Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Devotional 300609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I am back to office today even though my stubborn cough still follows me.
My few days of Sabbath were very helpful and fruitful. I managed to read some book and do some study for a course I took at Western Seminary. It is a very interesting course called Communicating Christ in Culture. It talks about how different cultural factors may affect the way we communicate Christ to different people in the world. The materials are very inspiring, but the course involves a lot of homework. I need to put on my student cap again.

"Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison" (Matthew 5:25). Jesus Christ is laying down this principle - Do what you know you must do, now, and do it quickly; if you do not, the inevitable process will begin to work and you will have to pay for the consequence in pain and agony and distress. God's laws are unalterable; there is no escape from them. The teaching of Jesus goes straight to the way we are made up.

To see that my adversary gives me my rights is natural; but Jesus says that it is a matter of eternal and imperative importance to me that I pay my adversary what I owe him. From our Lord's standpoint it does not matter whether I am deceived or not; what does matter is that I do not deceive. Am I insisting on my rights, or am I paying what I owe from Jesus Christ's standpoint?

Do the thing quickly, and bring yourself to judgment now. In moral and spiritual matters, you must do it at once; if you do not, the inevitable process will begin to work. God is determined to have His child as pure and clean and white as driven snow, and as long as there is disobedience in any point of His teaching, He will prevent none of the working of His spirit. Our insistence in proving that we are right is nearly always an indication that there has been some point of disobedience. No wonder the Spirit so strongly urges us to walk steadfastly in the light!

"Settle matters quickly with your adversary." Have you suddenly turned a corner in any relationship and found that you had anger in your heart? Confess it quickly, quickly put it right before God, be reconciled to that one - do it now.

Nothing is more damaging than unforgiving spirit or bitterness. It does not only condemn oneself to the hell of burning anger and corrupting health, it also hurts one’s family members and drives people away. That’s why Paul urged us, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph 4:26-27). In most inter-personal relationship, anger was stirred by unfair incidence in life; you are absolutely innocent but people did evil to you or speak evil of you for no reason. But is it really true? Are we truly blameless and innocent? Have you ever pause and meditate on Paul’s words in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”? Does the word “all” include you or not? Before you consume all your energy to prove how other wrong you, confess your wrong before the Lord and let Him enable you to see your own disobedience on His Words.

The key strategy to deal with negative emotion is “don’t let it procrastinate or take root.” We tend to harbor it or subdue it. We thought negative emotion would not bother us if we busy ourselves we something else. But it will come back to haunt on you again from time to time, especially at your most unexpected moment of life. So deal with it quick. Settle the grief in the grace of our Lord Jesus. Jesus has paid your adversary the high price for you on the cross, you just need to confess your sins and claim His promise of forgiveness by faith. Moreover, you also exercise forgiveness as a response to His grace.

Love you because of this Grace,
Lawrence

Monday, June 29, 2009

Devotional 290609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for your prayer for my health. I am recovering quite well even though I still have some lingering coughs today. Praise God for giving me time to rest; my body was just craving for sleep in the last couples of days. I thought I was well enough to do some chores at home, but my body just shut down on me after a few hours. I guess sickness could be a blessing in disguise; God uses sickness to deal with the chronic problem of workaholics in this high-tech and Internet world .

"And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell" (Matthew 5:30). Jesus did not say that everyone must cut off the right hand, but - If your right hand offends you in your walk with Me, cut it off. There are many things that are perfectly legitimate, but if you are going to concentrate on God you cannot do them. Your right hand is one of the best things you have, but, says Jesus, if it hinders you in following His principles, cut it off. This line of discipline is the sternest one that ever struck mankind.

When God alters a man by regeneration, the characteristic of the life to begin with is that it is “crippled.” There are a hundred and one things you dare not do, things that to you and in the eyes of the world that knows you are as your right hand and your eye, and the ungodly person says - What is wrong in that? How ridiculous you are! There never has been a saint yet who did not have to live a “crippled life” to start with. But it is better to enter into life crippled and lovely in God's sight than to be lovely in man's sight and lame in God's. In the beginning Jesus Christ by His Spirit has to check you from doing a great many things that may be perfectly right for everyone else but not right for you. See that you do not use your limitations to criticize someone else.

It is a “crippled life” to begin with, but in v.48 Jesus gives the picture of a perfectly satisfied and out of the world kind of life that you will eventually become - "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

The story of "Jacob wrestling with God" came to my mind. He was a man with “street smart.” Jacob was more than a survivor and a successful businessman, who knew how to manipulate things and people for his own agenda. He moved up quickly to get what he wanted. If he were to live in our history today, he would easily make more money than Warren Buffet (the top three richest men in the world). But his success did not come without expenses or costs to his life - he had a lot of problems with his family and extended family. The most critical turning point of his life was when Jacob decided to reconcile with his past – his broken relationship with his brother Esau. He knew how much it might cost him and to his family. He had calculated his risks but he still did not have peace inside. God came to wrestle with Jacob one night and turned him into a crippled man (Gen 32:24). But God also blessed him with a new name called Israel, which means “he has wrestled with God” or “he has been saved by God.” Indeed his "disability" became his sign of regeneration or salvation.

Any sincere seekers of Truth would have “wrestled with God” in some points of their lives. They may wrestle with God mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally or in some kind of important issues in life. And the common result through this “spiritual struggle” is a crippled life or a life of humility – willfully laid down their personal rights, freedom, convenience or comfort for the sake of a godly life. I guess this is the quality of life that God separates mankind from other creatures on earth. And this is the kind of "life goal" that we are all called to attain. “Do you see what this means - all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running - and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins” (Heb 12:1 Message).

Love you as fellow runners of His race,
Lawrence

Friday, June 26, 2009

Devotional 260609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I came down with either a bad cold or flu and confined myself at home today. It is God’s grace to give me a break from my busy routine and really rest. Yesterday we lost 2 superstars in Hollywood. It was sad to see how this King of Pop suddenly died. According to the news, he was planning to do his last concert cruise in England. Many of his fans in England were anticipating seeing their “King” at his last performance. But when God said times up, nobody can protest. It made me think of what Apostle James said in his letter, “Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that"” (Jam 4:13-15). Yes. We may plan for our future and we should do so for being a good steward. But we also need to recognize the fact that the result may not happen to the way we anticipate. Learn to submit ourselves to His hands and do whatever God pleases for us to do today. That’s why James added at the end, “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (v. 17 RSV). Let’s seize this moment to live out the kind of person that God wants us to live. Amen?

"As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain" (2 Corinthians 6:1). The grace you had yesterday will not do for to-day. Grace is the overflowing favor of God; you can always consider it is there to draw upon. "In much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses" - that is where the test for patience comes. Are you failing the grace of God there? Are you saying - Oh, well, I won't count this time? It is not a question of praying and asking God to help you; it is taking the grace of God now. We make prayer the preparation for work; it is never that in the Bible. Prayer is the exercise of drawing on the grace of God. Don't say - I will endure or handle this until I can get away and pray. Pray now; draw on the grace of God in the moment of need. Prayer is the most practical thing to do; it is not the reflex action of devotion. Prayer is the last thing in which we learn to draw on God's grace.

"In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors" - in all these things manifest a drawing upon the grace of God that will make you a marvel to yourself and to others. Draw now, not presently. The one word in the spiritual vocabulary is Now. Let circumstances bring you where they will, keep drawing on the grace of God in every conceivable condition you may be in. One of the greatest proofs that you are drawing on the grace of God is that you can be humiliated without manifesting the slightest trace of anything but His grace.

"Having nothing . . ." Never reserve anything. Pour out the best you have, and always be poor. Never be diplomatic and careful about the treasure God gives. This is poverty triumphant. Our Lord said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). The one who is poor in the spirit learns to rely on the grace of God at all time. They recognize the limitation of mankind and the unlimited power of God. They seek to humble himself before His grace.

This devotional from Oswald Chamber came at a good time. I certainly need the grace of God to heal me and strengthen me. Sickness humbles our pride and ego. It makes us realize that we are not god or immortal after all. We learn to let God be God, and we faithfully do our part in His Kingdom.

Love you by His grace,
Lawrence

Thursday, June 25, 2009

devotional 250609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I guess my coughing came to its peak. I have consumed a lot of tissue papers because of my running nose. It so happened that this week is my turn to lead devotional sharing at staff prayer meeting, and we will also have a video conference with our missionary candidates at Thailand in late afternoon. I can’t afford to be sick today…please pray for God’s grace to strengthen me for this day.

"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour"(John 12:27-29). My attitude as a saint to sorrow and difficulty is not to ask that they may be prevented, but to ask that I may preserve the self God created me to be through every fire of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself in the fire of sorrow, He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.

We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to receive ourselves in its fires. If we try and avoid sorrow, refuse to lay our account with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life; it is no use saying sorrow ought not to be. Sin and sorrow and suffering are realities of life, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.

Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness, but it does not always make a man better. Suffering either gives me my self or it destroys my self. You cannot receive your self in success, you lose your head; you cannot receive your self in boredom, you complaint. The way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow. Why it should be so is another matter, but that it is so is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You always know the man who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, you are certain you can go to him in trouble and find that he has ample leisure for you. If a man has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous; he has no time for you. If you receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.

When Jesus said, “I have come in order that you might have life - life in all its fullness,” it does not mean you will not experience sorrow. If our Lord, who is the source of abundant life, went through sorrow and agony of the cross, we will not be immune from it. A full or abundant life in Christ is a transformed life that gives us the inner strength to remain peaceful in the face of suffering, joyful in the face of difficulties, and stamina to press on in the face of failures or fear. Abundant life in Christ is not a shallow life that decorated for others to see. It is the inner strength to encounter reality of life in whatever forms (happiness or sorrow, boredom or excitement and so forth) with the presence of God in a truthful manner.

A full life is definitely not to practice a few hours of religious piety in church, or engage in some kind of spiritual dialogue in fellowship. It is a sincere and dedicated life in pursuing holiness by abandoning oneself to the hands of God, and abiding in the mind of Christ. Paul said, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind…Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:1-2, 5 RSV). This full life in Christ is an contagious life. It will influence or impact other life. This is this kind of changed life can really changes other people’s life. Discipleship is not taught but caught. Instead of just putting people through a discipleship training course, you let others observe how you live as a true disciple of Christ from inside out. It does not mean you have to be strong and blameless all the time; you will stumble and fall in life. The key is how you press on through abandoning and abiding in the mercy and grace of God.

Love you because He is love,
Lawrence

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Devotional 240609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I thanked God for giving me strength to work, even though I was under the weather. I might have caught a cold because of the rapid change of weather. It was so warm last Sunday that I sweated a lot after each preaching. I did not take off my jacket all morning long. I guessed that might be the cause of my sickness. Anyway, God’s grace is always sufficient for His children. Praise the Lord!

"Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour--when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53). It is not being reconciled to the fact of sin that produces all the disasters in life. You may talk about the nobility of human nature, but there is something in human nature, which will laugh in the face of every ideal you have. If you refuse to agree with the fact that there is vice and self-seeking, something downright malicious and wrong in human beings, instead of reconciling yourself to it, when it strikes your life, you will compromise with it and say it is of no use to battle against it. Have you made allowance for this hour and the power of darkness, or do you take a recognition of yourself that misses out sin? In your bodily relationships and friendships do you reconcile yourself to the fact of sin? If not, you will be caught round the next corner and you will compromise with it. If you reconcile yourself to the fact of sin, you will realize the danger at once - Yes, I see what that would mean. The recognition of sin does not destroy the basis of friendship; it establishes a mutual regard for the fact that the basis of life is tragic. Always beware of an attitude of life, which does not recognize the fact that there is sin.

Jesus Christ never trusted human nature, yet He was never cynical, never suspicious, because He trusted absolutely in what He could do for human nature. The pure man or woman, not the innocent, is the safeguarded man or woman. You are never safe with an innocent man or woman. Men and women have no business to be innocent; God demands that they be pure and virtuous. Innocence is the characteristic of a child; it is a blameworthy thing for a man or woman not to be reconciled to the fact of sin.

This is always a constant battle within us against our sinful nature. We can never root out the sinful potentiality of our human nature. We can only put a leash on it lest our human nature goes against the will of God. The potentiality of a wild horse could be very destructive if it is not tamed probably. If it is tamed or under control, then it could become a great blessing to it’s master and others. Jesus used this concept to describe the blessing of “meek.” He said in the sermon of the Mount, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5). Paul described “self-control” as one of the 9 expressions of a Spiritual Fruit in Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” If you look at this verse carefully, you will understand that Paul was talking about 9 expressions or characteristics of a Spirit filled or Godly person. We don’t know for sure about a person’s relationship with God. But by seeing the result or fruit (that’s why he said “fruit” a single noun but not “fruits”) in this person’s life, we can tell whether he or she is really filled with the Holy Spirit. These 9 qualities of a Godly person are all inter-connected. If we compare this verse with Paul’s love poem in 1 Corinthians 13, you can easily tell that true love involves patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and so forth. In another word, we can’t pick and choose the kind of qualities you want for your life but not the others. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, they should all gradually surface in your life. In the same token, gentleness and self-control are like two sides of the same coin that one cannot go without the other. Therefore, when you put a leash on your human nature according to His Word, you are deliberately submitting yourself under the control of the Holy Spirit; people will eventually see the transformation in you that you don’t even aware.

After saying all of the above, we have to recognize another fact that we are not always be able to exercise self-control. We need the inner strength from our Holy Spirit and the prayer support of our fellow brothers and sisters. We will have our “dark hours” in life that we may even betray our Lord Jesus. We need the Body of Christ to hold us accountable and never forsake us just like what God would do.

Love you by His steadfastness,
Lawrence

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Devotional 230609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for another wonderful day. Such balmy weather makes you feel like working out door. I need to stop thinking about it. Otherwise. I will not be able to concentrate in my meditation and work. I just praise God for giving me the sensitivity to appreciate His creation, which is a gift from our loving Heavenly Father.

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3). We are not acquainted with grief in the way in which Our Lord was acquainted with it; we endure it, we get through it, but we do not become intimate with it. At the beginning of life we do not reconcile ourselves to the fact of sin. We take a rational view of life and say that a man by controlling his instincts, and by educating himself, can produce a life, which will slowly evolve into the life of God. But as we go on, we find the presence of something, which we have not taken into consideration, and that is the problem of sin, which upsets all our calculations. Sin has made the basis of things wild and not rational. We have to recognize that sin is a fact, not a defect; sin is red-handed rebellion against God. Either God or sin must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue. If sin rules in me, God's life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is no other possible outcome than that. The climax of sin is that it crucified Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will be true in your history and in mine. In our mental outlook, we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact of sin as the only explanation as to why Jesus Christ came, and as the explanation of the grief and sorrow in life.

We have problem to admit sin or recognize ourselves as sinners. Many pre-Christian friends are stumbled by our emphasis on facing he reality of sin, and refused to embrace this relationship with God through Christ. To them, sins refer to those behaviors that violate the law of society, or those actions that hurt others like killing and stealing. They may not realize the fact that sinful behavior begins from within. Apostle James said, “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15). Deep down inside us we have this rebellious instinct against God. Out of this instinct of rebellion, we tend to challenge any “absolute authority” over us. We fail to do what God intended for us to do. We fail to live up to God’s expectation for us to live. And these are all part of our sin. Some of you may immediately respond with this question, “why do I want to live up to God’s expectation? Why is He so authoritative and make us surrender to Him?” This is human nature to react with such attitude or question – and we call this nature: freedom.

It is this nature of men that put men into a lot of trouble and despairs. If we abuse this nature of freedom that God endow in us, we run into all kinds of problem for ourselves and conflict with other people. This is exactly what Paul said in the book of Romans, “Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (Romans 1:21-24). God still honors His endowment for us even though we abuse it. He just wants us to exercise this freedom to enjoy and fulfill His wonderful plan on earth for us. But the bottom line is whether we are willing to kill our sinful desires with this freedom on a daily basis. This is something I also need your prayers. After all, I need someone to hold me accountable too!

Love you as a recovering sinner in Christ,
Lawrence

Monday, June 22, 2009

Devotional 220609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for Monday. The weather was gorgeous and the beauty of our Creator God just fills the air. There is no limit for those who eager to serve the Lord. Opportunity to serve Him is everywhere, if we change our inward looking mindset to a more outward looking attitude. Let the passions of Christ fills your heart today so that you will no longer live for yourself but for Christ alone. Amen?

"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Matthew 7:2). This statement is not a haphazard guess; it is an eternal law of God. Whatever judgment you give, it is measured to you again. There is a difference between retaliation and retribution. Jesus says that the basis of life is retribution - " with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." If you have been shrewd in finding out the defects in others, remember that will be exactly the measure given to you. Life serves back in the coin you pay. This law works from God's throne downwards, just as the Psalmist said, “To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd” (Psalm 18:25-26).

Romans 2:1 says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Applies the teaching of this whole chapter of Romans to any situation you are in, and says that the one who criticizes another is guilty of the very same thing. God looks not only at the act, He looks at the possibility. We do not believe the statements of the Bible to begin with. For instance, do we believe this statement, that the things we criticize in others we are guilty of ourselves? The reason we see hypocrisy and fraud and unreality in others is because they are all in our own hearts. The great characteristic of a saint is humility - Yes, all those things and other evils would have been manifested in me but for the grace of God, therefore I have no right to judge.

Jesus says - "Do not judge, or you too will be judged " if you do judge, it will be measured to you exactly as you have judged. Who of us would dare to stand before God and say - "My God, judge me as I have judged my fellow men?" We have judged our fellow men as sinners; if God should judge us like that we would be in hell. God judges us through the marvelous Atonement of Jesus Christ.

We fall into this temptation too easily. We always use a magnifying glass to see others; we easily criticize other’s behavior and question other’s motive. But we seldom apply the same standard to ourselves. I totally agree with Brother Chambers that we have full potential to commit the same “sin” as those whom we criticize. When we passionately criticize our pre-Christian friends of their “immoral” acts, we ask God to forgive us because we could have done the same thing if it were not the grace of God in us. In this way, we turn our focus not on other’s problem but on our own. Then, we will also change our attitude to plead for God’s mercy for ourselves as well as for our pre-Christian friends, knowing that they would suffer even more in the hands of Satan, if they do not know that their Only Way to escape judgment is through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ask the Lord for more patience to deal with your own sanctification (becoming holy) process, as well as your attitude toward your pre-Christian friends or coworkers. Redirect your energy from critical or judgmental reactions to short mental prayers for mercy and thanksgiving. Seek the Lord to “strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:16-17).

Love you by His mercy,
Lawrence

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fruitful Father Day weekend






















This was my first time preaching at this church even though I had known their pastor for twenty some years. It was a lot of fun to preach to both their English and Chinese congregations. They really know how to celebrate Father's Day! Loretta and I enjoyed the hospitality of the church. Pray that God will use this church to be a light house not only in the community but within their denomination as well.




I enjoyed leading a workshop at the adult fellowship of San Bruno Chinese church on saturday night. It was great to meet some new and old friends at that church. Praise the Lord!

















The weekend ministry began at Andy's home to do film editting work on our Middle East project. It took us 6 hours just to select the footage for Cyprus. We will have a long way ahead of us.




Friday, June 19, 2009

Devotional 190609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I drove Loretta to the Personnel Office to officially check in to her new position at the Human Services Department of the City of San Francisco. She will start work on Monday. This is indeed a special provision from God, and again thank you for your prayer support. Moreover, my son-in-law had been laid off for two weeks but was re-hired again yesterday. God gave us double blessings this week. When I looked back, I thank God for giving Loretta a month off to rest and served as my volunteer; she helped me re-organize my library and file cabinet (it is a big job). Through the thick and thin of life, we experienced the love and friendship of God. He is like a cheer leader of dragon boat race, who motivates us each day to paddle forward until we reach the finish line. Praise the Lord!

"Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep" (John 21:16). Jesus did not say - Make converts to your way of thinking, but look after My sheep, see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Me. We count as service what we do in the way of Christian work; Jesus Christ calls service what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on adherence to a belief or a creed. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). There is no argument and no compulsion, but simply - If you would be His disciple, you must be devoted to Him. A man touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says - "Now I see who Jesus is," and that is the source of devotion.

Today we have substituted doctrinal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many are devoted to causes or missions, and so few devoted to Jesus Christ. People do not want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the ministry He started. Jesus Christ is a source of deep offence to the educated mind of today that does not want Him in any other way than as a companion. Our Lord's first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men; the saving of men was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will fade; but if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a doormat. The secret of a disciple's life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of the life is its unobtrusiveness or humility. “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). Moreover, this seed will spring up and alter the whole landscape of the field.

Discipleship is not just transferring knowledge of the Bible or providing information on our theology. It is helping a person to become a devoted follower of Christ. In order to do so, the discipler has to be a devoted friend of Christ first. We are talking about introducing your good friend to another friend. It is a devoted relationship that gives birth to another relationship. Therefore, we need to watch out the friendship factor in discipleship. Being a true friend, you will not manipulate a relationship. You want to be as genuine and transparent in your relationship as possible. This is how our Lord expects our friendship with Him too. “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15b). A devoted follower of Christ commits to walk with Him in a truthful and passionate manner. You don’t give excuses for not doing what your Lover expects. If you do, your relationship will eventually come to a dead-end street. Even though the love of God is unconditional, you will miss the fulfillment of that relationship with God if you are not true and sincere to Him. Deep down inside, you will feel a void or emptiness in your relationship with Christ. If you do share such feeling now, it is God’s call for you to make a U turn back to Him.

Once you enjoy this relationship with Christ, you will not feel ashamed to tell others about this best friend of yours. You wish your other friends would become His friend too. To me this is the way evangelism should be. We don’t go around proselytize or convert people to believe in our religion. We introduce Jesus to our friends. Tell them how much Jesus means to you. And show them how they can also develop a friendship with Him too. I am sure our Lord will do His part to draw close to these pre-Christian friends of ours, so that they will have a taste of this divine friendship in Christ.

Love you because of His love,
Lawrence

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Devotional 180609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. How wonderful it is to see beautiful sunshine again. The fog is finally gone and we are greeted and embraced by a warm sunny day. Thanks for your prayer for Loretta; she is offered a temporary position at the City. She will return to work in the same office next Monday. Let’s continue to pray for those who are still searching for job.

"Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink…" (Matthew 14:29-30). The wind was actually strong, the waves were actually high, but Peter did not see them at first. He did not consider them, he simply recognized his Lord and stepped out in recognition of Him, and walked on the water. Then he began to feel with the actual things, and down he went instantly. Why could not our Lord have enabled him to walk at the bottom of the waves as well as on the top of them? Neither could be done saving by recognition of the Lord Jesus.

We step right out on God over some things, then self-consideration enters in and down we go. If you are recognizing your Lord, you have no business with where He engineers your circumstances. The actual things are, but immediately you look at them you are overwhelmed, you cannot recognize Jesus, and the rebuke comes: "why did you doubt?" Let actual circumstances be what they may, you keep focusing on Jesus, and maintain complete reliance on Him.

If you debate for a second when God has spoken, it is all over. Never say - "Well, I wonder if He did speak?" Take action immediately; fling it all out on Him. You do not know when His voice will come, but whenever the realization of God comes in the faintest way imaginable, quickly abandon yourself to Him. It is only by abandonment that you recognize Him. You will only realize His voice more clearly by your unhesitant response to His call.

Sometimes God visits us in a most unexpected circumstances and timing. We thought we would encounter God while we pray or doing our devotional reading. We assume this is the only environment that we will encounter God. We reduce God to the size of our spiritual compartment. When we did not hear God during our devotion or worship time, we complained and concluded that He was not there or in existence. We fail to recognize God in our most boring or stormy situation in life. We did not pay attention to His presence during the non-religious activities or mundane part of life. Even if we did sense His presence, we hesitated to respond to His voice as though it was only your silly imagination. You definitely will not abandon yourself to such leading because it seems to be irrational or emotional. You feel like a religious fanatics or a jerk.

We may not have supernatural encounter with God like Peter had. But we would encounter stormy experience like Peter had. Where is Jesus in the midst of our stormy circumstances? I like the insight that I had learned from the revival meeting on Saturday night: 1) Jesus is praying for us – “he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray” (Matt 14:23a). As Paul said, our sweet Holy Spirit is praying for us each day, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26). 2) Jesus is drawing close to us – “Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake…” (Matt 14:25). The Holy Spirit will help us learn to rely on God at all times. 3) Jesus will come on board on boat – “those who were in the boat worshiped him” (Matt 14:33). Jesus wants to enter into communion with us at our stormy days. Draw close to Him by reading His Word and sensing His Work around you. When you sense His guidance on any given situation, learn to abandon yourself to Him in prayer and action. He is the One who can calm a stormy sea.

Love you by His “calming” strength,
Lawrence

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Devotional 170609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. The stubborn fog reminded me of some stubborn bad habits of mine that never go away. My unhealthy eating habit, lack of exercise problem, negative thoughts on others and self-righteous attitude hover over me like Daly City fog, that seems never evaporate. But God’s grace is also stubborn to continue His work in me regardless. Praise the Lord!

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Matthew 7:1). Jesus says regarding judging - Don't. The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual. Criticism is a part of the ordinary faculty of man; but in the spiritual domain nothing is accomplished by criticism. The effect of criticism is a dividing up of the powers of the one criticized; the Holy Spirit is the only One in the true position to criticize, He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. It is impossible to enter into communion with God when you are in a critical temper; it makes you hard and bitter and cruel, and leaves you with the flattering unction that you are a superior person. Jesus says, as a disciple cultivate the uncritical temper. It is not done once and for all. Beware of anything that puts you in the superior person's place.

There is no getting away from the penetration of Jesus. If I see the mote in your eye, it means I have a beam in my own. Every wrong thing that I see in you, God locates in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself. Paul warned the Jewish leaders who bragged of their superior identity with God to act godly from inside out, “Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth – you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself ?” (Romans 2:17-21) Stop having a measuring rod for other people. There is always one fact more in every man's case about which we know nothing. The first thing God does is to give us a spiritual “spring-cleaning;” there is no possibility of pride left in a man after that. I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.

I thought “critical spirit or attitude” is a contemporary problem in Christian community. But according to Brother Chambers this also happened to Christian community hundred some years ago. I guess this is part of sinful nature of man; we tend to see ourselves better than others, we enjoy criticizing others but eager to cover up our sins and weaknesses. Now we came to know the Lord and learned the Truth, The Truth became our new and powerful “ammunition” to launch our “criticism” against others. We failed to recognize that God expects us to apply the Truth to ourselves.

To teach the Truth is good, but to criticize others in the name of the Truth is another issue. Christian community, who is so judgmental and critical, but yet silence on their own hypocrisy and weaknesses, turned off many pre-Christian friends. This kind of judgmental spirit also becomes a self-destructive force within the Body of Christ. When this negative spirit permeated into the very fabrics of the church, it caused all kinds of tensions and fight since the beginning of church history. It is very sad to see many vibrant churches split in the name of the Truth. When we do not take heel on this issue, we give foothold to Satan to detour or even destroy the very missions of the Church. After saying all these, I am the first one to be blamed because I am a critical individual by nature, and I have a tendency to turn the Body of Christ into a judgmental community. Have mercy on me O Lord. Cleanse me of my self-righteousness and stop me from spreading the spirit of criticism at whatever community that you put me in.

Love you by His mercy,
Lawrence

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Devotional 160609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. A grey sky cannot cover the glory of God for this day. We are the workmanship of God, and He wants to glorify Himself through this workmanship in us. Thus, let God freely work in and through your life today. Let Him have full control of your whole being simply because He is the Lover and Author of your soul.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends… I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:13, 15). Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him. Peter said - "I will lay down my life for your sake" and he meant it; his sense of the heroic was magnificent. It would be a bad thing to be incapable of making such a declaration as Peter made; the sense of our duty is only realized by our sense of the heroic. Has the Lord ever asked you - "Wilt you lay down your life for My sake?" It is far easier to die than to lay down the life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling. We are not made for brilliant moments, but we have to walk in the light of them in ordinary ways. There was only one brilliant moment in the life of Jesus, and that was on the Mount of Transfiguration; then He emptied Himself the second time of His glory, and came down into the demon-possessed valley. For thirty-three years Jesus laid out His life to do the will of His Father, and, John says, "We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." It is contrary to human nature to do it.

If I am a friend of Jesus, I have deliberately and carefully to lay down my life for Him. It is difficult, and thank God it is difficult. Salvation is easy because it cost God so much, but the manifestation of it in my life is difficult. God saves a man and endues him with the Holy Spirit, and then says in effect - "Now work it out, be loyal to Me, while the nature of things around you would make you disloyal." "I have called you friends." Stand loyal to your Friend, and remember that His honor is at stake in your bodily life.

It is hard to “lay down” my life on a daily basis. It means yielding my personal rights, ego, preferences and opinions to God each day. We too used to do whatever we think is right. But I now learn to do whatever the Word of God said in the Bible. God did not force us to do what He wants. He wants us to exercise our “free will” to yield our “free will” to become His slave with joy and thanksgiving. It sounds ridiculous and paradoxical. But this is exactly our spiritual warfare from within: “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5b).

Our “every thought” used to revolve around our ego because we were all born to be narcissistic. In another word, we were born to think that the whole world exists to serve us but not the other way around. That’s why babies cry when they are hungry, thirsty and sleepy… They will not consider the needs of their parents and yield their rights to them. They demand their needs to be met right away, no matter how tired or busy their parents may be. Spiritual babies behave in similar ways. But as we mature in Christ (experience and treasure our friendship with Christ), we gradually change our attitudes and exercise self-control; we learn to yield our rights and submit to Christ on a voluntary basis.

Once we are in control of our desires and thoughts and submit them to Christ, we can have better control of our tongues in speaking words of edification and appreciation. Early church fathers recognized the significant need to control our tongues and make it submit to Christ: “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell… no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:4-9); “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). It is not easy to control our tongues if we do not also control our thoughts and inner desires. And we will not control our thoughts and submit them to Christ if we do not enjoy and treasure our friendship with Christ. We don’t yield our free will out of fear of being punished; we don’t mind to even die for our liberty. But we are willing to die for those whom we love and treasure. That’s why you need to nourish this intimate relationship with Christ by enjoying His love and companionship each day.

Love you because we share this common Lover,
Lawrence

Monday, June 15, 2009

Devotional 150609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is good to have a special no pay leave to rest and spend with the Lord. If you follow my blog, you know I had a busy weekend. I was tired and my voice exhausted after preaching in two services, fellowshiped with some brothers and sisters over a long lunch, and led worship at the revival meeting. I do need time to recuperate from all these excitements (excitement is exhausting too!) but my heart is filled with joy of thanksgiving, and recalling all my great experiences…

"Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love" (2 Peter 1:5-7). Through the promises of God, “you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires,” says Peter (v.4), now focus your attention to form habits, give diligence, and concentrate. "Add" means literally put on something new to your life. No man is born either naturally or supernaturally with character, he has to build up character. Nor are we born with habits; we have to form habits on the basis of the new life God has put into us. We are not meant to be illuminated versions, but the common stuff of ordinary life exhibiting the marvel of the grace of God. Hard work is the hallmark of character. The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do. But "Jesus took a towel . . . and began to wash the disciples' feet."

There are times when there is no enlightenment and no thrill, but just the daily routine and common task. Routine is God's way of saving us between our times of inspiration. Do not expect God always to give you His thrilling experience, but learn to live in the field of hard work by the power of God.

It is the "adding" that is difficult. We say we do not expect God to carry us to heaven on flowery beds of ease, and yet we act as if we did! The tiniest detail in which I obey has all the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it. If I do my duty, not for duty's sake, but because I believe God is engineering my circumstances, then at the very point of my obedience the whole superb grace of God is mine through the Atonement.

In your “boring routine” of life, God is at work in a mysterious and quiet way. He used those to build up your character, provided that you choose to respond or react to God’s engineered circumstances in God’s way. To those of us in full time ministry, this temptation of seeking to do the great things for God is very common. Since we answered His call to serve God, of course, we expect to do the extraordinary things for Him. We expect to receive extraordinary power from Him. We expect to receive special insight from Him everyday. Even church members would assume that we, ministers, should have special line with God. God will give us more insight and feeding, so that we become leaders in the faith community. I don’t know about other full time workers, I don’t feel like we have special line with God, though we may be more conscious of God’s movement in our lives and in others. But it does not mean our lives are always “high or thrill” everyday. We have dull moment, frustrating and boring time like everybody. We go through similar training from God. That’s why we need to encourage each others. Let’s cheer each other up to pursue holiness and godly characters for His glory.

Love you in according to His training manual,
Lawrence

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Closing of 4 days Revival Meetings














Praise God for a wonderful Revival meetings. The Lord has used 3 dynamic speakers to remind us His love in this dangerous world. God is in control. His love is always with us, and He wants to use us to be His channels of blessings to people around us.





Preach in two worship servies on Missions





I was very grateful to be invited to preach at the Missions Sunday of Evangelical Free Church in San Francisco. I was especially glad to meet some of my old friends who served together with me before at Cumberland. Some of whom I have not met for over 20 years. What a wonderful reunion; we don't have to wait until we see each other in heaven. It is indeed a great blessing.



Friday, June 12, 2009

Revival meeting at San Francisco

It was a great joy to worship the Lord with brothers and sisters from different churches in the Bay Area. I was glad to see so many young people also participated in this event. Praise the Lord!

The Annual revival meeting at San Francisco was blessed to have a senior preacher, Rev. Moses Yu, to teach us with the Word of God. It was amazing to witness how God has used this brother to preach His Word for last 70 years. In his 90 years of age, his voice was still powerful, his mind was still sharp, and he was still active in preaching the gospel throughout the world.

Devotional 120609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I was rushing to work because the alarm clock was not set correctly last night. Then I had meeting after meeting until 10:45 before I could spend time with the Lord in meditation. It does not mean my Lord was not with me before devotion. I was not able to focus on Him during the rush and meetings. I thanked the Lord for watching over me and granted me the wisdom to interact with people on different subject matters. Moreover, He used those experiences to shape me to become the kind of person He intends for me to be, and accomplish some tasks along the way.

"Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him" (John 1:39). "They spent that day with him." That is about all some of us would do, then we wake up to another day of actualities, self-interest arises and the abiding is gone. But it does not have to be like that. There is no condition of life in which we cannot abide in Jesus.

"You are Simon, you shall be called Cephas." God writes the new name on those places only in our lives where He has erased the pride and self-sufficiency and self-interest. Some of us have the new name in spots only, like spiritual measles on our skins. On the surface or in some sections we look all right. When we have our best spiritual mood on, you would think we were very “devoted or spiritual” saints; but don't look at us when we are not in that mood. The disciple is one who has the new name written all over him; self-interest and pride and self-sufficiency have been completely erased.

Pride is the deification of self, and to some of us today, it is not like the attitude of the Pharisee, but more like the Tax collector at Jesus time. To say, "Oh, I'm no saint," may sound like a humble expression, but it is unconscious blasphemy against God. It literally means that you defy God’s ability to make you a saint, "I am much too weak and hopeless; I am outside the reach of Christ’s Atonement." Humility before men may be unconscious blasphemy before God. Why are you not a saint? It is either that you do not want to be a saint, or that you do not believe God can make you one. It would be all right when you wished that God saved you and took you straight to heaven. That is just what He will do! "We will come to him, and abide with him." Make no conditions, let Jesus be everything, and He will take you home with Him not only for a day, but forever.

It is a great reminding from brother Chambers that we always have the tendency to fall into this temptation of blasphemy against God. We thought it was a humble expression or an honest recognition to say, “we can never be a saint, or never live like Christ.” But the more we make such proclamation, the more we nullify or deny God’s attributes that He is Almighty, All knowing and All loving. If it is hopeless for me to become like Christ, it means God cannot change me, He did not know how difficult it is for a person like me to change, and His love is not patient enough, not strong or tough enough, not forgiving enough and accepting enough for a hopeless case like me. Suddenly, you become much greater than God. Whatever God promises and commits to do in you will fail. You are much stronger than God.

Have mercy on us O Lord. We don’t mean to blasphemy against you, but we actually do when we remain self-centered or prideful in a negative sense. We are a saint because You want us to be a saint. We are Christ like because You desire us to be like Christ. This is Your eternal goal and agenda that we will become Your Masterpiece, “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). As we admire a great piece of art or painting, we actually admire the creativity, skill and ability of the artist. This is exactly what God’s workmanship in us for. Just as Apostle Paul said in 1 Tim 1:15b-16, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life,” we are God’s means to show both the world of angels and humans how capable and loving He is.

Humble before the Lord and give Him the freedom to do marvelous things in your life. No matter how hopeless you may be toward yourself. Let God do the impossible and incomprehensible thing in and through you. Amen?

Hope you have a blessed weekend, and please make time to attend the revival meetings. It is a rare opportunity to hear from three spiritual giants to share their insights on God’s Words.

Love you because of His presence,
Lawrence

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Devotional 110609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. A cramp on my leg woke me up earlier than my alarm clock. It gave me more time to draw close to the Lord before I go to office at 10 am. I will have a long day today because I will lead worship at our annual city-wide revival meeting. Every year, the Lord would use different speaker to remind us of His presence in our lives. This year, the theme is “love in the tsunami of life.” And we have three different speakers instead of one because the original speaker from Hong Kong suffered a heart surgery lately, and his doctor does not advise him to fly. But It would be a triple blessing through three well known Chinese speakers from the Bay Area. I hope you will find time to come if you are in town. The meeting is bilingual (Cantonese and Mandarin).

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Do I want to get there? I can now. The questions that matters in life are remarkably few, and they are all answered by the words - "Come to Me." Not - Do this, or don't do that; but - "Come to Me." If I will come to Jesus my actual life will be brought into accordance with my real desires; I will actually cease from sin, and actually find the song of the Lord begins.

Have you ever come to Jesus? Watch the stubbornness of your heart, you will do anything rather than the one simple childlike thing - "Come to Me." If you want the actual experience of ceasing from sin, you must come to Jesus.

Jesus Christ makes Himself the touchstone. Watch how He used the word "Come." At the most unexpected moments there is the whisper of the Lord - "Come to Me," and you are drawn immediately. Personal contact with Jesus alters everything. Be stupid enough to come and commit yourself to what He says. The attitude of coming is that the will resolutely lets go of everything and deliberately commits all to Him.

". . . and I will give you rest," i.e., I will stay by you. Not - I will put you to bed and hold your hand and sing you to sleep; but - I will get you out of bed, out of the laziness and exhaustion, out of the state of being half dead while you are alive; I will fill you with the spirit of life, and you will be stayed by the perfection of vital activity. We get pathetic and talk about "suffering the will of the Lord!" Where is the majestic vitality and might of the Son of God about that?

We have hard time to let go of our own weary or burden and commit it to the Lord. We got used to taking care of our own problems and saving our own lives. Deep down inside we echo with the “theology” of our pre-Christian friends who said, “I don’t believe in anything. I only believe in myself.” Though we believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, we still can’t trust Him with our own burdens. Many Christians conclude that Jesus is only good for their “spiritual or emotional” problems. The rest has to rest on them to handle. Therefore, at the end of the day they puzzle what abundant life in Christ really means? They can’t tell the difference between life with Christ and without Christ. When they are too weary and stressful to discern their problems, they become indifference with God or even distance from God. They may say, “Since I have to deal with life by my own strength, why bother to call on Him to help? Yes it is good to “buy” some eternal security from God, by “attending church or doing some religious rituals” whenever I have time. But after church, I still need to resume “the control of my own destiny” in full gear.”

I don’t know whether it is your “theology and philosophy of life” or not. You will still hear our Lord saying the same simple phrase in His gentle voice, “Come to Me.” Yes, we still need to do our part in making our living. Just as Paul gave this rule to the church, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess 3:10b), we do not glorify laziness or passivity by casting everything burden to God and do nothing. We do our responsibility by constantly abiding to Christ. Work and abiding in Christ are not contradictive or exclusive. We can do both at the same time. As a matter of fact, when we do abide in Him while we work, we experience His presence in a concrete way. He is there by our side offering timely help and guidance. You will hear Him telling you. “My beloved child, you don’t need to be so frustrated and mad. I am right here with you. I can carry this burden with you. You just need to come close to me…”

Draw close to your Divine Lover now.

Love you by His presence,
Lawrence

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Devotional 100609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It was a very unique feeling to have Loretta came to office with me. She volunteered to help me organize my bookshelves and sermon files. I had no time to organize my “stuff” (books, files and junks) since I moved them out from my church office last year. Thank God for giving Loretta a temporary break from her career, so that she can help me organize. Praise the Lord!

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Luke 11:9). "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives" (James 4:3). If you ask for things from life instead of from God, you ask with wrong motives, i.e., you ask from a desire for self-realization. The more you realize yourself the less will you seek God. "Seek and you will find. " Get to work, narrow your interests to this one. Have you ever sought God with your whole heart, or have you only given an unenergetic cry to Him after some pain for moral setback? Seek, concentrate, and you will find.

"Behold, every one that thirsts, come to the waters." Are you thirsty, or complacently indifferent - so satisfied with your experience that you want nothing more of God? Experience is a gateway, not an end. Beware of building your faith on experience; the ringing note will come in at once, the disapproving note. You can never give another person that which you have found, but you can make him admire for what you have.

"Knock and the door will be opened to you. " "Draw close to God." Knock - the door is closed, and you will feel tremble as you knock. "Cleanse your hands" - knock a bit louder, you begin to discover you are dirty. "Purify your heart" - this is more personal still, you are desperately in earnest now - you will do anything. "Be afflicted" - have you ever been afflicted before God at the state of your inner life? There is no thread of self-pity left, but a heartbreaking affliction of amazement to find you are the kind of person that you are. "Humble yourself" - it is a humbling business to knock at God's door - you have to knock with the crucified thief. "To him that knocks, it shall be opened."

I believe Brother Chambers spelled out this process of “drawing close to God,” out of his personal experience. Many genuine seekers of God went through similar experiences in church history. It requires a sincere and desperate heart to embark the journey to draw close to God. Nevertheless, it does not mean God is too far beyond our reach. On a contrary, God is so near that we have easily ignored His existence within us. Once you realize your God dwells inside the inner compartment of your soul waiting for your visit, then you can identify that trembling feeling. You don’t know what to expect. You don’t know whether God will open the door for you after so many years of ignoring Him…

This process of drawing close to God may sound like a long one. But it could be twinkling of a moment – within a short period of time, your soul goes through this spiral of emotions or gymnastic reflects (A well traned gymnast can accomplish many highly difficult tumbling acts within a few seconds on floor exercise) of your mind. I wish I would have this kind of trembling experience everyday when I draw close to God. If I still do, it shows that I am still a God-fearing person. Otherwise, I become indifference toward God or any spiritual pursuit of Him in life.

Brothers and sisters, Please don’t take God for granted just as many people (including Christians) do in our culture and community. We could easily pick up the secular attitude and simply knock God in our “spiritual or religious” compartment, and worship Him only from outside the door. We just don’t want to converse with Him or see Him. We merely want to know He is still inside our secret hiding place, in case we need Him to help.

Remember. He is our hiding place, but not supposed to be left in our hiding place.

Love you because you are the apple of God’s eyes,
Lawrence

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Devotional 090609


Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Pray that God will grant you alertness and strength to face the challenge He has put before you today. The Bible tells us that the way to find strength is by focusing on God: “Those who wait for (or focus on) the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31). Indeed, nothing can give us more inner strength than to focus on the source of ALL power – our Creator God. Once our inner being is strengthened, our whole being will be energized to handle whatever comes our way.

"For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened" (Luke 11:10). There is nothing more difficult than to ask. We will long and desire and crave and suffer, but not until we are at the extreme limit will we ask. A sense of unreality makes us ask. Have you ever asked out of the depths of moral poverty? “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). But be sure that you do lack wisdom; that means you cannot bring yourself up against the Reality in accordance to what you like. The next best thing to do if you are NOT spiritually real, is to ask God for the Holy Spirit according to the word of Jesus Christ, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13). The Holy Spirit is the One Who makes real in you all that Jesus did for you.

"For everyone who asks receives." This does not mean you will not get if you do not ask because God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45), but until you get to the point of asking you won't receive from God. To receive means you have come into the relationship of a child of God, and now you perceive with intelligent and moral appreciation and spiritual understanding that these things come from God.

"If any of you lack wisdom . . ." If you realize you are lacking, it is because you have come in contact with spiritual reality; do not put your reasonable blinkers on again. People say - Preach us the simple gospel: don't tell us we have to be holy, because that produces a sense of hopeless poverty, and it is not nice to feel hopelessly poor. "Ask" means beg. Some people are poor enough to simply dwell in their poverty, and some of us are like that spiritually. We will never receive if we ask with a certain desire in mind; if we ask not out of our poverty but out of our lust, we will not receive. A beggar does not ask from any other reason than the hopeless condition of his poverty, he is not ashamed to beg. - Blessed are the poor (beggar) in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:3).

Brother Chambers gave me some new insight on the attitude of spiritual pursuit. A hopeless “beggar” will not ask for a piece of steak or a banquet at 5 stars hotel; he is happy to receive some kind of food to satisfy his hunger. Unless we go to God with this kind of spiritual desperation, we will not experience the sovereignty of God and His special provision to meet our deepest needs. A lot of time our motive is mixed with different kinds of desires; we want all the best and beautiful things in life for our enjoyment. We want to become center of attention. We want the whole world (including God) to serve us. This kind of self-centeredness or narcissistic mentality is part of our sinful nature – something God wants to uproot from our lives in order to make us holy. Therefore, God will allow or arrange difficult situations to come upon us, in order to shape us to be more holy or Christ-like. Ask God to give you that genuine desire to be real and desperate for His wisdom and fulfillment. He is always waiting to answer our prayers to make us whole or holy again. Don't stop asking, and don't stop listening to your God.

Love you in His holiness,

Lawrence

Monday, June 8, 2009

Devotional 080609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Praise God for a new week of service to Him. I woke up early this morning in preparing for a long day of meeting. Several missions organizations and seminaries will come together to talk about strategy of promoting missions education. Since I am a new kid on the block, my involvement is to listen and learn. I thank the Lord for giving me opportunity to learn from so many experts in this field. Pray that God will help me put into practice of what I learn. Otherwise, it will be futile to study if I do not apply what I learn to either my life or the ministry that God appoints me to do.

"Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them" (John 13:17). If you do not cut the moorings, God will have to break them by a storm and send you out. Launch all on God, go out on the great swelling tide of His purpose, and you will get your eyes open. If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the smooth waters just inside the harbor bar, full of delight, but always tied up; you have to get out through the harbor bar into the great deeps of God and begin to know for yourself, begin to have spiritual discernment.

When you know you should do a thing, and do it, immediately you know more. Revise where you have become indigestible spiritually, and you will find it goes back to a point where there was something you knew you should do, but you did not do it because there seemed no immediate call to, and now you have no awareness, no discernment; at a time of crisis you are spiritually distracted instead of spiritually self-possessed. It is a dangerous thing to refuse to go on knowing.

The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you work up occasions to sacrifice yourself; enthusiasm is mistaken for discernment. It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfill your spiritual destiny, which is stated in Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” It is a great deal better to fulfill the purpose of God in your life by discerning His will than to perform great acts of self-sacrifice. "To obey is better than sacrifice." Beware of harking back to what you were once when God wants you to be something you have never been. "If any man will do . . . he shall know."

Experience God involves Obedience. Without obeying what we know about God’s guidance and expectations, we will not know who He really is. God wants to reveal Himself to us at all times. It is God’s nature to communicate because ‘logos’ is His name. Everything we see and hear in Nature is God’s way to communicate to us. God wants to have intimate relationship with us. That’s why He created us to be relational. Any meaningful relationship involves two ways communication. When one party chooses to ignore or appear indifference to what the other party tries to say, there is communication break down. It will hurt the relationship as a result. If we choose not to obey or respond to God’s word, we will have communication break down with God. We fail to know God affectively. We distance from God to a point that we doubt His existence at the end.

God wants to re-establish His relationship with mankind, even though we chose to distance from Him. “The Word became flesh” means God wanted to communicate with mankind again by getting involved. The word communication does not mean broadcasting (one way street), it means “communion” or “community.” God wants to have communion or community with us. That’s why He entered into human history as a man. This gesture that God expects a response from us is obedience. We don’t have to guess what God wants from us. The Bible makes it very clear to us what God wants. The problem is whether we want to obey. When we obey, it means that we are saying 'Yes' to God. Then, you will know Him even more each day. Let’s encourage each other to put off our self-centeredness and put on the Christ-centered lifestyle.

Love you out of obedience,
Lawrence

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Shared in two churches












Thank God for using me to serve in two churches today. I preached at the English service of Christ Church of Bay Area in the morning, and shared the vision of Middle East at Mountain View Chinese Christian Church in the afternoon. It gave me great pleasure to share what God has put in my heart. Pray that God will continue to challenge His people to answer the call for missions.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Devotional 050609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. There is no hope greater than the one Christ offered through His empty tomb. The power of His resurrection shined on the face of martyrs throughout centuries. These Christians braved the persecutions by trusting in the promise of their resurrected Lord, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies…” (John 11:25). Today in America, we don’t need to exercise such faith to face deadly persecution. We need to exercise faith to face our personal issues such as work, marriage, parenting and financial difficulties etc. At times they may be as challenging or hopeless as facing life and death decision. We need to exercise our faith to trust in the promise of the One who had went through hell, but won the victory of life on our behalf.

"…God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"" (Hebrews 13:5-6) My say-so is to be built on God's say-so. God says - "I will never leave you," then I can say with good courage - "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid" - I will not be haunted by hesitation. This does not mean that I will not be tempted to fear, but I will remember God's say-so. I will be full of courage, like a child "bucking himself up" to reach the standard his father wants. Faith in many a one falters when the apprehensions come, they forget the meaning of God's say-so, forget to take a deep breath spiritually. The only way to get the anxiety taken out of us is to listen to God's say-so.

What are your anxieties? You are not a coward about it, you are going to face it, but there is a feeling of fear. When there is nothing and no one to help you, say - "But the Lord is my Helper, this second, in my present outlook." Are you learning to say things after listening to God, or are you saying things and trying to make God's word fit in? Get hold of the Father's say-so, and then say with good courage - "I will not be afraid." It does not matter what evil or wrong may be in the way, He has said - "Never will I leave you."

Frailty is another thing that gets in between God's say-so and ours. When we realize how weak we are in facing difficulties, the difficulties become like giants, we become like grasshoppers, and God becomes an insignificant person. Remember God's say-so - "I will never forsake you." Have we learned to sing after hearing God's melody? Are we always possessed with the courage to say - "The Lord is my helper," or are we surrendering to our fear whenever difficulty comes our way?

The whole world is facing the threat of economic tsunami. You may be one of the victims in this global problem. No matter how deep you may feel like under water as if you would never be able to bounce back again, remember what your parent or coach had said to you before at your first swimming lesson, “Don’t be afraid. Relax and your body will float on water. My hands are always ready to hold you when you are drowned. You don’t need to be afraid.” Yes, the Lord has promised to be our helper at all times. But can we really trust His Word? Or do we choose to imprison ourselves in our own fear or anxiety instead? Paul and Silas chose to pray and praised God in their prison, with absolutely no certainty of what their future might hold. Then a miracle happened, “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose” (Acts 16:26).

I like the way the Bible described this incidence in Acts. It gives me insight on two things: 1) the foundation of their prison were shaken – when God delivers us from our prison or problem, He will deal with the ‘root or foundation’ of our problem as well. 2) Everybody’s chains came loose – when God comes to our rescue, He does not deliver us alone; even our neighbors (no matter whether they deserve to be in prison or not) will get the blessings as well. We don’t know how long our crisis or problem may last. Let’s look up to God in prayer and praises. He may cause ‘an earthquake’ to uproot our problem and deliver our whole community from this helpless situation.

Have a blessed weekend to rest and serve the Lord!

Love you in His presence,
Lawrence

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Devotional 040609

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It was good to be able to sleep in a little bit longer. Enough sleep is important for meditation and ministry. We thank God for giving us the opportunity to draw close to Him each day. But we want to make sure the spiritual receptivity of our brain is in good condition to interact with Him. Therefore, a balanced life is the prerequisite of effective Christian living and ministry.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’" (Hebrews 13:5). What line does my thought take? Does it turn to what God says or to what I fear? Am I learning to say not what God says, but to say something after I have heard what He says? He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

"I will in no way forsake you." – He will not forsake me for all my sin and selfishness, stubbornness and disobedience. Have I really let God say to me that He will never fail me? If I have listened to this proclamation of God, then let me listen again.

"Never will I forsake you." Sometimes it is not difficulty that makes me think whether God will forsake me or not, but hard work. There is no difficult hill to climb, no vision given, nothing wonderful or beautiful, just the commonplace day in and day out - can I hear God's say-so in these things?

We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and bye, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute. If we have God's say-so behind us, the most amazing strength comes, and we learn to sing in the ordinary days and ways.

The author of Hebrews was urging believers of the early church to stand firm in their faith and Christ-centered lifestyle. He urged them to “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers… Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:1-3). Moreover, he also admonished them to remain faithful to their marriage, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (v. 4), before he came to the passage we study today. It is definitely not easy to resist temptations in the first century as it is today. We are all human being and imperfect. We have no strength in our nature to resist temptation that is so appealing to our flesh. It is so common to hear stories of how sincere Christians failed in their marriage and moral conducts nowadays. As the judgment day of this world is quickly approaching, many will loss heart and give up their Christ-centered lifestyle as well as their compassion for needy people among them. They will say, “Forget it. I will never be perfect anyway. Why should I make myself conform to Christ-likeness? Why can’t I conform to the trend of this world and enjoy my ‘freedom’ to entertain my flesh instead?” You will fear the little voice of God saying to you, “I love you and I will not forsake you,” when you struggle with your flesh today. You are not alone. Talk to a trusted friend in Christ, and let us pray for one another in dealing with our temptation in this world.

Love you with the mind of Christ,
Lawrence