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Shepherding the Lost

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.

What's All the Fuss in Space?

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 (RTB, UCLA) 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.

Grieving the Spirit

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

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. Ephesians 4:29 says,

 
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.
 

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.

The Self and Public Proclamation of the Gospel

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 is humbling.