sin or defilement.
Lent comes as the Latin word for Spring since Easter generally occurs early Spring. It should be noted that Lent is a church tradition that is not mentioned or commanded in the Bible. It was created as a means for Christians to prepare their hearts for Easter just as the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur was to the Jews. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday where followers would mark their foreheads with ash in the form of a cross to signify the suffering Christ bore during his final hours leading us to the crucifixion.
Unfortunately, some took advantage of the tradition by instituting Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) and reveling in extravagant partying before committing to a time of fasting and repentance. The Church later loosened the fasting restrictions to allow fish to be eaten. The tradition began to take on a sacramental component as the practice of Lent, giving up something, became a means to attaining God’s blessings or grace.
In the Bible, we see examples of people fasting for repentance and seeking God’s intervention (Esther 4:1-3, Jeremiah 6:26, Daniel 9:3). Fasting can be a good thing and God is pleased when we fast from sinful habits. There is nothing wrong with setting aside time to reflect on Jesus’ death and resurrection. However, repenting from sin is something we should do on a daily basis and not just during the Lent season. The Bible also teaches that grace cannot be earned since it is a “gift of righteousness” from God (Romans 5:17). Jesus taught that we ought to fast discreetly as to God alone and to wash our face and put on oil which seems to counter marking our foreheads with ash (Matthew 6:16-18).
If a Christian wishes to observe Lent, he is free to do so. The key is to focus on repenting of sin and consecrating oneself to God. Lent should not be a time of boasting of one’s sacrifice or trying to earn God’s favor or increasing His love. God’s love for us could not be any greater than it already is. Remember to end your fast and time of repentance with a time of celebration. We worship a God who has resurrected from the dead and that he has forgiven our sins.
*Parts taken from “What is the Meaning of Lent?” from GotQuestions.org
Week of February 21st, 2021
Dear CIBC family,
I’m sure, like me, it took you some time to adjust when we switched to online worship last year. However, with everything else becoming virtual due to COVID, Sunday worship became one more thing that we now did through a screen, along with school, work, and holiday gatherings. While I am grateful for the technology and effort it took to help us continue worshiping in the midst of a pandemic, I also cannot help but be troubled by some of the negative effects “virtual” worship has had on me personally. Today, I’d like to share with you two of these effects, as well as some remedies.
Negative Effect #1 - Developing a spectator mentality
I’ve noticed that when our family gathers together on Sundays, we now say we are “watching worship” instead of “going to worship.” This change in my mentality is subtle, but significant. God-honoring worship in Scripture is always an active, passionate, participatory event involving:
our voices—“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6)
our presences—“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:2)
and even our bodies—“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Psalm 141:2).
So, what’s the remedy? Let us actively fight our habit to be passive viewers in front of the screen and make worship something we do instead of something we view, even if it means standing up and awkwardly singing with our families in our living rooms! We may be absent from 280 8th St, but we must be completely present wherever we worship Almighty God.
Negative Effect #2 - Lowering the bar for worship
I will be the first one to admit it: One of the things I am least looking forward to when our church reopens is getting up early and driving into Oakland on Sunday morning. The allure of rolling out of bed, firing up youtube, and watching the service while enjoying a hot cup of coffee in your pajamas is a tempting one, and I’ve certainly fallen prey to this mentality as the months of virtual services have gone on. However, we must be wary of worship that comes too easily and costs us too little.
The essence of biblical worship is sacrifice. Whether it is our good deeds, our devotion, our money, or even the praises we sing, true worship is found in the act of offering ourselves to God, joyfully and completely. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) When we are too accustomed to virtual worship, it is so easy to start fitting worship into our schedules and valuing our comfort and convenience.
So, what’s the remedy? Let us strive to keep Sundays sacred. Even though you can watch it at any time, consider still getting up early to worship at the normal service time. Even though you can wear whatever you want, consider still dressing up out of respect to God. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be different than our normal everyday wear. The idea is to fight against our natural view of our homes as places of comfort and relaxation. Whether it is our living rooms, dining rooms, or bedrooms, on Sunday morning we ought to view and treat our homes as places of worship where we come before Almighty God to offer our sacrifices of praise. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Let’s bring Him our very best!
Until we worship again in person, let us echo the cry of the Psalmist in Psalm 84:1-2 “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” Online worship has allowed us to keep functioning as a church, but it should not become our norm. Let us keep thirsting for genuine worship!
Week of February 14th, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
Imagine you received the calling of the Lord to uproot yourself to an unknown place to serve Him. What would be your response? If you were like me with an engineering mindset, you would probably say “No way! Impossible!” Engineering mindset always thinks about “fault-tolerant, fail-safe, risk-free” processes. Most likely those with such a mindset are not willing to take risks. I am glad that Abram wasn’t an engineer at that time, for he did encounter such command from the Lord.
Gen 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
I would like to draw your attention that he has not yet been told where to go, for the Lord said, “I will show you.” When will he know the destination? The time when he obeyed the Lord first and started off his journey. That calls for his utmost faith in the Lord. Glad that he doesn’t have a modern engineering mindset! If not, he probably would have rejected the Lord’s command and never left Chaldea/Babylon. He and his descendants would have died as idol worshippers.
Indeed, faith always calls for taking risk for the Lord. In the Lord’s “economy” there is no such thing as “fault-tolerant, fail-safe, risk-free” investment. But if you trust the Lord that He is absolutely in control, that is even safer than any “fault-tolerant, fail-safe, risk-free” investment in the world.
I know this is very theoretical. Let me give you a challenge! Are you willing to offer one year of your life for a short-term mission within your lifetime? If you find this challenge silly, you do have such an “engineering mindset.” You still subscribe to such “fault-tolerant, fail-safe, risk-free” way of life. “Risk” is not in your theological dictionary.
You say, “If the Lord tells me first what He wants me to do, then I will consider.” Sorry, it doesn’t work this way. Only if you are willing to obey first, just as Abram did, then He will disclose what He wants you to do. So, tell the Lord that you are willing to obey, then you will be surprised how He reveals His will to you. If you are willing to take “risk” for the Lord, you would experience something spiritually unthinkable in your entire Christian life. Are you willing to experience Him?
Week of February 7th, 2021
Dear church family,
We had been under SIP (Shelter-In-Place) restriction for over 10 months. SIP in English can also be the initial for Stay-In-Prayer. What a good advice for Christians to pray when we shelter in place. Recently, there has been good news on getting relief from COVID-19 health threat. The number of daily new cases is again trending down for the last two weeks, the government coordination to distribute the vaccine is improving, and COVID-19 vaccination program has been initiated and is gearing up. High risk groups are receiving the needed vaccine. One question that I heard coming up more frequently is whether to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. If you are offered the vaccine today, will you receive the vaccine? Most people will answer that they will receive the vaccine. Yet according to a Texas A&M-led survey found that more than 31% of 5009 Americans queried between May 28 and Jun 8 of last year did not intend to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and the groups most likely to reject a COVID-19 vaccine are black people, women, and those with conservative political leanings. Why would people reject a potentially life-saving vaccine? They are probably not informed of the facts, or they are being misinformed by conspiracy theories, or they have deep distrust of the government.
There is a health crisis in today’s world, and there is always a spiritual health crisis because of our ignorance of our sins. These are the dangers that we ought to watch out for and to keep away because they have eternal consequence. Paul wrote to Timothy about the difficulties in these times when the Lord’s coming is near. Christians will encounter harm when they are not informed of the truth, the gospel, and even worse, there will be people who will misinform and deceive. Paul describes the difficulties in 2 Tim 3:1-7.
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power; avoid such people as these. For among them are those who slip into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
What is the Lord’s remedy to guard against these dangers? It is the Scriptures. The Scripture will teach, will reproof, will correct, and will train our soul for perfect spiritual health. The word of God is like a spiritual vaccine. When a vaccine gets into your body, it will train your body to defend against diseases, but it has to get into your body and you have to be willing to receive it. Are you willing to get the word of God into your soul, into your blood? Are you neglecting your spiritual health in these difficult fast changing times because of being deceived by others?
Your servant in Christ,
Week of January 31st, 2021
Dear CIBC brothers and sisters,
We all have goals or plans for a new year. My goal and desire in this new year is to experience God more in my prayer life. I would like to share the following article with you (full version can be assessed through the link:https://www.strategicrenewal.com/four-reasons-you-dont-feel-like-praying-and-four-keys-to-breakthrough/ )
May the Lord help us to experience Him more and more in our personal as well as corporate prayers.
Four Reasons You Don’t Feel Like Praying (and Four Keys to Breakthrough)
By Daniel Henderson(use with permission from the author)
Over the years I have been amazed at the paltry desire I’ve felt to pray. I am especially aware of this aversion just prior to the times that I’ve specifically set aside to pray, whether in private or with others. I suppose this confession may come as a surprise. Yet, I hope you are comforted by the admission that you are not alone in your weak longings when the hour of prayer arrives.
I see four reasons we typically struggle to pray:
1. The independence of the flesh–Our new man desires God but our flesh wants to live independently. In the natural, we resist humble reliance on God and transparent intimacy with other believers, both of which are germane to real prayer. Prayerlessness is our declaration of independence from God.
2. The relentless attack of the enemy–Pastor Jim Cymbala has noted, “The devil is not terribly frightened of our human efforts and credentials. But he knows his kingdom will be damaged when we begin to lift up our hearts to God.” Satan and his demons seek to counter and diminish every intention of the Christian toward prayer. We need to recognize the role that prayer plays in the spiritual battle (see Ephesians 6:18) and resolve to be “praying menaces” to the enemy of our souls.
3. The busyness of our modern lives– Busyness destroys relationships, starting with our primary relationship with God. I am reminded of the familiar adage that if the devil cannot make us bad he will simply keep us busy. Charles Spurgeon noted, “Sometimes we think we are too busy to pray. That is a great mistake, for praying is a saving of time.”[i]
4. The unpleasant memory of previous experiences– Many people have been to prayer meetings at their church, but sadly, they give in to their excuses about prayer because their past experiences have been traditional rather than biblical; man-centered rather than God-centered; request-based rather than worship-based. FewChristians really enjoy this unfortunate dilution and diversion from real New Testament prayer.
Four Keys to Breakthrough
From my own journey in personal and corporate prayer, I see four vital ingredients for moving beyond our reluctance in prayer to enjoy the Lord’s gift of intimacy with Him.
1. Mind Your Motivation– Like the Pharisees Jesus called out in Matthew 6:5, we can be motivated by improper pursuits. For them, it was praying for “show” – to be seen by others. For us, it could be guilt, duty, or even a resolve to manipulate God into doing our will on earth rather than His.
I regularly focused on the truth that the only enduring motivation for prayer is that God is worthy to be sought. This worship-based focus fueled consistent resolve and genuine desire. It transformed my prayer life and how our church prayed.
2. Action Above Feeling – Real prayer, like other important issues in life, cannot be mastered by feeling our way into action but rather by acting our way into feeling. Prayer is not a mood. Prayer is the lifeline of all that is good and must be chosen in spite of current feelings, impulses, and conveniences. The more we understand God’s worthiness, the more we grasp our neediness and the deeper our conviction takes root. We must pray, regardless of circumstances or spiritually counterproductive urges.
3. Avoid a false start –Too many times our starting place in prayer is simply the articulation of whatever is on our minds to say to God. Let’s be honest – our human thoughts are often misguided, shallow, and punctuated as the beginning place of prayer. This is usually a false start.
That is why I have concluded that the best beginning point in prayer is from the pages of God’s word. His truth gives our hearts language, especially as it provides truth and fresh insight about His character, His names, and His mighty works.
4. Compelled by Community – The Lord never designed us to learn prayer on a discouraging solo journey. He has placed us in a body so that our worship, learning, fellowship, and prayers might be powerfully enjoyed in community.
When we pray together, motivation soars through the encouragement, accountability, and edification of the Spirit working through others to inspire our hearts. Of course, the very commitment to show up and pray with others keeps us regular in prayer. Alternatively, going it alone is the impetus for easy excuses and neglect of prayer.
Prayer is often our last resort rather than our first resolve. Yet, the more we learn about why our motivation wanes and how we can find consistent inspiration, the more faithful and fruitful we can be as we seek Him and grow in our Christlikeness through prayer.
Copyright © 2021 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
[i] C. H. Spurgeon, Pray without Ceasing (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 18 (1872), from The C.H. Spurgeon Collection.
Week of January 24th, 2021
SPRINKLING THE GOSPEL INTO YOUR CONVERSATIONS
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
When I lived in Hong Kong as a child, I was enrolled in the Cub Scout program. The motto of the Scouts is “Be Prepared.” Each Saturday, we heard lectures on being moral citizens and learned life skills like tying knots and surviving in the outdoors. Every few weeks, we were tested to see if, indeed, we learned anything and were ready to use those newfound skills at a moment’s notice. (Incidentally, it was through the Cub Scouts that I learned how to swim.)
The Apostle Peter exhorts his readers to be prepared. They were to be ready to share the reason for their hope in Christ. A few days ago, I came across this note from my mother-in-law (who recently passed away) entitled “Crafting the STORY of your life” that could help us be better prepared to share with people our life story about the hope we have in Christ. By following these helpful steps or hints, sprinkling the gospel would be natural in our conversations.
1. Scriptures you’ve read. The best way to jumpstart your ability to share something spiritual is meditating on God’s Word (Joshua 1:8). When we take the time to reflect and mull over God’s Word, it will affect our thoughts and actions (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). One way to segue into the Scriptures in your conversations is to say, “Let me share something from what I read recently...”
2. Talk to someone. This may be obvious but we need to be intentional if we ever want to broach the subject of the gospel. Jesus took the initiative to talk to the Samaritan woman (John 4). Philip the Evangelist asked the Ethiopian eunuch if he understood what he was reading (Acts 8). The Apostle Paul went to the marketplace in Athens to reason with the philosophers (Acts 17). Peter says that we are to be gentle and respectful in order to gain an audience (1 Peter 3:15).
3. Observe your passions. They say, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Consider those with whom you share common interests as your target audience. Perhaps through a shared hobby you can build a bridge to share about your faith in Christ. That is how Paul first met Aquila and Pricilla (Acts 18:2-3).
4. Recognize your gifts. Closely related to one’s passions is gifting. Paul exhorts the Roman believers to exercise their spiritual gifts to help others in the body of Christ (Romans 12). Likewise, consider how your gifts can be applied in social gatherings outside of the church. It is not only Christians who can benefit from words of encouragement, leadership/management skills, and generosity. Perhaps you could lend your natural talents to help a neighbor fix their fence or send some cookies to a stressed out coworker. That gift may open doors for the gospel.
5. Yield to God’s leading. Finally, make your STORY complete by submitting and being sensitive to the Lord’s leading. Going back to Philip the Evangelist’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, the text tells us that the Spirit prompted him to meet the eunuch (Acts 8:29-30). Dare we pray asking God to lay people on our hearts with whom He wants us to share the gospel?
Grace & Blessings,