2012: The Year of Sanctification

2012 Key Verse: Philippians 2:12b-13

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to act according to his good purpose/pleasure.”

West Loop UBF does not need me. I said: “West Loop UBF does not need me, but I need West Loop UBF.” Why? We have 9 families who are faithful stewards, friends and elders for our local church community. For all practical purposes, these 9 families run West Loop UBF with little to no input or contribution from me. I only thank God for the initiative and love of Jesus of my friends. I also said, “Please make mistakes boldly. If you want to do anything, you do not have to ask for my permission or blessing. I trust you. If it works, praise God! If it flops, learn from your mistake.” From the outset of West Loop in Jan 2008, my principle is for West Loop to run without me. By God’s grace, I believe it has.

Practical stewardship. 6 men gave sermons in 2011, though they all work: Rhoel, Tim, Art, Jim, Henry, me. Each prays, prepares and preaches his own sermon. Sometimes we discuss the passage. Often we do not. Rhoel practically runs West Loop, wearing many hats: managing website, serving music (with Art our worship leader, Sarah Peace, Steve, and 3 Lomahans: Sarah, Becky and Joshua), serving HBF with Elena, Jenny. CBF leaders were the Austrias, Fitches, Cooks, Elena. Jenny organized soup kitchens in Chicago, giving gift boxes through Samaritan's purse, and building houses in the Appalachia during the summer. Angie and Michelle manage our finances. Each family in turn serves lunch on Sun. Jamie regularly serves snacks for our Tue meeting. Our HBF boys set up chairs and clean the 3rd floor. Timmy and Noah Fitch, Daniel Cook setup the audio and visuals on Sun. Tim leads a men's meeting every Saturday. Taniesha leads a once/month gathering for young women. Sarah Peace led a praise night concert collaborating with Triton and U of C. Finally, Len served a pastor's appreciation dinner at Maggiano's, and lavishly furnished our 3rd floor room because of the generosity of his late mother and brothers. Thank God for collaboration, love and friendship in Christ.

What we learned: Genesis is about Jesus! In 2011 we studied 1, 2 Corinthians and Genesis. I wanted to study how each narrative in Genesis pointed to Christ. I reflected on this by asking What is the point of Genesis? I read and studied Preaching Christ from Genesis by Sidney Greidanus, Tim Keller's study guide: Genesis: What Were We Put in the World to Do? (and listening to Keller's sermons on Genesis), and Derek Kidner's classic commentary on Genesis. Instead of studying the Bible anthropologically as I have often done, we prayed to study the Bible theocentrically and Christocentrically (John 5:39; Luke 24:27). Instead of focusing on ourselves and what we do, we prayed to see how each text pointed to Christ and how every story whispered His name. Many expressed that studying the Bible to see Christ touched us, for it opened our hearts to taste the love of God, and the grace of Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14).

Prayer for the Peaces, Podil, Philippines, PSU and PAL. West Loop prays for the Peaces in Podil since Maria is Elena’s sister, and we have known Maria since the 80s. Their new Podil church plant is flourishing without fishing, because over 70 students have signed up and willingly come to their English club to study English. In just a year they have up to 18 Sun attendants.

Philippines UBF is a thriving indigenous ministry with 4 new church plants over the past year plus. Since metro Manila is huge, I suggested to William Altobar 2 years ago that he send out his 3 families to different parts of the city (Ipapo to the University belt, Reytos to University of the East, Talavera to Fatima College, Antipolo): half an hour, an hour and 2 hours away from their main center. During my visits to Manila, I am stunned/overwhelmed that over 30 eager and enthusiastic students have gathered for their weekly group Bible study. Recently, Arlene Jaegers is serving a new church plant in UP (University of the Philippines), which is the Harvard of the Philippines. When I was last there in Oct, Aivy, a UP PT student, gave me a plaque that says "Outstanding Servant of the Year Award." I trembled in awe and with tears and thanksgiving that God is opening hearts to Him and to His Word. Praise God.

Joe Schafer (PSU) and Abraham Lincoln (PAL) give the sermon at West Loop whenever they visit Chicago. We pray for their respective ministries, as Joe commutes 4 hours to a new job in Washington D.C. and as PAL continues his seminary study and visits Jerusalem in 2012.

We also pray for my homeland Malaysia and Singapore. I thank God that Ison, Vincent and Eileen began a church plant in Kuala Lumpur in 2011. I pray that a church plant may begin in Singapore.

Blogging. In 2011 I contributed 21 articles to UBFriends and 128 posts to my blog. This is how my Bible study has evolved over the last few years. Instead of preparing Bible study binders (which I did for 25 years), I now post all of my Bible study, sermons and reflections online. It eliminates paper and it enables me to share my Bible meditations and thoughts in cyberspace. It has been so uplifting when people I do not know well, or have never met in person before, tell me that they were greatly encouraged and enlightened by reading what I have written and posted online. 2 of my most viewed postings on UBFriends are “Why Do We Have Divisions?” (5,300 views) and “Christianity is the End of Religion” (4,200 views).

Though some are uncomfortable and do not like such transparency and openness, the world, through cyberspace, is moving rapidly in this direction. Seemingly, the internet is doing what Jesus said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed. …what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Lk 12:2-3). I believe that this is healthy for the church and for authentic Christian community, as long as we blog prayerfully and respectfully, and with "fear and trembling" (Php 2:12), and with "humility and tears" (Acts 20:19).

2012 the year of Sanctification. West Loop UBF Church has prayed that 2010 may be the year of the Gospel and that 2011 may be a year of Grace. We prayed for Grace to renew the limitless grace of Jesus in our own hearts, so that we do not suffer from CFS: Christian Fatigue Syndrome! For 2012 I thought it appropriate that we pray that it may be the year of Sanctification. (This sounds really scary, especially for me!)

I resolutely conclude that no sinner, no matter how noble, sincere, and pure-hearted, can ever truly change themselves and be sanctified. But because God is working in us (Php 2:13), change is possible. Only because of the grace of Jesus working in us (Eph 2:8-9), we will change, and we can change (Php 2:12; Eph 2:10). In 2012, we are praying about starting a 2nd worship service for the glory of God, complete our study of Genesis through Bible study and Sun sermons, and to read a lot as our expression of loving God with all our minds (Mt 22:37).

One Word: Only because of Jesus, Change is Possible.