stanley ng

From Pastor Stan (Stanley Ng)

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As I’m writing this letter, my heart already aches as I anticipate the very few days left. This is my last pastoral letter to my beloved family at Bethel English Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

I want to thank everyone for the many ways you have allowed me to be your pastor. As I reflect upon my time at Bethel English Church, I have seen and experience much where every person has had a part in. While it’s true that we tend to remember our failures more than our victories, I am humbled at the transformation that I have undergone. Ten years have gone by without any regret and the time spent with everyone was truly a blessing to Grace and me.

AWANA Awards (2010)

AWANA Awards (2010)

In ten years I’ve watched the generations grow. My first volunteer experience was becoming a volunteer leader for second graders. While there was a need, it was also an opportunity to learn more about the Christian faith and experience. Since I did not grow up in a Christian home, I was vicariously reliving the Sunday School experience. I remember the first time the children had to memorize and recite John 3:16. By the time the children finished shouting out this gospel verse, I was still searching through my Bible’s table of contents. The children were so shocked and ensued the fun and games--the teacher had become the student. The motivation from these little salts and lights began to ignite a passion in wanting to know more about the Word and defending the truth of the gospel.

Bethel College Ministry Retreat (2010)

Bethel College Ministry Retreat (2010)

At the same time, I was also involved in our very own college ministry. It was a time that some of us still remember. I remember cooking for Sister’s Appreciations, celebrating Christmas, helping pack boxes for the needy--it was truly an experience that I miss. At the same time, it was also a time of searching and deciphering the Lord’s direction in my life. As some of you are already aware, I had spent a short time in my engineering ministry. After the company acquisition, I began to ponder the next chapter. While still being consistently involved in my men’s group, the community suggested that I pray about pursuing pastoral ministry. This is what kickstarted the following seven years of pastorship with everyone here.

Without going into details of the last seven years, some of us were together during most of the time. Since the beginning of my internship, we have had several leaders come and go, trouble arose here and there. For some of us, it has been difficult to move forward. But my hope is that for all of us will continually be reminded of the one who remains constant: Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, He is the beginning and the end. As I become another one of those leaders who has come and gone, my prayer for this congregation is to always be fixated on Christ--that’s when your church will be defined by the mission. It may not look like the church we have had in the past and there may be difficult decisions which need to be made. But a passion for our Lord and Savior will see you through all your future trials. This passion guided the early church and the earlier congregations of Bethel, a passion which allowed them to navigate their own trials. They managed and flourished; so can we.

The words of the Apostle Paul resonates deeply in his letter to the church at Philippi:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
— Philippians 1:3-6

This is an exciting time as Bethel English Church moves into a prospective future of Christ’s call. With everyone here, I am sure that the current and next pastors and leaders will be just as blessed to walk with you as I have in the past ten years. My prayer for this church and the new leadership is to dive into new ways of living together at the foot of the cross and to foster a church who loves the people within and, more so, the people without.

As for my future, doors have been opened in another ministry--the teaching ministry. My calling from God has always been focused on equipping future leaders in any capacity. In the next chapter, my call is to equip future leaders in the STEM industry. Everything we do is ministry--let’s not just think of ministry as just the “Christian” thing. If you’re a teacher, student, engineer, lawyer, social worker, physician, coffee barista, pastor, etc., that is the ministry that God has currently called you to be. These industries struggle to see Christ in their world--be the salt and light in your professions.

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Some people have asked me, “What was the most momentous event during your time here?” In the past ten years, Bethel was always there with me. From all my graduations to my marriage, I’m glad to say that everyone played a role in making my time special. But it’s hard to top Easter Sunday, 2008. It was the day when I surrendered my life to Christ. I may not have remembered the message, but Proverbs 3:5-6 was mentioned and it became my life verse. As blessed as it was to have amazing events, concerts, and service opportunities, nothing beats the day of Christ’s redemption.

I give thanks to God for the honor of serving the people in the Bethel English Church. As the place where I met the Lord Jesus for the first time, Bethel will always have a special place in my heart. I have been enveloped with the love of Christ by so many people here at this church, and there is no level of gratitude that I can muster in giving thanks to each and every single person.

...Many blessings...

PStan & Grace

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The Designed Universe (Stanley Ng)

One thing that I find very intriguing is the phenomenon of astrology and cosmology. The vastness of the universe extends beyond the imaginations of man. But according to Scripture, the universe is as simple as, “Let there be…”

I recently was listening to a podcast of Ravi Zacharias talking about his experience talking with a scientist and such about creation and evolution. Although his debate didn't end with a renewed soul in Christ, Zacharias did leave the scientist with lingering thoughts of possibility for a Creator. When we look at the creation account in Genesis, I find that the purpose of the introduction is not to date the age of the earth or whether or not the Big Bang occurred, but to reveal to us as the reader how marvelous and powerful our God is.

Scripture tells us:

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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...
— 1 Peter 3:15 [ESV]

Although we may not have the full and complete answers to every question, we are given enough to be able to share the Gospel message to others without fear or trembling. Many times when I talk to my friends about Christian faith, like Zacharias, I do not get a salvific response, but rather, plant the seed and allow them “chew on the thoughts.” In the midst of this, for us to also represent the loving compassion that Christ has shown us upon the Cross.

The Self and Public Proclamation of the Gospel (Stanley Ng)

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
— Philippians 1:12-18 [ESV]

Still in prison, Paul is still able to glorify God. Despite his current state, what Paul has been doing is continuing to advance the Gospel (v. 12). At the moment, I believe it is safe to say that most of us reading this are in a better position than Paul. Regardless of our status, we should always be pursuing the progression of the Gospel. Paul took the extra step to even tell his guards that what he is doing is all for Christ (v. 13). Even those who are in prison with him are now proclaiming the name of Christ without fear (v. 14).

In this era, preaching the Gospel is one of the toughest things to do, especially in a upper-middle class community. It's encouraging to see that people are continually preaching the Gospel to fellow friends and neighbors, but sometimes, there are times where the Gospel message is not preached out of love (v. 15-17). Despite whatever motives are being used, we should still be appreciative of the Gospel message that is being shared. If God does accomplish good using the means of the wicked, continue to rejoice. One group of people who come to mind is those who hold up those picket signs on college campuses condemning people to hell and what not. As "obnoxious" as they sound, some people do come to know Christ because of the type and style of the Gospel that is being preached. Regardless of the tone and attitude of these people, Paul would still rejoice; however, Paul would most likely not have ordained those who cannot share the Gospel out of love as ministers. Paul knew that the Gospel message would not be preached with love 100% of the time. But regardless of the reason for preaching the Gospel, rejoice in the advancement of the Gospel.

I also wonder how much of our own intentions are also mixed when we preach the gospel. Even if we think we are doing it out of love, there may be other motives as well. So it's good to also be able to search our own hearts too. Despite this, it's good to know that God does what He wants and saves people and uses us, as imperfect people, to bring the gospel to others--it truly is humbling.

Shepherding the Lost (Stanley Ng)

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For a flock of sheep, the shepherd is an important figure. Without a leader, the sheep would live aimlessly, only doing what is necessary for survival. This is a wonderful reflection of church structure and the necessity for not just a strong leader; but more importantly, an even greater Shepherd to guide all processes. I am glad and blessed to know that the Lord’s provision is upon our church and can’t wait to see what He has in store for us during and after this transition. So, if we know that God cares for our church, we should also be reflecting that heart of others. If God then cares for us, how should we care for others?

Luke 15:1-7 looks at the background and the cultural story that was presented. The story begins not with the parable, but with events that occurred in the past. Luke recounts tax collectors and sinners gathering and eating with Jesus. At the same time, we also see pharisees and scribes grumbling at Jesus’ actions from afar. For now, Jesus begins his parable:

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
— Luke 15:1-7 [ESV]

Two things that we see:

  1. First, we see the shepherd’s mental willingness to go out and find this lost sheep. If the shepherd does not go out for that one sheep, how unsure would the rest of the flock be knowing that losing one is no big deal? Honestly, it could have been any of the other ninety-nine. The shepherd’s willingness is able to give assurance to the rest of the flock.
  2. Second, we see the shepherd’s physical willingness to bear the burden of this task. Not only is it a journey to find the sheep, but it’s also another quest to bring it back to the flock. The shepherd needs to know that he is able to complete this task, otherwise his life along with the ninety-nine others left in the open may not end with a bliss.

For one, we are the lost sheep and God is the Great Shepherd. We should be encouraged knowing that God is willing to seek us despite our own straying away from Him. It is because of our own instincts, our own desires to fulfill that cause us to move further away from God. He is there, seeking us. Are we willing to accept His efforts? Though it is also a common mindset to equate anything related to shepherding to the pastorate, Jesus seems to encourage the differ. Just like the shepherd who is willing to seek the lost, I also get the feeling that He is commissioning us to go and do likewise. Who else will be there to guide and suggest the lost back into our churches? Let us also be mindful of the possible dangers that a wandering sheep may encounter during their lost journey.

May the Lord entice our hearts for the weary and the lost.

Original post from the author at The Two Cities Blog.

Grieving the Spirit (Stanley Ng)

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And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
— Ephesians 4:30 [ESV]

Serving is a blessing for the kingdom of God. I believe God smiles greatly for those who are willing to humbly serve His ministry. As we serve at church or anywhere else, one VERY important person, to be aware of is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and should be treated as a person, and not a power or thing.

Ephesians 4:30 says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God." What does this mean? How can we cause grief to the Holy Spirit?  In this passage, we see that grieving the Holy Spirit is related to how we as Christians relate and talk to one another. Previously, Paul writes:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
— Ephesians 4:29 [ESV]

As Christians, we are to be encouraging one another with our words and treating each other in love and forgiveness. When Christians hurt one another with their words, this grieves the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit longs for Christians to live in unity. We are to live in dependence on the Spirit to be able to love one another and treat each other with respect. Because the Spirit lives in us, He is the one who can teach us how to love one another as He loves us at the core of our being. 

Living by the Spirit isn't something that comes easily. It's hard to be dependent on someone else, especially when we typically live our lives according to our own power. When I have a headache, I automatically, and most of time instantaneously, reach for the Tylenol or Advil bottle. Yeah, we can say that God has so graciously blessed our country with medicine to rid these unfortunate pains, but God desires for us to come to Him first and to consult the Holy Spirit for healing. We see multiple accounts in the Gospels where Jesus rebukes diseases. How glorious would it be to make this habitual in my life. The Holy Spirit works whenever He wants, but may I be able to acknowledge, be aware, and live a life that is dependent on the Spirit, as I learn to follow Him and love others. May I not grieve the Holy Spirit and be able to come into repentance with love and obedience when it occurs. May I be open to His leading and be grateful for His grace.

What's All the Fuss in Space? (Stanley Ng)

Computer generated illustration of  two orbiting black holes emanating gravitational waves. (Image: Henze/NASA)

Computer generated illustration of  two orbiting black holes emanating gravitational waves. (Image: Henze/NASA)

Have you ever came across a news feed or article about something phenomenal and didn't have a clue about it? You might begin to wonder whether or not you live under a rock or something...

For me, one of the things that I found very fascinating (and over my head) was this news about gravitational waves. The fascinating part wasn't necessarily the context, but more so the publicity that it had received:

 

Brian Greene stops by Stephen Colbert's "The Late Show" to demonstrate the exciting new scientific discovery of gravitational waves. Surprisingly, Brian Greene's book, The Elegant Universe,  piqued my interest in supernatural philosophies of life.

 

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to listen to astrophysicist Jeffrey Zweerink (RTBUCLA) give a lecture on all the fuss about these gravitational waves. If you're interested, I recommend watching the video and visiting LIGO CalTech for more refined details because they can explain the phenomena much better than I can.

Although the post may seem so far out of place in this blogosphere, there is one thing that can be extrapolated from everything that I learned that evening: science points to our awesome God. How so? To be brief:

First, the gravitational waves that were reported pointed to things in the universe that scientists never even knew existed. If anything, this is humbling to know that we barely know anything at all!

Second, the laws of physics are maintained so consistent across the fabric of space, it points back to the Lord using science as an illustration reminding Israel and the world of our worries and fears. Here are some key moments in Scripture where the Lord points to science as an illustration to His unwavering faithfulness to His people:

33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you establish their rule on the earth?

34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
that a flood of waters may cover you?
35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go
and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts
or given understanding to the mind?
37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
38 when the dust runs into a mass
and the clods stick fast together?
— Job 38:33-38 [ESV]
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
— Hebrews 1:3 [ESV]

Third, gravitational waves gives us hope to see beyond our limitations. I can imagine my peers getting overly excited that two graphs matched up (with a 7 ms time displacement). This was the sign, this was the key. When the lines matched up, hope and excitement ensued immediately. But, imagine the hope and excitement that Christ has given for us. We're no longer slaves to sin, we're no longer stuck in a pit of sorrow, we're no longer teased by death itself. While I don't want to discount this scientific discovery, I also wonder, "What if the world had the same excitement for Christ's two nail-scarred hands as these scientists have for these two correlating lines?"

In certain circles, bridging science and religion has been difficult for people to support. One side of the argument will say that science limits or "puts God in a box." That is to say, God can only operate with a certain limitation that is defined by the physical laws of the universe. The issue with this claim doesn't begin in the statement, but rather in the false claims that science leaves God "in-the-box".

I personally think that we need to be more aware of the things around us and when can't comprehend it all, we need to rely on others to make sense of God's natural revelation (how God reveals to us in the natural, everyday world) to us. Whether a handyman, the local barista (I encountered one of my old students this week!), or the daily grocer, I find myself always being sharpened by the many professions that I come across. My encouragement isn't to understand everything that I've presented in the news (quite frankly, I don't either), but to see how must of a greater blessing it can be when we fathom the vastness of our Savior.

A Missional Church (Stanley Ng)

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When activities become routine, it can be easy to overlook their significance and simply run on autopilot. This can happen in many areas of life – including church. We can become so familiar with our traditions that we never stop to consider what the church is and why it exists. In fact, we may even forget whose it is and start to think it’s “our” church.

The first mention of the church in the New Testament is in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” This clearly shows us that the church belongs to Christ, and there will always be conflict involved in the growth. However, victory is assured because it is God’s power at work in the building process.

Although the Lord is the one forming His church, He’s enlisted us to participate in the work. That’s why, before He ascended to heaven, Jesus’ parting words to His disciples were, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is the unfinished task of the church, and it is still being accomplished to this very day.

We have a message to bring to the world – that God sent His only Son to earth to pay the penalty for sin with His death on the cross. He did this so those who believe in Him could be forgiven and receive eternal life (John 3:16). Our message is not about a thousand things. We have this one essential truth, and everything we do is because of it. If it’s not, then we are failing to accomplish what Christ called us to do. Unlike so many ideas and philosophies, our message never needs revising. It’s the same one Jesus spoke almost 2,000 years ago, and it still effectively and powerfully transforms people’s lives, no matter their culture or language. 

Christ gave His church a mission to accomplish – to spread the gospel to every tribe, language, people, and nation (Rev. 5:9). Even to the church’s teaching and training through sermons, Bible studies, and Sunday school programs exist to equip God’s people. We must know the truth before we can pass it on to others.

Although the gospel is global in its outreach, it’s personal in its impact. No nation or people group is saved corporately. Faith in Christ and repentance from sins are personal issues. Each person must hear and believe the message in order to be saved.

The motivation for the church’s mission is twofold. First of all, Jesus commands us to make disciples and teach them to observe all His instructions (Matt. 28:19-20). If we call Him Lord, our desire and ambition should be to obey Him. Second, the condition of lost humanity should prod us into action. In the Scriptures, God describes the unredeemed as separated from Him, deceived, darkened in their understanding, helpless to save themselves, and hopeless without Him (Eph. 2:12; 4:17-18). How can we possibly keep to ourselves the only message with the power to transfer people from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s Son?

Our methods for spreading the message of Christ are diverse (1 Cor. 9:16-23). We live in the most amazing time in history with multiple avenues available for reaching the lost. Whether it is through Christian radio, Christian films, internet websites and ministries, or just the traditional modes of visiting a church and hearing the Gospel, the way has been opened like never before for many to hear the Good News of Jesus. Let us be thankful for the Gospel and let us be faithful to use whatever means possible to spread the Gospel to those near and far.