March 5, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Phil Choi, Gracepoint Hsinchu

In Taiwan, many Christians face family oppression, cultural stigmatism, a lack of Christians to imitate, etc. But I also imagine this to be the state of the early church that Apostle Paul looked after. In Acts 20 Apostle Paul say, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” He must have said this with such a heavy heart knowing what the early church would face. But when I read this, I felt such a huge challenge for myself. It was like “You, Phil, keep watch over yourself and the flock. Be a shepherd of the church of God.” But how? Later in the same chapter, Apostle Paul says, “In everything I did, I showed you …” In other words, Apostle Paul modeled for the early church how to obey Christ. And I realized once again that that is the way to make disciples. As an older brother, I need to model for our Christian students. I need to be the first to serve so that they learn how to serve. I need to be generous with my time and money so that they learn how to as well. I need to be the first to love people so that they see and learn how to love people. I need to be the first to take God’s Word seriously so that they can copy that. I think about how I came to learn the truths of Christian living and it was the same way: imitation. I looked at my older brothers and leaders and simply copied what they did. So for me, even though I don’t speak the language all that well and we have communication failures sometimes, one thing that everyone can see and understand is a life. And to help our Christians students grow and mature as Christians and to show them our to live out their faith, I need to model for them as an example to follow.

Another theme I noticed from the life of Apostle Paul was how rich, abundant, and wide ranging the scope of his relationships were. I was struck by the number of times it mentions “encouraging”:

· Acts 11:23 – “When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord.”

· Acts 15:32 – “Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.”

· Acts 16:40 – “After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them.

· Acts 18:27 – “When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him …”

· Acts 20:2 – “He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece”

· Acts 28:15 – “ The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.”

Apostle Paul’s life was so rich because of the people in his life. Even though he constantly faced persecution, opposition, and various challenges, I believe it was the people in his life, the churches that he visited, the words of encouragement he received from people, that helped him keep going and not give up. Being out here in Taiwan, we receive so much encouragement from people back at home. People send emails saying that they are praying for us. My friends and leaders from back home send cards and gifts with small notes saying, “We’re praying for you! Hang in there!” But those things go a long way in terms of filling my heart with encouragement, and there’s that sense that “Okay, I can do this!” My life is so rich because of Christ and his church. Apostle Paul didn’t have these kinds of relationships with people because he became a Christian. As a Pharisee, he was respected, powerful, and people revered him. But he didn’t experience love. But because of Christ and his church, Apostle Paul was able to experience things like Acts 20 where he embraced the Ephesian elders, knelt down with all of them and prayed, wept, and kissed goodbye. And I get to experience this through all the relationships at our church. Being an independent, loner by nature, my life would have been empty of love were it not for the fact that God’s grace and our church. And I’m so thankful that I stayed long enough to develop so many relationships through which I can encourage others and be encouraged by them.

It reminded me how important community is in Christian life. You can’t encourage people or be encouraged by people when you’re by yourself. You need like-minded brothers and sisters whom you trust and whom you feel connected to. Applying it to our context in Taiwan, we need to draw in our students into our community. For our new Christians, it reminded me how important it is for them to spend time with us. Being a Christian is hard enough; but being alone is a death sentence. So inviting them over, spending time with them at our FH, doing life together, etc. these are so important in forming relational bonds and encouraging them to live our their new-found faiths. For me, as I’m ministering to the junior guys, it challenged me to continue to create that community for them. It’s a long process. Something like this doesn’t happen overnight. But through time, as God shapes people through the community, they change. Hopefully, some of our non-Christians’ hearts can melt as they are with us. I know that was what happened to me in college. But need to keep drawing them in, encouraging our Christians through fellowship, being a good witness to our non-Christians with our set-apart lives, and all of this God does through the church community.

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