Sermon: Christ’s Compelling Call – Upwards and Outwards Towards Our Deep Gladness And The World’s Deep Hunger – Leigh

Christ's Compelling Call

(Some background: For the first six months of the year, BLC will focus on the preaching theme, “Upwards and Outwards“. Also, this sermon is based on this week’s liturgical readings: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 and Mark 1:29-39)

Sermon summary by Leigh:

If I were to ask you, “What is your deepest gladness?” What would your answer be? Now, hold that thought.

I am told to be more like Jesus and, based on today’s gospel lesson, I don’t think I’ve lived out a life of being a radical, subversive full-time preacher with a penchant for healing, hanging out with people on the fringes, and dying on the cross at the age of 33.

Yet, as a Christian, it is an undeniable truth that we are called to be like Jesus. Put another way, our journey as Christians – literally, “little Christs” – is a call upwards: towards becoming more and more like Jesus, even today.

Not only that, our call is a call outwards as well – having encountered Jesus, we feel compelled – as Paul did in his letter to the Corinthians – to preach the good news. What does “do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings” mean for you, in practice, today?

This week, I went to the Big Bad Wolf Fire Sale and fortuitously picked up a book by Timothy Keller, called “Every Good Endeavor“. I liked what it had to say about integrating faith and work:

“I’d learned that I was supposed to be changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore be “used by God” in my relationship with others, and maybe even be distinctive in the way I [worked]. Nice concepts, but what did they look like in practice?

One CEO would share that he kept a Bible on his desk and that occasionally someone in the company would ask about it. Another prayed and the company thrived. Many viewed their corporate jobs primarily as a means to make lots of money to give away to charities and organizations they cared about. When I asked pastors and business-people how their faith related to their work, they often answered that a Christian’s primary, if not sole, mission in the workplace was to evangelize those with whom they worked. But most businesspeople would quickly add that evangelism was not one of their gifts. And none of these approaches addressed the issue of how Christians’ faith should affect the way they worked.

Living out my faith in my work seemed relegated to small symbolic gestures, to self-righteous abstinence from certain behaviors, and to political alignments on the top cultural and legal issues of the day.”

Keller then draws on the work of Robert Bellah, a sociologist, who highlighted the need for “…a re-appropriation of the idea of vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means to one’s own advancement,” before going on to explain:

“The Latin word vocare – to call – is at the root of our common word ‘vocation.’… A job is a vocation only if someone else calls you to do it and you do it for them rather than for yourself. And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests.

To be a Christian in business, then, means much more than just being honest or not sleeping with your coworkers. It even means more than personal evangelism or holding a Bible study at the office. Rather, it means thinking out the implications of the gospel worldview and God’s purposes for your whole work life – and for the [area] under your influence.

So, if we are called to be like Christ (our upward call) and to impact the world around us just like He did (our outward call) – we need to reconsider the fact that our work is more than just a job; it is a vocation.  So where, or how, then are we called?

This brings me to this quote by Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Because God has made us the way we are and is continually at work in our lives, we can recognize that our deep gladness – the things that truly give us our deepest joy and sense of fulfillment – are part of His work in us. This includes our sense of fulfillment at work – consider the examples of Eric Liddell, John Coltrane, as well as other members of our faith community.

Integrating our “deep gladness” with the “deep hungers” of the world around us, thus, is where God has called us to. So, where is the deep hunger of the world around you?

And yet, as always, there is good news: God’s call does not take you where His grace does not cover you. Our Isaiah passage is remarkable because of the juxtaposition it offers between the great power of God as Creator and Lord of the Universe, and with the amazing fact that all that power is bequeathed to us:

Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

How this comes together for me stems from God’s call on my life, which I received when I was 16. Since then, I have gone on a lifelong pursuit of that calling – to be an evangelist, to help Good News get told through the power of marketing and communications.

And, so, the challenge now before us is this: Where has God called us to today?

An exercise to help us figure that out was to use the following graph – where, on one side, we list down what we think is our deepest gladness, and, on the other side, we list down where we think God is at work in the hurts of the world around us. Then, we take a good look at where the two meet and see where God brings the two together.

Where God Has Called Me To

For a final thought, I leave this for consideration:

Think of that cliché that nobody ever gets to the end of their life and wishes they spent more time in the office. It makes good sense, of course, to a point. But here’s a more interesting perspective: At the end of your life, will you wish that you had plunged more of your time, passion, and skills into work environments and work products that helped people to give and receive more love?

Can you see a way to answer “yes” to this question from your current career trajectory?

My sermon slides are available here:

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BLC Preaching Focus – January-June 2015: “Upwards & Outwards” – Pastor Augustin

Upwards and Outwards” is an adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ call in the Narnian Chronicles, “Further up and further in”.

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” – C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

It reflects our call to engage deeper with God and allow Him the time and space to engage deeper with us (Upwards). It is a two way conversation, a dialogue that compels us to engage with the faith while examining our own faith, of us talking to Him and of Him talking to us, of us crying out in frustration, pain and agony, and of Him calling out to us with compassion, mercy, and yes, holiness. It is about us examining our very human values and priorities in the light of His everlasting kingdom and being able to say, “Your kingdom come”.

It is also a focus, a purposeful initiative to engage with those around us in fruitful and Christian conversation (Outwards) – to build church, to foster community and to engage fruitfully the world around us for the purposes of the Kingdom, according to His values and priorities.

For mission and missions, for ministry and fellowship, for growing and developing, for discipline and disciple making, for us and them, for Him and us:

Upwards and Outwards!

(By Pastor Augustin)

Sermon: Signs – Leigh

CountdownToDoomSunday2014a

This morning, Leigh shared a message based on Job 14:1–6, I Thessalonians 4:13–18, and Matthew 24:15–28 as part of the sermon series #CountdownToDoomSunday 2014.

Leigh

The sermon takes a look at Jesus’ proclamation of “Signs of The End and His Coming Again” in the Gospel Reading and has us think about them in three ways:

  1. That these signs can be understood as signs of completion. God is at work in History. We are a part of His Kingdom work – joining Him in what He is already at work doing – seeking the Shalom of our lives, our neighbors and the world.
  2. That these are signs of hope. Paul’s message to the Thessalonian church centers on the Second Coming of Jesus as a Source of Hope. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can also believe that, when He returns, we would see life again. We do not grieve like people who have no hope.
  3. That’s why, perhaps, the most relevant understanding of Jesus’ signs is to see you and I as signs of Jesus First and Second Coming.

As such, the challenge before us is to live out as Signs of God’s Kingdom – living with the end in mind.

The sermon then ends with a challenge and participation exercise: How do you want to be remembered?

  • Write three things that you want to see in your eulogy.
  • For a fuller exercise, consider writing out your eulogy to be read out by someone at your funeral.

Leigh’s slides are available here:

#CountdownToDoomSunday 2014

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As we move towards the end of the liturgical year towards Doom/Christ The King Sunday, we will embark on a series of thematic Scripture Readings to guide our hearts and thoughts in preparation.

(Doom Sunday – also known as the Feast of Christ The King – is the last day of the church liturgical year. “Doom” in old English meant “Judgment” or “Destiny”. The whole month focuses on the 2nd Coming of Christ and the Final Judgment.) 

DATE TIME EVENT READINGS SPEAKER LEAD WORSHIPPER
2 Nov 10 am 3rd Sunday Before
Doom Sunday
OT: Jeremiah 31:31–34
NT: Romans 13:11–14
Gospel: Matthew 21:1–9
Pastor Augustin Leigh
9 Nov 10 am 2nd Sunday Before
Doom Sunday
OT: Job 14:1–6
NT: I Thessalonians 4:13–18
Gospel: Matthew 24:15–28
Leigh Sia
16 Nov 10 am Sunday Before
Doom Sunday
OT: Daniel 7:9–14
NT: I Thessalonians  5:1–11
Gospel: Matthew 25:31–46
Pastor Augustin Alpha
23 Nov 10 am Doom Sunday OT: Isaiah 35:3–10
NT: II Peter 3:8–14
Gospel: Matthew 25:14–30
Pastor Augustin Leigh

If you’d like to follow or respond to the messages via social media, please hashtag it as #CountdownToDoomSunday. Find us at:

Sermon: My Way Or The Highway – Rev. Augustin

MyWayHighwayTable

This past week, we think Pastor Augustin really outdid himself with his sermon, “My Way Or The Highway”. He transformed our worship space into a “4D” (four-dimension),  immersive, interactive & experiential space with loads of visual cues and interaction stations.

It started right from the entrance; with signs from pointing to “My Way” or “The Highway”.

MyWayHighwayPath

In our worship space, we were greeted by a massive mind map of today’s sermon.

MyWayHighwayMindmap

All throughout the worship space, there were other visual cues and interaction stations.

MyWayHighway

MyWayHighwayGreennteraction

MyWayHighwayYellowInteraction

The interactive nature of the sermon was certainly very well received! Even the children enjoyed themselves!

MyWayHighwayKids

So, here’s the thing – to show how much we enjoyed this and how much we want Pastor Augustin to repeat this, we’re calling for you to give us Likes and Comments. With enough of a response, I’m sure we can convince Pastor Augustin to repeat this again real soon – or, better still, to do it every week he preaches!

Expository Preaching Workshop at BLC – 13 July 2013

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BLC will host an Expository Preaching Workshop at The Father’s House, this Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 10am till about 3pm. The cost of the workshop is RM90 and will go towards deferring costs for lunch and notes.

So, what is expository preaching, anyway?

Expository preaching involves the exposition, or comprehensive explanation, of the Scripture; that is, expository preaching presents the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. The word exposition is related to the word expose— the expository preacher’s goal is simply to expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse.

As a method, expository preaching differs from topical preaching and textual preaching. To prepare a topical sermon, the preacher starts with a topic and then finds a passage in the Bible that addresses that topic. In a textual sermon, the preacher uses a particular text to make a point without examining the original intent of that text. For example, someone could use Isaiah 66:7-13 to preach on motherhood, although motherhood is only peripheral in that text.

In both topical and textual sermons, the Bible passage is used as support material for the topic. In expository sermons, the Bible passage is the topic, and support materials are used to explain and clarify it.

You can read more about expository preaching here.

If you are passionate about preaching and about improving your preaching skills, then this workshop is for you!

To participate, please contact Pastor Augustin at revaugustin[at]yahoo[dot]com.