Tis the Season for Change

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. For many of us that means food, family and football. But for others of us it means the last day before the big Christmas season kicks off. I have always wondered why they call it black Friday. Yes it is the biggest shopping day of the year, so maybe for men it is also the darkest/saddest day of the year.
感恩节将至。对于很多人来说意味着食物,家庭和足球。 但是对于其他人来说是圣诞节前的最后一个节日。 我经常疑惑为什么人们称之为黑色星期五。 的确,它是一年中最大的血拼日。很多男士也称之为一年中最黑暗的日子。

But I want to challenge us all this year to make a change. I know it has almost become cliche, but I really feel like we have all lost touch with what the Christmas season is really supposed to be about. “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35). We have all heard the second half of that verse even if we have never opened our Bible, but rarely does the whole idea put forth in this verse make it into our Christmas festivities.
我建议你们挑战自我来次新的转变。我知道这很迂腐,但我还是感觉到我们都渐渐遗忘了圣诞节本应具备的意义。 我凡事给你们做榜样,叫你们知道应当这样劳苦,辅助软弱的人,又当纪念主耶稣的话:施比受更为有益。(使徒行传20:35)

Christmas is a time to remember the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate because the King has come into the world. And then we follow our King’s example. We serve. We give. We sacrifice. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45). My question to you is, are you really serving, giving or sacrificing?
圣诞节是记住我们的主,我们的救世主降生的日子。我们庆祝因为我们的君王已经来到这个世界。我们要跟随祂。我们付出,我们牺牲。“因为人子来,并不是要受人的服侍,乃是要服侍人,并且舍命,做多人的赎价”(马可福音10:45)

Here’s what I mean. Did you know that 1% of annual Christmas sales in the US could lead to more than 1 million rescue operations for those trapped in forced labor or the sex slave trade? (http://www.ijm.org/content/advent-conspiracy#). Just a puny 1%. That tells me we are spending a whole lot on things we don’t really need while neglecting some of the most glaring needs of this generation.
这是我们的理解。你知道每年1%圣诞节的销售业绩需要花费1百万美元支付那些大规模的劳动力。只是1%呀。 这告诉我们我们在一些不必要的事情上花费很多,却忽略了这一代最重要的东西。

We do give. Problem is we are busy giving to those who can and will give back to us. I buy a gift for you so that or because you bought a gift for me. We buy each other more stuff that we think we need today but will end up in the trash, the garage or that random junk drawer within five years. Worse yet, we teach the next generation that having more stuff or materialism is what is important. Christmas is not the time to teach materialism, it’s the time to teach the Gospel message through giving and service to those most in need.
我们也会付出。问题是我们忙于为那些会给予我们回报的人付出。我买礼物给你因为你曾经送给我。我们为彼此送我们需要的礼物,但是五年内我们会把它们遗弃。更糟糕的是,我们教我们的下一代得到更多的东西,唯物主义才是最重要的。圣诞节不是教孩子们物质的时候,而是通过付出,给予去传授福音。

So I am proposing something radical because that is exactly what kind of life Jesus calls us to lead. As you are making a Christmas list or sharing with your loved ones what you want, I want you to check out this website: https://secure3.convio.net/ijm/site/SPageNavigator/HGC_Home.html. This is a charity I give to and can say they are doing some great work in the world. They have numerous needs and opportunities for you to help.
所以我现在提出一些比较激进的想法因为那才是耶稣想让我们去实现的。当你在计划圣诞行程时候,我希望你能看看这个网页。 这是我奉献的慈善机构,我敢说他们真的为了这个世界做了很多 很好的事情。 他们有很多地方需要你帮助的。

What I am proposing is that you ask others to donate to a need instead of buying you a gift. Now I am not telling to to donate instead of buying gifts for others. You still need to buy your family and friends gifts as they have asked. But maybe instead of asking for an iPhone you could ask that someone receives emergency medical attention. Instead of a new bike, how about a bike for someone who desperately needs one in order to get to work or school. Instead of more PS3 or Xbox games, how about freedom for someone caught in slavery against their will.
我的建议是你可以请求别人捐赠而不是给你买礼物。我的意思不是说叫别人捐赠不叫别人买礼物。如果需要你同样需要为家人朋友买一些东西。但是你可以请求别人捐赠一些紧急的医疗用品而不是Iphone。 相对于一辆新的自行车,那些急需自行车去上班去上学的呢?相对于PS3等游戏机,想想那些为自由而奋斗的困在奴隶?

And this is just one great charity. There are numerous others that have needs that you could help with. I find it interesting that when the economy isn’t good, giving, especially charitable giving decreases. However, I don’t feel like Christmas spending has decreased much. Woe to us if we are a generation that continues to indulge in pleasures while millions are in desperate need. And that goes for me as well. If any of you are looking to get my anything for Christmas, you can find my list here.
这只是其中一个慈善机构。还有很多的机构很多的人需要我们去提供帮助。我发现有时候很有意思,当经济萧条的时候,奉献,特别是慈善奉献会减少。但是,我从来没感觉到圣诞节的支出费用会有多大的减少。 哎,我们还是处于一个沉湎于享乐而很多人却在受苦的年代。如果你们从我这里得到圣诞礼物,你可以看看我的单子。

So may we no longer celebrate Christmas by celebrating the false gods of materialism and pleasure. Rather, may we be willing to give without expecting in return. May we will be willing to sacrifice our comfort for another’s freedom. May we stop following culture’s command for more, and rather follow Jesus’ command to give. Let’s start a new tradition this Christmas season and write a Christmas list full of treasures in heaven on it, (Matthew 6:19-20).
所以我们应该不要继续敬拜物质与享乐的神了。 愿我们大家都能发自内心的不求回报的付出。愿我们都能真心的为了别人的自己牺牲自己的舒适。 愿我们都能停止跟随文化,而去跟随耶稣基督。让我们一起开心新的一切,开始新的圣诞传统,积累天上的财富。 (马太福音6:19-20)。

Compassion? But I’m Busy!

So the last two weeks have been pretty crazy. I have been teaching more recently, but have also been busier with ministry, planning for the summer, and making this website. This is all on top of the usual mundane activities like cleaning my apartment and such, (which probably explains why my apartment is such a mess…). All this to say, it feels like once I complete a task, there are ten more just waiting for me. Emails are the best example. The more I send out the more I get back! Just when it feels like I am somewhat caught up, more comes my way. (That doesn’t mean don’t send me emails, I LOVE to get emails from you all!).

That’s life. We are all busy. I don’t think any of us get to a point where we can say, “Finally, I got everything done that I needed to do.” But that’s not what I struggled with the last few weeks. I struggled with the fact that as busy and as bogged down with life as I was, there was a multitude of people that needed something from me.

Some needed advise and others just needed an ear to listen to them. Some just wanted to hang out with me or for help with something. Others needed to meet with me to organize ministry or business stuff. Regardless of what they wanted, they were asking for my time, a precious commodity to us all. And that’s where I had my problems. I was so busy, how could I possibly have time to help all these other people with their issues? I mean, I did care for them and ordinarily would jump at the chance to help, but it seems like that all changes when we are busy.

So I prayed, but not a prayer for guidance with how to handle it. It was more like, “God, why me??? I am so busy right now, can’t you send someone else to take care of these people? And hey, can’t you send some people to take care of me? Seems like everyone is asking for my help but not many are offering their help to me! What’s with that God?” Wow, how sinful I am!

So after getting over my little selfish pride issues I tried to think more about how Jesus would handle this. And I got my answer to that in Matthew 14:13-14. For these verses to really mean something though, you need to understand what’s going on. So in the beginning of chapter 14 we learn that Jesus’ relative John has been murdered. That’s why verse 13 says, “When Jesus heard this, (“this” being the death of his relative John), he withdrew from there…” Jesus had just lost someone dear to him, and wanted some time to be alone and mourn.

But then we see in verse 14 that he didn’t really get that chance. Now I am not saying that we shouldn’t mourn for our loved ones or that we can never have any time for ourselves, but I am saying that what Jesus does here is in stark contrast to how we usually live. And the key word here is compassion. Even though Jesus was sad and I imagine he was quite busy as well, he still had compassion for the people.

We can always find some excuse why we cannot help those in need around us. Maybe you are busy, but so was Jesus. Maybe you are upset, but so was Jesus. Maybe you don’t have the money, but Jesus was a homeless man! For all the excuses you and I can make Jesus shows us time and time again in the Gospels that we are to be compassionate people. There is only one excuse we can use that Jesus cannot. We are sinful and fallen, and HE is not. And that is the root issue. My lack of compassion is directly related to my concern for myself. Busyness is the microscope with which we can see the disease of our selfishness and sin.

So I want to challenge us all in two ways. First, I hope we can all find ways to be compassionate this week. Maybe it is to a friend who really needs to talk, or maybe it is with our family who wants to hear about our life. It could even be a beggar on the side of the road. Jesus took the time to intentionally have compassion on the people around him, and in doing so he left us the perfect example of how we should do the same. Don’t let your schedule dictate your love and compassion for others.

Secondly, I hope we can all be understanding when people don’t have compassion on us. We all get busy and we wish someone could help us but sometimes that doesn’t happen. We feel like others are always asking us for our help, but never offering theirs to us. When this happens, let us look to Jesus yet again, who continually put the needs of others before HIS own. There is no better example of this than on the cross. Jesus willingly put our need for forgiveness above his own life and for that we are forever grateful.

So may we all be compassionate this week. May we have compassion and love for those who need something from us, and may we also be compassionate when others do not provide for us the way we want them to. May we follow the example of Jesus Christ “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:6-11