Mid-year Resolution

 

Won’t let fear hold my heart back
This my resolution
Won’t follow the ghosts of my past
This my resolution

 

It’s the middle of the year, but this still applies. Our decision to run the race must be reinforced every moment of our lives, from the first time we chose to follow God. We must persevere even when it gets tough, especially when it gets tough. As it says in James 1:3b-4 (NIV),

the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

So let’s walk steadfastly before the Lord. God bless everyone! 🙂

Grow in Love: Be Part of a Small Group

CCF Sermon Notes
Speaker: Pastor Peter Tan-Chi
Testimonies: Venus Raj, Pastors JP Masakayan and Ricky Sarthou

What are small groups?

A small group is a group of believers who meet to encourage each other and to learn about God and God’s word. It is a space for accountability without judgment. Jesus modelled the small group when He chose and mentored the Twelve.

Acts 2:41-47 NIV

41: three thousand were added to their number that day

How did they minister to group? Through small groups

46: Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

They met everyday! Imagine meeting every day, going to church every day! The early believers met every day in large groups, then broke apart into smaller groups.

42: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

This is what we are to do as we meet. First, we are to devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching, that is God’s Word, the Scriptures. Second, we are to devote ourselves to the fellowship, to have accountability, to be encouraging and spurring each other on. Third, we are to devote ourselves to the breaking of bread, the Lord’s Supper. Fourth, we are to devote ourselves to prayer. This prayer is a collective prayer. We pray together for each other, not separately and for ourselves. It is easy to pray for ourselves; it is not so easy to pray for others, instead of ourselves. (This doesn’t mean praying for ourselves is bad.)

I John 1:3-4 NIV

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

Fellowship with God is foundational. We must first have fellowship with God, before we can have an intimate, meaningful fellowship with people.

Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not up meeting together, as some are it of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

We are not to give up meeting together that we may encourage each other to love and to do good. We should not give up meeting, because we are most vulnerable to Satan’s attacks when we are alone, isolated.

Hebrews 3:13 NIV

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

We were not made to be alone. “No man is an island.” We need others, not just in the sense that we can’t all be farmers, bakers, and chefs in ourselves, so won’t have need or use for others, but also in that we need each other to grow as people. It is difficult to be accountable to oneself only.

So we should train ourselves and encourage each other to do good, to continually be devoted to God’s Word, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer.

I Timothy 4:7b-8 NIV

rather, train yourselves to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

The physical is temporal. It will not last But godliness is eternal; it persists even after the grave. When people die, they are known for who they are, what they did, not what they accumulated. It may be said of them, “He hoarded wealth,” but his wealth is not memorable; his attitude is, his character is, his morals are.

At the end of everything, what will we be remembered for? What do you want to be remembered as? As someone who sought God or as someone who sought the world?

How will you spend your life?

 

 

Five Ways to Prove the Existence of God

Notes from Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas

1. Argument from Motion

Whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion unless it is in potency to that towards which it is in motion … For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potency to act.

A soccer ball on a soccer field has the potential to move and will only move if someone decides to kick, poke, or prod it, or if something else happens that could cause it to move. When that happens, its potential ceases being a potential; it is then an act. It is moving.

Now say, the ball moved because a shoe hit it. The shoe, which is also an object, has moved to cause the ball to move, and that shoe was moved because it was on a foot that moved, and that foot was attached to a leg, which was attached to a hip, and so on. And we can go on past the soccer player who kicked the ball to the what got the soccer player there in the first place (say, his car), and then what got the car to move, and then what caused the car to be given to the soccer player … It would seem it could go on forever, but that is not true. At some point, someone has to have caused the very first object to move. There has to be a first mover, and this mover, everyone understands to be God.

2. Efficient Cause

All efficient causes [follow] in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or one only … to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there is no first cause … there will be no ultimate.

We can use the soccer example. The ball would not move toward the goal unless it was first moved. It would not be moved if there were no soccer player to move it. As in number one, the first cause is God.

3. Possibility and Necessity

If everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence … if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing.

It is possible for the soccer player to have been sick the day of the game, so he could not have done the winning kick, but it is also possible for the soccer player to have been there and have not been able to do it at all. It is also possible for the soccer player never to have joined the team in the first place, or that he could never haver been born (because his father was absent from the soccer match where he met his son’s mother).

And so a ton of things could never have been, but since they are, some things had to be for them to exist, for something cannot come from nothing. And since people, animals, the world and everything else do exist, something had to have existed before all of that.

We must admit the existence of some being, having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another [it is necessary to exist in itself, not because of anything else], but rather causeing in others their necessity [makes others necessary].

The soccer player had to exist. He had to be on the field that day. He had to kick the ball. The ball had to get past the goalkeeper. And the one that caused all this to be necessary, the one that caused the soccer player to be born, and his parents to meet, and his grandparents to have existed and lived through the war, the one that cause all these is known as God.

4. Gradation

Among beings there are some more and some less good … according as they resemble in their different ways something which is maximum.

So there could be a good soccer player and a better soccer player, and even a bad soccer player.

An illustration:

image

The rocks around the fire are in varying degrees of temperature, but the hottest rock is the one nearest the fire, and the maximum heat they could attain is the heat of the fire.

We can compare those rocks to people. The closer we are to the fire, the greater our goodness, the greater what is true and noble in us, the greater our being, and the one that causes us to have our being is God, who is likened to the fire.

5. Governance

Things which lack knowledge … act to an end … and … their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way.

A soccer ball will always move in the dierection it is moved, never in the opposite dierection. The soccer player who kicks it toward the goal will never be surprised by the ball flying toward him, instead of the goal.

They [things which lack knowledge] achieve their end not by chance, but by design. [They] cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; and this being we call God.

I do not mean that the soccer player is God, but that the being behind everything, the one who directs all things is God.

(via tumblr)

Gratitude

Thank God for Something

There many things to be thankful for, but we do not always acknowledge them. Often we do not even realize their existence. We take so much for granted. Just looking at the title of this song reminds me to be thankful – to be grateful for all I have. As it is written in I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV),

give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

So be grateful for everything, even when life seems hard and nothing seems to be going right, because the testing of our faith develops perseverance, and when when we persevere, we mature (James 1:3-4).

There is everything to be grateful for, and is nothing to lose for being grateful. Gratefulness gives us sight and heals wounds.

While some losses may truly hurt, we must never stop being grateful. Job all his wealth in a series of attacks and in a storm, yet he did not curse God. He lost all his children that night, too. But when he heard all these, he worshiped God. [Reflections on Job].

What can we do when it is hard to be grateful?

(This I learned from a blimeycow video, though I believe we are all aware of this on some level. They just put it into words and into a video.)

If you don’t want to watch the three-minute video, I’ll say it here: List all the things that got you to where you are at this very moment, and you’ll find a lot to be grateful for.

  1. Your Internet connection’s slow: Be thankful you have Internet connection. Be thankful that you can read (you’re reading this right now).
  2. You have finals coming up and you’re really stressed out: Be thankful for your education.
  3. You tore a whole in your favorite sweater: Check the brand of that sweater; check its quality, the materials its made of – be thankful you could afford that sweater in the first place. (Or, if it was a gift, be thankful someone was kind enough to give it to you.)
  4. You lost your job: Be thankful you had a job. Be thankful for all you were able to purchase because of that job. Be thankful for what your house or apartment. Be thankful for the food on your plate.
  5. You lost a family member: Be thankful for the time you had with them. Be thankful that they’re no longer suffering (especially if they were sick). Be thankful that they were cared for while they were alive. (If they were murdered, though I hope they weren’t, be thankful it was a quick death.)

There are a lot of other situations you could be dealing with and a lot of variables in these situations that make yours unique. My list was no where near comprehensive. But I hope you get the idea. There is much to be thankful for, even in dire situations. You just have to look and see.

 

On Obedience

Listen! Mother calls with a command.
Hear! Father shouts a demand.
Obey! Lest you a rod should meet.
Honor them, that your days may be sweet.

No complaint and no grumble
should e’er depart your lips.
No storm in your heart should rumble;
make smooth your seas for your ships.

God has placed them o’er you;
so in everything you do –
do with peace & joy & love,
and as you work, praise God above!

If you work with glad hearts & hands,
if you put in all you can,
if you work with God in mind,
you will very surely find

all God’s promises do ring true.
In due time, God will reward you.
Obey your parents, but above all,
obey the God who gifts Life to all!

Reflections on Job

We’re all guilty of sin, but there was one man among us who sinned the least – and that man was Job. Not Jesus –  He didn’t sin at all, and though He was man, He was also God. Job was only human. The very first verse in the book of Job talks about his blamelessness and uprightness. It also talks about why he was so righteous: he feared God and shunned evil.

It amazes me how someone can be as dedicated to God as Job was.  There have been others, of course. David was called a man after God’s own heart. The martyrs all died for God.

But Job’s case is different: he didn’t die for God. He didn’t understand why he was suffering. The martyrs knew what they were getting into. Job didn’t. It just happened, and he didn’t know why. He questioned God. But in the end, he said, “It is not for me to question God.”

That same spirit that caused him to say that was the same one that caused him to say,

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.

Job 1:21 (NIV)

Imagine that. He also said, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” How could he say that? How could he still trust God and put his faith in Him?

Even little troubles shake me: some times I try to solve them all by myself, other times I panic. God is not the first I go to when rattled, though He should be.

Job’s response to what happened to him shows something about his character, and about his relationship with God.

1) It shows that Job really did love and fear God, but not because of what he has or what he has been told. He loves and fears God “just because.” He doesn’t need material wealth to speak for his relationship with God.

2) It shows that Job knew God. He didn’t just know God from stories. He didn’t assume to know God from the Laws. He sought God. He knew God beyond the Laws.

Job is not closest Bible character there is to God. That title could very well go to Moses, because God spoke to Moses “face to face” as one does with a friend. [Moses did not see God’s face; no one can look at the face of God and live. Moses saw God from behind.] Job was also not given the title “man after God’s own heart.” That title went to David.

What then does Job have that sets him apart? He was rich, but Solomon was richer. He knew the Law, but he was no Pharisee. He was pretty ordinary, if you really think about it. And if you really think about it, which of one of us is truly special? No one. Job was the same. But what set Job apart was his unwavering trust in God, and his remaining true till the end.

Though He slay me, I will yet trust Him.

Job 13:15 (NIV)

Mishael, Azariah, and Hananiah said something along those lines when confronted by Nebuchadnezzar regarding not bowing to the golden statue. But they knew what they were getting into. A law was passed by Nebuchadnezzar about that.

Job did not know. He was in the dark all throughout the book. Even in the end, he didn’t understand, but he trusted God. And God rewarded him material possessions in the end – for his trust and remaining true.

This is not to say that God will always materially reward us. We may suffer here, and we may remain steadfast and true, but our reward may not be given until the next life. That is the only sure reward we can anticipate – eternity with God.

Job was given plenty of opportunity to curse God, but he did not. He was given plenty of opportunity to renounce his faith, but he did not. Not everyone can remain true till the end, but he did. Despite his questions, he did. Despite his suffering, he did.

Remaining true till the end is a choice. And it is not a question of will power as some are wont to believe. It’s merely a choice. When people do not remain true, it is because they decide they want to do something else.

James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful God says, “The will actually has no power. The will is the human capacity to choose … The will is more like a beast of burden that simply responds to the impulses of others.” Job was given choices, and he had the capacity to choose. He chose well, not because he was inherently morally strong, rather because he controlled his impulses. He trained himself to make choices that are for God and not for the blessings of God. Because of this, when his blessings were taken away, he could still worship God and praise Him.