Wednesday, December 16, 2009


December 16, 2009
Today’s readingsIsaiah 45:6-25Psalm 85:9-14Luke 7:18-23
God is the Almighty!God reveals who He is through the prophet Isaiah. He is the Creator-God. “For thus says the Lord, the creator of the heavens, who is God, the designer and maker of the earth who established it” (Is 45:18).In a similar way, God also revealed Himself to Job. God asks Job a series of questions, speaking of His wisdom and power that are totally beyond the capability of Job. God starts off by establishing who He is -- the Creator-God. “Where were you when I founded the earth?” (Job 38:4a). God the Almighty is totally inscrutable, as His rapid-fire questions to Job indicate. Job could only feebly answer, “Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you?” (Job 40:4). God presses on, speaking of His creations Behemoth[1] and Leviathan.[2] Job again answered, “I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.” (Job 42:3).God is inscrutable; God is a mystery; God is the Almighty. Isaiah and Elihu both speak about the mystery of God.
God is hidden from us. “Truly with you God is hidden” (Is 45:15a). Elihu says He is “The Almighty! we cannot discover him” (Job 37:23a).
God is totally unique. “I am the Lord, there is no other” (Is 45:6b,18d,22c). Elihu says He is “pre-eminent in power and judgment” (Job 37:23b).
We cannot question God. “Woe to him who contends with his Maker; .... Dare the clay say to its modeler, ‘What are you doing?’ .... Woe to him who asks a father, ‘What are you begetting?’” (Is 45:9-10). Elihu says “his great justice owes no one an accounting” (Job 37:23c).
Now part of the mystery of God, which Job could not figure out, is God’s seeming tolerance or allowing both good and evil in the world. Indeed, God confirms this. “I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe;[3] I, the Lord, do all these things.” (Is 45:7). Job experienced both. God tremendously blessed him, and then God allowed him to be severely afflicted.How are we to handle it all? Well, we cannot fully understand God, as we have already seen, because His ways are mysterious. This is why we need to turn to God’s revelation of Himself. And that is: He is just and righteous. And even more importantly, He is the Savior.
“It was I who stirred up one for the triumph of justice” (Is 45:13a,NAB). “I have aroused him in righteousness” (Is 45:13a,RSV).
“Only in the Lord are just deeds and power” (Is 45:24a,NAB). “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength” (Is 45:24a,RSV).
“Let justice descend, O heavens, .... Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up!” (Is 45:8,NAB). “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may sprout forth, and let it cause righteousness to spring up also” (Is 45:8,RSV).
We cannot fully understand God. But we know enough, that He is the savior. In fact, we have not seen God, but God came to us in the form of a man, and He is Jesus. Jesus is our Savior. “Truly with you God is hidden, the God of Israel, the savior!” (Is 45:15).God our Savior is a just and righteous God. He is totally unique. “There is no just and saving God but me.” (Is 45:21d,NAB). “And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.” (Is 45:21d,RSV).God tells Israel, and us who are the new Israel, that we have been saved by Him. “Israel, you are saved by the Lord, saved forever!” (Is 45:17). That should be more than enough for us. No more questions are needed. No more doubts ought to be entertained. If we have such a God, one who is a just and righteous Savior, then this must elicit the proper response from us. Elihu, after speaking about God (Job 37:23), speaks about our proper response: “Therefore men revere him, though none can see him, however wise their hearts.” (Job 37:24). We respond in reverential fear and in humility.What should we do?
We must continue to listen to His divine revelation. “I will listen for the word of God” (Ps 85:9a). It is God who reveals Himself to us, and who shows us the way we are to go, which is the way of peace. “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people” (Ps 85:8a,RSV). Job listened to God in silence and humility, and God restored him and brought him peace.
We are to be faithful to His revealed ways. God proclaims peace “to the faithful” (Ps 85:9b). We are to be obedient to His commands, and live a life of holiness.
We are to “trust in him” (Ps 85:9c). Whatever happens to us in life, we trust in Jesus who is just and righteous, and who loves us with an eternal love. “Turn to me and be safe” (Is 45:22a,NAB). “Turn to me and be saved” (Is 45:22a,RSV). In Jesus we are saved; in Jesus we are safe.
We to be loyal to the cause of Christ. “Near indeed is salvation for the loyal” (Ps 85:10a). We are to evangelize, proclaiming Christ to all, so that they might experience the salvation won for them on the cross. “Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.” (Ps 85:9,RSV).
When we do the above, what is the result? Bountiful blessings! God restored Job’s blessings twofold. For us God assures:
Salvation and glory (Ps 85:10,NAB/9,RSV)
Love/mercy and truth/faithfulness, justice/righteousness and peace (Ps 85:11,NAB/10,RSV)
Abundance (Ps 85:13)
Prosperity and good fortune (Ps 85:14)
Vindication and glory (Is 45:25)
Job’s life was transformed from great adversity to great blessings. This is how our Savior acts. Jesus brings us from out of darkness into his marvelous light. He plucks us from death and into life -- an abundant life on earth, and eternal life thereafter.If we are suffering great adversity, know that God can and will reverse our fortunes. He is the Almighty for whom nothing is impossible. Jesus makes the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers clean, the deaf hear, the dead raised to life (Lk 7:22). During his public ministry, Jesus brought wholeness to people as he “cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits” (Lk 7:21a). God did the same for Job. God healed him of his physical affliction, removed his extreme suffering, and stayed the hand of Satan against him.Perhaps most importantly, just as Jesus “granted sight to many who were blind” (Lk 7:21b), God opened Job’s eyes to truly see. “I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you.” (Job 42:5). Because he saw God for who He truly was, Job was content. Job was secure in his full acceptance of the Almighty, trusting only in His justice and righteousness.
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[1] The hippopotamus.[2] The crocodile.[3] God permits evil for the sake of a greater good.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

FW: FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL - Having a Life-giving Household

CFC-FFLHaving a Life-giving Household Households are small pastoral groupings of members. They are essential to the life and mission of our community. They are where members are cared for, and where members continue to grow in the Lord. A household is led by a leader assigned to it. However, every member of the household needs to take responsibility for the good conduct of the household, and help ensure that it becomes life-giving for everyone. If there is anything amiss, household members should speak up and discuss the problem, and together, under the direction of the leader, take steps to change the situation. The leader, being a servant, must be open and even desirous of such inputs, as a way of ensuring that the household members themselves find the household life-giving. What makes for a life-giving household? First are the technical aspects.
(1) It must be regular. Household meetings are never cancelled, unless getting to the meeting becomes physically impossible, such as in the case of flooding.
(2) It must be on time. There is an arrival time, and there is a starting time, about 15 to 30 minutes after. Members should strive to be at the meeting venue at the arrival time. This gives some leeway to unexpected traffic.[1] If one arrives early, then all the better, so that there is some fellowship time. One does not arrive and immediately jump into the worship portion. Further, the meeting should start on time at the agreed on starting time, or at most just 5 or 10 minutes later, even if not everyone has arrived.
(3) It must have the three basic ingredients of worship, discussion/sharing and fellowship.[2] It must follow the prescribed times for each aspect. Worship is about 30 minutes, discussion/sharing is for one hour, fellowship is for 30 minutes to an hour. Overall it should be from two to three hours.
(4) It must NOT become a service meeting.[3] There are other designated times for service meetings.
(5) It must end on time, and not too late in the evening (if it is on an evening).[4] A household meeting certainly should not spill over into the next day (that is, after midnight).[5]
In all the above, the household leader must be the one to ensure these happen. Members who violate the above must be reminded and encouraged. If they continue to do so, they must be corrected more forcefully. Secondly, what makes for a life-giving household is the fraternal aspect. The household members are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are journeying together along the path of Christ, which is the way of holiness. They have a responsibility, as they themselves grow in the Lord, to help the others grow as well.[6] A relationship as brethren in Christ can mean a number of things.
(1) It is a relationship of love. Household members are to love each other as Christ has loved them.
(2) There is fraternal correction. Such is not just left to the household leader, but everyone else takes responsibility to correct whatever is amiss.
(3) It is a relationship of friendship. Household members should desire to grow in their friendships and to the ties that bind. It should be such that they look forward to being together for the household meeting, and eagerly anticipate it.
(4) It is a relationship of loyalty. Household members guard their hearts from anger, resentment or the like. If there is any personal problem, it is resolved quickly.
(5) It is a relationship of trust. Household members trust each other enough to become vulnerable, such that they can openly share their lives, especially their challenges and shortcomings.[7] The principle of confidentiality is to be strictly observed.
Thirdly, what makes for a life-giving household is the pastoral aspect. We have households so that we will grow in the Lord. The household, normally being held in the church that is the home, is a school of spirituality. Thus a number of elements are important.
(1) Worship should be alive and vibrant. Household members must participate actively in the singing and the prayers. They should be open to receiving and sharing the word from the Lord. They must have the faith to know that they are in the presence of Jesus, and accord him the praise and worship that is his due.
(2) There should be serious discussion and sharing. Normally the men meet separately from the women.[8]
(a) For the first year, the discussions follow a specific track, based on the teaching courses that are taken up.
(b) For the succeeding years, there is flexibility as to content. It can be Bible sharing, personal sharing, or discussion of a particular topic.
(c) For discussion of topics, there are many resources available in the Church. In particular, the books and writings of the Servant General are suggested topics to be taken up.
(3) The household leader must strive to be a true servant leader.[9]
Finally, since the household meeting is basically a spiritual activity, there is the needed spiritual preparation. All members of the household, especially the leader, should spend some time, before arriving at the household venue, praying to God about the meeting.
(1) Ask God to bind any spirits that are not of Him, and to send His angels to stand guard along your way and over the venue.
(2) Ask for wisdom and discernment.
(3) Ask for the grace by which every member of the household will be joyful and loving.
There are many life-giving elements in community. There is our personal prayer and Bible reading. There are the many teachings, formation tracks, and leaders training. There are the assemblies and other activities. But the household is unique in that the receivers are also the givers, and vice versa. The household is thus the basic cell of community--for formation, for fraternal relationships, for moving the whole community forward. (SG. Dec 15, 2009)[1] When someone is late, he often says it is because of the traffic. Indeed there was traffic, but if you ask him what time he left his home, you will see that he left already late.[2] Unless it is just a time for fellowship, which normally happens once a quarter.[3] If there is an urgent need, the fellowship portion can be turned into a service meeting.[4] For example, 8pm to 11pm. If members can meet earlier and end earlier, all the better.[5] When it is already the time of fellowship, those who need to leave earlier than the rest should feel free to do so.[6] While the household leader is the basic pastor, every member, sharing in the priestly ministry of Christ, ministers to everyone else.[7] It is not necessary to bare all secrets.[8] This is very important. Only in rare times should the men meet together with the women for this portion. This is basically so that the men will grow together as men of God, and the women as women of God. Men and women have different needs, and different dynamics in relationships. Further, this allows them to take up different topics for discussion and sharing.[9] Let your other “bible” be the book Servant Leadership.