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Streamline to Deepen

Streamline to Deepen

By Rev Wayne Cheung

Jun 26, 2022

In 2020 when Senior Pastor Rev. Arnold Chow set down the new Five-Year Plan for the NPAC family, one of the key objectives was “To streamline and regroup in order to strengthen.” In practice in the past few years, thanks be to God that He has led the church in obvious enhancement and streamlining. These enable the ministries to proceed in better collaboration with the actual pastoral situation of pastors and leaders.

One noteworthy point is that the nurturing ministries have come under one roof of the Equip Department. In the past, nurturing (courses for new believers, Christian Education, Discipleship and Leadership Training) was conducted in different ministries and departments. This is an inevitable and natural development in the history of the church given that appropriate nurturing is closely related to the believers’ needs at various stages of faith. Nevertheless, as the ministries develop, overlapping in structure occurs, nurturing initiatives are similar, and ministries vie for manpower resources. Therefore, there is a genuine need for nurturing ministries to be integrated and regrouped to reduce administrative hurdles, enhance the coordination of meetings and facilitate execution by pastors and leaders.

Having said that, streamlining in the re-organization of ministries does not mean starting everything anew. On the contrary, it means preserving good traditions and passing them on after thorough communication, deliberation and evaluation on effectiveness. On the other hand, we need to add innovative elements to aptly respond to the spiritual needs of contemporary believers and help them tackle the challenge of drastic changes. Over the past two years, the Equip Department has enhanced Discipleship materials, simplified and improved the enrolment and operation of Sunday School, and renewed the teaching materials for new believers and related packages to better meet the nurturing and pastoral needs of believers.

Meanwhile, streamlining of ministries needs to fit into the digital world to suit the social environment at large. Take the system for enrolment and the learning platform of the Equip Department of the NPAC family as an example. From the planning, implementation, testing and promotion of the platform last year to the availability of more and more online resources now, the underlying principle and main consideration for every phase is user-friendliness. Streamlined ministries will not only be beneficial for users. It will also give co-workers more room to juggle priorities, simplify procedures, and spare manpower resources for the effective deployment of administrative resources.

In the streamlining process, pastoral staff and department leaders concerned had more pragmatic communication. An estimate was made on needs based on which various Special Duty Units were formed. They were intended to facilitate exchange of ideas and development of ministry, facilitating the flexibility and effectiveness in its scope and depth.

It is well-said in the Bible that “If it is to lead, do it diligently” (Romans 12:8). With the end of all things drawing near, the Christian community should all the more be alert and of sober mind and “use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:7-10). The above is the shared hope of the NPAC family. May the church in the new horizons in which it finds itself enhance its administrative practices, revitalize ministry effectiveness and reach for a greater depth of pastoring needs.

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From Deviation to Lostness

From Deviation to Lostness

By Rev. Arnold Chow

Jun 19, 2022

Samson is the most famous Nazirite in the Bible. Judges 13 recounts how Samson’s parents encountered and experienced God and bore this child. Yet, they harbored some of the world’s deviations from the path of God. The result was that Samson, despite his mighty strength that could take on a thousand enemies, lived a life of lostness and failure.

Lost Identity: Ever since birth, Samson had been designated as a Nazirite. His mother had observed the rules for Nazirites since pregnancy. The angel of the LORD said to her: “Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean” (v.4). Now, the rule of not eating anything unclean is not exclusive to the Nazirites. It was an explicit command in the Torah for all people of God. Samson’s parents were unsure about the laws of God. It appeared that after the death of Joshua, generations of Israelites had increasingly been assimilated by the Canaan culture. They lost their identity of being set apart as holy. Today, do we insist on being set apart as holy?

Lost Family: The typical process for infertile couples to get a child in the Old Testament is like this: The husband takes the initiative to ask God for a child → The angel of the LORD conveys a message or God answers the prayer → The wife becomes pregnant and a child is born. Not so with Samson’s father Manoah. The angel of the LORD appeared twice to his wife. Manoah’s rash, foolish exchanges showed that he had no spiritual discerning ability and just “got up and followed his wife” (v.11).

Manoah should have been the spiritual head of his household but he did not fulfil his role. All his life, Samson was ungodly, he touched the red line and trespassed. He could not observe the three rules for Nazirites and even married Canaanite women. He followed different women all his life. Originally the spiritual head of the Israelites, Samson had not aptly fulfilled the duties of a judge. Who did he learn from?

Lost Faith: The Manoah family was a product of the loss of faith on the part of the Israelites. Manoah’s exchanges with the angel of the LORD time and again revealed that he was spiritually blind. He could not tell that the angel was from the LORD (v.16). When he found that the angel was related to God, he tried to use the Canaanite way of name enquiry to control the angel, pleasing the angel to his own advantage (v.17).

Scholars in recent years point out that it was highly probable that the name Samson was connected with šemeš, a sun god popularly worshipped at the time. It therefore appears that this family, which on the surface was the people of God, did not really know Him. The Manoah family was far from being godly. This couple saw the angel of the LORD appearing, experienced the miracle of a bestowed child, but saw no change of life. This is what God’s people who have lost their faith look like.

Brothers in Christ who are husbands or fathers, let this be our mutual exhortation: Do not allow deviations from the world which can so easily creep into our lives to make us gradually and habitually mistake the wrong for the right. Let us intentionally strive to be the spiritual head of the household. Let us re-cultivate the lost spiritual atmosphere in the family. And let our next generation live according to the will and calling of God so they will lead a victorious life.

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Anybody Willing to be a Nazirite Today?

Anybody Willing to be a Nazirite Today?

By Rev. Gordon Siu

Jun 12, 2022

In Numbers 6 in the Old Testament, God told Moses specifically that if anybody wants to be a Nazirite, he is required to observe three restrictions: first, during his period of dedication to God, he must refrain from shaving his head. He can only do so when his Nazirite vow is over.  He has to put the hair cut from his head in the fire under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering to God. Secondly, during the period of the vow, he must avoid contact with the dead, otherwise he will defile himself. Thirdly, he needs to abstain from wine and other fermented drink.

In the history of God’s grace of salvation, the Nazirite is a symbol of holy life. “Nazirite” means to be consecrated, dedicating oneself to God. Both men and women can take a Nazirite vow, but the act must be voluntary. He or she will be consecrated and dedicated to God for His use only. (In other words, an important meaning of “holiness” is to separate someone out for the Lord and for His use, not any others.) The Nazirite cannot cut his hair for his hair is a symbol of consecration to the Lord. So it will not be cut out for other purposes. When the days of the vow are over, he can cut his hair. But what is cut out must be offered to God in sacrificial rituals. What belongs to God can only be offered to Him.

Secondly, the Nazirite must not come in contact with a corpse. It is because death and decay come from sin. But holiness belongs to the everlasting God, who will not in any way be linked to, or come in contact with, evil or unrighteousness. The dead here symbolizes all things that are unclean. “Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’ And, ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

Thirdly, the Nazirite must abstain from wine and fermented drinks since a holy life will only obey God, with God alone being his joy. He does not need wine, which symbolizes all kinds of artificial ways, to “boost” personal strength. Neither will he be bound by any person or anything other than God that will likely steer him out of control. “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:17-18)

God calls all those who have experienced His salvation to no longer be enslaved to sin. They are to consecrate themselves to Him, to offer their bodies to Him as vessels of righteousness, to be used by Him so that their lives can completely belong to Him. Today, is anybody willing to take this calling seriously, to offer himself to God and make it his utmost desire to belong to Him completely – to be a New Testament Nazirite?

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The Spirit’s Mighty Power Can Break Barriers

The Spirit’s Mighty Power Can Break Barriers

By Rev Kenneth Chong
Jun 5, 2022

The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts saw the Spirit working wonders for the first time among large numbers of believers. God’s ministry on earth has turned a new page.

The Prophet Joel prophesied that in the day of the Lord, God will pour out His Spirit on all people, meaning that God will not only pour out His Spirit on Israelites, His chosen people, but also on His children across the world. The last days began at the moment when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. More wonders and miracles mentioned by the Prophet Joel are expected towards the end of the last days until the Lord Jesus Christ returns to earth in glory.

Use of the Spirit’s great power is to bear testimony to gospel work. On the Day of Pentecost, the most stunning thing was that people from every nation who were in Jerusalem for the festival heard their own language spoken by the disciples declaring the wonders of God, which was the gospel accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The occasion was overwhelming for them! Nothing like that has ever happened since the creation of the world. Everybody was amazed at the wondrous works of God.

The significance of the Spirit’s work at that time lies in breaking the barriers imposed by different languages. After the Flood, people built the Tower of Babel to make a name for themselves. God therefore confused their tongues. Since then, people were separated by language barriers, and different peoples also developed different cultures in the world. Conflicts and strife often arise among nations and peoples due to cultural differences.

The work of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost foretold God’s removal of barriers among nations and peoples. God wanted the gospel explained in local languages of all peoples so that peoples of all nations can know the gospel, that no one would be denied access to the gospel. We need to remember that those who worship the true God as described in Revelation are from every nation, tribe, people and language. Language is no longer a hindrance. By then, no barriers will exist for chosen people from different nations who worship God. This is a perfect vision revealed to us in Revelation.

Since the Holy Spirit has broken through interpersonal barriers, we need to take action now. We need to follow the guidance and prompting of the Spirit to bring the love of God to communities originally unrelated to us, races we tend to neglect, even those we dislike. Although we are separated from those communities by historical, language and cultural factors, the Spirit will give us strength so we can take the initiative to care for and serve them. The initiative may not come naturally from us but we will be guided by God’s will.

Break down the barrier. Let us start from bowing to the great power of the Holy Spirit.

 

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“I Only Wish My Family Well” – 618 Evangelistic Meeting for Seniors

“I Only Wish My Family Well” – 618 Evangelistic Meeting for Seniors

By Rev Kenneth Yum
May 29, 2022

Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

This is a Scripture passage I often use for funeral services. I can see that for Christian members of the family involved, however saddened they may be and miss their beloved, being able to “meet again in the heavenly home” offers them great comfort and hope. I always tell the members of our senior fellowships that believers have three homes or families: our family of origin, our church and our heavenly home.

“Family” forms the core of our living, a most important part of our lives. Most people do their best to maintain and preserve their family, trying to make sure that everyone at home is well. At funeral services, family members often share on the lives of their departed parents. Most children recount how their parents worked selflessly to the last atom of their strength for their “home.” Some brothers and sisters shared that the father worked seven to seven but still failed to feed the family. The mother took up outsourced jobs from factories to do at home while looking after the family. I was immensely moved by the accounts. It is true that many parents have no other wishes but for “the family to be well.” As for children who are believers, they find that the best way to give back to their parents is to lead them to the Lord so they can share in the everlasting blessings.

Thanks be to God that in the past, I have seen how our brothers and sisters work hard to lead their parents to the Lord. Many children, daughters-in-law and sons-in-law not only take their parents to the church but also accompany them to attend classes for seekers, new believers, baptismal candidates, etc. that nurture their faith. Every quarter, I see tens of seniors getting baptized. The counselors and I witness the life renewal of each senior. One counselor said that when a senior first takes a gospel class, he or she often looks unhappy, passive, solemn and reserved. But once they give their lives to Christ, they become very different. It is just like the worship song that goes “Grief turns into joy. Sad faces brighten up.”

Of course, seniors in the family may not immediately respond to the invitations to go to church or join faith courses. Some will take prolonged and incessant prayers, thoughtful ways and many invitations before they respond. Seniors are often moved by the testimony and zeal of brothers and sisters before they are finally willing to go to church. Some seniors even never go to church but when seriously sick, they believe in the Lord Jesus based on the foundation from hearing or knowing about the gospel before. They receive special baptism and peacefully go to the heavenly home.

“I Only Wish My Family Well” is the theme of the Evangelistic Meeting for Seniors on Jun 18 (Sat). If you have unbelieving seniors at home, I encourage you to invite them, or invite them again, so they too can receive the best blessings ever. You need to pray for them and also tell the pastoral staff of the Elderly Ministry so we can ask other seniors to pray for the beloved seniors in your families.

 

More info about the Evangelistic Meeting for seniors:

www.npac.org.hk/peacewithus.html

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Cold Water and Hot Water

Cold Water and Hot Water

By Rev Arnold Chow
May 22, 2022

A pretty well-known Japanese resident in Hong Kong has made a video in Cantonese introducing a few things about Hong Kong-style restaurants that surprise her. These include “the restaurants serve lukewarm water” and “extra cost is charged on cold drinks.” All these look so ordinary to us but where the lady came from, restaurants provide boiled water with ice. If lukewarm water is served, customers will think that it is not fresh.

In Revelation, the Lord Jesus says the church in Laodicea is neither hot nor cold – it is lukewarm, and so the Lord is about to spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). According to contemporary exegetists, the Lord is not reprimanding believers who have lost zeal in their pursuit of spiritual growth, nor does it mean that church life is too quiet or that ministries lack enthusiasm. It is not so.

Note what the Lord also says: “… neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” (3:15) In other words, “either cold or hot is good!” But this church is neither hot nor cold but lukewarm, which is difficult to swallow. It is like coke that is no longer sparkling and ice-cold, or lemon coke that is not boiling hot. You probably would not want to drink it, would you?

The Lord illustrates His teaching with everyday examples from the local area – cold water, warm water, hot water. The water supply at Laodicea was unstable and so two elevated Roman-style aqueducts were built to bring in water from two sources. The first was the hot spring district of Hierapolis in the northern mountains. The spring water there is said to be curative and anesthetic. The second water source is in the south-east snow mountain near Colossae. The water there is ice-cold and pure. When I was young, the advertisement of a certain brand of distilled water made me think that its taste was what pure water is supposed to be like. It was not until one day when I traveled to a glacier and took a sip of the water from the melted ice there that I truly tasted the sweetness and refreshing taste of “pure” water.

The town of Laodicea is unique in having these two water sources. Unfortunately, the water is faraway and so the good water lost the quality its name denotes. On one hand, the boiling hot spring water with curative function had a lot of its minerals precipitated in the first part of the conduit. What flowed into the town was lukewarm water without much use. Likewise, the pure water from the snow mountain flows through uncovered conduit where leaves and dust on the two sides were blown into the water. In addition to that, the sun warms up the water along the way and so the water was no longer cold. Thus, the hot spring water Laodicea got was not hot enough and its snow mountain water was not cold enough. This may not be evident on the surface. But once you drink it, you will know it cannot fulfil its function.

This is the Lord’s warning to the church at Laodicea: They should not be believers on the surface but hollow inside. They should not be Christians who copy something from here and there but who lack godly qualities within. Let us all reflect upon ourselves: What sort of person do I appear to be in church? And what am I like in relating to others in daily life and when I am alone?

The Lord goes on to say: “I know your deeds” (3:15, NIV). This is translated “I know you inside and out” in the Bible version called The Message. The Lord knows what you and I are truly like inside out. May we all be awaken and be either cold water or hot water. In any case, we should never be a cup of lukewarm water that has lost its spiritual qualities.

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Pastor’s Sharing 20220515

Making Decisions

By Rev Jenny Ching
May 15, 2022

I remember that in the early years of my conversion, a spiritual mentor reminded me that I should not make decisions in a state of confusion. At times, this is still my weakness because I thought hasty decisions and responses could bring instant relief to my troubles and burdens. Now I am much grateful that I found echoes to that reminder from my spiritual theology lecturer Sandy Lai during my subsequent studies. The lecturer advised that no decisions be made and no plans changed in times of spiritual decay (Desolation). Rather, we should stick to pre-Desolation resolutions and decisions and cherish those made immediately after the last divine condolence (Consolation). “Desolation” and “Consolation” means:

Consolation: This is spiritual condolence that moves us nearer to the Heavenly Father. One of the signs is that we will deeply experience the presence of God and the Lord’s love for us. The result is that our faith, hope, joy and courage will increase. We will be prepared to take risks to meet a challenge or generously and graciously give. We will be happy to wait and have patience, like a flower in full bloom. We will be able to care about the people and matters around us.

Desolation: This is spiritual decay that moves us away from the Heavenly Father. The result is that our faith, love and hope deteriorate. We may look organized on the outside but within, we are heavy-hearted, anxious, confused and uneasy. We judge others self-righteously, but we are really like a withering flower.

If you are in Desolation, do not worry. That is in fact an invitation for renewal from the Heavenly Father. The Father’s love will shine on us so that we see the discrepancy between our will and His. We will quickly draw near to Him to pray and pray, cherishing our hope. When that happens, Consolation will soon take place. Therefore, before we make any decisions, we need to first identify which state we are in, and by that help ourselves “test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

Earlier, I ran into something really difficult. The people and what happened at that time really got me going. But thank the Lord for helping me to realize (be aware) that I was in a state of emotional instability. In the light of the Lord, I saw (understand) that I was in the midst of Desolation. I knew it was no time to make decisions or responses. Later, I took reference to the book, Interpersonal Conflict & Spiritual Formation, by Hau-Chee Chan. I prayed and prayed: “Cleanse me with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus, cover me with the grace of the Heavenly Father and strengthen me by the power of the Holy Spirit.” After the prayer, the Lord revealed to me the sort of response that would be more appropriate to the people involved. My heart gradually calmed down. The Lord helped me enter Consolation and choose words that were more appropriate in responding to those concerned (Action).

May the Lord help us identify our state before we make any decisions. If in Consolation, we can make decisions boldly with total dependence on the Lord. If in Desolation, let us not make any decisions, but pray and pray until we are back to Consolation. Then we can make decisions, depending fully on the Lord.

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Pastor’s Sharing 20220508

Can One Family Truly Be “Separated and Together”?

By Rev Patrick Wong May 08, 2022

When I think of the union and separation of families, several scenes immediately come to mind: at different corners of the departure hall, those departing and family and friends who see them off hug and bid farewell to each other in tears (including grandparents and grandchildren weeping together); fathers hugging and sending their wives and children off tearfully to leave themselves and their homeland for neighboring countries to flee the war; during the peak of the pandemic, infected seniors in nursing homes are sent to hospitals with families unable to visit them nor even see them for one last time when they unfortunately pass away. The joys and sorrows of separation in life and in death is the reality that every family has to face.

Yet, after separating with family members, when will there be reunion? I can think of two “separated and reunited families” in the Bible.

(1) Jacob had lived with his parents and elder twin brother Esau since birth. But at the suggestion of his mother, he deceived his father and secured the blessing that was intended for his elder brother. To preserve his life, Jacob fled home to live in a foreign land. Twenty years later, he brought all he gained in the foreign land back home to reconcile with his elder brother who was then a nation and was able to bury his aged father. Just when he thought he could spend his last years joyfully at his home, his beloved son Joseph did not return after leaving home to visit his brothers (he was sold by his brothers). Jacob thought he would never see Joseph again. But God was gracious to Jacob’s family and led Joseph who was sold to become governor of the foreign land. When his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain during the famine, there was joyful reunion of father and son after 22 years of separation (Genesis 25-47).

(2) At the age of 12, Jesus followed His parents to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. When the festival was over, He did not follow His parents home. Three days later, His parents found Him at the temple and expressed how anxious they were at the separation. On one hand, Jesus responded with a question: “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” On the other, “he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:49, 51). It was 18 years later that Jesus left home to fulfil the gospel mission from the Father. At His crucifixion, He first entrusted His mother with His disciple before committing His spirit into the hands of the Father and returning to “the Father’s house.”

The two separations Jacob’s house experienced originated from deficiencies on the part of the family. They were inappropriate. But God turned the separation caused by man into reunion and put what was broken back together. As a teenager, Jesus knew that His real home was the temple, “the Father’s house.” It was appropriate to stay there. Nevertheless, He attached equal importance to His family on earth and was therefore willing to return with His parents to Nazareth where He grew up, to spend 30 years with them. That was also appropriate. Finally, when the time came, Jesus separated with them and returned to the heavenly home to be with the Father. Not only Jesus, but family members who have died (fallen asleep) in Him can also reunite when the Lord comes again (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Whether together or separated, dead or alive, a family in Christ will always be one family.

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Pastor’s Sharing 20220501

70+

By Rev James Hon May 1, 2022

Our NPAC Story: I came to NPAC 38 years ago. Since then, everything from my seeking the truth, coming to Christ, being baptized, getting married, studying theology, serving in full-time ministry to becoming ordained took place here. Have I ever thought of leaving during these 38 years? Of course I did. Why? Having been here for too long, I thought I had better explore outside. This church is too big, and at times interpersonal relationships get tricky. Somehow I think other churches might be better…. At the end of the day, why haven’t I left? It is because I do not want to give up the many precious relationships. My responsibilities have not been fulfilled. I have also received too much grace here. I started to realize there is no perfect church on earth…. Now, what is your NPAC story?

NPAC is 70: NPAC turns 70 this year. This church has witnessed major social events such as the post-war refugee influx, the 1967 riots, the economic boom, the first exodus of migrants sparked off by the 1997 issue, the handover of sovereignty in 1997, two financial tsunamis, two social movements, the COVID pandemic, and the second exodus. Every time, the church learns how to cope and how to respond to the social environment with the gospel. Look at the complexity of each incident and we will know it is not easy at all. But the church has always stood firm on the truth with no compromise or backing down. If not for the grace of God, how could the church have come through by limited human wisdom and ability?

70th Anniversary: In this special year, surely we should respond to God’s amazing grace with gratitude. But with the community still deep in trouble, it would be out of tune with our society if we have feasts and grand celebrations. Rather, let us all do one “extra” thing for God this year as an offering of thanksgiving. You can choose to share the gospel with someone, care for, help or serve someone in need. Or you can use your gift to do some creative work to share with others and glorify God. You can do it by yourself, or you can do it together with brothers and sisters…  (After your offering, you are encouraged to write down your experience, feelings and what you have learnt and email it to NPAC70@npac.org.hk.)

Also, we hope to have a photo exhibition. Please furnish some valuable images of NPAC life. Hard copies or digital photos will both work. We will let brothers and sisters savor again the grace and love at NPAC through these photos.

Of course, we will also have our 70th anniversary joint worship service, thanksgiving and revival meetings.

We have already created a theme song “70+” for the anniversary. Many coworkers are moved after listening to it. Preparations for production are underway and it is hoped that we can share “70+” with you in mid-June. Besides, a logo for the 70th anniversary has already been designed and will be available soon. The pandemic has taken its toll on celebration work but God has summoned a group of brothers and sisters who serve quietly. Progress of the work has been made and we are very grateful for their hard work. The pandemic has made us treasure all the more every episode we live at the NPAC family. We very much look forward to offering heartfelt thanks for God’s grace over the past 70 years with all of you.