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PAST WEEKLY PASTORAL LETTERS 往期教牧書信

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PASTORAL LETTER OF NOVEMBER 1 -7, 2020: THE LORD REIGNS

At the writing of this pastoral letter, the outcome of the Presidential Election of November 3 is yet to be determined. From the forecast made to date (November 6), the Biden/Harris team is likely to win this election. Our country is likely going down a more liberal, socialist, big government, big taxation, and even anti-evangelical Christian path in the near future. No matter which candidates you have voted for, remember that God is still in control of history.

In the last few years I have increasingly become interested in the Old Testament history and the prophets. The overall message of the Old Testament is that God is sovereign over history. Even despots and rulers who knew not the Lord could still be used by the Lord to accomplish His purposes. To name but a few, even Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Artaxerxes, and Ahasuerus all became instruments in the Lord’s hand.   The Lord has also always planted His faithful people at key positions to influence the development of history at the most pivotal points: Such as Daniel, Ezra, Queen Esther, and Nehemiah.

On the other hand, if the people of God choose disobedience, idolatry, immorality, and play the harlot to the Lord, the Lord may choose to allow them to sink to the depth of sinfulness, let them suffer the consequences of their choices, before the Lord would restart His ministry with a remnant of His people who have remained faithful. This was what happened first to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and then happened to the Southern Kingdom of Judah 136 years later. Our country may get worse, becoming more corrupt, more atheistic, and more immoral before we finally hit the bottom and awaken to genuine repentance and spiritual revival.

In my almost 40 years of living in this country, I notice that what we really need are leaders who are faithful, God-fearing Christians. Most of our leaders claimed to be Christians of some sort, but we often fail to discern Christ-likeness in their character and personal walk. Not leaders who vote in line with party platforms, we need leaders like Daniel, Queen Esther or Nehemiah. These lived lives of integrity, had wonderful testimonies, yet were willing to stand strong on Godly values, and even willing to risk their own lives for the sake of God’s principles.  To start with, let us not forget to pray for our leaders both political and spiritual, as 1Timothy 2:1-4 reminds us, that they may walk as God-fearing and faithful Christians:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Let us start to pray for our leaders, that they may become God-fearing Christians of integrity.

With peace & blessings in Christ,

Pastor Samuel Ling & the Pastoral Team  

教牧書信(111-7日): 神掌權

撰寫這封教牧書信的時候,113日總統大選的結果尚未確定。根據截至今日(116日)的預測,拜登/賀錦麗(Biden/Harris)組合很有可能贏得這次大選。我們的國家很有可能在不久的將來在自由化、社會主義化,奉行大政府、高稅收,乃至反對福音派基督信仰的道路上越走越遠。但無論你投票給哪位候選人,請不要忘記,歷史仍然完全掌控在神的手中。

在過去的幾年中,我對舊約歷史書和先知書的興趣愈發濃厚。舊約的整體信息是,神是歷史的主宰。即使是那些不認識神的暴君和統治者,也依然能按著神的心意為祂所用。讓我們略舉幾個例子,就連尼布甲尼撒,居魯士,亞哈隨魯,以及亞達薛西都成了神手中的工具。神也一直將對祂忠實的子民安置在關鍵的位置,在關鍵時刻影響歷史的走向。例如,但以理,以斯拉,王后以斯帖,以及尼希米。

另一方面,神的子民若是選擇悖逆、拜偶像、不道德的生活、對神不忠,神就有可能任由他們在罪中沉淪,令他們承受自己選擇的惡果。而後,神將興起忠心的餘民繼續祂的事工。這樣的事先臨到北國以色列,136年之後又臨到南國猶大。或許,在跌入谷底以至於覺醒,尋求真正的悔改和屬靈復興之前,我們的國家可能會變得愈發敗壞、愈發腐朽、愈發抗拒神、愈發道德淪喪。

在生活於這個國家的近40年時間裡,我留意到我們真正需要的是由那些忠心的、敬畏神的基督徒作為國家的領導人。我們的領導人當中,大多數人都聲稱自己是某種層面的基督徒。然而,我們往往很難從他們的品格和言行中辨別出基督的樣式。我們需要的不是依照黨派政綱選出的領導人,而是像但以理、王后以斯帖,或是尼希米這樣的領導人。他們過著正直的生活,有美好的見證,願意堅守敬虔的價值觀,甚至著持守屬神的原則甘願面對生命威脅。正如提摩太前書2:1-4提醒我們的,讓我們謹記要為政治上的和屬靈的領導人禱告,願他們都能作為敬畏神並忠於神的基督徒行事人:

我勸你第一要為萬人懇求、禱告、代求、祝謝,為君王和一切在位的,也該如此,使我們可以敬虔、端正、平安無事的度日。這是好的,在神我們救主面前可蒙悅納。祂願意萬人得救,明白真道。

讓我們開始我們的領導人禱告,願他們都能成敬畏神,行為正直的基督徒。

敬祝主內平安蒙福,

凌頌恩牧師及教牧同工

 


PASTORAL LETTER OF OCTOBER 25-31, 2020: WHY DO WE PROTEST?

Please be reminded that Daylight Saving Time ends on this Sunday, November 1. Before you go to bed on this Saturday night, please make sure to adjust your clocks and watches 1 hour BACKWARD, and attend our Sunday Services (9:30AM and 11:15AM) and Annual Congregational Assembly Meeting (1:30PM) on time.

In the busy rush of this season, amidst Halloween and the General Election, we may have overlooked another important date: The Protestant Reformation that was started on October 31, 1517. On that day a devout monk and professor of theology called Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the church door of Wittenberg, Saxony. Dr. Luther has been studying the Bible seriously. He was so troubled by the discrepancies that he observed between the teaching of the Bible and the belief and practice of the Medieval Roman Catholic Church that he proposed there be a theological discussion. Following the practice of the time, he nailed his 95 observations on the church door, which was used as a public bulletin board. The rest is history, so to speak. Martin Luther inadvertently started the Protestant Reformation. We are thankful that he did because his action has enabled us to hear the true Gospel and be saved by trusting in Christ alone.

Why are we Protestants? Why did Luther and his fellow Christians protested vehemently against the teachings and practices of the Medieval Roman Catholic Church? The answer is a complex one. The Protestant Reformation was and still is necessary because we Protestants believe that the Bible is our only source of truth regarding what God wants us to know pertaining to salvation. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, recognizes in additional to the authority of the Scriptures, the teachings of the Church Councils, the papal authority ex cathedra, and sometimes even the influence of traditions. This major divide between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism regarding the basis of our belief renders any attempt at unity impossible. Just like we Protestant Christians cannot be united to the Mormons as long as the Mormons believe that there is another testament of Jesus Christ—the Book of Mormons.

In a nutshell, the belief of Protestant Christians is characterized by what is commonly called the Three Solae (or later expanded to the Five Solae).

  1. Sola Scriptura (meaning "by Scripture alone"). We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. The Bible reveals to us all that is necessary for salvation, and could be understood and interpreted through itself.   The Bible must govern over church traditions and interpretations which are themselves held to be subject to scripture. All church traditions, creeds, and teachings must be in unity with the teachings of the Bible as the divinely inspired Word of God. As all doctrines are formed via scriptural understandings, all doctrines must be found to align with the Bible and as such are then subject to scripture before the believer can begin to apply them.
  2. Sola Fide (meaning "by faith alone").   We believe that the Bible teaches us that good works are not a means or requisite for salvation. Sola Fide is the teaching that justification (interpreted in the Lutheran and Reformed theologies as "being declared just by God") is received by faith alone, without any need for good works on the part of the individual. In classical Lutheran and Reformed theologies, good works are seen to be evidence of saving faith, but the good works themselves do not determine salvation.
  3. Sola Gratia (meaning "by grace only"). The Bible teaches that we are saved by the grace of God. Salvation comes by divine grace or "unmerited favor" only, not as something merited by the sinner. This means that salvation is an unearned gift from God for Jesus's sake. This specifically excludes the merit done by a person as part of achieving salvation. God is the sole actor in grace (in other words, that grace is always efficacious without any cooperation by human), and that human cannot by any action of his/her own, (such as acting under the influence of grace,) cooperate with grace to "merit" greater graces for him/herself . God acted alone to save the sinner.

These are vital theological concepts that deserve our in depth study and understanding. I am here only briefly summarizing what other more profound writers have said. As October 31st come and go, let us make an effort to understand what and why we believe. Let us give thanks for Dr. Martin Luther, who was so adamant in believing what the Bible teaches that he could not and would not be shut up even in the face of death threat and real persecutions. When his life was hanging in the balance, these are the famous words that Martin Luther said to the Diet of Worms in 1521:

“Since your most serene and high majesty require of me a simple, clear and direct answer, I will give one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the council, because it is as clear as noonday that they have fallen into error and even into glaring inconsistency with themselves. If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture, or by cogent reasons, if I am not satisfied by the very text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this way brought into subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything; for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me! Amen.”

May God give us the grace to remain true and courageous always.

With peace & blessings in Christ,

Pastor Samuel Ling & the Pastoral Team

教牧書信(1025-31): 我們為何有宗教改革?

請大家留意,夏令時間將於111日星期日凌晨結束。在星期六晚上入睡之前,請將時鐘調後1小時,以確保準時參加我們的主日敬拜(上午9:3011:15)以及年度會友大會(下午1:30)

正值年終的忙碌季節,對萬聖節和總統大選的關注可能令我們忽略了另一個重要的日子:15171031日是更正教改革運動開始的日子。在那一天,一位叫做·路德(Martin Luther)的敬虔修士和神學教授將一份95條論綱釘在薩克森州維滕貝格(Wittenberg, Saxony)教堂的大門上。路德博士一直在認真鑽研聖經。他因自己領悟的聖經教導與中世紀羅馬天主教的信條及做法之間的差異倍感困擾,以至於發起了一場神學討論。依照當時的慣例,他將自己的95項觀察釘在了教堂的大門上,用以公示。接下來的事就是我們都有所了解的歷史了。·路德無意間發起了更正教改革。我們對此甚為感激。正是因為他的舉動,我們得以聽到真實的福音,明白單單信靠基督就可以得救的真理。

我們為什麼是更正教基督徒?為什麼路德和他的基督徒同伴強烈反對中世紀羅馬天主教的教導和做法?答案很複雜。我們更正教基督徒篤信聖經是神要我們認識有關救恩真理的唯一來源,因此,更正教改革在過去乃至今天一直(而且仍然)必要。而羅馬天主教除了認可聖經的權威以外,還認可大公會議(the Church Councils)的教導,以及被稱為宗座權威(ex cathedra)”的教宗權威,甚至有時還包括傳統的影響。由於涉及我們的信仰基礎,更正教與羅馬天主教之間的這個主要分歧使得任何謀求統一的嘗試都不可能實現。這就如同只要摩門教徒仍然相信還有耶穌基督的另一部約書——《摩門經》存在,我們基督徒就不可能與他們混合在一起。

簡而言之,更正教基督徒的信仰通常被稱為三個惟獨(Three Solae)”(後來被擴展為五個惟獨”)

  1. 唯獨聖經(Sola Scriptura)。我們相信聖經是神所默示的話語。聖經向我們啟示了救恩所必需的一切,並且可以通過它自身被理解和詮釋。聖經必須領導教會的傳統和詮釋,而這些傳統和詮釋則必須服從於聖經。教會所有的傳統,信條,以及教導都必須與聖經的教導一致。因為聖經是神的話語。由於所有教義都是通過對聖經的理解而形成的,因此,在信徒開始應用教義以先,必須確保所有的教義都與聖經一致,並且服從於聖經。
  2. 唯獨信心(Sola Fide)。我們相信聖經教導說,行善不是得蒙救贖的方法或必要條件。唯獨信心的教導是,稱義(在路德宗和改革宗神學中被解釋為被神宣告為義”)是單單憑著信心獲得的,無需任何個人的善行。在古典的路德宗和改革宗神學中,好行為被視為得救信心的證據,其本身卻無法決定救贖。
  3. 唯獨恩典(Sola Gratia)。聖經教導我們說,我們得救是本乎神的恩典。救恩單單出自屬神的恩典或不配得的恩惠(unmerited favor)”,本不是罪人所應得的。這意味著救贖是因著耶穌的緣故而從神白白得來的禮物。這明確地否定了人在獲得救贖的過程中有任何的貢獻。神是恩典唯一的發起者(換句話說,無須人的配合,恩典始終有效),並且人無法通過自己的任何努力(譬如在恩典的影響下行動)與恩典合作,為自己加增更大的恩惠。神獨自行動來拯救罪人。

這些至關重要的神學概念值得我們深入學習和理解。我只是在此簡單地總結了一下其他先賢們說過的話。隨着1031日的到來和離去,讓我們竭力明白我們到底相信什麼,以及為什麼相信。讓我們感謝馬丁·路德博士。他如此篤定聖經的教導,即使死亡威脅和嚴酷的逼迫也不能令他閉口不言。在他生命岌岌可危的時候,馬丁·路德於1521年沃爾姆斯會議(the Diet of Worms)上做出了以下這段著名的發言:

既然尊貴的陛下要求我簡單明瞭、直截了當地回答,我就遵命如此作答:我不能向教宗或公會屈服,放棄我的信仰。皆因他們的錯謬和自相矛盾之處如天日昭昭。如果找不出聖經依據或無可辯駁的理由令我信服,如果不能用我適才引述的經文令我滿意,如果不能用神的話語改變我的判斷,那麼,我不能也不願收回我所說過的任何一句話。因為基督徒不能說違心之言。這就是我的立場。我沒有別的話可說了。願神幫助我!阿們。

 

願神賜我們恩典,幫助我們能夠永遠持守真理,並且有堅持勇氣。

敬祝主內平安蒙福,

凌頌恩牧師及教牧同工


PASTORAL LETTER FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 18 – 24: A FINAL APPEAL

As the November 3rd Election is approaching, I would like to share with you the open letter of Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family regarding the importance of this upcoming election. Here is the link to his original letter in English with a Chinese translated version:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/kuymwxbhJSKLZHrG65UBqw

It is my prayer that the Lord will guide each one of His children to vote wisely, in accordance with the Biblical values, in this most important election of our life time. May we all have the same heart and mind to pray for God’s blessing on America, the land we call home, just like the lyrics of the classic patriotic song “God Bless America”:

[Spoken Introduction:]

"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,

Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free.

Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,

As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. "

[Song:]

God bless America,

Land that I love,

Stand beside her and guide her:

Thru the night with a light from abov.

 

From the mountains, to the prairies,

To the oceans white with foam:

God bless America -

My home, sweet home!

God bless America -

My home, sweet home!

With peace and blessing in Christ,

Pastor Samuel Ling & the Pastoral Team

教牧書信(1018-24日):最後的懇求

隨着113日大選的臨近,我想與您分享愛家協會(Focus on the Family)創始人詹姆士·多布森博士(Dr. James Dobson)的一封公開信。這封公開信談及了這次選舉的重要性。以下是公開信英文原稿和中文譯本的鏈接:

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/kuymwxbhJSKLZHrG65UBqw

我禱告祈求神引領祂的每一個兒女都能在我們生命中最重要的一次選舉中依據聖經價值觀,明智地投票。願我們所有人都能夠以同樣的心懷意念禱告,祈求神賜福美國,這片我們稱之家園的土地,就像經典愛國歌曲《神佑美國》所唱的那樣:(歌詞大意)

[獨白:]

當風暴陰雲在大海遠處聚集,                 While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,

我們誓要忠於這片自由的土地。             Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free.

我們都這片美麗的土地充滿感激,    Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,

如同我們以鄭重的禱告發出祈求:        As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

[歌唱:]

神佑美國,                                                   God bless America,

我深愛的土地,                                          Land that I love,

與她同在、引她前行:                              Stand beside her and guide her:

以從天而降的光領她穿過黑夜。             Thru the night with a light from abov.

 

從高山到草原,                                          From the mountains, to the prairies,

直到波瀾壯闊的洋海;                              To the oceans white with foam:

神佑美國-                                                      God bless America -

我的家園,親愛家園!                              My home, sweet home!

神佑美國-                                                      God bless America -

我的家園,親愛家園!                              My home, sweet home!

 

敬祝主內平安蒙福

凌頌恩牧師及教牧同工


PASTORAL LETTER FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 11 – 17: VOTE YOUR VALUES

Early voting has begun in Texas. As we head to the polls and vote, I believe it is our Christian obligation to vote for and support candidates that advocate or agree with values that we consider Biblical and reasonable. The Bible in Exodus 18:21 emphasized that rulers of the people should be God fearing, just and have integrity: “… look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens” (ESV). It goesbeyond personality, style and polish. The announced platform of a candidate is what we are voting for. We are also voting not just for our generation, but how our children and grandchildren’s America would become. Hence we need to vote wisely and pray that the future of America will be more aligned with Biblical and traditional values, instead becoming more secular, sexually unprincipled, liberal and anti-Christian.

How should we then vote? In order to maneuver the issues and as a tool of Christian reference, here for your consideration is a link to the Decision Magazine Election Guide:

https://decisionmagazine.com/2020-election-guide/?utm_source=fdf+main+email+10.08.2020&utm_medium=bgemail&utm_campaign=bgemailnewsletter&utm_content=BL20GYS00&SOURCE=BL20GYS00

The Decision Magazine is the official publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Both the Decision Magazine and this election guide take a traditional Biblical Christian perspective. This election guide is avowedly evangelical Christian and reasonably balanced. I pray that you will find this resource helpful. For those of us who prefer to read Chinese, brother Lanshu Wong has kindly translated the Decision Magazine Election Guide into Chinese. Please find here the link to the Chinese version:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lwP1ZFYOKPqflKWeJdccyINybZnRWmnW/view?usp=sharing

As Christians in this great nation that was unashamedly founded on Judean-Christian values and principles, let us pray for our country. May the Lord who controls history guide us to vote wisely as we head to the polls in the most important elections of our lifetime.

With peace and blessing in Christ,

Pastor Samuel Ling and the Pastoral Team

教牧書信(1011-17日):用投票表達您的價值觀

德州的提前投票已經開始。在進行投票表決的時候,對於那些倡導或是認同我們認為是合乎聖經並合乎公理的價值觀的候選人,我相信我們基督徒有義務投票支持他們。聖經出埃及記18:21強調治理人民的人應該敬畏神,公正,並且正直:並要從百姓中揀選有才能的人,就是敬畏神、誠實無妄、恨不義之財的人,派他們做千夫長、百夫長、五十夫長、十夫長,管理百姓(中文和合本)。這不取決於人的個性,行事風格,和風度。我們投票支持的是候選人宣揚的政綱。我們也不僅僅是為了我們這一代人投票,而且還是為我們子孫後代生活的美國投票。因此,我們要明智地投票,並且祈禱美國的未來能更符合聖經和傳統的價值觀,而不是變得更加世俗化,性別混亂,自由主義,以及反基督信仰。

那麼我們該怎樣投票呢?您可以通過以下鏈接閱讀《決志雜誌(Decision Magazine)》上刊登的選舉指南(Election Guide),作為您決斷的參考:

https://decisionmagazine.com/2020-election-guide/?utm_source=fdf+main+email+10.08.2020&utm_medium=bgemail&utm_campaign=bgemailnewsletter&utm_content=BL20GYS00&SOURCE=BL20GYS00

《決志雜誌(Decision Magazine)》是葛培理佈道協會(Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)的正式刊物。這份刊物及其刊登的選舉指南都採用了傳統的,基於聖經的基督徒觀點。這份選舉指南符合福音派基督徒的主張,並且取得了合理的平衡。我為此禱告神,願您能從這篇文章中獲得幫助。此外,王蘭樞弟兄已經熱心地將這篇文章翻譯成中文,提供給我們當中更喜歡閱讀中文的人。請通過以下鏈接訪問中文版本:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lwP1ZFYOKPqflKWeJdccyINybZnRWmnW/view?usp=sharing

美國立國時是建立在猶太 - 基督信仰價值觀和體系之上的身為這個偉大國家中的基督徒,讓我們為我們的國家祈禱。我們將參與人生中最重要的一次總統大選,願掌管歷史的主指引我們明智地投票。

敬祝主內平安蒙福,

凌頌恩牧師及教牧同工


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*Action to be taken when church is able to meet health and facility protocols

*當教會能夠達到健康和設施(清潔消毒)標準時所采取的措施

**At-risk population are those who are 65 or older, especially those with chronic lung disease; moderate to severe asthma; chronic heart disease; severe obesity; diabetes; chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; liver disease; or weakened immune system

**高風險人群指65嵗或以上的年長者,尤其是有慢性肺部疾病;中度至重度哮喘;慢性心臟病;重度肥胖;糖尿病;慢性腎病並接受透析;肝病;或免疫系統較弱者

Additional Information and Resources

額外信息和資源