Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Devotional 300909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. What a wonderful day to be in His service! By God’s grace, I am recovering from my fatigue and rashes. Thank so much for many of your prayers. We thank God for giving us the authority to pray and rebuke Satan. Yes, our fresh may be weak and fragile, but the power of the Holy Spirit is always available within us for our usage, so that we can make impact and resist temptations in the world. Amen?

"Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24). We make up our calls out of our own spiritual consecration, but when we get right with God He brushes all these aside, and connect us with a painful process that we never dreamed of, and for one radiant flashing moment we suddenly see what He is after, and we say - "Here am I, send me."

This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but to make us become broken bread and poured-out wine. God can never make us wine if we refuse the fingers He uses to crush us with. How blessed I am if God would only use His own fingers, to make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way! But when He uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those as our crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom. If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.

I wonder what kind of finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped? You are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you, the wine would have been remarkably bitter. To be a set apart for God’s use means that the elements of our natural life are broken by the presence of God providentially in His service. We have to be adjusted into God before we can be broken bread in His hands. Keep right with God and let Him do what He likes, and you will find that He is producing the kind of bread and wine that will benefit His other children.

This is a difficult lesson in life but a spiritual reality. We will do whatever to escape from the “crushing” of God; we want to find an easy way to be His servant, or we don’t want to face the calling to be His servant at all. That may be the reason why we welcome the word “layman” as though we can avoid God’s finger and thumb. But the author of Hebrews reminded us, “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons” (Heb 12:6-8). Our two folded calling in Christ is clear: God loves you and want to make you a channel of His love to others. This is consistent with His calling for Abraham, and the Greatest Commandment affirmed by our Lord Jesus. You have no choice to be His children without His discipline. This is inconsistent to God’s nature and His commitment to us. If this is the case, some of you may regret to become His children, because you don’t want to suffer under God’s hands, right? However, there are only two choices in front of you: you can either suffer the discipline in God’s hands to become His noble vessel, or suffer the abuse in Satan’s hands to become his evil victim and partner. Remember. God has given you freedom to make your choice, but you don’t have freedom to choose the consequence.

Don’t play with evil fire lest you will be badly burnt. It is always better to be a fool in Christ than to be smart in sins. Our Lord Jesus used the parable of Wise Builder in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:24-29) to remind us of our life investment. Whatever we build or invest in life will be tested by storm and rain. If you build or invest your life on firm foundation, you will survive the testing, if not you will suffer significant lost. Paul echoed with similar warning that our lives will be tested by fire. He said, “If any man builds on this foundation (Jesus Christ) using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor 3:12-15). Therefore, invest your best to build on your relationship with Christ, through whom you will find the greatest rewards both earthly and heavenly.

Love you according to His Plan,

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Praise God for a cool sunny day. I felt like my body finally came down from a “high gear” mode of last weekend, and is craving for sleep right now. Even though I slept well last night, my body wants more. There are a lot of exciting study and work in my ministry that I can’t afford to be sleepy. Pray that God will grant me new strength to deal with them in an orderly manner.

"When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16). We easily forget the mystical, supernatural touch of God. If you can tell where you got the call of God and all about it, I question whether you have ever had a call. The call of God does not come like that, it is much more supernatural. The realization of God’s calling in a man's life may come with a sudden thunder-clap or with a gradual dawning, but in whatever way it comes, it comes with the undercurrent of the supernatural, something that cannot be put into words, it is always accompanied with a glow. At any moment there may break the sudden consciousness of this incalculable, supernatural, surprising call that has taken hold of your life - "I have chosen you." The call of God has nothing to do with salvation and sanctification. It is not because you are sanctified that you are therefore called to preach the gospel; the call to preach the gospel is infinitely different. Paul describes it as a necessity laid upon him.

If you have been ignoring the great super natural call of God in your life, take a review of your circumstances and see where God has not been first, but your ideas of service, or your temperamental abilities. Paul said - "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" He had realized the call of God, and there was no distraction from this focus.

If a man or woman is called of God, it does not matter how unpleasant circumstances are, every force that has been at work will tell for God's purpose in the end. If you agree with God's purpose He will bring not only your conscious life, but all the deeper regions of your life which you cannot get at, into harmony.

It sounds very profound and supernatural about the calling to preach the gospel. But I believe Brother Chambers responded to what Paul described as the “compelling call” in preaching the gospel to the gentiles, which was prohibited among Jews at that time of history. Using our current vocabulary, this compelling call may be to do cross-cultural mission. You will not naturally reach out to an ethnic group that is totally foreign to you. But when the Spirit of God comes upon you, you suddenly feel a compelling push to preach the gospel to this group of people, without any conscious explanation. But you know you need to do it as though if you don’t, you will be in great trouble.

I agree with Brother Chambers that this calling has nothing to do with our salvation or sanctification. It is a special anointment from God at a certain circumstances. The “woe to me” does not necessarily mean “final judgment or eternal punishment.” It signifies that compelling sentiment to answer God’s call. One may have no clue why God suddenly dawn on him to do such a mission. This person may not be able to pin-point a particular experience or Scripture that gave him such a vision. But the inner spirit recognized with certainty of this leading. Somehow it requires submission of a believer to respond to this kind of supernatural experience. But the consequence is a totally indescribable joy and fulfillment that rise up from within. I am sure you can have a glimpse of this joy when you obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit in caring or reaching out to a total stranger in your office or school. You could not explain why you have such prompting. But if you simply follow such leading by faith, you will discover how amazing God at work in your life or through your life.

Let’s encourage each other to be sensitive to His guidance in our lives!

Love you in His name,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Devotional 280909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It was indeed a busy but fruitful weekend. I was either still too excited or I had tasted a little bit of milk tea with strong caffeine after the Ordination Service; I was not able to sleep well last night. My body seemed to need longer time to recuperate from exhaustion. But thank God for listening to your prayer that my skin irritation basically subsided, even though my arms were still itchy while I was waiting to fall asleep last night. I was embraced by many of your concerns and love on Sunday. How blessed I am to be in the loving family of God! It took me awhile to warm up after more than a year away from the pulpit at Daly City. I needed to calm down my emotion when I stood in front of the congregation. I lost my vocabulary and I didn’t really know what to say in the beginning. When I refocused on the Lord later on, I was able to finish my preaching. Praise the Lord!

"One thing you lack…Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mark 10:21). The rich young ruler had the master passion to be perfect. When he saw Jesus Christ, he wanted to be like Him. Our Lord never puts personal holiness to the forefront when He calls a disciple; He puts absolute extermination of my right to myself and identification with Himself - a relationship with Himself in which there is no other relationship. Luke 14:26 (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) has nothing to do with salvation or sanctification, but with unconditional identification with Jesus Christ. Very few of us know the absolute "go" of abandonment to Jesus.

"Then Jesus beholding him loved him." The look of Jesus will mean a heart broken for ever from allegiance to any other person or thing. Has Jesus ever looked at you? The look of Jesus transforms and transfixes. Where you are "soft" with God is where the Lord has looked at you. If you are hard and vindictive, insistent on your own way, certain that the other person is more likely to be in the wrong than you are, it is an indication that there are whole tracts of your nature that have never been transformed by His gaze.

"One thing you lack. . ." The only "good thing" from Jesus Christ's point of view is union with Himself and nothing in between.

"Sell everything you have..." I must reduce myself until I am a mere conscious man, I must fundamentally renounce possessions of all kinds, not to save my soul (only one thing saves a man - absolute reliance upon Jesus Christ) - but in order to follow Jesus. "Come, and follow Me." And the road is the way He went.

I believe the “go” that Jesus challenged this religious man to consider is a very fundamental for Christian’s spiritual formation. Unless we are willing to abandon our self-reliance to God, in no way we can lead a godly life. We, human being, have a tendency to depend on ourselves. Our religious baggage also teaches us to rely on our own “meditation, chanting and good deeds” to earn our way into immortality like Buddha. This is a primitive practice of religion. If religion is good enough, then our Lord Jesus did not have to die on the cross for us. We basically could not depend on our effort to earn God’s favor. Jesus described how people attempted to enter the Kingdom of God, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matt 11:12). Unfortunately, not many could achieve this goal like John the Baptist. That’s why Jesus came to provide us a way out. Therefore in the same chapter, Jesus offered, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (11:28). Rest your self reliance on your wisdom and spiritual sensitivity. Abandon yourself totally to the feet of Christ. Let Him take hold of your life and give Him the freedom to glorify His own name through you.

May you have an intimate walk with the Lover of your soul this week!

Love you for His Glory,Lawrence

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A fruitful weekend

It was a great joy to be able to preach at Daly City campus again. Pray that the Holy Spirit continues to grow this church to become a light house in Bay Area.

Praise God for the ordination service of Rev. Mark Tsujimoto. Thank God for giving me an opportunity to mentor him and charge him at his installion service.

This is the first English Perspective class that I did for Cumberland Presbyterian Chinese Church. Over 4 hours of class for a group of attentive young adults.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Devotional 250909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. My itchy problem is improving. My herbal doctor prescribed some medicine for me to try. I hope it works. This morning I have to speak at a senior citizens’ fellowship. Pray that the Lord will speak through me to encourage this group of seniors. I will have a very busy weekend in preaching and teaching. Please pray for all my preparation. Thanks!

"If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles" (Matthew 5:41). The summing up of Our Lord's teaching is that the relationship which He demands is an impossible one unless He has done a supernatural work in us. Jesus Christ demands that there be not the slightest trace of resentment even suppressed in the heart of a disciple when he meets with tyranny and injustice. No enthusiasm will ever stand the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His worker, only one thing will, and that is a personal relationship to Himself which has gone through the mill of His spring-cleaning until there is only one purpose left - I am here for God to send me where He will. Every other thing may get fogged, but this relationship to Jesus Christ must never be.

The Sermon on the Mount is not an ideal, it is a statement of what will happen in me when Jesus Christ has altered my disposition and put in a disposition like His own. Jesus Christ is the only One Who can fulfill the Sermon on the Mount.

If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we must be made disciples supernaturally; as long as we have the dead set purpose of being disciples we may be sure we are not. "I have chosen you." That is the way the grace of God begins. It is a constraint we cannot get away from; we can disobey it, but we cannot generate it. The drawing is done by the supernatural grace of God, and we never can trace where His work begins. Our Lord's making of a disciple is supernatural. He does not build on any natural capacity at all. God does not ask us to do the things that are easy to us naturally; He only asks us to do the things we are perfectly fitted to do by His grace, and the cross will come along that line always.

I totally agree that we can do nothing apart from Him. If we can bear any Spiritual fruit, we have to abide in Him at all time. Spiritual Fruit must come from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the presence of Christ that lives within and among us. Without the regeneration work of the Holy Spirit, our inner being will not be able to live out the kind of life that Jesus prescribed in His sermon on the Mount. The bottom line is abiding in obedience. Our Christian living is from obedience to obedience. It was Christ who had chosen us to bear fruit on earth. It was also Christ who will bring us back to eternal home from earth. In both incidences, all we need to do is obedience. We just humbly receive the work of God in us, and learn to anticipate His desire and calling for us, by initiating our obedience in doing His will in everyday of our lives, toward the goal of making disciples of ALL nations. And the strength to do so is again, obedience. Have an obedient weekend in serving the Lord in wherever He places you.

Love you by obedience to His will,

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Devotional 240909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for your prayer. The itchiness did not come as frequent and serious. I hope this is a sign of recovery even though my doctor appointment is on Friday afternoon. Thanks to many of your concerns; some of you recommended me medicine that was once helpful to you. Some of you remembered me in your prayer. I was really embraced by the love of God through you. How blessed I am to have a community of loving brothers and sisters like you! And it is good to know that you really read my devotional. Praise the Lord!

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you; leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23, 24) It is easy to imagine that we will get to a place where we are complete and ready, but preparation is not suddenly accomplished, it is a process steadily maintained. It is dangerous to get into a settled state of experience. It is preparation and preparation.

The sense of sacrifice appeals readily to a young Christian. Humanly speaking, the one thing that attracts to Jesus Christ is our sense of the heroic, and the scrutiny of Our Lord's words suddenly brings this tide of enthusiasm to the test. "First be reconciled to your brother." The "go" of preparation is to let the word of God scrutinize. The sense of heroic sacrifice is not good enough. The thing the Holy Spirit is detecting in you is the disposition that will never work in His service. No one but God can detect that disposition in you. Have you anything to hide from God? If you have, then let God search you with His light. If there is sin, confess it, not admit it. Are you willing to obey your Lord and Master whatever the humiliation to your right to yourself may be?

Never discard a conviction. If it is important enough for the Spirit of God to have brought it to your mind, it is that thing He is detecting. You were looking for a great thing to give up. God is telling you of some tiny thing; but at the back of it there lies the central stronghold of stubbornness: I will not give up my right to myself - the thing God intends you to give up if ever you are going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Devotional reflection, therefore, is to give God a chance to whisper to your ear and soul, the very thing that you need to deal with or remove in life. It may be your ‘blind’ self. It may be the hidden problem or sin that has been buried deep under your ‘busyness.’ Many people use busyness to run away from main issue in life. If you have marriage problem, you use busyness to escape from it. You stay in your office late and spend less time at home because you don’t want to face it. Busyness does not make your marriage problem disappear. It will only prolong your suffering and make your marriage worse. In the same token, many people bury their addiction problem with busyness. They keep themselves busy with work, family and church activities in order to escape from dealing with the problem. Unfortunately the problem will not go away and you continue to indulge yourself in your addiction as though it is okay, because it does not affect your daily ‘performance’ at home and your ‘productivity’ at work. You only allow your problem to eat you up and deteriorate your integrity. One day, you are totally clueless when you find your family and your life completely fall apart. Calm down from your busyness and start listening to God again. Let the Holy Spirit speak directly to your soul and confess your sins. Take God’s word seriously and start applying to your life right away. Only by doing so, you can experience real freedom in Christ and genuinely live abundantly.

Love you in His abundance,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Devotional 230909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. The itchy rashes on my skin continued to bother me. Please remember me in your prayers. It affected my sleep and my focus at work. Hopefully I will find time to consult a doctor this week. I am extremely busy with a packed weekend of teaching ministry.

"Behold, we go up to Jerusalem" (Luke 18:31). In the natural life our ambitions alter as we develop; in the Christian life the goal is given at the beginning, the beginning and the end are the same, that is Our Lord Himself. We start with Christ and we end with Him - "until we all attain to the stature of the manhood of Christ Jesus," not to our idea of what the Christian life should be. The aim of the missionary is to do God's will, not to be useful, not to win the heathen; he is useful and he does win the heathen, but that is not his aim. His aim is to do the will of his Lord.

In Our Lord's life Jerusalem was the place where He reached the climax of His Father's will upon the Cross, and unless we go with Jesus there we will have no companionship with Him. Nothing ever discouraged Our Lord on His way to Jerusalem. He never hurried through certain villages where He was persecuted, or lingered in others where He was blessed. Neither gratitude nor ingratitude turned Our Lord one hair's breadth away from His purpose to go up to Jerusalem.

"The disciple is not above his Master." The same things will happen to us on our way to our Jerusalem. There will be the works of God manifested through us, people will get blessed, and one or two will show gratitude and the rest will show gross ingratitude, but nothing must deflect us from going up to our Jerusalem.

"There they crucified Him." That is what happened when Our Lord reached Jerusalem, and that happening is the gateway to our salvation. The saints do not end in crucifixion: by the Lord's grace they end in glory. In the meantime our watchword is - I, too, go up to Jerusalem.

Our Lord Jesus demonstrated to us what a mission minded or purpose driven life is about. He was very focus. Nothing would deflect our Lord from the most important mission that He was sent to do. His discernment of the timing and plan of His Heavenly Father played a major part in His life. Therefore he needs to stay focus with the Command center. It just like the special police task force needs to stay connected with each other and especially with the command center in order to proceed with a mission. If a member is disconnected, he or she will be in dangerous position to get hurt by enemy. We are engaging in spiritual warfare with evil force. If we don’t stay connected with our Command Center who knows the movement of our enemy from above (better than satellite spy camera), we will operate in the dark facing unknown attacked from our enemy. We need to stay focus on our life mission, and stay connected with our Lord Jesus, who knows the enemy’s strategy and movement. He cares about His land troop on earth, even though casualty could occur. He wants His church to operate like the US Marin’s slogan: “No Marin is left behind in the battle field.” Team spirit and support are extremely important for soldiers in the battle field. This is something lacking in the spiritual land troop of God. As a result, casualty becomes very high. The drop out rate of church membership is increasing in the last few decades, especially in Europe and North America. If we allow this phenomenon to continues, many believe that Muslims will soon become majority in population in Europe; birth rate among Muslims is much faster than Caucasians, and in general, Muslims have stronger ‘group identity’ as a religious/cultural group than the ‘individualization of Western culture.’ This is a reality we need to face and learn to stay connected with God and each others even more. Have mercy on us O Lord!

Love you as a fellow troop member,

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Devotional 220909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks again for many of your good wishes for my birthday. I can’t believe I am entering into the golden age. My body certainly shows it; I have less energy than before; I can’t carry heavy load; I easily loss my short-term memory but clearly remember the good old days. Lately, I have developed some itchy rashes on my two arms and gradually spread to my shoulders and legs. It should be a kind of allergy but no medicine helps so far. I guess this is part of aging. I learn to accept it with thanksgiving. It reminds me to focus more on daily renewal of my mind, even though my body is deteriorating, which is a natural cycle of life. Praise the Lord I am still alive!

"You call me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am" (John 13:13). To have a master and to be mastered is not the same thing. To have a master means that there is one who knows me better than I know myself, one who is closer than a friend, one who fathoms the remotest deep hole of my heart and satisfies it, one who has brought me into the secure sense that he has met and solved every perplexity and problem of my mind. To have a master is this and nothing less - "One is your Master, even Christ."

Our Lord never enforces obedience; He does not take means to make me do what He wants. At certain times I wish God would master me and make me do the thing, but He will not; in other moods I wish He would leave me alone, but He does not.

"You call me Master and Lord" - but is He? Master and Lord have little place in our vocabulary, we prefer the words Savior, Sanctifier, Healer. The only word to describe mastership in experience is love and we know very little about love as God reveals it. This is proved by the way we use the word obey. In the Bible obedience is based on the relationship of equals, that of a son with his father. Our Lord was not God's servant, He was His Son. "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience . . ." If our idea is that we are being mastered, it is a proof that we have no master; if that is our attitude to Jesus, we are far away from the relationship He wants. He wants us in the relationship in which He is easily Master without our conscious knowledge of it, all we know is that we are His to obey.

Since our Lord does not force us to obey, we have a tendency to ignore Him or even indulge in our own desire to rebel against Him. God respects the freedom that He gives to mankind as a token of His love. He will not make us His slaves. He wants to be our friend, “I no longer call you servants or slaves, 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 15:15). A servant does not know his master’s plan let alone participating in his plan. A servant just follows instruction or command. But this is not the way God treats us. He wants us to have a say in His master plan – that’s why sometimes we choose an easy way out or give excuse not to do His great commission and greatest commandment. Have mercy on us O Lord…help us to be your faithful servant and friend –willfully do your will to please you.

Love you according to His new commandment,

Monday, September 21, 2009

My happy 55th Birthday

Thank God for an enjoyable 55th birthday with meeting after meeting. But it is a great pleasure to serve the Lord on this very special day. From this day onward, I entitle to order senior citizen meal and qualified for senior housing. Even though I don't feel like an old man, I need to get used to be called one from now on...haha!

Devotional 210909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is good to be back to my office. But I have to rush to another meeting in Mountain View right away. Since I have been in school for the whole week, I did not have time to write my journal. I had a lot to write during that one week of schooling. It was a good start even though it was very overwhelming. I felt even stronger that this was a right decision to go back to school for my study in Missiology. However, I do covet your prayer for me in this coming year because I will be EXTREMELY busy to try to balance between work and study. If it is His will (I believe so), He will grant me strength to complete this task.

"And now, saith the Lord, that formed me from the womb to be His servant" (Isaiah 49:5). The first thing that happens after we have realized our election to God in Christ Jesus is the destruction of our prejudices and our narrow-minded notions and our patriotisms; we are turned into servants of God's own purpose. The whole human race was created to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever. Sin has switched the human race on to another nail, but it has not altered God's purpose in the tiniest degree; and when we are born again we are brought into the realization of God's great purpose for the human race, that is, “I am created for God, He made me.” This realization of the election of God is the most joyful realization on earth, and we have to learn to rely on the tremendous creative purpose of God. The first thing God will do with us is to "force through the channels of a single heart" the interests of the whole world. The love of God, the very nature of God, is introduced into us, and the nature of Almighty God is focused in John 3:16 - "God so loved the world. . ."

We have to maintain our soul open to the fact of God's creative purpose, and not muddle it with our own intentions. If we do, God will have to crush our intentions on one side however much it may hurt. The purpose for which Christian is created is that he may be God's servant, one in whom God is glorified. When once we realize that through the salvation of Jesus Christ we are made perfectly fit for God, we shall understand why Jesus Christ is so cruel in His demands. He demands absolute righteousness from His servants, because He has put into them the very nature of God.

Beware lest you forget God's purpose for your life. Yes. Have mercy on us O Lord. We are made for your purpose…help us to be committed to seek your plan for our lives instead of what we want for ours. Have a blessed day to be in His service.

Love you in Christ,

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Preached at Chinese Baptist Church of San Jose

Thank God for this mission minded church in BayArea. They sent out many short-term mission teams all over the world. They also out their own members to long term mission work. This church did not stop participating in mission work while they were raising fund for their new building. They put the core value of church - The Great Commission, as truly the first priority of the Body of Christ. Praise God for using this church to touch many people's lives through out the world.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back to school again in Portland, Oregon

Met some new Cantonese friends in Christ from Canada and Hong Kong.

A group of college students from Kenya, Africa happened to stay in school to sing 'grace' for our dinner.

Enjoyed evening walk with some new friends from school.

After 20 years since my last graduation, I was back to school again. The whole learning environment changed. Students all carried their own laptops and did presentation with computer. It took me some time to get use to it. I had a lot to catch up in my study....but was very enjoyable.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Devotional 110909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for a beautiful Friday. I am excited for an abundant weekend ahead of me; I will speak at a mission conference tonight, perform a wedding tomorrow, preach two sermons on Sunday and fly to Oregon immediately after church. Thank God for giving me opportunity and strength to serve Him, but I covet your prayers for me too.

"If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet" (John 13:14). Ministering as opportunity surrounds us does not mean selecting our surroundings, it means being very selectively God's in any haphazard surroundings which He engineers for us. The characteristics we manifest in our immediate surroundings are indications of what we will be like in other surroundings.

The things that Jesus did were of the most basic and common practice; this is an indication that it takes all God's power in me to do the most commonplace things in His way. Can I use a towel as He did? Towels and dishes and sandals, all the ordinary disgusting things of our lives, reveal more quickly than anything what we are made of. It takes God Almighty Incarnate in us to do the meanest duty as it ought to be done.

"I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you." Watch the kind of people God brings around you, and you will be humiliated to find that this is His way of revealing to you the kind of person you have been to Him. Now, He says, exhibit to that one exactly what I have shown to you.

"Oh," you say, "I will do all that when I get out into the foreign field." To talk in this way is like trying to prepare the weapons of war in the trenches - you will be killed while you are doing it.

We have to go the "second mile" with God. Some of us get played out in the first ten yards, because God compels us to go where we cannot see the way, and we say - "I will wait till I get nearer the big crisis." If we do not do the running steadily in the little ways, we shall do nothing in the crisis.

I like the way Mother Teresa put it, “God does not ask us to do great things. He asks us to do small things with great love.” This is exactly what she did in India. She took some dying people from the street, cleaned them and fed them until they eventually died with human dignity. She did not do it because she wanted Media attention or to aim at the Nobel Prize. She did it because she felt that this was a calling from God to do little things with great love from above. She recognized that no human love could sustain such kind of tedious and lowly service for the poorest of the poor; even family members forsake these dying elderly as useless junk or garbage on the street. She knew she needed the power of God’s love daily. That’s why she required her nuns to spend two hours in prayer and meditation each morning before they labored for the poor each day. She knew she could not do without the divine love to perform such tedious and dirty jobs. She might not have preached or communicated her faith to these dying people, mostly elderly. She just did what she felt called by God to do in India.

We might not have such calling to serve the poor in foreign places. But we can always do some lowly mundane work at home or in church for others. It is a spiritual issue instead of a cultural issue. Yes, in our culture it is not a common practice to wash other people’s feet. It could be cleaning after dinner or help wash other people’s car. I always remember how one of our elders in Chinatown helped clean the sidewalk of the church every Sunday morning before people came to church. He was an English professor at Stanford University but he humbly served the Body of Christ in a quiet manner. Moreover, he would bring food to his elderly neighbors when they were sick besides visiting needy church members. God received him home shortly after he had retired from work.

I thank God for many servant leaders’ examples that He put in my life. These people’s testimonies are precious to God because they were truly channels of His blessings to mankind. It is this kind of lifestyle that makes us light and salt of the world that God has intended for us to live.

Love you as a servant of Christ,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Devotional 100909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I have moved my office to another room yesterday. Thanks to a group of brothers and sister from Cumberland to help me move my library and set up my office within two hours. It is amazing! Right now, I have more room and bookshelves for my personal library; I do anticipate more books to come when I return to school again. Praise God for His wonderful provision in life.

"When you were under the fig tree, I saw you" (John 1:48). We imagine we would be all right if a big crisis arose; but the big crisis will only reveal the stuff we are made of, it will not put anything into us. "If God gives the call, of course I will rise to the occasion." You will not unless you have risen to the occasion in the workshop, unless you have been the real thing before God there. If you are not doing the thing that lies nearest, because God has engineered it; when the crisis comes instead of being revealed as fit, you will be revealed as unfit. Crises always reveal character.

The private relationship of worshipping God is the great essential of fitness. The time comes when there is no more "fig-tree" life possible, when it is out into the open, out into the glare and into the work and you will find yourself of no value there if you have not been worshipping as occasion serves you in your home. Worship aright in your private relationships, then when God sets you free you will be ready, because in the unseen life which no one saw but God you have become perfectly fit, and when the damage comes you can be relied upon by God.

"I can't be expected to live the sanctified life in the circumstances I am in; I have no time for praying just now, no time for Bible reading, my opportunity hasn't come yet; when it does, of course I shall be all right." No, you will not. If you have not been worshipping as occasion serves, when you get into work you will not only be useless yourself, but a tremendous hindrance to those who are associated with you.

The workshop of ministry weapons is the hidden, personal, worshipping life of the saint. The more we worship, the more we sharpening our weapons for spiritual battle. It is our personal worship that will eventually save us from crisis of life because worship helps us focus on the ultimate reality of our hope - God. When we constantly engage in worshipping God, our focus remains in Him at all times. And when crisis comes, we will no longer automatically depend on our own strength, but the strength of God to handle whatever difficulties that may come our way. That’s why God remind the psalmist in the midst of crisis, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “Be still” is a call to worship; calm down and retreat from all distractions so that you can focus on Him. Do not look into your own strength at the midst of spiritual battle, look up to God for strength. It is in the turmoil of life that we know who God really is. Stay focus on Him, because this is the way we receive power to face the unknown future.

Love you at His feet,

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Devotional 080909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is good to be back again. The preaching trip was very fruitful. God gave me opportunity to serve as His channel of words to His own church at El Paso. I was asked to preach in Mandarin and translate myself to English at the same time. Both languages are not my mother tongues, and it was challenging to switching back and forth in language, but stay focus on the message. By God’s grace, the 7 messages were well received (at least people understood the messages). My prayer was that my delivery would not interrupt God’s words for His church. And God answered this prayer. Pray that this church in the desert continue to become the oasis for people who thirst for God.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). Deliverance from sin is not deliverance from human nature. There are things in human nature, such as prejudices, which the saint has to destroy by neglect; and other things which have to be destroyed by violence, that is by the Divine strength imparted by God's Spirit. There are some things over which we are not to fight, but to stand still in and see the salvation of God; but every theory or conception which erects itself as a wall against the knowledge of God is to be determinedly demolished by drawing on God's power, not by fleshly endeavor or compromise, just as Paul said, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (v. 4).

It is only when God has altered our character and we have entered into the experience of sanctification that the fight begins. The warfare is not against sin; we can never fight against sin: Jesus Christ deals with sin in Redemption. The conflict is along the line of turning our natural life into a spiritual life, and this is never done easily, nor does God intend it to be done easily. It is done only by a series of moral choices. God does not make us holy in the sense of character; He makes us holy in the sense of innocence, and we have to turn that innocence into holy character by a series of moral choices. These choices are continually in opposition to the habits of our natural life, the things which erect themselves as walls against the knowledge of God. We can either surrender to our nature to make ourselves of no account in the Kingdom of God, or we can determinedly demolish these things and let Jesus bring another person to glory.

Spirituality is a battle of choices. It was the free will of man that had caused him to sin in the first place; to eat the forbidden fruit. So the spiritual battle field is always in the area of our free will – choices to follow His will or our own flesh, choices to love or hate; choices to trust or afraid, choices to rejoice or worry…the list just goes on and on. There are so many things in life that challenge our faith and attitudes. We don’t know whether we should listen to our natural instincts or to our new nature in Christ. Sometimes we want to choose Christ but our nature protests. We are in this constant battle each day; and that’s how we stumble and fall. We lean to take one day or one battle at a time. We learn to yield to God at each battle. We need to re-educate our mind each day like the psalmist did, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11). We need to engage in this kind of “soul teaching” session whenever temptation knocks on our door. Call upon the name of the Lord and declare His lordship over us, Satan will go away temporarily but wait for another opportunity to resume his attack. So take caution. Stay close to fellowship with the saints. Hold each other accountable, and you will experience spiritual growth more than you can ever imagine.

Love you in Christ,

Monday, September 7, 2009

El Paso preaching trip

This is my second visit to this church at El Paso, Texas. I took a picture of my office from the plane. It is amazing to find so many Chinese in El Paso. Many of them either open Chinese restuarants or work for manufacturing plants across the border at Mexico. This church celebrated their 45th anniversary. Praise the Lord!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Devotional 040909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning from El Paso, Texas. It was wonderful to enjoy a retreat in a hotel room with internet access. I thought I would be in some kind of camp ground here. But they put me in a hotel near airport and transport me to a Day Camp at some club house instead. I will deliver 7 messages over this long weekend. And it was nice to have some quiet time in between to relax, read and meditate.

"I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word" (John 17:6). The disciple of Christ is one in whom the Holy Spirit has shaped this realization - "You are not your own." To say, "I am not my own" is to have reached a great point in spiritual nobility. The true nature of the life in the actual whirl is the deliberate giving up of myself to another in sovereign preference, and that other is Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit explained the nature of Jesus to me in order to make me one with my Lord, not that I might go off as a showroom exhibit. Our Lord never sent any of the disciples out on the ground of what He had done for them. It was not until after the Resurrection, when the disciples had perceived by the power of the Holy Spirit Whom He was, that Jesus said "Go."

"If any man come to me and hate not . . . , he cannot be MY disciple," not, he cannot be good and upright, but, he cannot be one over whom Jesus writes the word "Mine." Any one of the relationships Our Lord mentions may be a competitive relationship. I may prefer to belong to my mother, or to my wife, or to myself; then, says Jesus, you cannot be My disciple. This does not mean I will not be saved, but it does mean that I cannot be "His."

Our Lord makes a disciple His own possession, He becomes responsible for him. "You shall be MY witnesses." The spirit that comes in is not that of doing anything for Jesus, but of being a perfect delight to Him. The secret of being His disciple is - I am His, and He is carrying out His enterprises through me.

“I am entirely His” is the ultimate goal of our Christian life. We are called to be His possession. We should be proud to be called His disciple or His children. We want to live a life fulfilling His plan or make Him happy. And this kind of life should be one that gives us great joy too; as a matter of fact, it is His joy in me just as our Lord said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11). There is a great deal of fulfillment to find my destiny; this is to find my belonging to Him.

I still remember my prayer at the bank of Pearl River in Canton thirty some years ago. God miraculously saved me from a boat collision that killed hundreds of people; most of them were drown by the fast muddy river at the middle of night. Two sleeper boats carried two hundreds some passengers each collided with each other at the middle of night and sank immediately along with the sleepers. I was spared because tickets were sold out. At first I was very upset for not being able to get onboard; I was in tears of repentance and thanksgiving later. My prayer after I found out what had happened was that my life was no longer mine by His. From that point onward I commit my life to His possession. He has perfect freedom to do whatever with it. And I have so much joy and fulfillment ever since.

Let Him take over your life. Give yourself to your Lord Jesus more than you give to any human beings on earth, because only He can give you real fulfillment in life that nobody could ever give. Amen.

Love you in Christ,

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Devotional 020909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I hope you had a good start today. Life is so abundant in Christ each day. There are so much we can utilize our potentials for His Kingdom and for the well beings of others. Our primary calling is not to meet the needs of the world. Honestly we can never fulfill the needs of people in this world. We are called to glorify God in whatever we do in our lives. And the way to glorify God is by submitting to His agenda – His salvation plan for mankind. As Paul said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18), our needs don’t matter much when we are anticipating or participating in the glory of God. That’s why we should change our focus from ‘inward looking – to our own needs and satisfaction’ to ‘outward looking – to God’s glory and His salvation plan for all.’

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:38). Jesus did not say - "Whoever believes in me shall realize the blessing of the fullness of God," but - "Whoever believes in me out of him shall escape everything he receives." Our Lord's teaching is always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a man; His purpose is to make a man exactly like Himself, and the characteristic of the Son of God is self-denial. If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain, but what He pours through us that really counts. It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us. Spiritually, we cannot measure our life by success, but only by what God pours through us, and we cannot measure that at all.

When Mary of Bethany broke the jar of precious ointment and poured it on Jesus' head, it was an act for which no one else saw any occasion; the disciples said it was a waste. But Jesus commended Mary for her extravagant act of devotion, and said that wherever His gospel was preached "this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." Our Lord is carried beyond Himself with joy when He sees any of us doing what Mary did, not being set on this or that economy, but being abandoned to Him. God spilt the life of His Son that the world might be saved; are we prepared to spill out our lives for Him?

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” - hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. It is time now to break the life, to cease craving for satisfaction, and to spill the thing out. Our Lord is asking who of us will do it for Him?

Instead of seeing ourselves as the receiving end of God’s blessings, seek to be the channel of God’s blessings to others. This is what Christian life is all about. But in a “me” generation that we are in today, we always uphold our personal rights and satisfaction more than others’ rights and satisfactions. We prefer someone sacrifice for us, than we sacrifice for others. We expect to get more than to give more. That’s why marriage breaks up and family dissolves in this post-modern society; in a narcissistic society that we are in, people will only become more egocentric or self-centered. If they were to look for a religion or church, they would “shop” for one that gives them the most of what they want and less demands in return. If Jesus were to live and preach in America today, I guess many would properly ignore Him as religious idiot. Will you? But this kind of “self giving and self-denial” life is the kind of abundant life that Christ came to offer us. That’s why Paul reminded the elders of Ephesus, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20:35). Indeed, the word picture I like the most about our calling is a public fountain – people will come to look for us when they are thirst. The fountain itself cannot offer anything that quench the thirst of people; it is only a vessel that connect to the source of living water, which can really quench the thirst of sojourners. We may be easily ignored or regarded as just another piece of ‘thing’ on the sidewalk. But when people are thirst they will come to you for living water. So, don’t underestimate your calling as just a public fountain, and stay connected to the source of Living Water – our Lord Jesus Christ each day. You never know when God will bless others through you some day.

Love you by His calling,

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Devotional 010909

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is great to be back to my 'sunny' office and enjoy a quiet moment to be with the Lord. Last weekend was filled with fun and celebration; wedding, baptism, birthday party, installation, teaching of God’s words and working on the video project etc. I see God’s grace in every single one of these events. As a matter of fact, if we look seriously into each one of the celebrative event in life, you will conclude that it was all because of God’s grace. Without His grace, we cease to exist not to mention any accomplishment on earth. Amen?

"Be holy, because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). Continually restate to yourself what the purpose of your life is. The destined end of man is not happiness, nor health, but holiness. Nowadays we have far too many attraction, we are degenerate with them; right, good, noble attractions which will yet have their fulfillment, but in the meantime God has to weaken them. The one thing that matters is whether a man will accept the God Who will make him holy. At all costs a man must be rightly related to God.

Do I believe I need to be holy? Do I believe God can come into me and make me holy? If by your preaching you convince me that I am unholy, I resent your preaching. The preaching of the gospel awakens an intense resentment because it must reveal that I am unholy; but it also awakens an intense craving. God has one destined end for mankind, and that is holiness. His one aim is the production of saints. God is not an eternal blessing-machine for men; He did not come to save men out of pity: He came to save men because He had created them to be holy. The Atonement means that God can put me back into perfect union with Himself, without a shadow between, through the Death of Jesus Christ.

Never tolerate through sympathy with yourself or with others any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God. Holiness means unblemished walking with the feet, unblemished talking with the tongue, and unblemished thinking with the mind - every detail of the life under the scrutiny of God. Holiness is not only what God gives me, but what I manifest that God has given me.

Holiness is what I need because this is the kind of life God intended for me to live. God created us according to His own image or nature, and He is holy, therefore He definitely expects us to be Holy. Holiness is to wholeheartedly pursue the plan and purpose of God for our lives. When we focus fully on discovering God’s plan for our lives, the worldly temptations will become dim and weak. On a contrary, when we focus our energy on avoiding or resisting worldly temptations, our awareness of God’s plan for our live will become dime and weak. Therefore, the main challenge can be summarized in the Greatest Commandment that Jesus had in mind, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30). To our Lord Jesus Christ, consume ALL to love God is the core value of Christian living or the main purpose of our existence as His children. If we pursue life toward this goal, our lives are already on the path of righteousness, or journey in the light, or road of perfection.

Let’s encourage each other to aim at this kind of living in wherever God puts you on earth. Let our lives reflect the beauty of God’s holiness, especially in our relationship with others.

Love you according to His holiness,