Since this is the last time I will be writing a pastoral letter for CPC, I spent a long time thinking about it. What should I write? What do I want to write? In the midst of my thoughts, I suddenly remembered the words of the apostle Paul, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Php 4:8)
The letter to the Philippians was written by Paul when he was imprisoned. At that time, Paul knew about the strife within the church in Philippi, and he was deeply troubled by the church being attacked by heresy. Yet Paul’s letter still overflowed with joy and assurance, showing his unwavering faith in the Lord. His encouragement to believers in Php 4:8 is, I believe, the secret to his joy. Paul’s words are especially important to us living in a changing age. In addition to encouraging us to live a positive and active life, more importantly, Paul guided us in our spiritual development.
James B. Smith, a professor of spirituality and author of “Good and Beautiful God” and “Good and Beautiful Life,” believes that, the most important thing in cultivating believers’ spiritual life is mind discipleship. This is because our thoughts govern what we say and do. Lord Jesus said that, if our hearts are full of unclean and evil thoughts, these will be manifested in what we say (Matt 15:18-19). Thus, Paul’s encouragement is essentially the key to discipleship. He urged Jesus’ followers to look at, think of, and meditate on people and things that are positive, admirable, pure, and good etc.
I am a person who finds flaws in and criticizes others readily, and often sees others’ faults and inadequacies. Even though I had believed in the Lord for many years, I had not change. However, over the past ten years, God has given me the opportunity to learn from some mentors in Christ. Through different spiritual exercises, such as meditating on God’s words, contemplative prayer, and receiving spiritual direction, my life is constantly being renewed, as God has slowly healed my brokenness and allows me to learn to accept who I am. Brothers and sisters, this is my personal experience. The kind of thoughts and beliefs we have in our hearts will greatly affect our whole person – self-image, marriage and family relationships, mental and emotional health, work and study, social interests, church life and ministry etc.
Are there any negative things or thoughts you have that make you feel hopeless? Following Paul’s encouragement, which area of your life would you need to work on? “Put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Php 4:9b)
著有《上帝的美麗》及《天國好生活》的神學教授James B. Smith認爲，培育信徒的靈命最重要的是其思想上的培育，因為我們的思想主導我們所說、所行的。主耶穌說，若滿心都是污穢和邪惡的意念，這些必從我們的口中說岀來 (太15:18-19)。因此，保羅的鼓勵實質上是門徒培育的鑰匙。他囑咐跟隨耶穌的人，要好好細看、思想及默念那些正面、令人敬佩、純潔和美善等等的人和事。
我本身是一個易於挑剔、批評的人，總愛看到別人的過錯和不足，即使信主多年，仍然是那模樣。然而，過往的十年裡，神給我機會向一些主內的前輩學習。透過不同的屬靈操練，如默想神的話、靜觀祈禱、接受靈命指導，我的生命不斷地被更新，因為神慢慢醫治我的破碎，亦讓我學習接納自己的本相。弟兄姊妹，這是我切身的體會，我們的心存着怎樣的思想及信念，會極大程度地影響我們整個人 — 自我形象、婚姻/家庭關係、心理/情緒健康、工作/進修、社交/興趣、教會生活/事奉等。