Date:    2/2/03

Text:     1 Thessalonians 2:10

Title:     Values We Treasure 2

Theme: Our ministry must be an outflow of who we are.



            Time magazine’s Persons of the year for 2002 were: Cynthia Cooper of Worldcom, Coleen Rowley of the FBI and Sherron Watkins of Enron. The stories were not just how they exposed the irregularities of their companies, but also about their personal characters, ethical and moral values.

Their professional and personal values determined how they behaved during those difficult months. One of them said that she did not understand what the fuss was all about. She was not a hero, just a faithful employee at FBI, doing what she was supposed to do. It is refreshing that in a time when we have lost trust in business and government, we see these individuals just trying to do what is right. Her values and convictions defined her actions.

            I feel there is a lesson for us too. We often define a church by its programs, activities and performances. In one particular church, when the building project was just completed, a deacon asked the pastor, What is our next project? Certainly, programs, projects and activities are important, but we must not allow them to define who we are. Instead, who we are, our values, are to determine what we do. In January, I shared with you what are some of the very basic values we at HCC are to hold. This morning, I will share with you the rest of these values. Our ministries must reflect and flow out of the values we treasure.

1.         Relational focus.

            We live in a society known for its pseudo relationships. We have office working relationships, yet seldom do they touch our personal lives. In churches, we have ministry relationships, where we labor side by side for many years, yet we know little of the other person. Our sharing and conversations are often centered on what we do in the church. No wonder sometimes we hear people say, “I am very lonely here.” It has been said that when interpersonal relationships are lacking, we begin to seek supernatural spiritual experiences.

            However, as followers of Jesus Christ, we live in a community of believers. God's words tell us, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another….”(1 John 1:7). One characteristic of this community is that we have fellowship with each other. This means meaningful relationship, meaningful interaction with one another.

            God's word also teaches and explains to us how to cultivate meaningful relationships in this community of believers. I trust that we are familiar with those ‘one another’ passages. Some examples, we are to accept one another, meaning not trying to change those who are different from us, those whom we consider as difficult people. We are to encourage one another, meaning affirming the person, instead of being critical. It also means taking time to listen to each other. We are to bear each other’s burdens, meaning not only praying for each other, but to offer material and financial help to those burdened by life’s hardships.

            Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” God puts us in this community, so that we can help each other grow in godliness and Christ-likeness.. We want to foster an atmosphere when individuals come here, they would feel being loved and cared for. We want HCC to be like that web of love. Once you come into this community, you are caught and engulfed in the web of meaningful relationships.

II.         Family affirming.

            In both the eastern and western culture, there was a time when the society’s understanding of a family was very compatible with those in the Christian church .But in this day and age, it is difficult to have a consensus on what a family is. School teachers don’t want to touch it. Society in general does not know what to do, leaving it to courts, trying to redefine what a family is.

            Instead of going into the different views the society has on the family, it is important for us to hear what God has to say. Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Scriptures clearly tell us that a man and a woman, upon leaving their parents are to commit to one another in a life long relationship. The basic family unit is that of a husband and wife.

            In our society, more and more legislations are accepting man and man, woman and woman as a legal family unit, with all the rights to married benefits, including adoptions. Our challenge, as followers of Jesus Christ, is not to let the society define us. God's word, no matter how unpopular it may be, is our standard, in matters of faith and life.   

            Living in a sinful and broken world, many of us have come from broken families and marriages. May this church, this community of believers, be a place where you will find comfort, encouragement, support and healing. I often say, a happy individual makes a happy family. A happy family makes a happy church.

III.       A mobilized Community. (Eph 4:11)

            From time to time we receive very nicely printed invitation cards from different neighborhood churches. They highlight the point that going to their church will never be boring and stressful again. Come as you are; don’t worry about what to wear. It is casual; of course, donuts and coffee will be served. We have the best programs in town that are geared towards your entire family. Well, to tell you the truth, if I am not a pastor, one of these churches will be quite attractive. Just a few minutes away, no stress from driving, and no stress after getting there…..

            You see, in this 21st century, we are searching for churches where all of our needs can be met. We want to go to a church where we can be charged. And we’ll come back again next week for more. When I feel that I am not being charged anymore, then I’ll start looking for another better church.

            If we turn to God's words, we see quite a different picture. Eph 4:11-13, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,  to the measure of the stature of  the fullness of Christ,” This and other passages tell us that as we come into this community of believers, each one of us is important. Each one of us is given one or more spiritual gifts. The pastors are here to help you discover your spiritual gifts and to help you minister to one another. And as a result of our ministering to one another, this community of believers, this body of Christ, the church will be built up, we, individually and corporately, becoming more like Christ.

           I am sorry that we can’t promise you that this church is a stress free place. At times, this can be a very stressful place. You know why? For here, some of our values will be challenged. Such as, we have come not to be served, but to serve. This involves a major change in our values. This could be stressful.

IV.       Evangelism is a life style

            In our present day society, ‘Tolerance’ is a catch word, especially after 911. We are told to be tolerant towards other religions. We are urged to pray together with the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Unitarians and so on. As if we all have the same God. Therefore the moment you want to share your message with others, then you are labeled as bigoted, intolerant and a danger to the society. Very often, in the name of tolerance, we retreat into our own cocoon, minding our own business.

            Again, this is quite different from what the scripture tells us, right? In Matthew 5:13-16  Jesus clearly instructs us to be the salt and light of the world. Salt is not meant to be kept in the salt shakers, just as light is not meant to be kept in a closet or drawer. Salt functions best when there is decay and light functions best when there is darkness. What we call evangelism is what Jesus calls being salt and light of the world.

            When we think of evangelism, we associate it with meetings and trainings. We think of tools, such as EE, the Bridge or the Roman Road. They are certainly good and valuable. But the scriptures seem to point us to a slightly different direction. When we live as salt and light, at home, at school or at work, we are pointing others to Jesus Christ. It has been said that a holy and godly living, is the most effective evangelism.

            I think of all the places you work. In different buildings, clinics and laboratories in the Medical Center area, Dynergy, Enron, HP, Elpaso, BMC, and many other companies and offices throughout the Houston Metropolitan area. If I put a light on the map indicating where each of us works and lives, a large portion of Houston will be lit up. If we include all the Christians in Houston, then the whole map will be lit up. This is why God placed us in different companies and locations, so that through our life style and words, others can come to know him. This is evangelism.

V.        A Mission Heart.

             If we are to scan through the entire Bible, the following picture will emerge. In Abraham’s life, we learn that God wanted to bless all nations through Abraham (Genesis 12:2,3). The psalmist, the prophets all point to one truth that God's kingdom on earth is an ever expanding one. In the NT, we read that this creator God came into the world. His kingdom expands into the human world. Jesus' life was an example. There were times he would deliberately travel to certain places, such as Samaria, so he could bring his kingdom to that forgotten place. His last words on earth was a command to the disciples to go into all the earth, and make disciples of Jesus Christ. The book of Acts is a record of how the early Christians within 60 years of Jesus'' death, had brought the gospel message to the entire Mediterranean world. The church history, is a record of how the gospel message travels from one city to another, from one nation to another, and one continent to another. And this is how this gospel message has come to each one of us.

            You see, at the heart of our belief, the gospel message is one that is to be passed on. It is not meant to be kept in this church or at home. Having received it, we now have the responsibility to pass it on to others; to those in our neighborhood; in our city. It is our turn to pass it on to those in this country and  in different parts of the world. As a church, we must have this heart for Mission, because this is the heartbeat of God.


            Reading the Time magazine’s Persons of the Year caused me to greatly admire Coleen Rowley of the FBI. She insisted that she did not want to be on Time’s cover. She said the credits should go to all the other FBI staff members in the Minneapolis office. The Time reporter wrote that usually he had to convince the politicians why their picture would not be on the cover. This is the first time he had to convince a person why her picture should be on the cover. For Coleen Rowley, she was simply doing the right thing.

            Most of the time we do the right things, right? We do the right things because we know this is expected of us. If not, we could be in trouble.

            Likewise, most of the churches, including us, know what are the right things to do. We try to learn from others or to outdo the church down the street. We know what are the right things to do and we could be good at it too.

            But there may come a time that we forget why we do the right things. Soon, those right things just become a series of never-ending activities, programs and projects. We do it because we have been doing it all these years. In the midst of glamorous activities, slowly we may have lost our soul.

            It is my desire, that this church will recapture and reaffirm these basic values; values that are pleasing to God. It is my prayer that we are not so much driven by performance, projects and programs, but driven by these values deeply dear to God.