Week of August 9th, 2020
Dear Church Family,
In the Old Testament, God often used His creatures as illustrations in order to instruct His people to remember His words and to know Him. One of those creatures is the eagle. The word “eagle” appeared in 29 passages. The eagle is a majestic bird in the sky; it is powerful and swift. The founding fathers of this nation used the eagle to express the values of this country. In the center of the great seal of the United States is a bald eagle grasping an olive branch and arrows. The image symbolizes the country holds the power for war and peace.
God instructed Moses to write a song and committed the nation of Israel young and old, slave and free to memorize it and for their generations after them to memorize and sing it, so they would know and love their God. One verse of the song described how God relates to His people.
“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.” (Deut 32:11)
“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,” God corrects His people. When the mother eagle is expecting her young, she prepares a large nest high on the edge of a cliff. She fashions it out of giant branches and sharp thorns. She then fills it with layer upon layer of soft feathers. When the baby eagles arrive and start getting comfy-cozy in the nest, the mother eagle stirs up the nest. Each day the mother eagle removes a few more feathers until, finally, the nest becomes unbearable. She does this deliberately, knowing full well that unless she forces her little ones out of their comfort zone, they’ll never take that leap of faith. They will never know what it means to soar. Our Heavenly Father also disciplines because of His love for us children of God. Without the loving discipline of our Father in heaven, we would stay in our comfort and cozy nest and would not learn to soar in life as He intends us to be. Changes are necessary for growth, but we often remain in our comfort zone and see no reason for conforming into Christ’s image. Our Father sometimes uses uncomfortable situations to push us to fly high and use His gift freely given to us.
“Like an eagle that hovers over its young,” God protects His people. When the young eagle takes its first flight, the eagle mother hovers along with her young, ready to spread her wings and catch the young. The mother eagle’s eyes are focused on her young, and her presence is always there with her love. It is an amazing sight to see such a first flight in nature. For it demonstrates how our God cares and protects His children as they learn to fly in life. There are moments of weakness, yet our God is there and His eyes are upon us. And in some moments, He carries us through upon His wings.
What is one thing that you would most like to change about your life? Think through how God has used uncomfortable situations to push you to soar higher.
Week of August 2nd, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
When I read Ezek 45:12, I am puzzled, “… twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels shall be your mina.” This is a very odd way to indicate the value of a mina. Scholars even claimed that the Hebrew text is in error, for a mina is known to be 50 shekels, not 60. I want to find out the answer to this puzzle.
Ezekiel is known to be an exilic prophet. Exiled to where? Babylon! If you are in Babylon, what measurement units do you use? Of course, Babylonian! Just as American travelers visiting Canada, what units do you use over there? Of course, Canadian! When you see the speed limit sign “100” and if you still use your American units, you will be in deep trouble. They have already warned you at the border that speed is in km/h, not mph (100 km/h = 63 mph).
Ezekiel told us that a man measured the temple with a reed. Ezek 40:5 “…the length of the measuring reed in the man’s hand was six long cubits, each being a cubit and a handbreadth in length…” A cubit is normally 18 inches. But this man’s cubit is “a cubit and a handbreadth in length” or 21 inches. Obviously, these are two different measurement units. That man uses the Babylonian units, which the Jewish exiles are now accustomed to. This is just like in Canada, they use “meter-stick” instead of “yardstick” (39.4” vs. 36”).
Scholars are mistaken this time. Ezekiel is using the local Babylonian measuring system. Babylonians used a system called “sexagesimal/base-60” instead of “decimal/base-10”. Believe it or not, we are still using it today. How many seconds in one minute? How many minutes in one hour? How many degrees in a circle? (360=6x60). Yes, these are all invented by the Babylonians. We still use a Babylonian invention today. It is called “asphalt” (Genesis 11:3).
This scale of 20, 25, and 15 shekels is indeed a very clever invention. The context of this is about just balances. Ezek 45:10 “You shall have just balances…” To measure up to two minas (2x60 shekels), you just need these 3 weights: 20, 25 & 15 shekels. Suppose there are two traders, each with three weights. Let’s call the weights of trader A, 15A, 20A, 25A, and trader B’s, 15B, 20B, 25B. Remember, just balances are for trading purposes. But how do you measure, say, 5 shekels? Consider the following table:
Every increment of 5 shekels from 5 to 120 (except 110, 115) can be covered by the weights of the two traders. Even if a trader wants to cheat by altering his own weights, it will not be to his advantage. So obviously, Ezekiel is describing the Babylonian sexagesimal system.
Conclusions: (1) Scholars are mistaken to say that the Hebrew text is wrong here. (2) Careful Bible study helps you to discover why the author wrote something “strange/wrong” but only later proven to be correct and accurate.
Let me encourage you, spend your time during SIP to study God’s word carefully, to discover something even “scholars” may consider a mistake.
Week of July 26th
Dear brothers and sisters of CIBC,
Dr. Mark Maxwell, President of Prairie Bible Institute, wrote in The Spring 2020 Servant Magazine, “Covid-19 is travelling at the speed of flight, but anxiety is travelling at the speed of light.”
As many of us who have been shelter-in-place for the past four months, this pandemic brings on isolation, chaos in our “normal routine,” and restlessness in faith regarding our relationship with God.
I would like to share some of the lessons I learned from three Spiritual mentors in my life. Through their writings, I was challenged, rebuked and mentoring throughout this pandemic. “And this is my prayer: that MY love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” (Philippians 1:9)
Hudson Taylor is my first mentor. He taught me to focus on God’s faithfulness. He wrote, “God is not looking for men of great faith; He is looking for common men to trust His great faithfulness.”
A.W. Tozer is my second mentor. Tozer wrote about the sweetness of God’s word and its effect on my relationship with Him, especially in this uncertain time.
He wrote in The Pursuit of God, “The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and knows the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.”
Pastor John Piper is my third mentor. He recently taught me 9 ways to pray for my soul, so that I will be in sync with the way God works to shape me into “a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the Master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Timothy, 2:21)
May I encourage you to pray these 9 prayers daily:
1. For the desire of my heart to be toward God and His word.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to gain. (Psalm 119:36)
2. For the eyes of my heart to be opened.
Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. (Psalm 119:18)
3. For my heart to be enlightened with these “wonders.”
[I pray] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. (Ephesians 1:18)
4. For my hearts to be united, not divided, for God.
O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11)
5. For my heart to be satisfied with God and not with the world.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)
6. For strength in this joy, and endurance during the dark seasons.
[I pray that God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. (Ephesians 3:16)
7. For visible good deeds and works of love to others.
[I pray that you] will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…bearing fruit in every good work. (Colossians 1:10)
8. For God to be glorified.
Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9)
9. In Jesus’ name.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? (Romans 8:32)
Servant of the Lord,
Pastor Joseph Pang
Week of July 19th
Dear CIBC Family,
As our nation, state, and county continue to struggle with COVID19, our church has been struggling with when and how to reopen. Though it seemed unthinkable at the time, singing, praying, preaching, and taking communion have all become “virtual” events that we experience from the comfort and safety of our own homes. The “new normal” has become a routine for us that sometimes it can be hard to remember how things used to be just 4 short months ago.
In fact, one of the greatest challenges we will face as a church in the months to come is to not let the “new normal” become too comfortable. We need to be reminded of our calling in Hebrews 10:23-25:
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
In this age of separation, it is so easy to be passive about our spiritual lives and forget about accountability without the natural reminders and encouragement we get from simply meeting at church. More than ever, it is now up to each of us to take the initiative to hold fast, stir up, and encourage one another. What this will look like will be different for each individual and each family, but here are some suggestions you can put into practice this week:
1. Reach out to someone you used to see regularly at church and ask how you can pray for them… and pray for them throughout the week!
2. Write an encouraging note or drop off a small gift to a brother or sister who lives by themselves, is sick, or is otherwise cut off from fellowship in some way.
3. Set apart Sunday worship as sacred—set a specific time for it, remove distractions in the area where you watch it, pray & prepare your heart before you even start the video, and (for families) discuss the songs and sermons together afterward
4. Talk to your small group/fellowships about what you miss about worshiping in person
5. Pray for CIBC leadership to develop a wise & God-honoring plan for live-streaming and reopening
Worship is never meant to be a spectator event. We are not called to be passive viewers, audience members, or consumers. We are called to be active followers, disciples, and worshipers. Though we cannot meet in person, let us long for and prepare for the day when we can once again!
Hoping in Christ,
Week of July 12th, 2020
Dear Church Family,
In the last few weeks, the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases increased at a higher rate than before. And the news media began to question the wisdom of the government in navigating the country through this health crisis. There are different opinions on when and how to reopen the economy, how to safely send the children back to school, how to reopen the churches for worship. Some have argued that decisions and policies made now are political rather than being based on wisdom and facts. Some are relying on the government’s wisdom and waiting for and following the government’s guidance.
However, as children of our gracious Father in heaven, we have the wisdom from above to guard us. Wisdom is not just knowing about something, but living it out. Wisdom is seen in how a person lives, speaks, treats others and handles life situations. It is in trials and difficult times that we realize that our wisdom is limited, but we have a heavenly Father who is all wise. The Scriptures teach us that trials and difficult times produce endurance, and they will build our character to be like Christ. Has the current pandemic in this country developed your character and built your faith? Yet we are not alone during our trials, as God purposes to give wisdom in responding to trials in the right way. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
Godly wisdom is what we should seek and ask from God; for the wisdom from above is first pure (James 3:17). Godly wisdom is pure from any fault. Godly wisdom gives the heart the pure motive and attitude. It keeps our heart pure so that whatever flows out from the heart is loving and good. Godly wisdom passes to us through the Word of God which will enlighten the eyes, making the wise simple, and bring joy in the heart. For us in God’s family, we seek God’s wisdom to encourage one another, to worship, to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. It is not enough to safely shelter in place at home, but let us consider ways in which to live as Christ’s witness apart from our current restriction. This year we will conduct our VBS online and, as of July 3rd, we have 110 children registered. We pray that God will bless the children through this particular ministry. We may not be able to conduct a gospel seeker class on Sunday, but we now have an online evangelistic small group Bible Study which brings evangelistic messages to unbelievers at their homes, and unbelievers are willing to return and participate in these studies searching for God’s truth in their life. These are just examples of wisdom that God has given us when we are willing and sensitive to how He will lead. Let us build from these examples and be thriving and growing as a church in time like this.
Week of July 5th, 2020
Dear Church Family,
It is a staple for families to gather for picnics and watch fireworks to celebrate America’s birthday. While it is fun to celebrate, do we know what exactly we are commemorating? Do we know how the thirteen colonies unite to become a nation? Below is an excerpt (with some additional information) from PBS.org regarding the history of America’s Independence Day:
"Taxation without representation!" was the battle cry in America’s 13 Colonies, which were forced to pay taxes to England's King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament. As dissatisfaction grew, British troops were sent in to quell the early movement toward rebellion. Repeated attempts by the Colonists to resolve the crisis without military conflict proved fruitless.
On June 11, 1776, the Colonies' Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and formed a committee whose express purpose was drafting a document that would formally sever their ties with Great Britain. On July 2, they approved a resolution of independence and officially adopted the final version on July 4.
On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration were held in Philadelphia's Independence Square to the ringing of bells and band music. One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks. The custom eventually spread to other towns, both large and small, where the day was marked with processions, oratory, picnics, contests, games, military displays and fireworks.
The spirit of what transpired more than 200 years ago is still with us today- no one likes being under the control of an unjust ruler. We call that “tyranny.” As believers, the Bible tells us that at one time, we were under the tyranny of sin and Satan. But God, in his mercy, sent Jesus to die for our sins and break sin and Satan’s hold on us (Hebrews 2:14-18). As the colonial armies needed help from France to defeat the British, so we as believers need God’s help and the armor of God in order to have victory over sin (Ephesians 6:10-18). America’s battle with the British lasted for nineteen years (1765-1783)- seven years after the declaration of independence. Likewise, our battle with sin did not end with our conversion but will last till we see God face-to-face (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).
We celebrate our nation’s independence with family gatherings, food, and fireworks. How much are we willing to invest to celebrate our freedom from sin in gratitude for what Christ has done? The writer of Hebrews says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15). Since Jesus became that final sacrifice to secure our freedom from the penalty of sin, we should continually offer God a verbal sacrifice of praise. Take some time this weekend to praise God for our ultimate freedom.
Pastor Philip Gee