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by Rev. James Wong
Jesus attracted large crowds wherever he went (Matthew 4:25) and at one time the crowds almost crushed him (Luke 8:42). Jesus used two fish and five loaves to feed the 5,000, not counting the women and children, (Matthew 14:20-21). What attracted so many people to Jesus? Here are the reasons.
1. Jesus attracted the crowds by loving unbelievers. Jesus spent more time with sinners than with the religious people of his day. He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17). He went to the sinners’ parties, he mixed around with sinners so much so he got a bad name for himself. He was called “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). He loved unbelievers and even children were attracted to him. That speaks volumes about what kind of person Jesus was.
Love draws people in like a powerful magnet. Our love must be focused toward our new friends or visitors, not just toward each other. Great churches are built on love; love for God, love for each other and love for outsiders. If we don’t love people nothing else matters. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” 1 John 4:8 (NIV).
Showing love by making people feel accepted. The way Jesus connect with people contravene the culture of his days. A Jew would not talk to a Samaritan woman in public but Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, a loose woman who had affairs with 6 men (John 4). Jesus went to stay with Mr. Zacchaeus the chief tax collector, head of corruption, (Luke 19). To make people feel accepted, we can welcome them warmly with a smile and handshake. We should not prejudge people, criticize them or make negative comments about them. Learning to be warm and nice to people when they show up makes people feel welcome.
2. Jesus attracted the crowds by meeting people’s need. People crowded around Jesus because he met their needs—physical, emotional, spiritual and relational. The church is not just about spiritual needs. In fact James said, a lot of spiritual language amounted to uselessness. “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” James 2:15-16 (NIV).
Understand universal needs. The universal needs of people are need for love, acceptance, forgiveness, meaning, purpose of living, freedom from fear, worry, discouragement, conflicts in relationship, loneliness and etc. Everyone of us can meet some of these needs by just being a loving and caring friend especially to new comers to church. “A friend is loving at all times, and becomes a brother in times of trouble” Proverbs 17:17 (BBE). Let’s make someone feel loved today.
A young Japanese man committed suicide because he was not able to get into university.
2. The love of Jesus is an unconditional love.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:6-8
3. Jesus heard the cry of the blind man. (Luke 18: 40)
II. Jesus Is Merciful To Everybody
1. The problems and difficulties of man.
2. Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18: 41)
3. We need the mercy of Jesus.
III. Jesus Changes Our Lives
1. Jesus wants us to be a new creation.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
2. The blind man who believed in Jesus. (Luke 18: 43)
3. You belief has saved you. (Luke 18: 42)
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ~ John 8:12
by Rev. James Wong
Valentine’s Day on the 14 Feb of each year is becoming more and more popular in Malaysia. It is a day where lovers express their love for each other. Some misconstrued that this is a day for sexual promiscuity. Thus, Kelantan turned Valentine’s Day to Couple’s Day.
The Bible says love is the greatest of all. I believe Valentine’s Day is a good day to show our love to our loved one in a tangible way.
We understand love as a feeling or affection for someone. It is known as the “X’ factor in a relationship where a couple is attracted to each other. However, every relationship will progress beyond this initial “X” factor and many other factors must be available to sustain the relationship. This is the reason why the greatest love song in the Bible gives us 16 definitions of what true love is (See 1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
by Rev. James Wong
Many Christians have the notion that if they have love, their relationship will be fun, meaningful and full of excitement. Not so. It takes more than love to keep a relationship glowing through the years. The following can spice up any relationship.
Respect. “… you husbands must live with your wives with the proper understanding that they are the weaker sex. Treat them with respect, …” (1 Peter 3:7 TEV). “Wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33 NIV). We show respect by the way we treat each other and talk to each other. Listening to what the other person has to say without interruption. Preserve the other person’s dignity, be considerate, be polite and mind our manners are practical ways to show respect.
Compromise. The Bible teaches the principle of ‘one flesh’ between a couple (Matthew 19:4-6). The ability to achieve closeness by blending two lives together is possible through compromise. It is not a compromise in silence or resignation to avoid arguments as this will not promote intimacy but push each other further away emotionally. To compromise is to acknowledge and accept each other’s differences. “If she is an apple and you are an orange, celebrate your differences. Love isn’t about being the same. It’s about being sweet with each other.”
Caring. Take care of each other’s feelings and needs. The feeling of love and being loved, is the spark that keeps a relationship glowing. ‘I love you but I am no more in love with you’ is a catch phrase that describes a relationship that is devoid of intimacy. In a love relationship, the goal is to fulfill each other’s needs. Show restrain and never say or do anything that will hurt each other’s feelings. We can show we care by giving sincere compliments, giving a helping hand and being gentle to each other. “Love never fails.”
Reaching Out Through Friendship
“Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” ~Matthew 4:25 (NIV)
1. Jesus Attracted Crowds by Loving Unbelievers
It is love, not theology, church building or activities that draws people to the church. Our love must be focused toward newcomers, not just toward each other. Love draws people in like a powerful magnet. If we don’t love people nothing else matters.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." ' ~Luke 7:34 (NIV)
Members Can Help To Create An Atmosphere of Acceptance
Visitors will ask: “Do I feel welcome here?” To grow our church we must be nice to people when they show up. If the church members are unfriendly to visitors, they will not return. Greet people before and after service. Be approachable.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. ~1 Cor 13:1-2 (NIV)
· Jesus showed acceptance to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4)
· Jesus stayed in the house of Zacchaeus, the head of corruption (Luke 19)
· Jesus saved the woman caught in adultery (John 8)
2. Jesus Attracted Crowds by Meeting People’s Needs
People crowded around Jesus because he met their needs—physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational. Universal needs: the need for love, acceptance, forgiveness, meaning, purpose for living, freedom from fear, worry, resentment, discouragement and loneliness.
15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. ~James 2:15-17 (NIV)
by Rev. James Wong
The command of God ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ first appears in Leviticus 19:18. Paul says the whole law can be summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14 (NLT). And James calls this the Royal Law (See James 2:8). Jesus says the whole teaching of the law is this; loving God wholeheartedly and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (see Matthew 22:37-40).
Let us take a closer look at this, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ You have to love yourself first before you can love anyone else. If you do not love yourself, it is impossible to love others. You cannot give away love if you do not have love in the first place because you cannot give away what you don’t have. To love others, you must learn to love yourself first. This is not about selfish thinking. It is about being aware of the emotion that drives your pattern of thinking and your relational habits.
When you don’t love yourself. Whether you love yourself or not will soon surface in the ways you relate to others. If you feel inadequate you will get critical about others. If you don’t like yourself you will find things wrong with others. If you feel that you are a failure, you will tend to think that others look down on you. If you have a low self-esteem you will want to act superior to disguise your inferior feelings by controlling others. So, generally, if you feel bad about yourself, all your loved ones and your friends will suffer. To get out from this emotional trap, it is important to learn to ‘love yourself.’ Here are two important truths from the Bible.
Don’t compare with others. There will always be people who are more talented, smarter, richer, wittier or more popular than you are. There is no need to compare with them. God created each one of us in his image (Gen 1:26-27). It is not just about the good look. Each of us is endowed by God with something good and unique that resemble his image. “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus...” Ephesians 2:10a (NLT). You are a unique individual and you do not have to be a carbon copy of any body. If you want to compare with others, let them be your inspiration.
Self acceptance. Loving yourself is a matter of self acceptance, of accepting your strengths and shortcomings. When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you feel good about yourself? Can you fully accept who you are? God loves us and have forgiven the dark side of our lives. He has called us to be his children (See John 1:12). The more you know how much God loves you, the more you will learn to love yourself. The more you can love yourself, the more you can love others. You have to choose to be your own best friend.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. ~Romans 8: 22-27
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. ~Romans 8: 16-17
25 All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. ~John 14: 25-26
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. ~Galatians 5: 16-18
by Rev. James Wong
Two weeks ago I ended my sharing by saying that as a church member we can all be proactive and spend some time connecting with the not so familiar friends or new friends who are with us on Sunday. Since they are here let us make them feel very welcome. Put on a smile and extend your hands of friendship. Everyone loves a friendly church.
I wish to reiterate that according to a US survey of 15,000 people done by Pete Gilbert 80% of Christians come to know Christ through friendship. The reason is very simple. A friend listens to a friend. A friend will trust a friend.
Was Jesus a good friend? Jesus was known as “a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!” (Matthew 11:19). When he made a decision to stay in the house of Zacchaeus, all the people who saw the incident commented that ‘he has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner’” (Lk 19:15). What can we learn from these verses?
1. Mix with people. To be a friend we need to make ourselves available as a friend to others. The tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were people rejected and shunned by the general public. A tax collector was not allowed to be a witness in the court. Sinners refers to people who were thieves, robbers, extortionists, selling sex for money, corrupt officials, non-religious, conmen and etc. Jesus was known as their friends because he mixed around with them. Society avoided these types of people but Jesus made himself their friends. Don’t prejudge people but think well of others.
2. Christians without friends. The common problem of many church people today is that when they become Christians they have very few non-Christian friends. They only spend time with their church friends to the exclusion of other non-Christian friends. To live like Jesus did is to be connected to our friends outside the church. They are the ones that God loves and cares for and God uses you and me to reach them with His love. Usually it is because we are not willing to move out of our comfort zone or our couldn’t care less attitude that we have very few friends outside the church.
3. Who to mix with? Connect with our acquaintances outside the church, yes, those outside the church circle. They could be our relatives, neighbors, business associates, colleagues, customers, suppliers, subordinates, schoolmates, people in need of help, those who are going through suffering, the lonely, the poor, the under privilege and etc. The purpose is to share the love of Christ in a concrete way by being more caring, kind and loving towards them. In management, it is important to think outside the box. In the church, we need to think beyond the four walls of the church. In our personal life, we need to think beyond our circle of friends. Be a true friend to those outside the circle of the ‘holy’ like Jesus did. Be a friend of others.
1) People are looking for friends.
2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. ~Luke 19: 2-4
2) Let’s make intentional efforts to reach out and be a friend to others.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today. 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. ~Luke 19: 5-6
9 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 what was lost. ~Luke 19: 9-10