2017年7月20日星期四

One Moment in Eden (short sermon for marriage service)

Genesis 2: 5-25
The creation of man and woman
The Bible, in Genesis chapter two, tells us about the destiny of human and also the first marriage between a man and a woman.
Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”
Man’s body is a lifeless shell out of the dust of the ground, only until God brings it alive with his ‘breath of life.’ Once God removes his life-giving breath, our bodies will return to dust. Therefore, our life and worth come from God. We need to be humble before God.
Then 2: 8-14 say, “Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the ‘tree of life’ and the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches. The garden was also filled with gold, beryllium, and onyx stones.”
Then the Lord God ‘placed’ the man in the Garden of Eden to “rest and be safe” and to fellowship with God. (Gen3:8). So the man, Adam’s responsibility is to worship God, to upkeep Eden, take dominion of creation, by obeying God’s command.
God then instructed the man, the keeper of Eden, “You may freely eat the fruit of every three in the garden; except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (vv. 16-17)
But at this point in time, Adam did not have someone that is of his kind to interact with and reproduce descendants. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (2:18)
God put Adam into a deep sleep and took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. God used that rib to create a woman and brought her to Adam (vv. 21-22).
When Adam saw the woman, he exclaimed, “At last I found her! She is created from the bone of my bones and from the flesh of my flesh. She shall be called ‘woman’, because she was taken from ‘man’ ” (v. 23).
God could have made Eve from the dust of the ground. However, he chose to make her from the man’s flesh and bone. In so doing, he illustrated for us that in marriage man and woman symbolically are to be united into one.
And they are equal in terms of substance and status. She was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.
Wherever the man has a shortfall, the woman is able to help him. The man cannot fulfil his created purpose alone. The two complement each other.
Finally, in 2:24, God established the institution of marriage by declaring: “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” 
Marriage between a man and a woman is not just a human social construct but is rooted in the God created order. Marriage forms a physical and emotional bond. The relationship between husband and wife is the most intimate relationship that is ordained by God.
2:25 say, “At that time, the husband and wife were both naked but they felt no shame.”
This indicates that the couple was completely open to each other. They have a mutual trust for each other. There is nothing that comes in between the two of them. They do not put up their guards against each other.
So let’s sum up conclusion one:
God’s entire purpose of creation is to bless human beings so that they will live happily and blissfully on earth. Human beings are also to represent God, to govern the earth for the benefit of all creatures.
However, as the creation story develops, Adam and Eve did not manage Eden properly. Instead they fall for the serpent’s temptation and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents a human desire for autonomy and wisdom that belong to God’s alone.
Choosing human wisdom over God’s instruction brings death and destruction. Human’s close relationship with God was broken. They were expelled from the Garden of Eden. They lost the blessings that were there in the beginning. They suffered ‘spiritual death’ and ultimately also suffered physical death.
Because of the sins of humankind, the world descends into painful abyss: death becomes reality; violence and struggles abound; war and killing abound; the relationship between men and women and all human relationships is filled with tension; we witness environmental harm caused by unsustainable development; personal interests and lust for power leads to political persecutions, corruption, and injustice.
However, God according to his salvation plan sent His own Son, Jesus to become a human being and dwell among us. Jesus overcame the temptation of the devil, reversing Adam’s failure; Jesus bled and died on the cross to redeem the world and sinners. And Jesus resurrected from the dead so that those who believe in Him will have a new life.
If we confess with our mouths and believing in our hearts that Jesus is the Lord of our lives. He will forgive our sins. And bless us with life abundantly.
So, let’s sum up conclusion two:
Just as the first marriage took place in Eden, every Christ-centred family is a re-establishment of Eden. In this family – new Eden, which has Jesus Christ as the head, husband and wife will receive from God, the blessing of ‘rest and safety, and multiply” to have dominion over God’s creation.
May God’s gracious presence bless and uphold these marriages; fill their marriages and lives with truth and cover them with blessing. 

神的国在我们中间

路加福音十八15—2535—43
婴孩、富有的官长、瞎子乞丐
路加福音》十七20-21说到;
法利赛人问:『上帝的国几时来到?』
耶稣回答:『上帝的国来到,不是眼睛看得见的。人也不能说,“看哪,在这里!”或说,“在那里!”。因为上帝的国在你们中间。』
耶稣接着在18章讲述寡妇和法官的比喻,以及税吏和法利赛人的祷告。这是路加的写作策略,为要强调神的国是向那些软弱、自觉不配和卑微的群体敞开。
神国度的中心人物是耶稣。耶稣本身被边缘化、受压迫、受苦、以至被钉十字架而死!我们不必因看见世上有苦难和不公义,就信心软弱,以为神的权能消失了。历代历世,在世界各地,那里有苦难,耶稣就在当中与人们一同受苦。
耶稣认同那些脆弱、卑微的人,并且与他们一同走过苦难。这就是神国子民的特质,也是天国的本质——从软弱和苦难中,开出胜利的花朵。
我们现在从18章往下的讲论,来整合以及概括的神国子民的特质,以及神国的本质。
神国子民的特质:什么都可以不要,但一定要抓住上帝
十八章15-17节记载,有人抱着『婴孩』来到耶稣面前,要他抚摸他们。门徒看见就责备那些人,耶稣却叫他们过来,说:『让小孩子到我这里来,不要禁止他们,凡不像小孩子一样接受神的国的,决不能进去。』
路加提到『婴孩』,重点不是讲谦卑,而是讲微弱和无助,好像婴孩那样。进入神国成为子民的人,正如婴孩的软弱无能,不能自持任何力量,乃是一无所夸。
脆弱的婴孩本能上抓住自己的父母亲不放手。婴孩完全依赖父母亲。他在面临抉择的时候,不得不放下自己喜爱的玩具,不得不放下本性的固执,紧紧抱着母亲。唯有母亲给予的奶水和照料,才是他生存的根基!
今天你是否紧抱着神?你是否愿意为了得着神的国,而放下那些不讨神喜悦的事物,譬如不良的习惯?
你可能刚失去了一些收入、失去了爱情、失去了一单生意。无论如何,作为神国的子民,我们什么都可以不要,都可以失去,唯独天父,一定不可以放弃!你若失去了至爱的东西,连天父也失去的话,你一定更加绝望,覆水难收!
下文18-23节接着说:
有一个富有的官长来问耶稣:『良善的老师,我当作什么,才可以承受永生呢?』
耶稣对他说:『你为什么称我是良善的呢?除了神一位以外,没有良善的。诫命你是知道:不可奸淫,不可杀人,不可偷盗,不可做假证供,当孝敬父母。』
他说:『这一切我从小都遵守了。』
这位官长『从小』就遵行所有的诫命,呼应之前『婴孩/小孩子』的身份。
耶稣听了,就向他提出一个特别的挑战:『你还缺少一件,应当变卖一切所有的,分给穷人,你就必定有财宝在天上,而且你还要来跟从我。』
官长听见这话,非常忧愁,因为他十分富有。官长还没有走开,耶稣看着他,说:『有钱财的人进神的国,可真难啊!骆驼穿过针眼,比财主进入神的国还容易呢!』(24-25节)
耶稣在这里不是针对富有或贫穷,而是针对那些『自以为拥有安全感』的人。这些人的安全感来自本身的『财富、宗教名声、地位、侍奉经验,律法和知识』。把持着这种能力和资源的人,会自持过高,不可一世,难以放下身段,难以接受神的主权,难以进入天国。
那么难进天国,谁能够进入呢?
无论是谁,当人体会到自己不能,软弱的时候,正如一个『婴孩』,愿意放下自我,仅仅依赖神,抓住神的时候,他就得救了!救恩本是来自上帝,不关乎人的努力,万事只得依靠神和顺服神。天国落实于我们的中间,就是神掌权,神的旨意运行。
神国子民的特质:自由和喜乐地跟从耶稣
接着下文35-43节记载,耶稣走近耶利哥的时候,有个瞎子走在路旁乞讨。他听见有一群人经过,就问是什么事。有些人告诉他,是拿撒勒人耶稣经过。他就喊叫说:『大卫之子耶稣啊,可怜我吧!』
在前头走的人责备他,叫他不要出声。他却喊叫得更响:『大卫之子啊,可怜我吧!』
耶稣停下来,吩咐人把瞎子带到自己那里。他走近,耶稣就问他:『你要我为你做什么?』他说:『主啊,我要看得见。』
耶稣对他说:『你看见吧!你的信心救了你。』
那人立刻看见了,就跟随耶稣,一路上颂赞神。全体民众都看见这事,也赞美神。
让我们将『婴孩被带到耶稣跟前』和『瞎眼的乞丐被带到耶稣跟前』做一个比较。他们都是想来到主的怀抱,但是被旁人阻止。耶稣亲自为他们解围,让他们有机会得到救恩。他们同样是无助,软弱的群体。耶稣帮助『婴孩和失明的乞丐』,这类软弱和无助的人,能够进入神的国。
失明的乞丐与婴孩有一点不同,前者主动对耶稣有信心,就立刻看见了,并且在行动上跟从耶稣,一路的颂赞神(43节)。
瞎子乞丐的『立刻得看见和跟随主,颂赞神』和官长的『垂头丧气』,成了强烈的对照!
这种三文治的结构,『婴孩与瞎子乞丐』紧扣着『富有的官长』在中间,乃是突出神国子民的特质,就是『抓住上帝』、『放下自我』, 还有『跟从耶稣和颂赞神』!
求圣灵充满我们,叫我们得着能力与喜乐来跟从耶稣。
神国的特质:共享互助的美好新世界
耶稣应许神国的子民:『我实在告诉你们,谁为神的国撇下房子、妻子、兄弟、父母、儿女,没有不在今生得到许多倍,在来世the age to come得到永生的。』(29-30节)
耶稣表示就在现今时代,神国的新时代the age to come已经开启了!所有跟从耶稣的人,应该当舍弃旧有的价值观,以崭新的神国价值观来建造一个团契生活。这个群体里头有新的家,新的家庭成员,彼此互爱互助,无私的生活,共享新的机遇。
这种神国的共享团契的特质,反映给世人看见神国的特质,吸引他们加入,并且活出神国的新世界。

神的国度就在我们中间。我们现在无论处在什么状况,尽管抓住上帝、放下自我中心的态度,紧紧跟从耶稣,以喜乐的心颂赞神的名!上帝的大能就与我们同在,大大的赐我们凡事丰足。我们也当互助互爱,彼此分享神的丰盛赐予。世人看见就会被吸引接受福音,加入神国大家庭。

2017年7月19日星期三

作梦者的使命人生

创世记三十七1—28
四十五1—15
作梦者约瑟
我们从『梦』切入,来解读约瑟的经历(创世记37章)。接着以『使命』来总结约瑟的人生(创世记45章)。
约瑟作了两个梦。第一个梦是他和兄长们在田里捆禾稼,他捆的站立中间,兄长们捆的却向他捆的下拜。第二个梦更加惊人,连太阳、月亮和十一颗星星都向他下拜。这两个梦境预视他日后来会高高在上,管制兄弟,而全家人向他跪拜。他两次作了相同意境的梦,表示这梦日后必然实现。
约瑟少不更事,又得宠于父亲,自然意气风发。他毫不删减地与兄长们分享他作的两个梦。他心无城府,坦言相告,却遭兄长们报以妒嫉和仇恨。
《创世记》37章记载,有一天,约瑟的兄长们去示剑为他们的父亲放羊。雅各派约瑟去那里,看看兄长是否平安,回来告诉他。约瑟就独自去找兄长们。约瑟几经波折才去到兄长们那里。他们远远看见他,趁他还没走近,就图谋对付他,要把他害死。
他们彼此说:『看哪,这个做梦大王来了!来吧!我们杀了他,把他丢进一个坑里,就说有头猛兽把他吃了。看看他的梦将会怎么样!』
吕便对他们说:『不要流血!把他丢进旷野这个坑里,但不要下手害他。』
约瑟终于来到他兄长那里。他们就合力剥下约瑟的长袍,就是他身上那件彩色长袍。他们抓住他,把他进坑里。那坑是空的,里面没有水。随后他们坐下来吃饭。他们举目观看,看见以实马利人的商队从基列来到。他们的骆驼背着香料、乳香和没药,要下埃及去。
于是犹大对他的兄弟说:『我们要是杀了我们的兄弟,掩藏了他的血,能有什么好处呢?来吧,我们把他卖给以实马利人。不要亲手杀他,因为他是我们的兄弟,我们的骨肉。』
兄弟们听从了犹大的提议。他们把约瑟从坑里拉出来,以二十块银子把约瑟卖给以实马利人。以实马利人就把约瑟带去了埃及的奴隶市场。
约瑟的兄长们以为从此解决了眼中钉。他们拿了约瑟的长袍,宰了一只公山羊,把长袍染了血,然后派人把彩色长袍送到他们父亲那里,说:『这是我们找到的,请辩认一下,这长袍是不是你儿子的?』
雅各辩认出来,会所:『这是我儿子的长袍!猛兽吃了他,约瑟一定被撕碎了!』
雅各撕裂自己的衣服,为他儿子悲伤了许多日。
一位作梦的人,好比约瑟,他的生命有什么特质?
第一、作梦者是一位鹤立鸡群,与众不同的人。
约瑟得到父亲偏爱,为他缝制了一件彩色长衣(三十七3节)。约瑟穿上这件鲜艳耀目的彩衣,立刻令到兄长们眼红。这是一件长衣,不方便进行劳作,暗示约瑟不必和兄长们一同工作。他是从旁当督工,打小报告(三十七2节)。约瑟是一个特出和离群的人,因此兄长们妒嫉他和攻击他。
第二,梦想或“愿景visionary”包含预视和创造未来的意思。如果我们要成为神无愧的工人,在某种程度上,我们必须是一位勇于作梦的人或有愿景的人。这样的人对未来有前瞻力,能够看见未来的危机、良机和趋势,就发奋图强,投身新领域,创造未来,使梦想成真。
然而,作梦者的前瞻性和创造性,不知觉间散发一种凌驾于他人的霸气。一般人希望驾驭别人,不是被驾驭。因此有梦想和创造未来的人,会引发旁人的排挤或仇视。约瑟就惹来兄长们的敌视。
接受挑战,勇于作梦
作为一位有梦想的人,必然面对困境,经历忧患,但是我们还是要勇于作梦!我们不要因为受到一些委屈、拦阻和攻击就放弃梦想。历史上许多伟人都是会作梦的人。他们最为人纪念和蒙福的地方是在哪里呢?如果问约瑟,他会说:『被哥哥推下去,想把他害死的那个坑!』
如果我们现在的遭遇,正如约瑟落在痛苦的坑中,不要忘记,这个坑将成为我们蒙福的踏脚石。神一路上在背后保守约瑟,也同样会向我们施援手。约瑟跌进去的坑,成了他爬上埃及宰相位置的契机。神透过人无法想象的方式,从恶(不好〕中,带出善(好)来。
还有,从约瑟被迫害到被高升的过程里,我们看见一连串的巧合,都是在突显神在背后的掌权和保守。约瑟首先找不到兄长们,应该逃过一劫,然而,在示剑巧遇『那人』,结果还是找到了他们(三十七1517节)。然后约瑟差点被杀,但是经过吕便和犹大的建议,约瑟死不了。
接着米甸商人的出现,也不是偶然的。约瑟最后被卖到埃及,然后在埃及地一波三折,终于当上了宰相。神能够把约瑟哥哥们所做的恶,变成善,成全他的美好的旨意。
今天神能够保守我们的奋斗历程,给予我们指引和加力,帮助我们跨越所有的拦阻、困难和逼迫,叫我们可以重新站立起来往前走!只要我们坚持梦想、忍耐和有恒心努力实干,梦想必有一天会成真!事实证明,胜利和真理最终必然是属于那位勇于作梦的人。
作梦者的使命人生
约瑟十七岁的时候被卖到埃及。十三年后他的兄长们因为迦南地严重饥荒,地没有生产,粮食中断而跑到埃及去买粮食。在埃及,兄长们俯伏在约瑟面前。这时候约瑟已经三十岁,担任宰相官职,负责供应粮食给灾民。约瑟认得兄长们,他们却不认得这位一身埃及服饰打扮的约瑟。
约瑟首先和他们玩几轮猫捉老鼠,然后才与他们含泪相认。约瑟与兄弟相认第一句话是:『我是你们的兄弟约瑟,就是你们所卖到埃及的。』(四十五4)显然约瑟丝毫未忘记过去的惨痛经历。
然而,约瑟的生命没有受困于苦涩的回忆之中。他一而再,再而三指出:『这是神差我在你们以先来。』(四十五57);『这样看来,差我到这里来的不是你们,乃是神……』(四十五8
换言之,约瑟认定他上半生的际遇,都是出于神的差遣。约瑟没有把自己三十年的人生分成两半:幸福快乐、织梦的少年是神的恩典,中间黑暗艰难的十三年却是兄长的加害。我们会这样看自己的经历,但是约瑟不是这样看。
神的差遣是从约瑟在父亲家的成长开始;借着哥哥们的出卖、由以实玛利人带到埃及、透过奴隶市场进入护卫长的家、又因为主母的诬蔑,进入监牢里认识到法老的酒政、以及有机会为法老解梦而成为埃及的宰相。
约瑟清楚知道,这一连串的事件都是神差遣他到埃及的整个配套,不容分割。更重要的是,约瑟很清楚知道,他奉神差遣是为了保护全家人的性命,也正是那些把他卖到埃及的哥哥们的性命。
今天神从万人中,在我们还是罪人的时候拣选了我们。我们可以基督里成长,一路来领受神的保守和赐福,许多的梦想成真,这都不是偶然的!这乃是按照神的计划。神在我们每个人身上都有他特别的计划,我们当带着使命感活出神的计划。
约瑟十七岁那天,神没有让他选择,不由分说的把他从迦南差遣到埃及。然而,三十岁的约瑟却可以作出选择;他是接受或拒绝神的使命?他要饶恕兄长们,还是展开报复?
约瑟没有为兄长们文过饰非,却这样说:『从前你们的意思是要害我,但神的意思原是好的。』(五十20
这个『好』字,呼应创世记开头,神看创造天地的成果都是好的(一1012182531)。
这也显示约瑟把神美善的救赎旨意,浓缩实践于人生际遇当中。约瑟无论经历高高低低,包括风光与患难、快乐、哀哭和梦想成真的日子,但他始终是带着使命感,以及一颗对神感恩的心。这是因为他看见自己可以为家族和为社会带来造就,更重要是可以成全神在自己身上的计划。
我们从未信主到信主,在基督里人生各方面都得到成长,许多梦想实现,这不是单单为了自己的好处和福乐,更是蕴藏了神的计划。神拣选我们成为他的孩子,他也给予我们使命去成全他的计划。
让我们寻求神的指示,顺服他的带领,将我们一生献给神用,为神的国勇于作梦!让我们终其一生无论得时不得时,无论快乐或患难,总是要实践上帝的计划、旨意或使命,做一位神的无愧的仆人。唯有这样的委身和使命感,才能叫我们在世上分别为圣洁,归主所用,活出一个虽是短暂,却是有意义,有愿景的圆满人生!

A DREAMER WITH A MISSION

Genesis 37:1-28;
45:1-15
Joseph the Dreamer
We will first examine the life of Joseph from the perspective of “dreaming” in Genesis 37:1-28. Joseph was a dreamer! And then we will conclude Joseph’s life in Genesis 45:1-15, with the perspective of “mission”. He was also a man of mission.
Joseph had two dreams. In the first dream, Joseph and his brothers were binding sheaves in the field. His sheaf stood in the middle while his brothers’ sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to his sheaf.
The second dream was even more fascinating. The sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him.
The two dreams indicated that, in the future, Joseph would be lifted up high and he would govern his brothers. In fact, his whole family would bow down to him. He had two dreams of similar nature, implies that, one day, they will certainly come true.
Joseph was young and inexperienced. He was also his father’s favorite son. As a high-spirited young man, he naturally told his brothers his dreams without reservation. Joseph’s innocence ironically deepened his brothers’ jealousy and hatred towards him.
Genesis 37 records that, one day, Joseph’s brothers went to pasture their fathers’ flocks at Shechem. Joseph went to Shechem from home to visit his brothers to check if they were fine.
When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. They said, “Here comes the dreamer!” But Reuben said, “Let’s not kill him. Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty pit here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.”
So when Joseph arrived, his brother ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. Then they grabbed him and threw him into the pit. They later sat down to eat.
They looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.
Judah said, “Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood. So Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the pit and sold him to the traders. And the traders took Joseph to Egypt to be sold in the slave market.
The brothers thought they had once for all gotten rid of Joseph. They killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood. They sent the beautiful robe to their father with his message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?”
Jacob recognized it immediately, “Yes,” he said, “It is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces. Then he mourned deeply for his son for a long time.
Let’s ponder here: what are the general characteristics of “dreamer”, like Joseph?
First of all, a dreamer stands head and shoulder above others.
As the beneficiary of his father’s favoritism, Joseph was given a robe of many colors (37:3). This, of course, resulted in his brothers being jealous of him. A person who wore a robe was not suited for manual labor. This indicates that Joseph was not required to work with his brothers. Rather, he was to supervise them from the sidelines and to report his brothers’ shortcomings to their father (37:2).
So Joseph was an outlier. His brothers were jealous of him and so they plotted against him.
Secondly, a dreamer is a visionary person.
He foresees and creates the future. If we want to be faithful and forthright servants of God, to some extent, we need to be those who dare to dream or visionary people. Such people are forward-looking and can see the opportunities and threats that lie ahead. Such forward-looking ability creates in them sharp acumen and initiative to work hard and innovate. They will create the future and make dreams come true.
Due to his or her forward-looking demeanor and creativity, a dreamer gives others the impression that he is domineering. And people generally hope to be able to dominate others and not to be dominated by others. As a result, a dreamer may bring a rebound in the lives of others.
Joseph’s dreams foretold that one day his brothers would submit to him and be governed by him, had resulted in his brothers’ brutal attack.
Dare to Be a Dreamer
Joseph’s misfortune warns us to be vigilant. As people with dreams, it is inevitable that we will face difficulties and attacks. In spite of that, we must dare to be a dream. We must not give up “dreaming” just because we hit a snag or someone sneered at us.
Throughout history, the great men and women were all dreamers. What were their most cherished and blessed moments? If we were to ask Joseph, he would say, “Being thrown into a pit by my brothers and left there to die!”
Today, if we are in a predicament that is akin to Joseph’s pit, do not forget that this pit will become our stepping stone to blessedness. Just as God preserved Joseph throughout his life, God will come to our aid too. Joseph’s fall into the pit became the opportunity for him to climb up the ranks to become the Prime Minister of Egypt.
Through means that are inconceivable to human beings, God can bring the good out of the evil. From Joseph’s persecution to his exaltation, we can see that the whole process was punctuated by a series of “coincidences.” This highlights to us God’s sovereignty and preservation behind-the-scenes.
At first, Joseph could not find his brothers. Had the story stopped here, Joseph would have escaped a very close call. However, he encountered a man at Shechem who directed him to his brothers (37:15-17). Then, Joseph was nearly murdered but he escaped death through the proposals of Reuben and Judah.
The appearance of the Ishmaelite traders was not by chance either. Joseph was ultimately sold to the Egyptians and through the various twists and turns in Egypt, he emerged as the Prime Minister. God was able to transform into good the evil plot of Joseph’s brothers to accomplish His good purpose.
Today, God is able to preserve us as we journey through our struggles. He guides us and strengthens us.  He helps us overcome all the obstacles, difficulties, and persecutions so that we may stand up again and press on!
As long as we persevere in our dreams and are patient and hardworking, one day our dreams will come true! The fact is that victory and truth belongs ultimately to those who dare to dream.
There is a Mission for the Dreamer
Joseph was sold into Egypt at the age of seventeen. Thirteen years later, his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain because the land of Canaan was experiencing severe drought and famine.
In Egypt, the brothers bowed down before Joseph. At that time, the thirty-year-old Joseph was the Prime Minister of Egypt who was responsible for the distribution of food to the victims of the famine. Joseph recognized his brothers but they could not recognize him for he was dressed like an Egyptian.
At first Joseph played several rounds of cat-and-mouse with his brothers but eventually he reconciled with them in a tearful episode. His first words of reconciliation to his brothers were, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt” (45:4). Obviously, Joseph did not forget the painful experience of the past.
Yet Joseph’s life was not imprisoned by the bitter memories of the past. He pointed out repeatedly that, “God sent me before you” (45:5, 7), and, “So it was not you who sent me here, but God” (45:8).
In other words, Joseph recognized that the events that happened in the first part of his life, including his dreams, were all according to God’s sending. Joseph did not divide his thirty years of existence into two halves – the happy and dreamy juvenile years by God’s grace and the latter thirteen years of dark and difficult years in the hands of his brothers. Perhaps we may consider our lives in this manner but that is not how Joseph saw his own life.
From Joseph’s perspective, God’s sending began from rosy, jolly, dreamy days in his father’s house all through to his brothers’ betrayal.  God’s sending extended from him, being brought into Egypt by the Ishmaelites to, from the slave market, entering into Potiphar’s house. God’s sending included the slanderous charges made by Potiphar’s wife and making acquaintance with Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer. Finally, God’s sending involved him interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and being elevated to the position of Prime Minister.
Joseph knew that these events were all part of God’s plan to send him to Egypt. They cannot be segmented into stand-alone episodes. More importantly, Joseph was clear that God sent him to Egypt to preserve the lives of his family members. Yes, the very lives of his brothers who sold him into Egypt. He realized his dreams and more importantly he lived out the mission of his life.
Today, God has chosen us out of all the people in the world while we were still sinners. It is absolutely not an accident that today we can grow in Christ and receive so much blessing from God, having had our dreams come true! This is all God’s plan. God has a plan for each and every one of us. So we must always have in mind our God-given mission to live out His plan for us.
At the age of seventeen, God sent Joseph from Canaan to Egypt without giving him any explanation or seeking his consent. He did not have a choice. But at the age of thirty, Joseph’s dreams came true. And more importantly, he had a choice to either accept or reject God’s mission for him. He could either forgive his brothers or exact revenge on them. What did Joseph choose?
Joseph did not smooth over his brothers’ fault. He said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (50:20). The word “good” harkens back to the beginning of the book of Genesis, where God deemed His creation to be “good” (Gen 1:10, 12, 18, 25, 31).
After experiencing the highs and the lows of life, the days of comfort and of trouble, the times of joy and of sorrow, the long time ago dreams came true, Joseph had God’s mission for his life in mind. He was also grateful to God because he saw that he could become a channel of blessing for his family and human society. More importantly, he was able to fulfill God’s plan for his life.
From non-believers to having faith in Christ; in Christ we have grown in many aspects and dreams came true. These advancements are not just for our own good, blessing, and joy. It is all about God’s plan. God chose us to be His children and gave to us the mission of accomplishing His plan.
Let us seek instruction from the Lord, obey His leading, and consecrate our whole lives unto God. Let us now resolve to participate in God’s plan, God’s will, and fulfill our God-given mission, whether in season or out of season, in times of refreshing or in times of shortages, so that we may be worthy servants of God.

Only through such commitment and mission-mindedness can we live a life that is being sanctified from the world, set apart for God’s use. This life although is rather short in years, but will be visionary, meaningful and wholesome!

2017年7月7日星期五

我们会更好的

创世记二十一821
撒拉将夏甲和以实马利赶出家门
亚伯拉罕的大儿子是从夏甲而出,名叫以实马利,而小儿子名叫以撒,是从正室撒拉而出。以实马利十多岁时候,以撒成长到三岁。亚伯拉罕为以撒大摆筵席,庆祝他断奶。在最高兴的时刻,叫人难过万分的事情发生,戏剧变成悲剧收场了!
撒拉看见以实马利在筵席上『嬉戏或戏弄』以撒,认为以撒的地位受到威胁,就要求亚伯拉罕:『把这婢女和她的儿子赶出去,因为这婢女的儿子不能和我的儿子以撒一同承受产业。』(10节)
伯拉罕不舍得离开以实马利,也担心母子二人的安危。他的心中很不耐烦撒拉的提议。神在这时候介入,吩咐亚伯拉罕说:『不要为这男孩与你的使女在你眼里忧伤,所有撒拉向你说的,听从她的声音!因为从以撒生的,才要称为你的种。至于使女的儿子,我会使他成为一国,因为他也是你的种。』(二十一12-13
神赞同让夏甲和儿子离开家园。这是因为神所拣选的立约之子是以撒,不是以实马利,虽然两者都是亚伯拉罕的种』。以撒成长了的那天,以实马利必须被驱走,避免威胁到神的拣选和赐福。然而,神的恩典依然紧随着以实马利。
神恩待以实马利,就好像恩待我们这些外邦人。两千年前,耶稣基督降临,开启了弥赛亚的救赎范式。他讲过一个天国的比喻,指到天父在摆设救恩的筵席,打发仆人去到城里大街小巷,把贫穷的、残废的、瞎眼的、瘸腿的,都领到筵席里(路十四21)。
这些被领来的人,本来是神与以色列立约之外的人。然而,耶稣基督以自己血,立了新约,但凡悔改相信耶稣的人,就好像浪子回家那样,被天父拥抱,并且带进入家里的筵席领受救恩,得到神的产业。至此,万国透过亚伯拉罕的『种』耶稣基督,得到救赎,实现了神给予亚伯拉罕的应许,万国必因他得福(创十二1-3)。
确保成功的人生下半场
十多年前,亚伯拉罕犯错误在先,听从撒拉的提议娶了婢女夏甲。夏甲怀孕之后就轻看主母撒拉。撒拉反过来苦待夏甲。家庭纠纷就此爆发。当时亚伯拉罕对夏甲绝情绝义,任由撒拉摆布。夏甲无法忍受主母的苦待,就在怀孕时候也毅然出走。神眷顾夏甲。神在旷野遇见她,吩咐她回去撒拉那里。神应许保守她和怀中的儿子。
这次夏甲的儿子以实马利长大了。家庭纠纷重现:撒拉驱逐夏甲和她的儿子,离开家园。亚伯拉罕这次的反应很不同。他不舍得离开儿子以实马利,也担心夏甲的安危。亚伯拉罕这次不再软弱无能。他违抗撒拉的意思。他从以前的失败中学到教训,人成长了。
我们看见许多人不会从失败中学习,让自己成长。原因是,他们遇见困难,犯了错误之后,就选择逃避,拒绝面对错误带来的后果,也不采取行动去纠正错误。这种人生必然一错再错,一生人都溃败。还有一些人是受到挫败,行动失误之后,就很沮丧,放弃所有,把自己关闭起来,不要与人来往。这是怪罪自己,还是怪罪别人呢?这是缺乏自信,还是不相信别人呢?
无论如何,上述这些表现都是消极的。其实人生就好象一场球赛,永远有上下场。如果球员在上半场失误,还可以在下半场扳回来,亚伯拉罕就是这样的球员。
求神帮助我们,透过反省和细心观察,找出问题所在,立志改过。我们可以犯错,但是不可掩饰错误,也不应该一度犯同样的错。我们要承担后果和想办法补救错误。我们应当继续与人交往,特别是在教会里服侍和参加团契生命,这样我们的生命会得到磨练而成长。
神要帮助我们,叫我们的生命得到转化,从上半场的冷漠、冲突和误解,转移到下半场的爱心、接纳和谅解。福音的大能不单医治身体的疾病,也是可以医治关系的破裂与人生的失败,以致我们能够拥有一个成功的下半场!
在苦难中呼求神、顺服神,经历神奇妙的供应
亚伯拉罕清早起来,拿饼和一皮袋水,给了夏甲。他把皮袋水放在夏甲的肩膀上,又把孩子交给她,就打发她离开。夏甲一手拖着以实马利,另一只手拿着饼,一路往南方走。夏甲或许计划带以实马利回埃及她的娘家。然而,她在别是巴的旷野迷了路。
人生来到了迷惑时刻,失去方向,不知往哪里走好,怎么办呢?以后要做什么,如何生存,照顾孩子呢?不要怕,神保护并供应在旷野被放逐之人!
夏甲感到心力交瘁,失去了前行的意志,况且皮袋里的水用尽了。她就把孩子撇在一棵小树底。孩子在小树下面,因为较阴凉,有助忍受口渴。夏甲自己却走开,在离开约有一箭之远的地方,相对而坐。她不忍眼见孩子死去。然后放声大哭,借着泪水和哭泣声,把积压已久的冤屈抒发出来。
这时候,神介入,因他听见孩子的声音。以实马利,就是神听见的意思!神的使者从天上呼叫夏甲,说:『夏甲啊,你为何这样呢?不要怕,神已经听见孩子的声音了,从他所在的地方。』(17节)
今天我们向神呼求,不管是在哪里,在工作的地方,在开车,在内心地处,在人多的地方,或在无人的地方,神在哪里听见我们的哭声。我们也许感到无人听见我们心里的哭声,但神听见。他很清楚知道我们所经历的难处。
除了呼求神,人应该如何去配合神的介入呢? 
神的使者夏甲说,『起来,扶起孩子,尽力保护她;因为我要使他成为大国。』(18节)
神吩咐夏甲起身,不要坐在那里沮丧、等死。夏甲不但自己要站起来,还要拖以实马利起来,用手扶着
夏甲就按照神的吩咐,扶起儿子时,就看见最需要的东西,一口水井。她去将皮袋盛满了水,就给童子喝。(19节)
夏甲听从神的吩咐行动,立刻看见拯救来到!
当人处在无助和悲伤时,往往自己沉溺在其中,听不进任何人的安慰和鼓励话。一些人为情自杀,甚至为获得不理想的成绩而自杀,就是这个原因。然而,神发出命令,那些顺服他吩咐的人就能够经历到转变。
今天我们也能够从困境中突围,经历的供应,如果我们是按照神的吩咐行事。我们来向神祷告,服从神的指引,将自己的人生交托在他的手中。神透过不同的途径向人说话,问题是,你愿意打开你的心去聆听与实行神的命令吗?
神关注母子二人当前的需要,为他们提供水喝。他们渴求一点水,解决燃眉之急。出乎意料的,神供应他们母子两人一口水井,远超过他们所要所求(19节)。神保守他们,使到他们从『干渴』到『有水喝』,甚至到了『拥有一口水井』。
神没有让他们死在旷野,而是赐给他们新生命,还有远大的未来!神的恩典和能力够夏甲与以实马利用。
夏甲独力撑起母亲和父亲的责任,抚养孩子长大。这好比今天的单亲家庭。亚伯拉罕不能尽父亲的责任,神却补足,与孩子童子,成为孩子的父亲。
夏甲和儿子被放逐离家,好象无依无靠,但是这遭遇也令他们母子从此得自由,不再做奴隶。以实马利虽然成长在单亲家庭,但是他身体健康和强壮,成了一名弓箭手。他还娶埃及女子为妻,成为十二个支派的族长,日后被喻为亚拉伯人的先祖。
以实马利被逐离家,使他晋身英雄的行列,譬如:摩西、约瑟、雅各、大卫和以斯帖。这些人物的坎坷经历塑造了他们英雄的气概。相反的,以撒在家里得到父母亲的宠爱,长大后成了沉默寡言,非常被动的小男人。人生的际遇和结局,往往是令人始料不及!
我们不必受到目前的苦难所困扰,对神失去信心。我们当抱着信心和盼望,求神帮助我们面对困境。那些信靠神的人,在苦难中仍然顺服神吩咐的人,可以经历神奇妙的福气,远超过自己所能想象的。

2017年7月3日星期一

Sitting at the Feet of Jesus

Luke 10:38-42
Mary Sitting 
at the Feet of Jesus
Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethany, a village near Jerusalem, where Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived. They were good friends of Jesus and they welcomed these preachers of the Word warmly into their house.
Martha was busy with food preparation as she desired to serve the needs of others. She felt frustrated and she approached Jesus with her complain, “Mary is just sitting there listening to your words. Why don’t you bother about this? Tell her to help me, please!
How then did Jesus reply?
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus corrected Martha for being too occupied with her table serving, for she was worried and upset about many things. He commended Mary for making the right choice to sit under His feet and to listen to His teaching.
Jesus said this to teach those who offer their hospitality to ministers of God, that they ought to differentiate between what is urgent and important, and what is not. Jesus emphasized that the ultimate purpose of fellowship for believers should focus on God and His Word. God’s Word must be preached and heard. This is a good model of fellowship and ministry for the community of faith.
There Must Be 
a Balance between 
Busy Serving and Listening to God’s Word
Martha said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (v.40b)
Martha made “I” as her prime concern in her conversation with Jesus. She did not put her focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. Though Martha had addressed Jesus as her Lord, somehow, she still murmured over His failure in meeting her needs. Instead of listening to Jesus, Martha commanded Jesus to do and say as she wished.
Jesus reminded Martha that a prophet had come to her house with the Word of God. The primary focus of the host should then be attending to and serving the prophet by listening to His words and not to be busy with her house chores. God desires us to receive Him by drawing near to Him and by listening to His Word attentively, just like how Mary did by sitting at the feet of Jesus.
In the context of the Gospel of Luke, ‘sitting at one’s feet’ means submitting to one’s authority. God wants to bless those who receive Him by sitting at His feet. Jesus diverted their focus from serving, as a community lifestyle, to receiving the grace of God.
Martha liked to serve while Mary loved to listen and ponder upon the Word of God. Both of them were Jesus’ disciples, and they loved Jesus dearly. However, those who are occupied with ministering and serving must guard themselves well, so that they do not ignore the importance of feeding themselves with the Word of God or drawing near to Him.
Sometimes, a conspicuous ministry which draws attention as well as applauses from the crowd tends to draw us away from God too. We end up neglecting God and we refuse to think in line with His Word. In such situations, whatever we do become self-serving rather than serving God and His Word. Worse still, we overlook God’s sovereignty above all.
There are issues which can be settled later in the midst of our busy schedule. There is a time for ministry and there is a time for us to listen to the Word of God. We must balance our serving with listening, meditating and getting deeper into the Word of God. We need to guard ourselves against the possibility of missing out the abundant grace that God has in store for us. It is because we usually sacrifice our personal times with God and forget to rely on Him fully when we are too occupied with our work.
Men and women in the business world enrol themselves in MBA courses so that they can advance their career. For us who serve God, there is a need for us to constantly quiet our hearts before God in order to listen, meditate and learn the Word to be equipped further in His truth.
We will experience burnt out situations quickly in our spiritual walk and come to our bottleneck if we focus merely on our ministries and lack in listening, learning and studying the Word of God. God is not pleased with such a serving model.
Why not Examine 
Own Self First?
The narrator projected Martha as someone who was over-concerned for others. She questioned Mary’s priority in life, and she expected Mary to flow in line with her ideal way of serving. She complaint to Jesus about Mary, and asked Him to uphold justice by commanding Mary to rise and give her a hand.
Nevertheless, Jesus pointed out Martha indeed was at fault. She was worried and upset about many things. Hence, she was unable to concentrate on listening to the Word of the Lord, and was distracted in her worship as well.
Jesus once shared a parable of seeds sowing. When seeds are sowed among thorns which stand for worries and anxieties of this life, the growth and fruits-bearing are halted (8:14). Jesus also warned His disciples to get rid of worrying about what to eat and what to wear on earth. All the worries of this life become a barrier to men when they want to focus on seeking God’s kingdom (12:22; 21:34).
Jesus knew Martha intended to do everything in order to serve Him, but she did not receive Him nor listen to Him wholeheartedly. God was not at the centre of her life. In view of this, what made Martha different from Mary was not because she was busy with work while Mary was sitting there listening to Jesus. The distinction was about Martha’s distraction and Mary’s concentration.
Jesus said whoever obeyed His Word were truly His servants and whoever followed Him wholeheartedly would inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore, Mary had the right attitude whereas Martha was to change her response to God.
We might be concerned about criticizing others without considering our own deeds. What have we done for God? Do we do the right thing? Why do we do it?
Martha was called to serve the table, yet she also spent most of her energy criticizing others. There are people who do so little in church but are enthusiastic in airing their opinions and being critical and judgmental towards those who serve. They do not realize that they are indeed wrong while others might be doing the right things. A community will not be effective if too much time is spent by people scrutinizing and judging one another.
People who only bother to look outwardly but unwilling to look within themselves are inclined to see a world full with injustice and ugliness. They will automatically see themselves victimized. They complaint, “Why should I keep my hands clean when everybody does evil?”
They raise more and more questions and they start rationalizing their faults. They end up deceiving themselves to be the righteous ones, so that their conscience will not be troubled.
We should be aggressive in our self-reflection and be willing to be responsible for our actions. We have to be strict in self-discipline while be lenient to others.
What are you complaining now?
Do you feel that you have lost your peace and your joy, and you are defiant and everything seems to be loathsome in your eyes?
What you need to do is to sit down and do a self-searching. You might have a wrong expectation of others or you might have an attitude problem of over-concerning about others’ businesses. Let’s get our emotion right and do our part faithfully. By so doing, you will be a happier man or woman on earth!
Do Silly Things for Jesus
In the ancient society where Jesus lived, people expected women to play the role and responsibility of serving their guests and making them feel at home. Martha’s complaint seemed to be reasonable under the expectation of such a culture. What Mary did, signified a breakthrough in their tradition – to sit down and to listen to Jesus. Jewish women had no right to access to proper education.
Yet, Mary loved the Lord and she hungered for Him. She set her heart to want to hear the Word of the prophet as a way of receiving Him personally. She owned no significant ministry, yet she was blessed to take her bold step to break free from the bondage of Jewish tradition, and became then a silent witness for Christ.
Martha was trapped in the bondage of tradition where people thought that women were supposed to occupy themselves in serving others.
Jesus did not completely deny her worries and upset, but He considered Mary’s desire for His Word and the fact that she did listen to Him attentively, to be something better (v. 42). It was something that could not be taken away by their social value and expectation.
Indirectly, Jesus set women free from their role which was defined and confined by their culture. He enabled the role and position of the women to be enhanced.
The power of the Gospel breaks every boundary! Those who hunger for God and those who love God must break free from fear of being demeaned and doubted in order to accomplish a new thing for the Lord. The Holy Spirit shall give us grace and strength as we move a step forward.
Do you experience any breakthrough in your journey of faith this day? Have you ever done something for Jesus out of expectation of others, something that is silly? What is the most important thing in your life you feel worthwhile to invest your time and money?
May God, grant you wisdom to make a right choice.