Week of July 25th, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters of CIBC,
Since church is reopening, we slowly re-enter into the various existing ministries. We also explore and try new methods to fit the changes brought by COVID-19.
In this challenging and demanding time, I’d like to share an article by Daniel Henderson, and I pray that this article will serve as a testing ground for our spirituality and ministry mentality.
Servant of the Lord,
Pastor Joseph Pang
A Five-Question Test: Are You a “Martha” or a “Mary”?
By Daniel Henderson
We’ve all heard some pretty convicting sermons on the story found in Luke 10:38-42 about Jesus visiting the home of His friends Martha and Mary. Typically, we readily identify with Martha, who sprang into action to make preparations for Jesus and His group. Her eager service turned to stress, then downgraded to a demanding spirit toward others. As conviction sets in, even from a casual reading, we are challenged to aspire to the model of Mary, who sat stress-free at the feet of Jesus, listening to His word. Clearly, she made the best decision.
While there are many extrapolated explanations and challenging applications that are drawn from this account, let’s take another focused look at the real issues of the scene. I hope it will help all of us recommit to the great priority of time with Jesus.
Question One: Do You View This as an Issue of Priority or Personality?
Often we are told that a key factor in the contrasting responses of the sisters to the presence of Jesus in their home was their personality differences. I’ve spun it this way and have heard others do the same. Admittedly, this is just speculation, as the text never refers to their personality types. It might make sense to cast Martha as a “Type-A” driven leader and Mary as a “Type-B” low-key adaptable sibling. Yes, Martha was older, perhaps feeling more responsible. Maybe she owned the home so felt compelled to take charge. We are not sure.
What we do know is that they operated from different grids of priorities. Martha felt it was more important to serve Jesus in the moment. Mary wanted to seek Jesus. Martha wanted to do something for Him. Mary wanted to learn something from Him. I’ve often noted that when we find more delight in serving Jesus than seeking Him, we run the risk of making our ministry an idol.
The danger in painting this picture as a “personality difference” is that aggressive, task-oriented people somehow justify their neglect of their relationship with Jesus based on their emotional make-up. This may make us feel better but dodges the real issue. Simply put, we all need to make time with Jesus a clear priority and then live accordingly, regardless of our personality profiles.
Question Two: Do You Consider This a Matter of Choice or Convenience?
Sometimes we may think that it was easy for Mary to sit at Jesus’ feet, taking on the real posture and heart of a disciple, simply because it seemed convenient. After all, Martha was handling the arrangements, so why not? Yet, Jesus described the real issue in this way: “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part.” Her clear sense of the right priorities led her to a choice. We all know that life is always about choices. We are responsible for our choices and must remember that much is at stake with each responsible decision. We all can choose, like Mary.
Question Three: Have You Understood This as a Contrast between Trust and Trying?
Mary seemed to understand that Jesus valued her demonstrated discipleship. It is clear that she trusted Jesus. Perhaps she knew that He knew the meal could wait. She knew He had the power to produce a meal of any scope. After all, more than once He fed thousands with meager provisions. Perhaps she remembered His salient words from His message on the mountainside, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Her actions demonstrate that she trusted the truth of Jesus’ words.
In contrast, Martha was “trying” so hard to do everything right for Jesus (as if He needed her obsessive activity). She apparently did not even trust that He cared for her or knew how to handle the situation. She groused, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” He corrected her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.’”
In our journey our faith can falter. We begin to think that Jesus needs us to “do things” for Him, in our energy and determination. Rather, He calls us to abide in Him, and allow Him to bear the fruit of His life and power through us in transformational expression.
Question Four: Can You See This as a Pursuit of Reward vs. Results?
The story portrays Martha wanting to produce the immediate and temporary result of a great meal and an impressive expression of hospitality. Mary, according to Jesus, embraced an approach that would “not be taken away from her.” When our living and service begins with the empowerment of intimacy with Jesus, it is marked by spiritual purity and power. The impact may or may not be immediate and measurable. One thing is sure – the reward will be eternal.
In our business-minded approach to serving Christ, we risk the danger of “management by results” that may be easily attributed to our clever planning and superb execution. Sadly, our efforts may have nothing to with the direction and empowerment of the Spirit, experienced in humble dependence and genuine surrender. Eternity’s scoreboard is always accurate in exposing the difference.
Question Five: Have You Distinguished Between Spiritual Responsibility and Self-Righteousness?
Simply put, Mary embraced the spiritual responsibility of a true disciple. Martha slipped into a self-righteous religious performance that led her to harsh judgment toward her sister who did not perform accordingly. External standards of spirituality based on performance always leave us exhausted and exercising a prideful comparison with others.
Speaking to the crowds who were following Him with skewed motives and wanted Him to do great “works”, Jesus declared, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you…This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:27-29).
Jesus’ words to His followers are simply, “Follow Me.” He did not tell us to “figure it all out” or “force things to happen.” Time spent with Him, feasting on His life-giving truth, is always the core commitment of a fruitful follower. The life of His Spirit in us is the secret to real spiritual responsibility. We can embrace this priority, make the best choices, trust Him for the results, and seek eternity’s reward – every day.
Be encouraged, my friend. Whether you felt you “passed” or “failed” this little test, every day is a new day to make the best choice. The Lord Jesus gives us grace to grow. He has promised to finish what He started in us. He works in us to give us the desire and power to make the choices that please Him. And, He has promised to bear supernatural fruit in and through us as we abide in Him.
©2021 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
Week of June 27th, 2021
Dear church families,
We are approaching the celebration of the birth of this country. Almost 245 years ago, the founding fathers of this country drafted the “Declaration of Independence.” Its preamble has this often quoted statement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This document became a rallying call. To set the mind of the people to an earthly kingdom based on God’s truth and God’s given gifts and rights, and so to be ready to make sacrifices in order to pursue it.
We also belong to a kingdom that is not of this world. We are of the kingdom of God. The Scriptures encouraged all of us to be kingdom-minded and pursue the things of God’s kingdom. Rom 14:19 reads “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
How has my pursuit lined up with what the Scriptures said in regard to making for peace and building up of one another? Apostle Paul pursued Christ and things of God’s kingdom. Paul shared “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). God called us to be His children, not to stand still in life, but to pursue, to press on forward, and the Scriptures have plenty to tell us of what we should pursue. Take some time to read Rom 14:19, 1 Cor 14:1, Phil 3:12, 14, 1 Thess 5:15, 1 Tim 6:11, 2 Tim 2:22, Heb 12:14, 1 Peter 3:11.
The verb “pursue” implies there will be setbacks. There will be oppositions that pressure us to stop. This Covid-19 pandemic was a setback. This disease caused us to pause what we usually do, but it should not stop our pursuit of Christ and of things of His kingdom. At post-pandemic, how could we rekindle and encourage one another to press on? How could we build up one another? Let me share with you some thoughts from our brothers in our congregation. We used three verbs and alliteration to aid communication: Relate, Restore, Rebuild.
How should we pursue love, peace, joy in “relating”?
Call a friend
Establish bubble groups
Talk to our Chinatown community
Communicate church direction to congregation
5. Deacons to other leaders' relationships
How should we pursue faith, righteousness, and godliness in “restoring”?
Nurturing heart for evangelism
How should we pursue building up one another in “rebuilding”?
Trusting relationship with fellow brothers
Small group evangelism
New Creation Ministry and team
Fellowships, cell groups, discipleship groups
How about you, what is your part to pursue love, peace and joy, righteousness, godliness, faith in relating, restoring, rebuilding?
Week of June 13th, 2021
Dear church family,
When I lived in San Leandro, my backyard had a tall concrete wall because just 25 feet beyond was the railway track. The wall was not great for reducing the track noise when the train passed by. But the wall served the purpose well to prevent people or animals from venturing onto the railroad tracks. We built walls. The ancient Chinese emperors built the Great Wall to guard against invasion of enemies. The United States erected miles of border wall to prevent illegal migrants from South America coming in. Wall can be erected quickly. The Berlin wall was erected overnight on Aug 12, 1961 to close off East Germans’ access to West Berlin. The Berlin Wall came to symbolize “division.” We still build walls, but many of these walls are the invisible kind. Walls between man and God and walls between man. And these invisible walls can be erected in minutes, but will require much longer time and effort to take down. And these invisible walls divide us.
In a Christian church, there should be no wall. There should be no barrier between members of the church family because Christ has torn down the barrier when He delivered us from the tyranny of sins. Yet we still erect these invisible walls in an instant. And Satan has used different means to deceive and entice us to erect invisible walls that divide us. These could be some misspoken words that hurt deeply. These could be prideful behaviors that humiliate others. These could be judgmental thoughts of others’ words and deeds. Besides these, Satan often uses our own fears, insecurities, and busy lives to lure us into living independently. Why did Satan try to divide the church? It is because life-giving relationships are only found in communities. Live-giving relationship cannot be alone but must be intentional efforts to be with one another. True Christian fellowship has a powerful role in life. Fellowship (meeting together) propels us forward in holiness, ministries and walks with Christ. When the church is gathered and fellowship with one another according to God’s truth and plan, we experience life’s transforming grace; we receive encouragement to persevere in the walk with God; we protect one another from hardening of heart and deceitfulness of sin.
Therefore, Hebrews 10:24-25 encourages us not to stop meeting together, not to fall for the lie that we have better things to do, not to remain in a self-centered mind set when we meet. “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
There is a wonderful purpose in Christian fellowship and in every occasion that we meet together. It is to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. It takes a spark to light up a fire. It takes a push to start the ball rolling from its rest position. In a Christian family, we have one another to spur us to love and good deeds. This can be seeing someone’s steps of faith. This can be hearing others’ struggles and victories. This can be encouraging words from someone. This can be times that we pray together, interceding for one another.
This purposeful fellowship must be intentional. Hebrews 10:24 says “let us consider.” To “consider” is to observe, ponder or study, to fix one’s eyes and thoughts on something. “Consider” points to the need for intentionality. Fellowship can be reduced to a social time if we are not intentionally considering how to encourage one another. Follow the instructions of the Scripture to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” What was the last thing that you did to encourage someone?
Week of June 6th, 2021
Dear church family,
I have been so amazed by God’s goodness and grace to us this past month as CIBC reopened its doors for in-person worship. Just hearing the voices of brothers and sisters raised in praise to Almighty God brought me to tears on that first Sunday. These past few weeks have reminded us all of the simple joys that we have missed out on this past year: singing together, praying in person, hearing the Word of God preached live, catching up with friends face to face, and the list goes on. If you’ve been able to attend, I’m sure you’ll agree that worship has not felt so heavenly, nor fellowship tasted so sweet, in a very long time.
Motivated by these experiences, may I offer you 3 words of encouragement from the Psalms for this week:
1. Hunger for the Lord
For many of us, being starved of corporate worship for so long can dull our appetite for close fellowship with God. Pursuing and enjoying Him is a conscious choice we must make everyday. As Psalm 34:8 exhorts us: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Let us continue to rekindle and sharpen our desire for genuine worship and fellowship.
2. Come and worship together
Psalm 95:1-2 proclaims: “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” This is a much needed reminder that worship demands our whole person—body and soul, actions and thoughts, physical and spiritual—as we enter into the presence of the Lord with our brothers and sisters. It is designed to be a holy and communal activity.
Though technology allowed many activities to continue normally while in lockdown, worship was not one of them. Virtual worship, as necessary as it was, will always be incomplete and deficient. The compromises we've had to make due to the dangers of COVID must never feel comfortable or become the norm. As much as possible, let us return to church and worship God together!
3. Let us never “return to normal”
As more and more of us return to church in person, my prayer is that this will not be a return to “normal.” May the joy and excitement we feel as we worship and fellowship never fade away and become bland and mundane. Let us make the words of Psalm 96:1 our reality as we come to worship each Sunday: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!” May we always have new songs to sing to the Lord as we experience His mercies anew every day.
Week of May 30th, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters in CIBC,
This week I would like to share with you an article written by Dr. Charles Stanley on “The Impact of Prayer.”
As summer is approaching, we witness numerous changes in the COVID-19 conditions: from shelter-in-place to partial re-opening, from mandatory to voluntary mask-wearing, and working at home to hybrid format. Even though our life-style is affected by the current changes, one spiritual practice in our Christian walk does not change – prayer. I hope this article will encourage us to continue to pray.
The Impact of Prayer
(Dr. Charles Stanley, InTouch ministries)
“Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
Prayer is the lifeblood of an intimate relationship with the Father. But believers often have questions about its power and effectiveness. Don’t hesitate to take your queries to the Lord, dig into Scripture for answers, and seek the counsel of a trusted spiritual mentor. Prayer is too important to neglect.
Will God’s plans fail if I don’t pray? God is not subservient to believers or dependent upon their prayers. The time we invest in speaking with Him involves us in the work that He is doing in our lives and in the world, but He will carry on without us. Laboring alongside the Lord is our privilege.
Does my prayer (or lack thereof) impact God’s work? I believe that Scripture indicates the answer to this question is both yes and no, depending upon the situation. There are times when God’s purpose is set. He is in control and has determined the best course. In the Old Testament, the Lord often prophesied what He would do and then brought those events to pass.
In other cases, “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). There are some good things that He holds back until we put out prayerful hands to receive them. But because God is a loving Father, He also pours our blessings that we wouldn’t even think to request.
Believer’s prayers have tremendous impact, particularly on their own faith and life. Do you understand what an awesome privilege it is to kneel before the all-powerful Father and know that He listens and will respond? God loves to be good to His children and answer their prayers.
Week of May 23rd, 2021
Dear CIBC Family,
“Are you a Mary, or a Martha?” “Learning, or serving? Building relationships, or caring for needs?”
In recent years when working with youth, I try to engage them by asking what their food preferences are: fruits or vegetables; orange or apple; chicken or fish; pizza or sushi; cake or ice cream; etc. etc. etc. It’s a game, it’s interaction; it can get a conversation flowing; it can lead to more meaningful conversations in the future.
The questions at the top are ones you’ve probably heard before – in a sermon, a Sunday School class, or at a small group meeting. Luke 10, Jesus visits: do you sit with Him, or do you prepare a meal? – you can’t do both. Time is short; so much to learn from Jesus, relationships are precious - but fatigue and hunger need care. And we have a bent; we are inclined to respond in our own way – to love through relationships, or to love through serving.
This question, of identifying with either Mary or Martha, highlights the importance of our relationship with Jesus while balancing our service to and for Jesus.
Here is a different, more open-ended question: can you be like Simon Peter, or like the apostle Paul? More specifically, can you be marked by humility, a love for Christ and His people, a willingness to serve when and where needed, and respond to needs in ways beyond who you are naturally – because you believe and trust in God to equip and enable you?
This is a tough question that I have asked myself. I’ve identified with the disciples who left Jesus (John 6:40-66) because my comfort, logic, and reasoning caused me to be selective in truly believing, trusting, and following Jesus, and answering calls to ministry in the local church. But my study in the Gospels and the Epistles of Peter and Paul helped me to see my pride and self-reliance. Weren’t Peter and Paul like that also, naturally?
Peter, once a fisherman, became the disciples’ unofficial leader. Impulsive, outspoken, and brash, fiercely loyal to Jesus in private but disowning Him when challenged publicly, Peter led the apostles with humility, grace, and kindness to both friends and enemies.
Paul, once a Pharisee, was a zealous persecutor of Christians and a hater of Jesus. Touched by Jesus, he became a Christian on the Damascus Road and became the leading missionary to the Gentiles. Formerly proud of his lineage, training and knowledge, he became a shepherd to new churches and was known for his humility, compassion, integrity, and passion for the gospel and for Christ.
Because of Jesus, Peter and Paul experienced a radical change in their nature. They tackled new frontiers continually, with Christ. I think I have too. My attitude about serving in ministry used to be, “I’ve got things to do. Why should I?” That changed 20+ years ago to, “I’m a disciple of Christ. He’s telling me that I need to help take care of His church.” The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”(2 Cor. 5:17)
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, it is good to have the story of the sisters Mary and Martha, to help us balance our lives in relationship and service to Jesus. I believe it is also good to have the examples of the apostles Simon Peter and Paul - to understand and trust in the transforming work of God in our lives, and to see the bold examples of lives lived out for Christ and His church. It is my prayer and hope that you will be encouraged to use your God-given gifts and abilities to help build up the body of Christ, locally and beyond.
Deacon Gary Low
Week of May 16th, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
The world has changed. And the world we knew—it’s not coming back.
As the country looks to move out from the shadow of the pandemic, you can come across a few pundits pouring cold water on the wistful hope or optimistic outlook that we can finally get back to normal!
I really don’t know how much will or will not change. I think it’s too early to say. I think of 9/11 and although that day certainly did change our society, how often do we reflect soberly on that day and its aftermath?
What has not changed?
Jesus has not changed. He is the same, yesterday, and forever.
God’s Word has not changed. The grass withers and the flower fades but the word of the Lord endures forever.
God’s faithful love for His people has not changed. His loyal love for His people endures forever.
And His people still need to live by faith. Even with (or without) vaccines, social distancing, hand sanitizer, we need to trust God. The safest place in the world is in the center of His will.
His people must hope. We hope for better days, but we also have a living hope where we can expect that God can transform loss in this life into glory.
His people must love. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Faith, hope, and love—These three remain. But the greatest of these is love.
Week of May 9th, 2021
Dear CIBC church families,
To the mothers, happy Mother Day. Mothers labor in love. May God bless the mothers in our midst that they would find raising up children as fulfilling accomplishment in life, and may they always find joy through their children. Children have a unique status of making their parents joyful, especially to their mothers (Prov 23:25).
Mother loves is one of a kind. Her love is expressed in loving labor. Love that labored is deep and difficult. When God illustrated His compassion and love for us, God used the mother’s tender love to help us understand. There are at least three acts of mother’s laboring love that we should give thanks to God and honor our mothers.
1. Mother labors in giving self
In a deep loving relationship, giving self is inevitable as 1 Thess 2:8 revealed. Giving self is disregarding your own advantages and welfare over those of others. Giving self is willing to give generously without grumbling. Giving self is the remarkable love of a mother. This love leaves an indelible mark, a mark that is pleasing to God, and is a truthful expression of genuine love.
2. Mother labors in nurturing
Mothers are on the front lines when it comes to teaching her children and raising them up in the way they should go. “These words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. And you shall repeat them diligently to your sons and speak of them” Deut 6:6-7a. Our world relentlessly assaults on the minds of our children, turning the minds of our children from God’s truth and God’s moral standard. Mothers labored to counter these attacks of the mind. Mother has labored in displaying a godly example of what love is, and what it meant to be Christ-like.
3. Mother labors in interceding prayer
When I grew up, what impressed me the most was my mother’s prayers. My mother was not well-educated but managed to read the Bible which was always by the side of her bed. And behind the closed bedroom door, I could hear her prayers for the family. A faithful prayer of a loving mother is powerful. When one deeply loves as if a mother, he intercedes before God in the same way. “always striving earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” Col 4:12. Mothers, don’t stop interceding for your children in prayers.
We remember and give thanks for the mother’s laboring love, so that we are encouraged to love God and others in the same way, expressed in loving labor. Loving labor is exhausting but they are satisfying to the soul. Let’s go and practice today.
Week of May 2nd, 2021
Dear CIBC Family,
As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, after over a year in lockdown, life is quickly returning to normal. Not only are students returning to school and restaurants allowing indoor dining once again, but CIBC is also reopening its doors for in-person worship. However, in this post-COVID world, “normal” does not mean “the way it was.” Our reopening on 5/2 took countless hours of planning, discussion, and set up by many faithful brothers and sisters, but we know that nothing can bring things back to how they were before the pandemic. Even though we are able to meet in person, we are still not able to do many of the things that we were used to. The same goes for our schools, shops, and workplaces.
In many ways, we are forced to scale things back to the bare minimum, just the basics. This can be a disappointment, but it is also a great reminder of what is truly important. Getting back to the basics forces us to strip away all the distracting and extraneous elements in order to preserve what is essential. I hope that many of you will be able to come worship in person, but even if you need to remain at home and worship virtually on Sundays, let us remember and cherish the basic, foundational elements of our faith and worship. Let us “get back to basics”:
Proclaiming the Gospel
As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-5“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared...” Our worship is the continued celebration and proclamation of the reality of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, both in history, and in our own lives. May we, along with Paul, always keep this truth as “of first importance.”
Proclaiming Christ’s Glory
Worship is not only a privilege and a blessing, it is also a command and proper response to the glory of Jesus Christ. Those who have experienced the majesty of our Lord cannot help but burst forth in praise. As Christ rebuke the Pharisees when they attempted to silence His worshipping disciples in Luke 19:40:“He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’” From the sanctuary to our living rooms, may we continue to proclaim the glory of our risen and returning King!
Practicing the Ministry of the Word
Whatever the context, and wherever the location, our worship must be built on and guided by the Word of God. Let us heed the apostle Paul’s reminder in 1Timothy 4:13: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” and Colossians 3:16:“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” May the Word of God always be central to our worship, from beginning to end.
Our worship may never return to how it was before COVID, but if we keep these basic elements at the heart of what we do, we will never have to question whether we are doing it right,or doing enough.
Week of April 25th, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
I once met a couple from China. The wife has a biology Ph.D. from Beijing University and the husband a physics Ph.D. from the same university. She came to Stanford for her post-doctoral research. Since they were new to the Bay Area, I gave them a one-day sightseeing tour visiting Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods, Fisherman’s Wharf, etc. We spent the entire day discussing many topics, such as American life, God’s creation, Christian beliefs, etc. Having a typical atheistic background and also with their scientific training, they were not convinced about our Christian beliefs at all.
After sightseeing, I brought them home for dinner. In our conversation, the lady brought up something puzzling to her. Her sister’s pregnancy was found to have a genetic problem. In China, it is a no-brainer to have the fetus aborted. But even upon the persuasion of her parents, friends, and relatives, she refused to have an abortion. Indeed, the baby was born with that genetic defect. She was greatly disturbed by her sister’s refusal to abort the fetus. I told her that her sister had made the right decision, for it is purely out of her genuine love for her baby. Probably it was the very first time for her to hear that. I said, “If love is out of convenience, it is not genuine love at all. Genuine love is always sacrificial. Motherly love is such a sacrificial love reflecting God’s sacrificial love for mankind.”
After dinner, we had a deeper discussion on God’s love. Naturally, it led to God’s grace of giving us the free gift of eternal life. Then we talked about the true meaning of sin and God’s justice. And then it came to Christ’s love on the cross. At the end of my sharing, I sensed that the lady was ready to trust Christ. So, I invited her to put her faith in Jesus Christ who died for her sin on the cross. To my surprise, she was willing! After giving her some immediate follow-up nurturing, I also sensed that her husband, who had heard the entire conversation, was also ready to trust Christ. So, before leaving, I invited her husband to consider trusting Christ for salvation. And he did too! I am sure many Christians must have shared the gospel with them before. I was just harvesting what others have sown.
What I shared with them is the same gospel presentation I shared with those without any formal education. And it is also the same gospel I taught brothers and sisters how to share. The only difference is that I don’t need to convince those who worship idols about the existence of God. Many who called themselves atheists trusted Christ not because you have convinced them God exists. They trusted Christ because they recognize their sin and Christ’s sacrificial love on the cross.
That couple trusted Christ, not because of apologetic skills. It is all because of the power of the gospel, for Paul said in Rom 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” It is all because of the cross message! Paul also said in 1Cor 2:1, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” It is all because of the work of the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sin to seek Jesus Christ. So, if the gospel sharing is devoid of the reality of sin, how can the Holy Spirit work in the heart of people in the need of salvation?
Brothers and sisters, during the pandemics your friends will likely inquire about spiritual matters in life. Believe in the power of God for salvation through the Gospel! Share with them Jesus Christ and him crucified! The Holy Spirit will then use His Gospel to convict people.
Week of April 18th, 2021
Dear CIBC brothers and sisters,
According to crime analysts from the San Leandro police, recent data shows Asian Americans are more likely to be victims of robberies based on a review of the crime rates for reported cases in 2020. There were a series of robberies lately targeting Asian Americans in the community, such as one robbery last Saturday on an Asian pedestrian trying to get a cup of coffee near Oakland Chinatown, and another one on the same day where a couple was robbed at their home in Pleasanton at gunpoint after driving home from shopping. Also, media sources revealed that Asian women and elderly are specially targeted for robbery in San Leandro. In such an environment of racial tension and hatred, I encouraged the church family to be watchful of their environment when they are out shopping or walking.
These series of robberies alarmed us and have increased our anxiety. These violence and crimes affect how we conduct our daily life and how we feel about other races. But I pray that we would not linger on depressive feelings or complain of being trapped at home or even deepen in hatred, but we would experience God’s peace and grace through these outside depressive forces. Jesus encouraged His disciples at the last supper, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1). The disciples sensed the imminent threats coming from their own Jewish nation when Christ had told about His temporary absence from them. Christ knew His disciples needed this encouragement, so they would not dwell in the fear of danger, loneliness and disappointment. “Believe in Christ” is the only way to salvation. But in this particular encouragement, “believe in Christ” is about an unfailing trust towards Christ in our daily life, and “believe in Christ” is the key to quiet down a troubled heart.
Believe in Christ is making Christ the Lord in your heart. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts”(1 Peter 3:15). That is making room, separating out a place in your heart, the control center of your will and mind, and placing Christ’s will and mind in the center of your heart. Peter explained that “sanctifying Christ in your heart” is the prerequisite of making a defense to questions or oppositions from others about your faith (i.e. your belief in Christ). Paul encouraged believers to let Christ rule our hearts in our relationship with one another – “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5).
Making Christ the Lord in my heart has quiet down my troubled heart in light of the racial hatred and attack recently. My first reaction to these robberies and unjust attacks are anger and hatred, not hatred of sinfulness of the violence, but hatred of the person. My heart hopes for the person will quickly receive punishment and harm. As long as I do that, my troubled heart would not settle. But when I place Christ’s will and mind in the center of my heart, I see more clearly how these feelings distract me from the things I should be doing, how these events affect brothers and sisters in the church family, how I should pray for their benefit and safety, how I should pray that the gospel will change a sinful person. The heart no longer is troubled but possesses that peaceful assurance that only Christ can give.
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.
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