7.27.21

July 27, 2021
by: Gabriel Tseng 

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:16-19

Jesus was about to leave. He had unfolded as much as He could to His disciples and all those who would listen after His resurrection. He ate, slept and walked amongst them as if nothing had happened. It was as if life was as it was before. Yet, the end of those 40 days hanging out after His resurrection, He had to leave. He mentioned a Counselor of some sort but they couldn’t understand it tangibly. It was all in their head and not yet fully lived out yet. They had no idea. 
 
Jesus lays this on them, his last words- Go and make disciples. An awesome phrase that we have taken to mean the great commission. Commission meaning a mission we carry out together with one another, to one another, alongside what God is doing. We have heard it just as the original apostolic disciples heard it. Make disciples involved going, involved baptizing and involved teaching them to obey. This was what was modeled for them as Jesus did this and now, as they had passed out bread and fish to the crowd, would now also be involved in passing this onto others. 
 
I have often oscillated between all the different challenges and callings I hear in Jesus commandment. Go. Teach. Baptize. Make. The key word here is “make disciples.” The word, “go” is a command similar to Deuteronomy 6 in that “as we go,” “we make disciples.” Everywhere we go, we are to make disciples. Everywhere we go, we seek to teach and to baptize, yet the calling to make disciples is clear. We can go somewhere without making disciples. We can even at times baptize without making disciples. We can even teach without making disciples. Our aim is never simply to be busy doing tasks and taking action, but making disciples. Otherwise, it may be for naught in that we are busy, yet not fruitful or effective. When we strip all the busyness away, the question remains- “Are you making disciples?” May we go, teach and baptize, but with Holy Spirit empowered lives, make disciples as our chief aim that also make disciples who follow Jesus. 



7.20.21

by: Gabriel Tseng 

Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.
When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He *came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and *said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened. – Mark 6:45-52

We love the spectacular. I sure do. Big fireworks on July 4th and a lot of action stirs me to be excited for what’s next. I love having exciting times in which I can leave an event or a moment amped up and looking forward to when something equally exciting can happen next. 
 
It is what we find during the feeding of the 5000 that happens right before Jesus gathers his folk and sends the crowd away. It’s the cleanup moment and the quiet times in which he spends his quiet moments to debrief and dialogue. We find that Jesus leaves his disciples and goes to the mountain to pray. Even the Son of God seemed to need connection with the Father for a time to debrief and rest. 
 
Another scene of amazement happens in which Jesus walks on the sea. We immediately as readers are caught by the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, but its important to note their response to Jesus appearance. Being terrified is a common response when faced with the Lord and we see a common response from the Lord to His people, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.”
 
Being astonished seems to be associated that “they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” So in one sense, look past the miracle for it could be a distraction. While amazing things do happen, what might be the lesson in this moment? Might it be that the quiet times, the personal connection with the Lord, the expectant hearts to learn from the Lord and recognizing and acknowledging the Lord in the moment be more important than the miracle itself? I do wonder what our eyes and hearts are drawn to as we read scripture. Is it the spectacular? 
 
Moments of common grace and being able to see the sacred in the mundane and common are just as important as amazing moments. Lives can be changed in an amazing moment, but there is much of life that happens in the mundane and the normal. Our Mondays are as sacred as our Sundays. The ministry in the workplace and in the home is as important as the Pastor on the Sunday. While less glamorous and amazing, the lingering moments in the mundane are as special and sacred as the Son of God taking time to reconnect with his Father in times of prayer and relationship. 



7.13.21

“The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” – I Samuel 3:19

 

There was a season in which I read my bible every day three square meals with snacks sprinkled in between. It reminds me of Joe Hill training for his powerlifting competition upcoming in which he needs to force himself to eat at times. It was a powerful season in which I yearned and longed for God’s word. It truly was milk and honey to me.

 

There are also seasons in which I felt the Lord’s presence was quite distant, His words dispassionate, and like stale bread, tough to chew on and keep down. When I contrast different seasons, it amazes me that both were nourishing. What I found helpful during particular seasons seemed to be dependent on my mood or the Lord’s prompting. I often would feel discouraged when the Lord wasn’t speaking to me in the same way as before, lamenting the fruitful times I had previously.

 

A familiar story struck me as we find Eli mentoring Samuel in this regard. Even as Eli’s own light grows dim, God had seen fit to raise Samuel up. In this way, God’s spokesperson’s words were protected from “falling on the ground.” This terminology is familiar to a “seed falling to the ground” as in a death or a dying. God did not let Samuel’s words fall to the ground, but He used them to be ingrained into the minds and the hearts of people as he spoke, taught, and interacted. We see God’s sovereignty and anointing in that He is the one who enabled Samuel, Eli playing a part in encouraging faith, and parents who had dedicated Samuel to study unto the Lord. It took many aspects to contribute to the maturity of Samuel, not least of which, God’s part in protecting Samuel’s words from being useless and unfruitful.

 

Amidst the narrative, and reading in between the lines of God’s story through Samuel, we find that God still acts in the smallest of ways in which we may have glanced over unseen or unnoticed. God was with Samuel, fulfilling his purpose through him, for all who heard from Samuel, to hear the Lord’s voice. It warms my heart that some of the greatest words most helpful in my faith did not come from fancy articulate preachers, but also from the boring guest speaker who moonlighted as an engineer during the day and the tidbits of wisdom from the humble dishwashers I found in the kitchen after a church luncheon. God used their words, not to fall on deaf ears or to the ground, to encourage and bind those words of wisdom and sentiment to nourish and mature a young man in the faith and has now been kind enough to use mine for the encouragement of others.

 

May these words not fall on deaf ears, but allow those with ears to hear and with eyes to see.



7.7.21

July 7,2021
by: Gabriel Tseng

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

-Colossians 3:23-24

So many mouths to feed with so many places to be dictates that the boundaries we have for our life, as set out by the Lord is of eternal consequence and can even be akin to a wastefulness of resources that God has charged us with. Whether it be resources of time, relationships, or material, we all have been given these in measure to faithful with. In each season, those priorities can change. When I was a younger man ministering to students on campus, it was a weekly challenge NOT to eat two buffets in a week. I had some expendable income, growing vertical and horizontal, and an abundance of time and energy to devote to serving the Lord in this way. It was an amazing experience to have late night conversations with students at retreats and late night fast food runs while processing and talking through questions of life and faith. I dearly miss those moments with conversations in the car and standing around in the parking lot sharing about things happening in our lives. It was a much different life and approach to ministry than now, being married with young children quickly approaching that same student age.

 

It was difficult to process and manage the change. Approaches and jobs I could do before were less suited to new priorities I had. I often felt that time passed me by and that I was losing friends and family as we slowly lost touch. Demands became more intense as some had grown accustomed to a certain style, quantity and quality of my time. The disappointment of others had an effect on me. I felt that I could not live up to many of the expectations of others and in turn, felt a failure often. Guilt was a constant companion as I found myself at the end of my rope often.

 

Embracing such boundaries, sometimes willingly, and oftentimes kicking and screaming, the Lord slowly unwound some of these internal struggles and idols in Colossians. Who am I to please? Who am I to serve? Who is primary above it all? Beginning to see the wisdom that not all tasks, not all people, not all resources are equal in urgency or importance. We do serve one another, but we chiefly serve Christ. Tough love can be healing when appropriately applied as well as a kind word. Let us chiefly love and serve the Lord and allow everything else to revolve around that. Let us not choose only what is good, but what is better and best.



6.30.21

6/30/21
by: Gabriel Tseng
 

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:1-10
 
 

You come down! I’ve always wondered if this was absurd in those times. We’ve heard of people removing roofs and bringing the sick and infirm to Jesus. In terms of perspective, if people are desperate enough, things don’t seem to be out of the question.

There are a couple absurd moments that follow in the story. Jesus entering Jericho and entering through is curiously similar to Luke 10 passage with the good Samaritan. Who is this good Samaritan? A curious thought may be that Jesus himself might be that good Samaritan, rejected and looked down on, yet was the one to give up all to mend our wounds.

My being “diminuitive,” I can certainly empathize with the plight of Zaccheus. I’m sure he had done this before in other circumstances, but there certainly belies a sense of humility. While being a man of incredible stature, power and influence, Zaccheus had none when it came to Jesus and the incredible power that He had. Zaccheus did not waltz through the crowd, but went ahead and into the tree. Imagine the strangeness to see a man of high social regard in a tree. I’m sure this must have occurred to Jesus, that a man normally regarded highly, would stoopd down and climb a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus.

Inviting himself to the home of a “sinner” astounded the crowd. Surprised perhaps by the ill regarded Zaccheus, Jesus was not deterred. But perhaps it was the grace and power given to such a one that the people deemed unworthy of such a gift, for a tax collector was a predatory collaborator of the Roman Empire.

Yet what astounds everyone at the end perhaps, is the response to such grace from Zaccheus. He was surely a rich man and giving monetary blessing would have impacted him less than a middle class peasant. Four times each cheated person and half his wealth would have been significant even to Zaccheus. But consider this, a reformed leader, with great influence in society, with the ability to affect the lives of many, once done for selfish gain, and now working for God’s glory and good of all people, would have an amazing stewardship opportunity for His Kingdom. For a people so distrustful of the Roman Empire, and for good reason, to have a friend in high places, would have been an amazing thing.

It would be amazing, if not how it pales in comparison and reflects the very nature Jesus showed to us. Zaccheus becoming a great mediator in the temporal world, only reflects the grand royalty we know in Jesus, not only as our friend, but as our big brother, and our King. As absurd and amazing was Zaccheus’ response of thankfulness and gratefulness to God, how much more the absurdity of a King, coming to earth as a rejected man, dying the death we deserved, so that we could live as adopted sons and daughters of the royal King?  



6.23.21

June 23, 2021
By: Gabriel Tseng
 
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
 – Proverbs 3:5-7

 

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. – 1 Corinthians 10:31-33

 

There have been studies contrasting the multi-tasking aspect of our lives. We have a limit in what we can do well with our limited mental, emotional, and physical capacity. We all need to sleep, rest, and establish boundaries in which God has given us a new life in Christ, to steward all the resources that we have been given. Taking inventory in careful reflection and discernment to be a good steward with the gifts God has given us is an act of skillful, loving, and active obedience. With each day of our lives, are we doing well in our stewardship of our resources in demonstrating that transformed life to those around us, believer and non-believer. Concerning our entire lives, are they a blessing to the people around us?

 

I have found some friends to be particularly adept and faithful with their money, yet not so with their time. I have found some who live an impeccable life with a regimented disciplined style that I can only dream to emulate, all done with joyful energy on their face. I have seen others with their lives filled to the brim with relationships as they were magnets to the people they work with, from the water cooler to their dining room to the bedroom. I have found an eclectic bunch in whom I consider experts in different areas of their lives. I have found very few who are 5 tooled players (amazing in every aspect of their lives), but I have been extraordinarily blessed by friends who have taught me much in many aspects of life.

 

Paul’s very life and instruction to us resonates well with the wisdom literature in Proverbs in keeping central the glory of God in our lives. Our embodiment of the gospel, Christ’s death and resurrection, our incarnation of that very life, our life no longer, but Christ’s, living in us is our guiding North Star in how we approach and live our life. In all the small things to the big things, we seek to Glorify God in our life, in our eating and drinking, yes in the sacred communion, but also in the daily eating and drinking. Let us not forget this fun face in the Corinthians Church context: they were debating whether to eat sacrificial meat that had been sacrificed to pagan gods. It was a worthwhile debate and discussion.

 

The freedom and life we live and exercise are to be used for the glory of God. Our heart, our intentions, and our convictions matter greatly, but not at the expense of wounding others. In how we disagree, we demonstrate charity and kindness. In how we live our lives, we live them excellently in all that we do. For the glory of God and the good of all people, not primarily our own, but in response to the abundant grace that has been emptied out for us.

 



6.16.21

By Terry Abel

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”  Isaiah 66:13

Like many people, I try not dwell too much on the fact that we had a shooting in San Jose toward the end of May.

When I was growing up, you never heard about shootings, but now it almost seems like they’re common place.  One of the worst ones was the elementary school massacre that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut back in 2012.  The interesting fact about this was that hundreds of thousands of Americans turned to, of all people, Mr. Rogers, to lessen their distress over the tragedy, even though he’d been dead for almost ten years.  Advice he had shared earlier from his mother, a strong Christian, really helped people cope with the trauma.  When young, he would get extremely upset when he saw something frightening in the news, and his mother would tell him, “Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.”  Rogers is quoted as saying, “To this day, in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am comforted by realizing there are still so many helpers, — so many caring people in the world.”

His mother was a helper in the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic.  Just as that catastrophe came to an end, so hopefully will this pandemic, as well as these horrible shootings.  While we can’t always change these events as quickly as we’d like to, perhaps by remembering the wisdom of the mother of cardigan clad, gentle Fred Rogers, we can have a more positive attitude toward them.

Heavenly Father,

When tragic events happen, help us remember the helpers.  Even in our day to day lives, when we may get down about personal events we may be experiencing, help us see the lights in the darkness, and remember the helpers, those people around us who help lighten up the darkness we may be experiencing.  And if we are a helper, help us think about the quotation, “It is better to be a light in a chamber, than a star in the sky.”  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen



6.14.21

June 14, 2021
by: Gabriel Tseng

Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the Law of the Lord,
And on His Law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
– Psalm 1

As summer is here with sweltering heat, it reminds me of seasons in which are distinct in affecting surroundings and even dictating our lives. Rhythms in life are dictated by seasons in which are lived in sequence and one after another, always  bookended to one another. Our devotional time is as a meditative time in which we carry with us throughout the day. In agrarian cultures, the Word of God is read and chewed on throughout the day, marinating and digesting within our souls as we go about our days. Abraham Lincoln was rumoured to only have read a couple books throughout his life, but he knew them well. Amongst them was the Bible in which he understood deeply, and often reflected in deep conviction and refined articulation that were profoundly shaped by God’s Word. 

With many pictures in this Psalm, as wisdom literature, is to be to us like a food that is to be deeply savoured. Like hard candy, not bitten through in haste, but slowly digested for its immediate wisdom, but also for its depth and the layers in which God would speak to us. A tree planted by the stream is a powerful picture for me. It seems that a river is ever flowing, not stagnant, but flowing over the roots while also being planted and sturdy. Trees grow aplenty where there is water flowing. Is it no wonder that water is such a powerful picture of life, and the lack of it, such disaster in God’s word? Is it not the Lord who sustains all, those who trust in Him, and those who have yet to? 

As we enter this summer season and with easing restriction, we will scale back our daily devotions to once a week through the summer as we consider again how we will proceed as we enter the fall. Chew on God’s Word deeply. Listen to what He has to say to us and enter into relationship with friends around us in the Word. If you would enjoy ideas of daily devotions or would enjoy some additional resources, I would love to connect with you!



6.11.21

June 11, 2021
Shared by: Pastor Jim Cords

An excerpt from the Bible Project: Ruth

The Bible Project: Ruth



06.10.21

June 10, 2021
By: Gabriel Tseng

What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep;those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. -1 Corinthians 7:29-31
 
Making mountains out of molehills is the expression I heard when I would worry or be anxious. In the moment, this was likely not the most helpful in my particular situation, but I give credit to God for a timely word in an untimely moment that has continued to stay with me. From an unbelieving background, it was an amazing moment to have a new Father, a new God, and a new life. It seemed all the riches of a new world were graciously bestowed and that I was essentially playing with house money. Having a background in which we did need to pinch pennies at times, a poverty mentality had set in that we might lose even the little that we did have. To have the glorious riches of Him now and called to be a good steward, I immediately went to work, knowing that if I lived with the intention of glorifying Him, He wouldn’t chastise me for my effort. I would be chastised for not exercising more wisdom, but I was rarely corrected for having the wrong heart. This was amazing. 

Paul’s words to the Corinthians echo to me in that there was quite a bit of infighting and discussion at this church. Pastor Jonna had mentioned in a sermon about “purple churches,” a mix of blue and red, democratic and republican ideals. I suppose each church and organisation has its own personal touch that I had no name for. But amidst their fervent discussions about many practical matters, Paul boiled even marriage, happiness, and our very lives down to holding lightly to this world and our own sense of securities in this life. In times of terrible uncertainty, in which life is full of, big and small, having a sense of adventure with the Lord seems to be good wisdom. 

This world is not our home. We are ambassadors, Paul mentions in previous chapters, of reconciliation, between God and man, and between one another, made in the imago dei. This life, as joyous and comforting at times it can be, is not our home. The term ambassador is a term that is a temporary placement in a foreign land. We have a mission there, but all that we have in that foreign land does not ultimately belong to us and as such, we can not take with us when we are recalled by our King back home. Homesickness or Heavensickness is a godly discontent. We will desire for things to be right and perfect. Those ideals are baked into the very person we are. As we are discontented in this world, allow the Holy Spirit to turn our attention towards Heaven, to hold loosely, to even marriage in which is the most intimate or precious in this life, or our very lives, to be spent for Him. For although it is a great thing to leave a legacy, what that legacy consists of, perhaps, we are to consider what may be far better than commodities or material, is that which is eternal. Precious souls, fruit of the Spirit, those dear things which are of eternal value, allow these things to shape who we are, as ambassadors in this world, knowing our time is short, but with a generous God calling us to steward all that He has entrusted to us. 



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