Pastors Posts

 

 

Week of May 24th, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters,
 

It is sad to hear that Ravi Zacharias, an evangelist and Christian apologist greatly used by God, died Tuesday morning. He wrote a Christian bestseller, "Can We Live Without God?" In his writings and lectures he wants people to answer the following questions:

 

  • Where do I come from? It is on the origin of mankind.

  • Why am I here? It deals with the meaning of life.

  • How should I treat people? It is to do with morality.

  • Where am I going? It points to our eternal destiny.

 

During this COVID-19 pandemic people may ask you these life questions for answers. Be prepared to answer them as the Apostle Peter exhorted us, “… always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1Pet 3:15).

 

Those are vast topics to explore, yet the Bible has provided us all the answers. For instance, the Bible told us that God’s creation points to the Creator (Rom 1:20). The problem is, just as a person born blind cannot distinguish between blue from red however you try to explain the difference, you will have a hard time to convince seekers intellectually.

 

All is not lost! They may not be able to see spiritual things but still are able to feel—to touch and to be touched! They may not recognize the Creator through His creation but still are able to feel the touch of God’s love, grace and mercy through you and me. These are our opportunities. After they have been touched by God through you, you then earn the right to share with them “the hope that is in you.” You then share with them five main points:
 

  1. Heaven–eternal life–is a gift of God. 

  2. We are all sinners before God (use various illustrations).

  3. God loves us sinners, but He is still a just God.

  4. The only solution for our sin problem is through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for our sin.

  5. We need to trust Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

 

During the pandemic you will be surprised to see how God has already prepared people’s heart to trust Christ. Your responsibility is to provide God’s touch of love, grace and mercy, as well as sharing the gospel.

 

If you don’t know how to share the gospel, please take some effort to learn how to share it effectively. You may read James Kennedy’s book “Evangelism Explosion” to learn the basics. You may go to Evantell.org to take the online course on “Good News, Bad News” method, or take all the evangelism trainings offered by the church. More importantly, pray fervently before the Lord to provide you the opportunities to share. May the Lord use you mightily for the Gospel during this pandemic!

Blessings,
 

Pastor Larry

Week of May 17th, 2020

Dear CIBC Family,


In the gospels, Jesus often used physical healing to illustrate a spiritual truth. For instance, when Jesus heals a man born blind, he draws attention to the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees (John 9). When he raises Lazarus back to life, he uses the opportunity to declare that he is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11). Since the same God who created our bodies is the one who gave us a spiritual dimension, it should not surprise us that there is often a correlation between physical realities and spiritual applications. One of the mission agencies we support recently sent me a list of how the precautions we are taking with the coronavirus prompts us to take care of our spirit lives.

 

 

1.  As you wash your hands frequently, consecrate yourself to be holy.
Jesus compared the Pharisees with whitewashed tombs that looked clean on the outside but, on the inside, were full of filth (Matthew 23:27-28).

2. As you wear a mask in public, tame your tongue causing no one to stumble.

The Bible warned us that an untamed tongue is as dangerous as a small flame that can destroy a whole forest (James 3). Misspoken words can ruin a testimony that took years to build.

3. Observe social distancing but love one another without ceasing.

Jesus said that the world will know that we are His followers by how we love one another (John 13:35).

 

4. Instead of living in panic and fear, pray by faith for peace and grace.

God promises to give us the peace that surpasses all understanding when we lift whatever troubles us in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

5. Do not take relationships for granted so cherish your relationships with God and others.

The writer of Hebrews encouraged the persecuted Church to draw near to God and to consider how they can spur one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:22, 24).

 

6. Invest in heavenly treasures instead of trusting in silver or gold.

Jesus taught that we should invest in things that have eternal value and not on things that can rust or rot (Matthew 6:19-20).

 

7. As you go through the trials of Life, view them as blessings in disguise.

The Bible reminds us to consider it pure joy when we face trials because they expose areas needing growth and challenge us to trust God (James 1:2-5).

 

Someone once said, “Rough seas make good sailors.” Jesus did say that in this world we will face troubles (John 16:33). But the best part is that the observation concludes with a promise, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” Our physical precautions remind us of our spiritual responsibilities. We worship a Savior who will guide us through this storm.

Grace & Blessings,

 

Pastor Philip

Week of May 10th, 2020

 

Dear CIBC Family,


        As COVID19 continues to impact our lives, we have seen tensions rising as people begin to chafe under the social distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions of the past 2 months. Whether it’s beaches, hair salons, or state capitols, more and more, the battle cry for many seems to be one of personal rights above all else, even at the expense of the health of others. We all acknowledge that there is still much to learn about this virus, and that there is room for debate on when the social distancing restrictions should be loosened, but the callousness, obstinance, and selfishness displayed by some of these COVID protesters is the antithesis of what we ought to be as Christians.

 

        We must instead ask God to form in us the attitude of Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” These verses take on a deeper significance in light of the current wave of protests and rebellion. A provocative sign painted on a protester’s car reads: “Your health is not more important than my liberties!!” While this is true when it comes to civil liberties and the laws of our nation, we Christians must remember what we are called to do: joyfully give up our personal liberties in love and service of others. This is impossible without a close, intimate walk with God, constant mediation upon His Word, and daily submission in prayer. We do this not just out of obedience to God, but in pursuit of our Savior Jesus Christ:

 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8

 

        So, even as experts continue to study, protesters continue to struggle, government officials continue to stumble, and people continue to suffer, we remember where to set our minds daily. Not on the latest conspiracies or miracle cures. Not on the latest government sanctions or bailouts. Not on the latest blunders or offenses by our political opponents. Not on fear, anger, or frustration. We set our minds on our Savior. On His humble service. On His selfless love. On His joyful sacrifice. No virus or calamity can ever prevail against a mind so prepared.

 

Hoping in Christ,

 

Pastor Tim

 

Week of May 3rd, 2020

 

Dear Church Family,


       As we read the news of the extension of the shelter-in-place order in the bay area until the end of May, may we not lose heart but encourage one another with a heavenward mind set. So we give thanks to God for the expression of Christ’s love towards one another in our caring groups. We give thanks that we are more mindful of others’ needs. We are more thoughtful of what are of godly values in life and family, and thankful for the surprising opportunities to share Christ through our online worship and fellowship ministries. Some of us who are in difficult times received encouragement and comfort from brothers and sisters in the church family. Some of us serve more diligently and sacrificially to get our worship, teaching, and fellowship ministries going in new creative ways. 

 

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” Ephesians 2:10

 

        Indeed, God has changed our hearts and has given us strength to be benefiting and good in such a time as this.


        A heavenward mind is the key to Christian living. This is what keeps us seeking and longing for values of eternal quality. This is what guides us through chaotic and depressing times. This is how our life should be when we say Christ is our life. Colossians 3:1 reminds us: 

 

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

 

       These are two true statements with the second statement necessary following the first. The gift of God came from Christ who was raised up. He was risen and now seated on the right hand of God. Christ is sovereign and in control of all things, yet He is interceding for us in His heaven’s throne. How great is God’s power of intercession even in our weakest moment! How comforting is God’s grace even when we regard ourselves as running out of resources and strength. The divine power that raised up Christ also raised us up with Christ. Through faith by God’s power and grace we have a new life with a new desire and longing for things above. So, let us not fix our eyes on the things on earth which will only feed our anxiety, but let us fix our gaze and our thoughts on things above where Christ is.


In Christ we walk,


Pastor Patrick

Week of April 26th, 2020

 

Dear brothers and sisters in CIBC,
 

Quoting from the Book of James 1:1, “Joseph, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To you who are scattered with shelter-in-place: Greetings.”
 

For some people, staying at home these days is like sitting in jail! But perhaps for others, it is like an unexpected vacation break; but most likely it's a feeling of depression and helplessness. You would even be wondering about how and when everything will be “back to normal”?
 

I truly believe God wants to use the Book of Lamentations 3:19-27 to remind and guide us to learn about how to face various circumstances and experience God’s loving- kindness and tender mercies in our daily lives. 

 

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3:19-21).

  1. The impact of circumstances and experiences on thinking
     

a. The author of Lamentations described the suffering of the destruction of Judah’s kingdom. Therefore, the first, second, and fourth chapter of this book all started with the word (eykoh) ==>How come and Why? 

 

b. The usual daily diet, religious activities, and lifestyles of God’s people all had been changed overnight. The city of Jerusalem they lived was taken by Babylonians, the temple was destroyed, and people went into captivity to Babylon. 

 

c. Those people involved had the same feeling as the author of the Book of Lamentations: How come and Why? ==> “I well remember them,” a continually thinking with a focus on circumstances or miseries which makes me downcast and depressed. (v.19-20) *We are living in a coronavirus pandemic today. All the news keep telling us how devastating the coronavirus is and how it changed our daily diet, religious activities, and lifestyles overnight. Then we would have the same feeling of “How come and Why?” which also makes us depressed.

 

d. However, God points out through the author that a change in mindset can bring a life path of hope in such difficult times (v.21). {Reflection} Psalm 121:1-2 teaches me to learn from the circumstances and look up to God, as he is the creator of all things.

 

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

   2. The change of mind is about recognizing and experiencing God's loving-kindness and tender mercies.

 

a. Recognizing God’s kindness and mercies = personally experienced (v.22)
“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6). 

i. “Yet this I call to mind” ⇒ Even though Jeremiah had to face the situation of ruined Judah’s kingdom, when he thinks back, God’s grace was so real in the past: We learned God’s true nature after 40 years of life in the desert and the life to come . 

ii. God’s “steadfast and unfailing love” (hesed) = this love strongly implies he would never abandon his people.

iii. God’s “mercy” is his selfless compassion= we do not deserve it, but he gives it to us unconditionally.

*We are currently under the shelter-in-place: God points out through v.22 that our focus should be on his faithfulness in the past, and he is a God gives and keeps his covenant of love, and will never leave us nor forsake us! 

 

b. The past experiences become everyday’s hope (v.23-24) 

i. “Your faithfulness” is “new” and “vibrant” everyday (v.23). This verse shows that God is not only the Lord of the past, but also always working on his people who love him and truly know him. 

ii. Therefore, Jeremiah says to himself, “The LORD is my portion” (v.24) and also is the fundamental source of my hope. 

c. {Reflection} How do we experience God’s daily “new” and “vibrant” love and tender mercies in this pandemic environment?

 

“The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young” (Lamentations 3:25-27).

   3. Take practical actions to deal with different circumstances and experiences.
 

a. “Waiting” = is necessary 

i. God is teaching us that in a less ideal environment, where we cannot be free and autonomous, we need to learn to wait for God’s timing to “return to our normal lives as before.” But to make the best use of our time to seek and be close to God is the most important thing.

b. “To bear the yoke” = is the fundamental principle of taking actions. We should be willing to be taught and driven. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). 

At the end, I hope this hymn below could be a daily reminder to you and me. 


“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is a classic hymn, written by Thomson Obadiah Chisholm. He was born in Franklin, Kentucky on July 29, 1866 in a poor family. At the age of 27, he received Christ, and later he was longing for God, and also willing to serve Him. One day in 1923, he was doing devotion, and read the book of Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” He was suddenly inspired by this verse and felt his life was full of God’s love and faithfulness. After being deeply touched by God’s words, he wrote the popular song “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” 

 

Lyrics: "Great is Thy faithfulness," 

Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God my Father

There is no shadow of turning with Thee

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be. 

 

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest

Sun, moon and stars in their courses above

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. 

 

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! 

 

(Chorus) 

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! 

 

(Xin Xia, Chinese Christian Herald Monthly Newspaper Europe Version, 4/2015) 

 

God’s servant, Pastor Joseph 

 

 

Week of April 19th, 2020

 

Dear brothers and sisters,

 

During this COVID-19 pandemic we often ask for God’s protection. Many appeal to the promises in Psalm 121.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. 
 

Yes indeed, our “help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” and “the LORD will keep your going out and your coming in…”

Scholars often try to explain how “the sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.” Explaining the sun is easy – heatstroke! But then, you just need a big umbrella and drink lots of water to avoid heatstroke. What about the moon, since there is no such thing as moon-stroke? Scholars are so clever. They even found a mythical Babylonian moon-god to explain how the moon can harm you. But is that what the psalmist meant? Let me explain!

 

V.6 consists of 5 Hebrew words only (minimum no. for a poetic verse): “by day + the sun + not strike you + and moon + by night.” If the psalmist doesn’t add sun and moon, it has only 3 words, which doesn’t form a verse. Adding sun and moon is just to reinforce the idea of day and night: sun=day, moon=night. V.6 simply means that the LORD will protect you from harm day and night, or 24/7. It has nothing to do with heatstroke or Babylonian moon-god myth.

 

What about “The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in”? Let’s imagine a door. “Going out” the door simply means “outside”, and “coming in” is just “inside” the house. Now “inside+outside” simply means that the LORD will protect you everywhere. Likewise, “from this time forth and forevermore” means “past, present and future” or non-stop protection! Combining all three, it is like 3-D protection, or “all-around protection”:

How did God provide Israel this all-around protection? Actually, the protection is already embedded in His commandments! E.g., their Torah requires them to follow stringently in areas such as:

●  Cleansing requirements, e.g., if they touch dead body, they are required to quarantine 7 days (think about the Ebola epidemic in Africa when they didn’t dispose corpses properly)

●  Not to eat unclean animals (think about eating civet cats, bats, or pangolins, those carriers of coronavirus such as SARS, COVID-19)

●   Laws dealing with blood and body fluid (think about HIV and STD).

 

If they secretly violate God’s commands, which are meant for their protection, they will suffer great consequences. Even with our modern medicine we can hardly survive this COVID-19 pandemic, let alone people living 3500 years ago, yet God has already protected them if they obey His commands diligently.

The deadliest violation was not from viruses but idolatry. When they worship idols, they are saying, “We want wood and stones to protect us more than You who made heaven and earth. Take away your protective hand!” How silly! Israel’s history tells us that so long as they trust Yahweh their God and obey His commands, they are protected 24/7, anywhere, and uninterrupted.

 

The same is true for us Christians. Christ’s divine protection is already embedded in His word. May the Lord help you to understand His word, trust in His word, and obey His word so as to experience His all-around protection! Let me write down Psalm 121, the Jesus Christ version:
 

1 I lift up my eyes to the Cross. From where does my help come?

2 My help comes from Jesus Christ, who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

4 Behold, he who keeps Christians will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 Jesus Christ is your keeper; Jesus Christ is your shade on your right hand.

6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

7 Jesus Christ will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

8 Jesus Christ will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

 

Blessings,

Pastor Larry Wong

Week of April 12th, 2020

 

Dear CIBC At Large,

 

        “SIP” stands for “Shelter In Place” meaning that we stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But did you know that God is providing us a rare opportunity for believing families to create “Sanctuary In Place” moments? A sanctuary is a safe place where people can sense the presence of God, worship together, and grow in their security in God. Here are some creative ways we can transform our Shelter In Place into a Sanctuary In Place:

 

1.     Set a time to gather for a family devotion aside from the normal Sunday worship time.

 

·         To get some ideas on how to get a family worship started, read “Family Worship 101” from the Ligonier Ministries: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/family-worship-101/

·         There are various sources for young and mature families. Good places to look are Focus On The Family or YouVersion Bible.

·         For Mandarin-speaking families, you can watch the recent Christian cartoon Pilgrim’s Progress: https://www.revelationmedia.com/watchpilgrims/RM13277/.

·         Take turns to pray for each other and for others. (Consider using the church’s monthly prayer guide.)

·         For older children, discuss the sermon after the worship service (even better when the adults and children listen to different worship services).

 

   2.  Spend quality time together.

It sounds rather obvious but needs to be stated: spending time together as a family enhances spending time together in worship. Here are some suggested together activities:

 

·         Walk around the block or neighborhood together.

·         Call close family members or friends and take turns talking.

·         Watch a movie or read a book together and discuss how the beliefs espoused by the characters compare to what the Bible says about Life.

·         Read a Christian biography and discuss the challenges they faced.

·         Cook a new dish.

·         Teach children to do chores that are normally reserved for the adults to handle due to schedule challenges (remember to match the chore with the skill set).

·         Dare I say: clean up the garage together.

    3.  Look for opportunities to share Life stories.

·         Share your salvation testimony and/or your favorite Bible verse.

·         Share a difficult time in your life and how God helped you go through it. (Make sure that the situation is age appropriate).

·         Go through an old picture album and share the stories that accompany them.

 

Grace & Blessings,

 

Pastor Philip

April 3, 2020

 

Dear Church Family,

 

A lot has happened in the month of March. While it has only been 2 weeks of sheltering in place, it feels like such a long time since we’ve been able to meet together in person. As our ministry, work, school, and social lives shut down or changed drastically, I hope your faith and hope remain strong in our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

To help you stay informed and encouraged, the pastors of CIBC will be sending out a weekly update with the latest announcements, health and safety information, upcoming events, as well as a devotional from one of the pastors. This week, I (Pastor Tim) have that honor. This is adapted from a message I shared with the youth last Friday:

 

As we brace ourselves for at least another month of sheltering in place, the news, our government, and the numbers all point to one fact: things are only going to get worse. Even though in the Bay Area we are seeing signs that the drastic social distancing measures are working, more people are getting infected, and more people are dying.

 

The prophet Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, was familiar with this situation. He ministered in one of the darkest times in Israel’s history, and from the beginning, God told him things were only going to get worse. While other prophets promised false peace (Jeremiah 6:14), Jeremiah alone warned Israel of God’s coming judgment, and their destruction by the Babylonians. He was a reluctant prophet, with an unpopular message, sent to an unrepentant people (Jeremiah 1:9-19). Though he spoke truth, his message was rejected, and all the disasters he prophesied became reality. 

 

It is no wonder, then, that Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations, one of the darkest, most sorrowful books in Scripture. It is also no wonder that Jeremiah identified himself in this book as “the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath” (Lamentations 3:1). Yet in the middle of this darkness and depression, we find one of the most beautiful reminders of God’s unfailing love: 

 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”        

Lamentations 3:22-24

 

Though in his life things never got better, and he never lived to see the redemption of his people, because Jeremiah knew who God truly is, he had the brightest hope in the middle of his darkest time. My prayer is that as things undoubtedly get worse around us, you will find God’s love steadfast and unceasing, and experience his mercies in new ways each day.

 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

Grace & Blessings,

 

Pastor Tim

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