The human heart weighs less than a pound and beats about 100,000 times a day, pumping through our system of blood vessels almost 100,000 kilometres long. When the heart stops functioning, the human body would quickly cease to function. Taking great care of our health that could affect our heart is important as heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the world.
Metaphorically speaking, when someone comments that you have ‘no heart,’ it simply means you are not interested. But God has a great concern about our heart. The heart is most commonly used by God to express what it is in man that God is interested in.
So what really is the heart apart from its physical function? The heart is the seat of our emotions, thoughts and intents. God explains it clearly to Prophet Samuel that “the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b).
The Old Testament laws covered every aspect of life – cleanliness, health and hygiene. These rules and regulations were all concerned with holiness, and their motivation was supposed to stem from a desire to please and emulate God (Leviticus 11:44). In other words, the outward rituals were supposed to reflect the inner attitudes of the heart.
At the time of Jesus, many of the teachers were putting the emphasis in the wrong place. They thought that holiness could be attained simply by obeying a whole lot of rules that concerned outward behaviour and actions, rather than heartfelt obedience.
So when Jesus was asked by a Pharisee, an expert of the law, which of all the commandments is the most important, his reply was in a way pointing out that the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart, and said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
What then is the condition of your heart? Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” In other words, the heart is where the issues of life are and the Bible sets high importance on keeping our hearts pure: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Having a pure heart towards God is single-mindedness devotion to Him, whereas having ‘three hearts with two intents’ – as the Chinese idiom says ‘三心两意’ – literally means light-mindedness or being frivolous in our dedication towards God.
We need to be reminded that God is concerned about our hearts and it is the attitude of the heart that matters to God. We need also to heed the words of the Psalmist to seek God to “create in us a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within us” (Psalm 51:10).
So what is the heart of the message? The heart of the message is the matter of our heart.
1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (NIV), “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible…”
The primary theme of the Apostle Paul’s statement is “to win as many as possible.” Notice the last 4 words of this phrase. The first letter of each word together forms the acronym “A MAP.” Paul is giving the church a map – that is “to win as many as possible” to Christ.
The Apostle Paul lived out this attitude by identifying 3 different strategies to reach out to 3 different groups of people (viz. the Jews, the Gentiles and the Weak). What is the lesson or principle we can learn from here? The principle is this: “A MAP” demands flexibility, adjustment, and change in order to reach out to different people effectively. While the substance of the Gospel must remain the same, the form (without compromising God’s Word) will inevitably change in order to communicate more effectively to the target group.
“A MAP” attitude also reminds us not to be complacent with our status quo, not to be lazy and do as minimum as possible. God forbid. God wants us to do our level best to improve on our ministries, not necessarily to increase our workload. When we do our best, He will take care of the rest. Let us evaluate and see how we can improve and enhance the ministries under our care. Let’s get to work and pull our resources together. Let’s banish away NATO (No Action, Talk Only) meetings and by God’s grace, adopt “A MAP” (improve as many as possible, or as much as possible) attitude.
Prayer: “Dear Father God, please forgive us if we have an attitude of complacency or laziness. Help us to give of our best to You and we know that You will take care of the rest and bless us, in Jesus name.”
Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I was a member of a small group who called ourselves the “Care Corner.” (Now “Care Corner” has become a registered charity organization in Singapore.) We were just a bunch of young working adults who were committed to love and care for one another. In other words, we ‘minded one another’s business.’
Whenever we gathered together, we would always include in our agenda a time of Worship (praise and adoration of God); of Warmth (sharing and praying for one another); of Word (in-depth study of the Bible) and of Work or Witness (sharing the vision to reach out to those in need of Christ). We shared our vision regularly because the Lord had impressed upon our hearts the need to reach out. As someone put it, “If we don’t evangelize, we will fossilize.”
We took God and His Word seriously. Soon the Lord opened our eyes and made us aware of ministry opportunities in two areas in Singapore—the Telok Blangah estate and our individual place of work (i.e. our colleagues). We started praying regularly for Telok Blangah estate residents and our colleagues by name.
We started the “Friendship Groups” whereby we invited residents from Telok Blangah estate and our colleagues to sign up and participate in our “Friendship Group” activities which was held once a week. Many came with a sincere desire to learn how to play the guitar and to make friends. So that was what we did—we befriended our friends and made them feel welcome, special, and by taking a personal interest in their lives.
To make the long story short, after a year or two, by God’s grace and mercy, many of our non-Christian friends came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. Many of them testified that there was “something special,” “something meaningful” in the community of “Care Corner” that caused them to hunger for, to yearn for and eventually to consider Christ. That “something” was love, acceptance, peace, joy, unity, a meaningful life and a sense of purpose!
“Community Friendship” is a very powerful strategy of outreach. “Community Friendship” can wield a powerful impact on our non-Christian friends’ lives. Many people out there in the world are yearning in silence, for the kind of community life we experience in Christ. Why not give them a chance to come and experience it? I do want to encourage all the Care Groups to include “Community Friendship” Outreach as one of your visions and share it as you meet together each time. God bless!
This PEW is a follow-up of my last PEW on the “Ministry of the Ordinary.” In my life, coffee holds a special place. I must have coffee everyday, caffeinated, steaming hot or iced, instant or brewed, it doesn’t matter, as long as it is coffee. It will sort of “jump start” my day. I think I am suffering from a spirit of “pro-caffeination” i.e. the tendency to not start anything until I’ve had a cup of coffee. And I could drink up to an average of about three or four cups a day. :)
I know… I know… I know it’s not good for my physical heart, but somehow it works wonders on my spirit. When I have a cup of warm coffee in my hand, it releases something inside of me and it makes connections with friends faster. I do not know why, and it is difficult to describe it.
Coffee has provided me with a meeting ground for many years. In Singapore, whenever I wish to meet up with someone for fellowship or otherwise, I would call up that person and ask, “Would you like to ‘lim kopi’ (Hokkien for ‘drink coffee’)?” It seems to work all the time. It works not only for one-on-one encounters but it also works for a gathering of a small group of friends, just coming together for a cuppa and catch up.
I think none of us can deny that asking people to “meet for a cuppa” has paved the way for new acquaintances, deepening friendships, healing hurts, reconciling differences, and even for subtle rebukes. By the simple invitation of sitting down in a comfortable place, with good ambience and sharing a beverage, walls come down, prejudices become soft, and hearts open up. I don’t know what it is, but sitting down to “lim kopi” has enhanced my relationships with many people.
Friendships and relationships can be built and enhanced over small coffee talks. “Lim kopi,” anyone?
As I reflected on a message I shared 2 years ago on the importance of listening to Jesus to gain a deeper understanding of His love and teachings, it struck me to ask about the posture in which I geared myself in hearing God’s Word.
In the message, I stressed the need to draw close to God in order to be able to hear Him clearly. As I pondered on the parable of the Sower it somehow prompted me to ask myself this question: What kind of hearer am I?
Jesus describes four types of hearers who receive the Good News in different ways in the parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:4-8 where “some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” And the following statement in verse 9 is striking, “He who has ears, let him hear.”
In other words, we should continually ask ourselves, “What kind of hearer am I?” So that in our hearing of God’s Word we also seek to understand it.
How passionate is our heart in seeking to understand the Gospel? When we hear it told again and again, does it merely lay on the surface as commonplace? When our faith is put to the test, do we find ourselves putting hope in everything else but the Good News? Or, when we become anxious about the cares of this world, do we find ourselves grasping for a firm foundation that isn’t there or is not based on God’s Word of assurance? These are vital questions that could help us reflect or even gauge our posture in listening to God’s messages.
Hence, the seed that falls on the good soil describes a completely different reception. The hearer receives the word, understands it as well as putting it into practice just as James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says,” for it would be our strong foundation that builds on a rock as Jesus Christ taught in Matthew 7:24-25.
Our action that initiated out of our hearing and understanding completes the process of being a good listener! Let us listen to the Word of God with an attentive and receptive heart and let us be reminded to ask ourselves from time to time as a disciple of Jesus “What kind of hearer am I?”
“Ministry of Food.” What a name! I love it!! I believe many of you have seen or perhaps have visited the Japanese cuisine restaurant “Ministry of Food.” When I first noticed this “Ministry” name, I started making connection with what I have read in the Scripture. Allow me to call it the Ministry of the Ordinary.
Relationships are being cultivated and bonds strengthened during food and drink fellowship (Lim kopi), as we spend time engaging in small talk. When someone says that he has no time for small talk, he has missed out on a very important ministry of the ordinary.
Most of people’s lives are not spent in crisis, not lived at the cutting edge of crucial issues. Most of us, most of the time, are engaged in simple, routine tasks, and small talk is the natural language. If we belittle it, we belittle what most people are doing most of the time, and the gospel is misrepresented. Most people, most of the time, engage in the ordinary life of eating and Lim kopi etc. – the Ministry of Food?
Food and drink connect. It connects us with family and friends. It turns strangers into friends. And it connects us with people. Do you know that Jesus spent a lot of His time eating and drinking with people, so much so that He was being known by His opponents as “the Son of Man has come eating and drinking… a friend of tax collectors and sinners…” (cf Luke 7:33-34). Jesus was relevant!! He was engaging the culture and the community. Who were the people who were attracted to Him? Answer: the sinners!! He deliberately spent time with sinners. Jesus went out and engaged their world. Now in modern trend, we invited them to our church?
Jesus spent a lot of his time over a long meal, stretching into the evening. He spent time around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and drinks.
Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus having food and drink with people: in Luke 5, Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal. Eating and drinking were so important in the mission of Jesus: they were a sign of his friendship with tax collectors and sinners.
Food and drink connect us with people, even with those outside the church. The ministry of small talk is important. Remember, most of people’s lives are not spent in crisis. Most of us, most of the time, are engaged in simple, routine tasks, and small talk is the natural language. Let us get to know one another, even our non-Christian friends, little by little through the ministry of small talk or the ordinary, i.e. through food and Lim kopi. :)