Sermon Summary • God is Generous (Psalm 23)
Rev. Dr. Milton Eng (guest speaker)
James Bryan Smith shares in his book The Good and Beautiful God that in order for us to experience true spiritual growth we must (1) replace the false narratives in our minds with Jesus’ narratives, (2) engage in the training of the soul through the spiritual disciplines and (3) practice all this in the context of community. When it comes to the theme of his chapter “God is Generous,” what is the false narrative that needs to be replaced? It is the idea of “earning God’s favor.”
When it comes to the widespread principle that to get along in the world everyone must earn their way, Asian Americans are particularly attuned to this. Although not all Asian parents are “tiger” parents, it is a cultural norm that the only acceptable way of life is to work hard, study hard and earn favor. There is a further Asian American spin on this. For many Asian Americans, the problem is not that “God is Generous” but that “God is Generous to the Wrong People” as are the workers of the vineyard who worked the least but received the same pay (Mt. 20:12).
Regardless, any narrative of works righteousness and earning favor is a false narrative which represents one path of life based on a worldly principle . The Kingdom of God offers a second and alternative pathway, one based on “unmerited favor” and God’s generosity to all who humbly acknowledge their need. They sing with their brethren “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” A lifetime of trying to “earn it my way” and then finally giving up and giving in to God’s sovereignty has brought to fruition the truth of Ps. 23 as so very appropriate a soul training exercise. Surely, he has “led me beside quiet waters, he has restored my soul.” He indeed “has anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows.”
Rev. Milton Eng (伍敬華 牧師) is a scholar, pastor, teacher and author. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY he came to Christ in his junior year at Columbia University and has been pursuing the Lord ever since. While undertaking seminary studies at places like Biblical and Westminster he pastored various English Ministries in NY and NJ. Always wanting to get deeper into the Word, Pastor Milton completed his Ph.D. in Hebrew and Old Testament at Drew University. He is currently East Coast Project Director for ISAAC (Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity) and recently published his first book with Zondervan entitled Devotions on the Hebrew Bible. Milton enjoys good food, conversation and tennis. He is also a long-time friend of Pastor Tim Tseng going all the way back to Tim’s days in Brooklyn!
Devotions on the Hebrew Bible is the companion volume to Devotions on the Greek New Testament published by Zondervan in 2012. Designed primarily for students, pastors and professors of biblical Hebrew, the book consists of 54 short devotional reflections based on a careful analysis of the original Hebrew text. These are insights which cannot be seen in any English translations. The purpose of the volume is to encourage students and pastors to keep up with their Hebrew and to observe first-hand how practical, spiritual and devotional their original language study can truly be. Bo Lim, for example, reminds the reader of the biblical precedent for expressing lament. Highlighting the intricate but beautiful Hebrew acrostic in the book of Lamentations, he confirms the principle that both grief and hope provide the rhythm of faith and worship in the life of the believer. Thirty-eight scholars from across the country and around the world contributed to DHB including such senior scholars as Dan Block and Miles Van Pelt to some up and coming writers such as Chloe Sun and Beth Stovell reflecting a diversity of contributors from ethnicity to gender. While a knowledge of Hebrew is assumed for each devotion, a standard English translation is also provided and so even laypeople without Hebrew can appreciate the exposition and application once they get past the Hebrew analysis. There is a devotional reflection on every book of the Old Testament. Hebrew word and grammatical feature indexes are provided.