Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Christ is above all

Colossians 1:15-20

There was a rich and famous man. He was also a religious leader and he did not like Christ and his followers. He did his best to stop them from gathering and worshiping together. He hated what they were teaching about the salvation that God was offering to the people in Jesus Christ. He hated them so much that he killed those who were preaching the gospel.

One day as the man was traveling to a place called Damascus to arrest and to put Christians to jail, a big bright light suddenly flashed around him. He heard a voice asking him why he was persecuting him and his followers. It was his first encounter with the Lord Jesus. He became blind and in his blindness he saw the truth. He became a Christian and he was considered as one of the greatest Christian in history.

He was the Apostle Paul. When he came to know the Lord Jesus, he believed that Jesus is all he need. Jesus is sufficient and has the supremacy in his life. He endures all kind of persecution and hardship. He was jailed, whipped and stoned because of his faith. He did not give up because for him, Jesus is all he need.

Our passage this morning was written by Paul to the Colossian Christians when he was imprisoned in Rome. We will see what Jesus means to him. He wrote to the believers in Colossae about the uniqueness, supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

If you or I were imprisoned because our faith what would our letters from prison read like? What Paul writes is both surprising and revealing. He did not complain about what happened and he did not complain because he was in prison. Instead he focus on Christ and expressed his appreciation of who Jesus is and these thoughts about Christ keep him going. He also wanted the Christian in Colossae to know and appreciate who Jesus is. In the same way, God wanted us to know who really is Jesus.

How do we react when we are in difficult situations in life? If we know and appreciate who Jesus is it will help us deal with the difficulties.

For us to understand more of the meaning of the the passage, we need to know a little background about Colossae and the church there.

Colossae is a small town in what is known today as Turkey. It used to be the center of clothing industry but during Paul’s time the industry was going down. It was cosmopolitan meaning there were mixed population of Jews and Greeks. The Colossian Church was planted by Epaphrus, a disciple of the Apostle Paul while he was teaching in Ephesus. Paul was not able to visit the church in Colossae

Colossae had a big problem. The people were being influenced by many religious teachings. Hence, it was also becoming a big problem among the church members in Colossae. The Christians were getting confused and their understanding of who Jesus is was being corrupted.

I don’t have the time to point out what are the false teachings but the these teachings caused the church members to believe that some of them could save themselves by hurting their bodies. In contrast, some members believed that they could do bad things like adultery, drinking, gambling, smoking and other vices and they will be saved anyway.

These false teachings affected their knowledge of who Jesus is. They came to think that Jesus was less than God, that Jesus was more like an angel than the Son of God. Needless to say, this misunderstanding about Christ resulted in pride and immorality among the church members.

Our beliefs about who Jesus has a direct effect on how we live our Christian life. If we do not recognize that Jesus has died on the cross for our sin, and that he has the power to save us from our sin. Then we might ignore Christ altogether in our lives. And maybe we might just continue living a sinful life.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul wants to make it clear to the Colossian church who Jesus is. This is the truth that God wants us to learn this morning.

Jesus is unique (15)

“He is the image of the invisible God, the first born overall creation.”

The Bible declares that there is no one like Jesus. Many people think that Jesus is like Buddha or he is like Mohammed or many famous religious leaders. But the truth is that there is no one like him. He is unique.

“He is the image of the invisible God.” This is one of the strongest statements in the Bible about Jesus being God. Here the Bible declares that Jesus is not only equal to God, he is God. He is the visible (can be seen) image of the invisible (cannot be seen) God. He does not only reflect God but Jesus reveals God to us.

As the book of Hebrews declares in chapter one verse 3:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

In other words, everything we know from Jesus makes us learn more about God. When we look at the love of Jesus on the cross, we see the love of God. When we look at the righteousness of Jesus we learn of the righteousness of God. Looking at the power of Jesus makes us seek the power of God.

Just like the Christians in Colossae, the Christians in Mae Sai are in danger of having our faith confused and corrupted by the different religions and teachings that we found around us. What make it worst is that even in the churches, few Christians are teaching ideas that are against the word of God.

I believe the challenge for us this morning is we have to focus our faith to Jesus. We need to learn more about him through talking with him in prayers and through the pages of the Bible. If we fail to do that then our knowledge of Jesus will be very little. And if we know very little about Jesus then we also know very little about God, the Father. If we know very little about God then we will have doubts regarding our faith.

We believe without doubt that Jesus is unique (the only one)-who shows us God and that He is God.

Jesus is powerful (16-18)

Jesus is not only the unique image of God but he is also the “firstborn overall creation.”

[16]For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. [17] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The word “firstborn” Paul uses in this passage refers to Jesus’ status. In Paul’s time, the firstborn in the family had special status. The firstborn was given authority over the family. And so Jesus, the Son of God, has authority because of his status as a firstborn. He is the agent of creation.

False teachers taught that God’s power is limited to the spirit only. And because of this, they think that Christ’s power is also limited only to spiritual life. But Paul explained that all the thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities of both the spiritual and physical worlds were created by Christ and therefore are under the authority of Christ himself. This includes not only the government but also the spiritual world that the false teachers were so concerned about. Christ has no equal and no competition. He is the Lord of all.[1]

God is not only the creator of the world but he is also sustains it. In him, everything is held together, protected, and prevented from breaking out. Because Christ sustains our life we should live for him and serve him. We are his servants we must trust him daily to protect us, care for us, and sustain us.

Knowing these truths, I believe the challenge for us is to put Jesus in the highest place in our lives. He deserves our worship. We must worship him through the power of the Holy Spirit as creator and sustainer of our lives. We should be thankful to God for giving us this church where we can worship Him with other believers. But we should worship him not only every Sunday but every moment of our lives.

Jesus is sufficient (19-20)

The passage does not talk only about the uniqueness and supremacy of Christ but also of His sufficiency.

[19] For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

“All the fullness of God is in Jesus.“ In this passage Paul was trying to refute the teaching that Jesus is only human and not God. Yes, we believe that Jesus is truly man but we also believe that He is fully God. Christ has always been God and will always be God. Because Christ is fully human and fully God, he is sufficient for our needs because he knows them. Most importantly, he knows our need for salvation.

Christ’s death gives way for us to come to God. If Christ did not die for our sins, we could not have a right relationship with God. We can have peace with God, we can be reconciled to God by accepting Christ who died in our place.

Sometimes we have doubts if accepting Christ alone is enough for our salvation. We think that maybe salvation is more sure if we accept Christ and do good works. We feel better when we accept Christ and then observe other religious practices (like in Buddhism and animism). But here we learn that our salvation is through faith in Christ alone. We cannot add anything to earn our salvation. Jesus Christ is sufficient.

The challenge for us is to keep in our minds and hearts that Jesus did everything so that we can be reconciled to God, so that we can enjoy our fellowship with our Father. The only things we need to do is live a life that will give glory and honor to his name.


In Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting, The Last Supper our Lord’s hands are empty. Here is the inspiring story why it is so.

Da Vinci dedicated three years to this painting, determined that it would be his crowning work. Before the unveiling, he decided to show it to a friend for whose opinion he had the utmost respect.

The friend’s praise was unbounded. “The cup in Jesus’ hand,” he said, “is especially beautiful.” Disappointed, Da Vinci began to erase out the cup. The distinguished friend was stunned and asked for an explanation. Da Vinci explained that “Nothing must distract from the figure of Christ.”

Da Vinci focused attention solely on Christ by removing the distraction of the cup. Having removed the cup, he had to do something with the hand. The left hand was already outstretched just above the table, lifting, as if to bless and command. Now the right hand, also empty, was also outstretched invitingly.[2]

It should be the same with us. Because Jesus is our God, he is supreme and he is sufficient. Our faith should be focused in Jesus Christ alone. Nothing should distract us from Christ.

[1]. Life Application Study Bible

[2]. http://www.sabda.org/netbible5/illustration.php?topic=967

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Temporary homes, eternal treasures

Our house.jpg

The 13-hour bus travel from Bangkok to Mae Sai was pleasant but not the less tiring. We arrived in bus terminal very early in the morning. I remember everything, it was January and it was raining. It was cold, in fact, it was colder than we had expected. Even the sun seemed so lazy to peek out from the thick clouds. We had arrived to the place we know little about and would become our home for seven years.

Although we were commissioned by two churches and several organizations, we had not received any assurance of commitment for regular support. We came to the field on our own. Nobody arranged for our housing or the ministry that we would be doing. We were totally dependent on the Lord's guidance and provisions.

Fortunately, there were people who kindly helped us during our first two weeks. We met Angela, whom until that time, we only knew by name. We also met Pastor Maung whose church we would become active members. He, his wife and few church members would become our friends and family during our first year of stay in Mae Sai.

We believed that we were in the place where God wanted us to be. with only a few clothes and some books for our kid's home schooling, we practically did not have anything. No house we can call our won. We slept in Angela's house during the night and walked around the town we could call our own during the day looking for the elusive home.

After two weeks, with the help of a lady named Nim, we found an abandoned row house. Apparently, some people thought it was a good idea to buy these cheap houses but realized later that they did not want to live in this kind of house. So they abandoned the house and was left uninhabited for many years. But for us, it was once again God’s miraculous provision at that time. The house had everything that we need in it. It had closets, book shelves, mattresses, bed frames, bedding, comforter, blankets, dining table and a rice cooker. It was our first experience of God’s miraculous provisions.

We lived in that house for over three years. God proved true to his promise that he will provide. Monthly provisions for the payment of rents and utilities always came in the nick of time. God is faithful. We were in that house when we got Tina and a year later we got Nuch. Few more children will be added a year later. It was then that we realized that God was giving us a new ministry. We need a new house with a big a yard that the children can play and work on.

A year later, God had found us another home. An old but bigger house with a big yard but it needed a lot of works--cleaning, painting and repairs. But God had helped us in many ways by sending teams and individuals who were willing to do the hard works. We cleaned the yard, trimmed the grass and made vegetable gardens. For us, it is the most beautiful small spot in this part of Mae Sai-- our home.

Jillian Teaching.jpg

Gilmhe Teaching.jpg

Until recently, the house seemed to be getting smaller. The children are growing so fast. This is something we already anticipated but it is coming sooner than we thought. Nuch is now in college and the girls, of course, are growing faster than the boys. Moreover, we are having English, Thai, Bible and music lessons in the house. Visitors and guests were coming often and at times with twelve and when so many things were going on at the same time, the house was verging in to a chaos. We realized we need a separate place for the boys and to hold those classes. But then we thought, it was financially impossible. We could not afford the monthly rate and the utilities.

Needless to say, God never ceased to surprise us. A home that fits our need had become available. A row houses nested in the middle of a community, a strategic place to know the people and minister to the children were provided by God. We converted it to learning center and invited the children from the community (besides our adopted children) to learn English and Thai for free.

We thank the Lord for the people who have been helping us with our ministry. Keeping two houses is not easy but we believe that God will provide for the monthly rent and utilities. We believe that God will use this place to point people to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We believe that this will be a place where God will be honored and glorified.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Not One But Two

We have been working with Sayama ever since we came to Mae Sai. She is managing several children’s homes and orphanages in Burma. When we took Tina into our home, it marked the beginning of our ministry to the orphans and abandoned children. She began asking us to help her in by “adopting” the younger children who come to her.

So we were not surprised when one day, she called us up and told us that a Pastor came with a little girl from a remote village in Burma. And although she wanted to take care of her, the orphanage had no room for another child.

We had been very selective in adopting children. Our experiences had taught us that we could not just take every child who comes to us. We had adopted children before whom we thought do not have parents or next of kin. Only to be  surprised that after a year,  people claiming to be their aunties came and took three of the children away from us. We felt cheated.

To make sure that we were not getting another child who might be claimed by a relative later, we asked Sayama to give us the child’s background story.

Her story goes like this. The little girl’s mother has died. The father has remarried and moved out of the village. The little girl was left behind to the care of the neighbors. Sayama said the neighbors took turn in providing food and shelter for the child. The girl even though she was only four years old was asked to do menial chores in the neighborhood. Her main responsibility, however,  was to go to the jungle every day to gather firewood. This was what she was doing when the Pastor saw her in the woods.
Narlin and I knew when a story was made up or true. This story at least for us, sounded true. But we did not want to appear very enthusiastic about all this. We set a date with Sayama to see the girl first and only then we would decide if we would “adopt” the little girl.

We met Sayama at the border and saw the girl. But lo and behold, there was not only one girl but two. Sayama had found a way to “trick” us to consequently take not only one but two girls. (The other girl was almost a year older.) She knew beforehand that we were hesitant to even take one but she put us into a position where it was impossible for us to say no to both. “They have the same story".” She quipped. It didn’t matter anymore to us that time. We cared for the children more than we believed her.

The girls were dirty but beautiful and relatively healthy. At first glanced, they looked strikingly similar but upon closer examination we saw their individuality. One has round dark brown eyes and hair while the other has jet black China eyes and hair. I guess because they had been together a long time, they now have each other’s look. It made sense to us then that they need not separate, we had to take them together.
Pia's bdayPia and Kristi with the other children during Pia’s birthday.
The girls had been with us for almost a year. We changed their names to Kristi and Pia. Kristi has a cute sense of humor, full of life and laughter. If you happened to be with her, she will just talk to you and tell her story. It does not matter if you understand her or not, she will surely make you laugh. Pia was very quiet when we first saw her. But that did not last long, because now she also learn play with the other children. She has already won a coloring contest in the school.
They are both doing well in the school. Every morning I drove them to school, I watched them go down from the truck and run to the school happy and laughing. We thank the Lord that we have the opportunity to take them under our care. By God’s grace, we already had saved these girls from child labor and perhaps we had saved them from child trafficking as well.
Please pray for Kristi and Pia. Together with the other children, they need your love, support and prayers.
This a repost from Missions Beyond Borders.