Monday, December 20, 2010

Devotional 201210

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It was wonderful to praise God with many of you in the Christmas worship at church. Loretta and I are truly blessed to serve on your behalf in mobilizing Chinese Churches worldwide for His Kingdom missions. It was great to be home with you in worship. The decoration of Christmas is the exercise that symbolizes the preparation for the second coming of Christ. And the corporate worship is a glimpse of what it is like to sing praises with the heavenly hosts in eternity. Christmas is a statement of love that God made for all of us. This statement is “He is willing to be on our side – Emmanuel – He enters into human history to stand on our side.” And it’s followed by a question, “Are we willing to be on His side?” David testified of what it was like if God were not on our side in Psalm 124…

If the LORD had not been on our side-- let Israel say-- if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away. Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 124).

The proper work for the Christian is witness, not apology, and Psalm 124 is an excellent model. It does not argue Gods help; it does not explain God s help; it is a testimony of God’s help in the form of a song. The song is so vigorous, so confident, so bursting with what can only be called reality, that it fundamentally changes our approach and our questions. No longer does it seem of the highest priority to ask, “Why did this happen to me? Why do I feel left in the lurch?” Instead we ask, “How does it happen that there are people who sing with such confidence, ‘God is our help’?” The psalm is data that must be accounted for and the data are so solid, so vital, have so much more substance and are so much more interesting than the other things we hear through the day that it must be dealt with before we can go back to the whimpering complaints.

“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, let Israel now say—if it had not be the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then over us would have gone the raging waters.” The witness is vivid and contagious. One person announces the theme, and everyone joins in. God’s help is not a private experience; it is a corporate reality—not an exception that occurs among isolated strangers, but the norm among the people of God.

Every day I put love on the line. There is nothing I am less good at than love. I am far better in competition than in love. I am far better at responding to my instincts and ambitions to get ahead and make my mark than I am at figuring out how to love another. I am schooled and trained in acquisitive skills, in getting my own way. And yet, I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily—open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.

All that is hazardous work; I live on the edge of defeat all the time. I have never done any one of those things to my (or anyone else’s) satisfaction. I live in the dragon’s maw and at the flood’s edge

The psalm, though, is not about hazards but about help. The hazardous work of discipleship is not the subject of the psalm but only its setting. The subject is help: “Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Hazards or no hazards, the fundamental reality we live with is “The LORD who was on our side … Our help is in the name of the LORD.”

Psalm 124 is an instance of a person who digs deeply into the trouble and finds there the presence of the God who is on our side…Faith develops out of the most difficult aspects of our existence, not the easiest. The person of faith is not a person who has been born, luckily, with a good digestion and sunny disposition. The assumption by outsiders that Christians are naïve or protected is the opposite of the truth: Christians know more about the deep struggles of life than others, more about the ugliness of sin.

A look into the heavens can bring a breathtaking sense of wonder and majesty, and, if a person is a believer, a feeling of praise to the God who made heaven and earth. The psalm looks the other direction. It looks into the troubles of history, the anxiety of personal conflict and emotional trauma. And it sees there the God who is on our side, God can help. The close look, the microscopic insight into the dragon’s terrors, the flood’s waters and the imprisoning trap, sees the action of God in deliverance.

We speak our words of praise in a world that is hellish; we sing our songs of victory in a world where things get messy; we live our joy among people who neither understand nor encourage us. But the content of our lives is God, not man.

The whole message of Christmas was a clear signal from above that God came to stand on our side. He came to rescue us from bondage of Satan and his evil snares. The snare or the net has been broken. Unfortunately, the birds did not fly away. They became too complacent inside the snare that they did not want to fly away. They remained captive not because they had no choice. Christ came to break the curse and loosen the bondage. Yet His people did not want to be delivered. They remain in the bondage of sins. Have mercy on us. From time to time, we dwell in Satan’s snare and we questioned why God did not do anything to save us from our trouble. When we look intensely (focus in meditation) on God, we will realize how fortunate and free we are to become the target of His love. Indeed, we exist for this very reason: to become the target of God’s love and to be channel of God’s love to others. Amen.

Loretta and I will be leaving for Hong Kong tomorrow night. I have the honor to officiate two weddings on Christmas day and New Year day. I may not have time to write journal for the rest of the year of 2010, I pray that you will draw near to God each day. Just as Apostle James said, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). During this season of Christmas and new year, May God reminds all of us to be content in this precious gift in Christ Jesus, who was born to set us free. He was born to give us this assurance that God is always on our side…Have a blessed New Year to come.

With His love in our friendship,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Devotional 171210

Dear brothers and sisters,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
May God grant you new strength and wisdom to face your challenges in the year to come. Emmanuel, God is with us. His very Presence indeed is our greatest gift of Christmas. Amen?

I cannot imagine how I could have accomplished so much in 2010 without the help of God and your prayer support. We had 4 GOI anniversary celebrations in USA (Houston, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco) and 2 in Canada (Vancouver and Toronto). God gave us an opportunity to share our vision with many of our supporters and make new friends who were interested to find out more about GOI. God also gave me opportunity to preach in 2 missionary retreats in Brazil and the Philippines.

I was so blessed to be invited to preach in many missions conferences and retreats throughout this year. One of the most unforgettable experiences was to preach in the Missions Conference of Grace Gospel Church in Manila, The Philippines (See picture I took in front of the church). This is a legendary missional church among Chinese churches worldwide. 45 years ago, they were one of the rare Chinese churches who supported of global missions. Their annual missions pledge amounts to over 75% of their church general fund. They supported missionaries all over the world, and looking for opportunities to give away the surplus to support more Kingdom work. What a generous Church! They even sent out their Senior Pastor to do missions work with full salary support. This is something I never heard of before. Praise the Lord!!!

Thanks for your prayer, I should be able to finish my dissertation on time for graduation in April. With this doctoral degree, I will be able to teach in seminary in order to mobilize seminarians for global missions.

Our family is doing well. Loretta and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in November, Our daughter and son-in-law are growing in their passion for the Lord. Our son is studying at Bethel University in Tennessee after he finished his military service. He is very thankful for God’s provisions and guidance in his life.

We covet your prayers for us. My calendar for next year is already full. I expect another great year of serving God in different Continents to witness His wonderful work around the Globe.
May God bless and protect your family in the year to come!! Have a very happy New Year…

In Christ,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Devotional 161210

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for your prayer and support for my study. I have just submitted the first draft of my dissertation. It means that if nothing drastic happens, I will GRADUATE in April. I cannot believe I could have finished my Doctor of Missiology program this year. Praise the Lord!!! I really want you to share this joy with me. I will send out my newsletter tomorrow to give you a little bit more reflection on what God has done in me this year. I am sure you know about them if you have been visiting my blog frequently. Once again, thank you for your support – it really makes a difference to have intercessors prayed for me. I agree with the psalmist’s prayer that we should be approaching God with a servant’s attitude and expectation in pursuing different goals of our lives each day.

I look to you, heaven-dwelling God, look up to you for help. Like servants, alert to their master’s commands. Like a maiden attending her lady. We are watching and waiting, holding our breath, awaiting your word of mercy (Psalm 122:1-2 The Message).

Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust. We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies. The Christian is not a naïve, innocent infant who has no identity apart from a feeling of being comforted and protected and catered to but a person who has discovered an identity that is given by God which can be enjoyed best and fully in a voluntary trust in God. We do not cling to God desperately out of fear and the panic of insecurity; we come to him freely in faith and love.

A community of faith flourishes when we view each other with this expectancy, wondering what God will do today in this one, in that one. When we are in a community with those Christ loves and redeems, we are constantly finding out new things about them. “They are new persons each morning, endless in their possibilities. We explore the fascinating depths of their friendship, share the secrets of their quest. It is impossible to be bored in such a community, impossible to feel alienated among such people.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore (Psalm 133).

God does not want us to go through our journey of life as a lone ranger. There is no island in the community of the cross. We may need our caves to recharge sometimes. But as soon as we are blessed by our Immanuel God in solitude, we are eager to share with others those blessings, and minister to one another with His love. We can preach about love all day. But unless we practice it in the community of faith, we have not really love yet. Love is risky but excited. Love is endless exploration about the unique creation of God in mankind. We are all created differently and beautifully. God expects His children to enjoy His beauty through our fellowship with one another. Give yourself to God and share with one another whatever blessings that He has bestowed upon you. If you are thankful for whatever you have in life, share with others in loving manner. By doing so, we can really experience what the psalmist said, and can rewrite our version of psalm 133 today.

With His love in process,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Devotional 141210

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I was sadden to hear the news of how the eldest son of Bernie Madoff committed suicide to prove his innocence from his father’s crime. This is indeed the generation curse that the Bible warned us about. There is always a consequence for one’s moral decision. In a self-centered culture that we are in, people don’t care about how others (including family members) may suffer from their fleshy desire being satisfied. I pray that Mark Madoff’s death will serve as a wakeup call for all of us who lived in a self-centered, quick-fixed, success oriented, immoral and temptation filled world. A little yielding to the flesh will invite a big curse of evil consequence. Have mercy on us O Lord! We need your strength and guidance to keep us holy each day.

There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for the long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness. Even though the world thought we are a fool to pursue holiness, and we ourselves thought we were not able to deal with temptation around us, let’s don’t give up abiding in His holiness, like the author of Hebrews said, “Do you see what all 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. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in” (Hebrews 12:1-2a).

People submerged in a culture swarming with lies and malice feel like they are drowning in it; they can trust nothing they hear, depend on no one they meet. Such dissatisfaction with the world as it is, is preparation for traveling in the way of Christian discipleship. The dissatisfaction, coupled with a longing for peace and truth, can set us on a pilgrim path of wholeness in God.

A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. As long as we think that the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety into a life of tranquility, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith. A person has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace.

When I was in trouble, I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Save me, Lord, from liars and deceivers. You liars, what will God do to you? How will he punish you? With a soldier's sharp arrows, with red-hot coals! Living among you is as bad as living in Meshech (in inner city of America?) or among the people of Kedar (of Corporate culture?). I have lived too long with people who hate peace! When I speak of peace, they are for war (Psalm 120). Psalm 120 is the song of such a person, sick with the lies and crippled with the hate, a person doubled up in pain over w going on in the world. But it is not a mere outcry, it is pain that penetrates through despair and stimulates a new beginning—a journey to God which becomes a life of peace.

We have nothing to boast about our own righteousness. We are chief of all sinners if it is not because of the mercy of Christ. It is God who came to rescue us from the consequence of our sinful nature. We struggle each day in walking on the righteous path of God. Our tongues are as evil and deceiving like anyone else. We lost control of our tongues and our flesh from time to time. If it was not the intervention of the Holy Spirit to empower us from within, in no way we can use our tongues and our body for His glory. His holiness is indeed what we desire and what we need each day. Amen?

With love in His holiness,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Devotional 131210

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. We practiced communion this morning by washing one another’s feet during our prayer meeting. It was not natural in the beginning. But when we started doing it pair by pair, we felt a strong sense of bonding and blessing in the process. Recognizing that it is easier to wash one another’s feet as a ritual than speaking words of love and communion in our daily lives, we learn to do what Jesus has done for us. Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17).

There is an enormous communications industry in the world that is stamping out words like buttons. Words are transmitted by email, television, radio, telegraph, satellite, cable, newspaper, magazine. But the words are not personal. Implicit in this enormous communications industry is an enormous lie: if we improve communications we will improve life. It has not happened and it will not happen. Often when we find out what a person “has to say,” we like him or her less. Not more. Better communication often worsens international relations. We know more about each other as nations and religions than we ever have before in history, and we seem to like each other less. Counselors know that when spouses learn to communicate more clearly, it leads to divorce as often as it does to reconciliation. Paul reminded Timothy, “Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul” (2 Timothy 2:16-17). Do we use words to hurt or do we use words to edify one another? And more importantly, do we back our words with godly life or integrity? If not, our words are not only empty but poisonous and stumbling. Have mercy on us, O Lord, save and revive us from the world of impersonal communications!

The gift of words is for communion. We need to learn the nature of communion. This requires the risk of revelation—letting a piece of myself be exposed, this mystery of who I am. If I stand here mute, you have no idea what is going on with me. You can look at me. Measure me, weigh me, test me, but until I start to talk you do not know what is going on inside, who I really am. If you listen and I am telling the truth, something marvelous starts to take place—a new event. Something comes into being that was not there before. God does this for us. We learn to do it because God does it. New things happen then. Salvation comes into being; love comes into being. Communion. Words used this way do not define as much as deepen mystery—entering into the ambiguities, pushing past the safely known into the risky unknown. The Christian Eucharist uses words, the simplest of words, “this is my body, this is my blood, that plunge us into an act of revelation which staggers the imagination, which we never figure out, but we enter into. These words do not describe, they point, they reach, they embrace. Every time we go to the ill, the dying, the lonely, it becomes obvious alter a few moments that the only words that matter are words of communion. What is distressing is to find out how infrequently they are used. Sometimes we find we are the only ones who bother using words this way on these occasions. Not the least of the trials of the sick, the lonely and the dying is the endless stream of clichés and platitudes to which they have to listen. Doctors enter their rooms to communicate the diagnosis, family members to communicate their anxieties, friends to communicate the gossip of the day. Not all of them do this, of course, and not always, but the sad reality is that there is not a great deal of communion that goes on in these places with these ill and lonely and dying people, on street corners, in offices, in work places, in schools. That makes it urgent that the Christian becomes a specialist in words of communion.

We were conditioned not feeling comfortable to say words of genuine communion. We used a lot of Christian jargons or clichés that may not truly communicate what we really mean. We are too used to pseudo-community. We covered up our genuine self with a mask of religious devotee. We know that if we take off the mask, we need to brave the risk of being criticized and plead for help from a impersonal community. Both possibilities do not give us good feelings. Thus, we prefer to speak less or use clichés to cover up. And we know that if we continue to cover up, we will not grow and will feel more miserable in our walk with Christ. Many gave up but some persevered and developed communion with other genuine seekers of Truth and Body Life. It is not an easy task but a worthy one…exercise your words to edify and build communion.

With love from my inner being,

Friday, December 10, 2010

Devotional 101210

Dear brothers and sisters
Good morning. How blessed we are to be His children and enjoy His communion! Holy Spirit is always there to interact with us, but we are not available to listen. Indeed, it takes time to build relationship whether it is with God and with one another. When we are busy, relationship is usually the first thing we sacrifice. Jesus came to restore relationship – between men and God. We are rescued from the bondage of Satan and reconnect with God again. And God has provided us the avenue to strengthen this God-Men relationship - prayer.

[Jesus said,] “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, seclude place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They are full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need” (Matthew 6:6-8).

Beginners at prayer—children, new converts—find it easy. The capacity and impulse to pray both are embedded deep within us. We are made, after all, by God, for God. Why wouldn’t we pray? It is our native tongue, our first language. We find ourselves in terrible trouble and cry out for help to God. We discover ourselves immensely blessed and cry out our thanks to God. “Help!” and “Thanks!” are our basic prayers. Monosyllables. Simple.

God speaks to us, calls to us, has mercy on us, loves us, descends among us, enters us. And we answer, respond, accept, receive, praise. In a word, we pray. It’s that simple. What more is there?

But prayer doesn’t stay simply a wilderness of testing and begin to question the childlike simplicities with which we started out. We find ourselves immersed in a cynical generation that corrodes our early innocence with scorn and doubt. Along the way we pick up notions of prayer magic and begin working on slight of hand rituals and verbal incantations that will make life easier. It isn’t long before those early simplicities are all tangled up in knots of questions, doubts, and superstitions.

It happens to all of us. Everyone who prays ends up in some difficulty or other. We need help. We need a theologian. For those of us who pray and who mean to continue to pray, a theologian is our indispensable and best friend.

The reason that we who pray need a theologian at our side is that most of the difficulties of prayer are of our own making, the making of well-meaning friends, or the lies of the devil who always seems to be looking after our best self-interests. We get more interested in ourselves than in God. We get absorbed in what is or is not happening in us. We get bewildered by the huge discrepancies between our feelings and our intentions; we get unsettled by moralistic accusations that call into question our worthiness to even engage in prayer; we get attracted by advertisements of secrets that will give us access to a privileged, spiritual elite.

But prayer has primarily to do with God, not us. It includes us. Certainly everything about us down to the last detail. But God is primary. And the theologian’s task is to train our thinking, our imagination, our understanding to begin with God, not ourselves. This is not always reassuring, for we want someone to pay attention to us. But it is more important to pay attention to God. Prayer, which began simply enough by paying attention to God, can only recover that simplicity by re-attending to God. Prayer is the most personal thing that any of us do, the most human act in which we can engage. We are more ourselves, our true, image-of-God selves. When we pray than at any other time. This is the glory of prayer, but it is also the trouble with prayer, for these selves of ours have a way of getting more interested in themselves than in God.

The more we pray, the more we are cleansed by the word of the Holy Spirit. God is at work. He always want to communicate His will to us, so that we know who He is and His plan for us. The more we pray, the more we know God better. And that’s why theology is a prayer language, provided that we understand prayer in according to what Christ defined – paying attention to God. When we are too busy to listen, we lost touch and we don’t know who God is to me…

With love in prayer,

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Devotional 091210

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is always a joy to think of you in my devotion. Yes, we may not see each other as often as we want. But every time I thought of the blessings to be in the family of God with you, I rejoice. It is such a wonderful gift to become one in Christ. We love because He first loved us. Amen?

This world is no friend to grace. Seeking for intimacy at any level- with God or with persons—is not a venture that gets the support of many people. Intimacy is not good for business. It is inefficient, it, it lacks “glamour.” If love of God can be reduced to a ritualized hour of worship, if love of another can be reduced to an act of sex, then routines are simple and the world can be run efficiently. But if we will not settle for the reduction of love to lust and of faith to ritual, and run through the streets asking for more, we will most certainly disturb the peace and be told to behave ourselves and go back to the homes and churches where we belong. If we refuse to join the cult of exhibitionists who do a soul striptease on cue, or the “flashers” who expose their psychic nudity as a diversion from long-term covenantal intimacy, we are dismissed as hopeless puritans. Intimacy is no easy achievement. There is pain—longing, disappointment, and hurt. But if the costs are considerable, the rewards are magnificent, for in relationship with another and with the God who loves us we complete the humanity for which we were created. We stutter and stumble, wander and digress, delay and procrastinate; but we do learn to love even as we are loved, steadily and eternally, in Jesus Christ.

Paul used very strong words to express his intimate relationship with the church in Rome. He said, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith” (Romans 1:1l-l2 NIV). Eugene Peterson translated it as, “The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache. I so want to be there to deliver God’s gift in person and watch you grow stronger right before my eyes! But don’t think I’m not expecting to get something out of this, too! You have as much to give me as I do to you.” And to the Philippians he even said, “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8). Or using the Message translation it reads, “He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!” In Chinese culture, we seldom use strong affectionate words like Paul did, not even to our spouses. So when we deal with the intimate issue of love, we hardly go deep into our thought and meditation. We are afraid to get hurt or stumble others in relationship so we keep a distance. We are afraid to draw close or we don’t know how to draw close in case we are fooled by our own flesh. The affection that God created in us for one another is being blocked or subdue, even in our relation with our Creator Father. For this Satan rejoices. Indeed, we have a long way to go in realizing the love of Christ and to love one another with the affection of Christ.

I agree with Peterson that spiritual formation is the most intensely creative work. When you are being creative, you are not copying, you are not transposing something that works someplace else and making it work here. When you are being creative, most of what you do is wrong. The creative people I know throw away 90% of what they produce. If you have ever tried to write a poem or a song, you know that you do it wrong most of the time, and you work and work and work. Throwing lines away, filling your wastebasket . . . until finally you have got it. Most of what creative people do is wrong. But they don’t give up. Let’s don’t give up trying to find creative ways to express the affection of Christ to one another in a holy and edifying manner.

With the love He designs in us,

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning. It is always a joy to think of you in my devotion. Yes, we may not see each other as often as we want. But every time I thought of the blessings to be in the family of God with you, I rejoice. It is such a wonderful gift to become one in Christ. We love because He first loved us. Amen?

This world is no friend to grace. Seeking for intimacy at any level- with God or with persons—is not a venture that gets the support of many people. Intimacy is not good for business. It is inefficient, it, it lacks “glamour.” If love of God can be reduced to a ritualized hour of worship, if love of another can be reduced to an act of sex, then routines are simple and the world can be run efficiently. But if we will not settle for the reduction of love to lust and of faith to ritual, and run through the streets asking for more, we will most certainly disturb the peace and be told to behave ourselves and go back to the homes and churches where we belong. If we refuse to join the cult of exhibitionists who do a soul striptease on cue, or the “flashers” who expose their psychic nudity as a diversion from long-term covenantal intimacy, we are dismissed as hopeless puritans. Intimacy is no easy achievement. There is pain—longing, disappointment, and hurt. But if the costs are considerable, the rewards are magnificent, for in relationship with another and with the God who loves us we complete the humanity for which we were created. We stutter and stumble, wander and digress, delay and procrastinate; but we do learn to love even as we are loved, steadily and eternally, in Jesus Christ.

Paul used very strong words to express his intimate relationship with the church in Rome. He said, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith” (Romans 1:1l-l2 NIV). Eugene Peterson translated it as, “The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache. I so want to be there to deliver God’s gift in person and watch you grow stronger right before my eyes! But don’t think I’m not expecting to get something out of this, too! You have as much to give me as I do to you.” And to the Philippians he even said, “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8). Or using the Message translation it reads, “He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!” In Chinese culture, we seldom use strong affectionate words like Paul did, not even to our spouses. So when we deal with the intimate issue of love, we hardly go deep into our thought and meditation. We are afraid to get hurt or stumble others in relationship so we keep a distance. We are afraid to draw close or we don’t know how to draw close in case we are fooled by our own flesh. The affection that God created in us for one another is being blocked or subdue, even in our relation with our Creator Father. For this Satan rejoices. Indeed, we have a long way to go in realizing the love of Christ and to love one another with the affection of Christ.

I agree with Peterson that spiritual formation is the most intensely creative work. When you are being creative, you are not copying, you are not transposing something that works someplace else and making it work here. When you are being creative, most of what you do is wrong. The creative people I know throw away 90% of what they produce. If you have ever tried to write a poem or a song, you know that you do it wrong most of the time, and you work and work and work. Throwing lines away, filling your wastebasket . . . until finally you have got it. Most of what creative people do is wrong. But they don’t give up. Let’s don’t give up trying to find creative ways to express the affection of Christ to one another in a holy and edifying manner.

With the love He designs in us,


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Devotional 081210

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning. Thank God for showers of blessings. The whole nature is nourished by this warm Winter’s rain. God is love. We can find His expressions of love to us in many different ways. Rain, sunshine, fresh air, nature, ability to work, ability to enjoy friendship, and ability to enter communion (interaction with different senses) with God are signs of His Abundant Love for us. He is a creative God. I thank Him for creating you to be such a lovely beautiful being in Christ.

This is a common experience in the Valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17:19-54) when an amateur ventures into a field dominated by professionals. All around us people who care about us are suddenly there helping—piling armor on us, dressing us up in equipment that is going to qualify us is for the task (even though it didn’t seem to be doing them much good).We get advice. We get instruction. We are sent off to a training workshop. We find ourselves with an armload of books. These people are truly concerned about us and we are touched by their concern, in awe of their knowledge and experience. We listen to them and do what they tell us. And then we find that we can hardly move.

It wasn’t easy to do what David did that day David loved King Saul. He admired King Saul. He served King Saul. King Saul was splendid and powerful. King Saul loved him and was doing his best to help him. But despite all that, David removed the helmet. Unbelted the sword and took off the armor. It couldn’t have been easy to do that, walking away from all that proffered expertise. But to have gone to meet Goliath wearing Saul’s armor would have been a disaster. It always is. David needed what was authentic to him.

What strikes me so forcibly in this picture is that David was both modest enough and bold enough to reject the suggestion that he do his work inauthentically (by using Saul’s armor); and he was be modest and bold enough to use only that which he had been trained to use in his years as shepherd (his sling and some stones). And he killed the giant.

David left: Saul’s armor behind and walked out into the Valley of Elah clean and spare, traveling light, delivered from an immense clutter, and kneeled at the brook.

David at that moment, kneeling at the brook, frames something that is absolutely essential for each of us. Are we going to live this life from our knees imaginatively and personally.’’ Or are we going to live it conventionally and second-hand? Are we going to live out of our God-created, Spirit-anointed, Jesus-saved being.’’ Or are we going today and defer to eunuch professionals? Are we going to be shaped by our fears of Goliath or by God? Are we going to live by our admiration of Saul or by God?

God created each one of us for a purpose and equipped us with gifts and talents from above. If we busy ourselves with a lot of information regarding how others deal with life, but spend no time to reflect on what God has already given us to deal with life, we will not be able to conquer giants in our lives. A lot of time, the greatest enemy is ourselves. Only if we can conquer ourselves, we can conquer other giants or whatever difficulties that come our way. Many people will give us advise as we encounter giant. They all meant good. They want to provide us with the best advise that worked for them before, and hope it works for us. But their suggestions usually not totally fit our situation. There is no “one size fits all” in ministry or in life encountering. That’s why we need to be reflective to our potentials, attentive to the word of God with the help of the Holy Spirit, and selective in our methodology catering to our strength and His principles. There is nothing wrong to listen to “professional” advise. But at the end of the day, we need to sort out some major decision in life through prayer and meditations – allow God to speak to us and we respond with obedient heart.

With love in Christ,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Devotional 061210

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. We are blessed with the visit of an out-of-town guest, who came to seek collaboration with our organization in mission fields. Through our sharing, it is amazing to see how God at work in different parts of the world, and how we can work together in expanding His Kingdom. There are many kingdom workers, quietly but diligently serve behind the scene in being light and salt of the world. Not many churches knew about their work, but they made tremendous impact in many people’s lives. Praise the Lord!!!

God-anointed, David entered the world of work. He worked as a shepherd before he was anointed, work that provided background and metaphor for so much of the Gospel. But now David’s work was clearly seen as God-assigned, God-defined. All David’s work now was king-work. I want to use the word king-work to represent all true work. I am using this word in order to call attention to the essential dignity of work as such, that our work is of a kind with God’s work. All real work, genuine work, is subsumed under king-work. I am using the word here to distinguish true work from false work, spurious work, “work” that destroys or deceives. Just because energy is employed for a purpose does not qualify an action as work.

Work derives from and represents the sovereign God who expresses his sovereignty as a worker: king-work. Sovereigns work to bring order out of chaos; guard and fight for the sanctity of things and people; deliver victims from injustice and misfortune and wretchedness; grant pardon to the condemned and damned; heal sickness; by their very presence bring dignity and honor to people and land. God’s sovereignty is not abstract—it is a working sovereignty and is expressed in work. All of our work is intended as an extension of and participation in that sovereignty.

“What do we do then to get in on God’s works?” Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works” (John 6:28-29).

Why do we always want to know early on in our acquaintance with someone what their work is? “What do you do?” is virtually always among the repertoire of getting-acquainted questions. And the reason is this: occupation, career, job can do two things—usually both at the same time: work can reveal something essential about us- express our values, articulate our morals, act out our convictions of what it means to be a human being, created in the image of God. Or work can conceal our real identity. It can be used as a front to advertise something that we want people to see in us or believe about us, by which in fact we have never bothered to become within ourselves. For most of us, the two vocational things are mixed: revealing/expressing, and concealing/diverting. As we get to know someone we want to know if their job is a role to hide in or behind, or if it is an honest expression of character. The Bible says, “The diligent find freedom in their work; the lazy are oppressed by work” (Proverbs 12:24).

Peterson’s mediation on work provides us a new horizon and deeper meaning about our career or job we do every day. We don’t just find work to occupy our time and put food on the table. We work because our Heavenly Father works. Jesus described His Father as a farmer who constantly work in His vineyard to prune the leaves and branches that do not bear fruits. He wants all His children to bear fruits while we are put on earth for a period of time, so that this world can be a better place and many will be rescued from the evil turmoil and injustice. Only when we realize our work is part of His work, will we find new meaning to work each day.

Enjoy your work in His love,

Friday, December 3, 2010

Devotional 031210

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for another day of opportunity to be in Hi service. Every day is a new challenge in applying God’s words in our lives. Every day is a new lesson of faith. Every day is a new scenario to experience God in an intimate manner. God is a “make-over” artist. He is constantly breaking down our old rugged house and building a new godly dwelling. Allow Him to do the good work that He has started in you until He brings to completion in the days of Christ.

Is highly significant and not sufficiently remarked that this David story, the story that provides more plot and detail, more characters and landscape than any other in scripture to show us how to live entirely before and in response to God, features an ordinary person. David was, in our dismissive and condescending terminology, “just” a lay person. His father omitted to present him to Samuel—it probably didn’t even occur to him. To his brothers he was a nonentity. Worse, as we learn from examining his genealogy family tree, he had bad blood in his family tree, hated and despised Moabite blood.

The choice of David, the runt and the shepherd, to be the anointed, to be a sign and representative of God’s working presence in human life and history, is surely intended to convey a sense of inclusion to all ordinary men and women, the plain folk, the undistinguished in the eyes of their neighbors, those lacking social status and peer recognition. Which is to say, the overwhelming majority of all who have lived on this old planet earth. Election into God’s purposes is not by popular vote. Election into God’s purposes is not based on proven ability or potential promise.. . .

So it is of considerable moment to realize that the centerfold account in scripture of a human being living by faith comes in the shape of a lay person. David was not ordained to the priesthood. He was not called, as we say, “to the ministry.” He was “just” a lay person, haqqaton. But there is not a hint in the narrative that his status is evidence of inadequacy. This is humanity burgeoning and vital. Bold and extravagant, skillful and inventive in love and prayer and work.

Work is our Spirit-anointed participation in God’s work. When Jesus stood up in the Nazareth synagogue to announce that he was going to work and how he was going to go about it, he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me…” (Luke 4:18).

In our biblical texts anointing means being given a job by God. It means employment. We are, in effect, told that there is a job to be done and that we are assigned to do it, and that we can do it. Anointing connects our work with God’s work. Anointing is the sacramental connection linking God’s work with our work. God is a worker, a maker. God does things. He is, of course; but he also acts. And it is in His acts that we know who He is. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

Our Father in heaven is a working god. He never slumber and laid around doing nothing. Our God is always at work in His universe and in our midst. But He is not a workaholic – find his identity and self-worth from his work. He rests in His own Sabbath. He continues to guide His children and work in His church. We may not be aware of His work among us when we are too pre-occupied by our own busyness. He works and He wants to work alongside with us. The Holy Spirit came when Jesus went to the Father. He dwells within and among us, so that we can even do greater things through His Spirit. Dear Holy Spirit, use us to achieve your plan today!

In His loving presence,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Devotional 021210

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Hope you enjoy a refreshing cool morning. I was packed with meetings and a lot of implementation to catch up, when my boss returned from vacation yesterday. But I was glad that many over-due issues were being taken care of. Thank God for another day of enjoying His presence at work and in my study – writing my dissertation. While I was driving to work this morning, I cracked up in laughter over the “stress” I gave myself. Nobody forced me to study and finish my dissertation before this year. It was all the “pressure” I gave myself. I laughed at my own “foolishness” and gladly surrender this writing project back to God…knowing that He holds me accountable to be a faithful steward of the time and resource He bestowed upon me. But He also expects me to enjoy this journey of stewardship.

I appreciated Eugene Peterson’s reminder about our wrong attitude toward God’s Word. To him, exegesis is the farthest thing from pedantry; exegesis is an act of love. It is loving the one enough who speaks the words to want to get the words right. It is respecting the words enough to use every means we have to get the words right. Exegesis is loving God enough to stop and listen carefully to what he says. God has pro- vided us with these scriptures that present us with his Word. Loving God means loving both what God speaks to us and the way God speaks to us. It follows that we bring the leisure and attentiveness of lovers to this text—cherishing every comma and semicolon, relishing the oddness of this preposition, delighting in the surprising placement of this noun. Lovers don’t take a quick look, get a “message” or a “meaning” and then run off and gossip with their friends about how they feel. Lovers savor the words, relishing every nuance of what is said and written.

Face it, reality as God reveals it to us by his Word in J Jesus, is strange and unexpected and disappointing. This is not the kind of world we would have created if we had been given the assignment; this is not the kind of salvation we would have arranged if we had been on the committee; this is not the system of rewards and punishments we would have legislated if we had had the vote. I love the audacious quip of Teresa of Avila when she was energetically engaged in reforming the Carmelite monasteries, traveling all over? Spain by oxcart on bad roads, and one day was thrown from the oxcart into a muddy stream. She shook her fist at God, “God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many.’

No, the Reality that God reveals to us in his Word is very different, quite other—Other!—than anything we could ever have dreamed or thought up. And thank goodness. For if we keep at this long enough, prayer by prayer, we find ourselves living in a reality that is far, far larger, far lovelier, far better. But it takes considerable getting used to. Prayer is the process of getting used to it—going from the small to the large, from control to mystery, from self to soul—to God. And God doesn’t only reveal it to us by his Word so that we can know about it; he wants us engaged in it, participating in It.

So let the reader beware. Don’t just understand it; don’t just admire it; don’t just think it’s a wonderful thing; pray what you read, work yourself into active participation in what God reveals in the Word. God invites, yes, commands us to bring our words to this Word. He doesn’t expect us to take this new reality lying down. We better not take it lying down, for this word of God intends to get us on our feet, walking, running, singing...just as the psalmist said, “I hold fast to your statutes (Word), O LORD; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:31-32).

Indeed, how often I read the Bible for just leisure or inspiration. I forgot the Bible is the Word from the Lover of my soul. The God who cares so much about me more than I care for my own. Every word counts because it was spoken from a Lover. Yes, we may have difficulty to understand the meaning of it at time. That’s why Jesus prepared a special tutor for us – the Holy Spirit. He is not an agent from God like an angel but God Himself. He is the one who revealed His own will to us through the Bible. He knows what the Bible means because He is the author of the Word. A lot of time, we failed to wait, ask and listen to what the Holy Spirit had to say to us. We were too haste in reading and assuming we understood. Moreover, the Word is meant for us to live with but not to play with. We spent time arguing over which exegesis is more correct than obeying the Word in our lives – it may be our way to justify our failure in applying God’s Word, because we are not sure which interpretation is correct! Have mercy on us O Lord. Help us to treasure your word, spend time to study your word, seek your intervention to teach us your word, and most important of all, obey your word – the Bible is truly the precious gift from our heavenly Lover.

Abide with you in His love,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Devotional 301110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for your prayer. I slowly recover from my jetlag. As I was waking up this morning, few words kept flying over my head. I therefore tried to write them down on my iphone. But somehow I could not save them in my memo app. As soon as I pressed “done” it automatically deleted what I wrote down. I repeated several times with same effect (I never had this problem before). Finally I had them written down in an email and sent it back to myself. They were not some new insights, but something came up as the phrase “八十后” (born in the 80’s) surfaced. The reason I had this thought was because I had watched a Chinese you-tube presentation called”八十后” before I went to bed last night. I guessed those words were my hope for this young career generation:
無所求No wants
無遺憾No regrets
無徹退No retreats
無愧羞No ashamed
無保留No reserved

This generation of young careers is well educated and affluent. They are the future leaders of our global village. They can make a much bigger impact in this “flat world” than their previous generations. The challenge is whether they have the passions for God or not. If they are willing to abandon themselves to the hands of Christ, they will truly shine bright like a light house not only at the coast but on top of the hill.

I saw my job as John the Baptist, preparing the way for this up coming generation. We build platforms and gospel posts so that this coming generation could use them for the advance of God’s Kingdom in the last frontier of global missions. The missions for us, Baby Boomers, is to equip these future leaders and give them the trust to finish the missions that we were called to start. It is a grand plan but not an easy task. We need to sincerely pray for revival in this generation, so that many will become great Christian leaders and mission workers in the new world. Amen.

With love in Him,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Devotional 291110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Hope you “recover” from a long weekend of eating and having fun. Some claimed to have gained several pounds over this weekend – it usually takes several months of diet plan and exercise to recover your waist size and weight. There is always a price to pay for having so much fun with food. We need to be reminded once again that man shallnot live by bread alone but by every word of God. It is time to turn our eyes to spiritual food which is always edifying.

Just having print on page and knowing how to distinguish nouns from verbs is not enough. Reading the Bible can get you into a lot of trouble if you do not do it rightly. You might own your own Bible but you don’t own the Word of God to do with what you want—God is sovereign. Your Morocco leather Bible might be thing that you paid fifty dollars for, but the Word of God is personal, living and active—God is love. If in our Bible reading we do not submit to the sovereignty and respond to the love, we become arrogant in our knowing and impersonal in our behavior.

The wisdom, counsel, and skills that have developed around this concern through the centuries coalesce under the Latin heading, Lectio Divina, often translated as “spiritual reading,” by which we are taught to read the Bible with humility and intimacy.

The word “spiritual” in the phrase doesn’t refer to reading about spiritual things, but to the way in which a book is read. Primarily it has to do with the way we read Holy Scripture, listening to the Spirit, alert to intimations of God, but the skill can be extended to nearly anything written, including letters, poems, novels, even cookbooks.

The concern of Lectio Divina is quite simple, really—at least simple to grasp. It means reading personally, not impersonally, reading for a message that affects who we are and are becoming, the way we live our lives, and not merely for information that we can use to raise our standard of living.

[Jesus said,] “. . . if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” (Matthew 7:16-17). Unfortunately, a lot of Christians read the word but did not apply to their lives. As a result, their lives are like building sand castles at the beach (not even building a house on the sand beach), which could not stand a gentle wave of life. I was approached by one lady in church who sought counsel for her husband. She claimed he was a devoted Christian and aware of all the teachings in the bible but could not apply them in life. What could she do for her husband? It was a very personal question for this brother in Christ. He knew but he did not apply the truth in his life. As a result, he struggled in his life by his own strength with no satisfaction at all (other than making money). Allow the Word of God take hold of our lives is a life long experience. But once we make it a habit to obey God’s word in whatever “baby step” at a time, we will grow in Him each day. Amen!

With Love in Christ,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Devotional 241110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is good to be home again. Thanks for your prayer for my ministry in Philippines. The Word of God was preached and some responded positively to His prompting. Many felt that the sermons directed to the issues they encountered in church. This church is the most missional one among all Chinese churches. The Mission budget is 75% of their general fund. They supported missionaries all over the world. 38 missionaries came back to attend the 45th Mission Conference of their mother church. God is doing great things through this congregation both locally and globally. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to see how He uses this church for His glory. I was humbled by how the Holy Spirit used me to challenge this congregation to grow even more. My experience ties in well with what Eugene Peterson shared about in his devotion.

We are mistaken when we look at the Bible as a spiritual toolbox. We can’t take things out of the Bible and make them work for us. The whole process of the spiritual life is to come before the God who is alive, who becomes present to us in his Word, and who by means of that Word creates and redeems. We don’t use Scripture; God uses Scripture to work his will in us.

Jesus said, “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you II find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want” (John 5:39-40).

It is a great blessing to have God’s Word written so that we can read it at any time, but that the Word is written also involves us in difficulties not attended to often enough. These difficulties are at the very center of the spiritual life. The difficulties radiate out of a position of ownership—supposing that we own the Word, rather than letting the Word possess us. The simple act of buying a Bible has subtle side effects we need to counter. It is easy to suppose that since we bought it, we own it, and therefore can use it the way we wish.

This danger was not as acute when most Christians were illiterate, for they never read Scripture; they heard it. The words of the Bible were first spoken and listened to. Most of it was in oral form before it was written down. Even the Epistles, which originated as writings, were read aloud and listened to in the churches to which they were written.

Hearing a word is different from reading a word. When we hear, we are poised for response; something is happening. A listener doesn’t take a word or a phrase, then walk off and analyze it—that would be to miss the message. A speaking person presents a whole message to us, and we respond as whole persons. But the moment the message is written down, we can stop listening if we are so minded.

Have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken! (Mark 12:26b-27)

I agreed with Peterson that our attitude toward Bible tends to be like reading a regular book that we possess. So we take it out to enjoy it if our mood is right. But if it does not give us what we want, we simply put it away back to our bookshelf and ignore it. We dictate and choose what we want from the Bible. Not unless we submit ourselves to the Bible just as we submit under God, we will not give Holy Spirit the freedom to speak to us through the Bible in whatever way He wants. The written word of God invites different analysis and interpretation, which creates division in church. The word of God is meant to call for our obedience to His Word instead of critical analysis of it. Have mercy on us O Lord. Help us to discern our attitude as we submit ourselves to your Word.

With Love through His Word,

Monday, November 8, 2010

Devotional 081110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for rains and beautiful sunshine. The sky is so clear after a day of rain. Thank God for a great celebration event last night. Close to five hundred people came to share our joy in seeing His guidance for Gospel Operation International. May God continue to do His great work through this mission agency! God is shaping His people through His work throughout the globe. Sometimes He humbled us by His divine intervention. Sometimes He molded us by using difficult circumstances or afflictions. Whatever means God may use the goal remains the same – make us godly and Christ like.

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:3-5). It is essential to distinguish between hoping and wishing. They are not the same thing.

Wishing is something all of us do. It projects what we want or think we need into the future. Just because we wish for something good or holy we think it qualifies as hope, it does not. Wishing extends our egos into the future; hope desires what God is going to do—and we don’t yet know what that is.

Wishing grows out of our egos; hope grows out of our faith. Hope is oriented toward what God is doing; wishing is oriented toward what we are doing. Wishing has to do with what I want in things or people or God; hope has to do with what God wants in me and the world of things and people beyond me.

Wishing is our will projected into the future, and hope is God’s will coming out of the future. Picture it in your mind: wishing is a line that comes out of me, with an arrow pointing into the future. Hoping is a line that comes out of God from the future, with an arrow pointing toward me.

Hope means being surprised, because we don’t know what is best for us or how our lives are going to be completed. To cultivate hope is to suppress wishing—to refuse to fantasize about what we want, but live in anticipation of what God is going to do next.

I appreciated the insight that Eugene Peterson shared with us. A lot of time, we are confused with these two words – hoping and wishing. We thought they are interchangeable, but his explanation helps clarify the two. We tend to hope for what we wish. When we do not get what we wish for we give up hope. This distinction is very helpful. The author of Hebrews said, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). If hope desires what God is going to do in our lives, we remains hopeful in the One who knows what is better for our lives, and are in full control of what will come before us. We struggle with the calling of God for our lives when we focus on what we wish than what we hope in Him.

Please remember our international staff retreat in the coming three days. Afterward, I will be flying to Philippines to speak in mission conference and missionary retreat. Pray that God will make me a channel of His blessings to the brothers and sisters in Philippines.

With Love in Him,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Devotional 201010

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Hope you have a great start for the day despite of cloudy weather! A pastor was once asked by a new Christian, “I know Jesus is in Church on Sunday, but where is Jesus on Monday? Is he remaining in church or He is back to heaven?” It may sound like a childish question. But if you meditate on it a little bit more, it could be a very profound question to contemplate. Does Jesus go to work, school or doing house chores with us on Monday? A lot of Christians prefer Jesus to stay in church on Monday than going to work or wherever with them. But Jesus prefers to go with His people wherever they may be – for the sake of growing them to become light and salt of this world. How would you perform differently by knowing that Jesus works with you today?

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:12-14). It is in the nature of what God is doing in us that we grow. But this “naturalness” does not mean that growth is painless. Growth calls into action new parts of our minds, our emotions, our bodies. What we experience at these times often feels like pain. We are not used to stretching ourselves in these ways. But the pain should not surprise us—our muscles ache when we take up any new activity. Athletes expect to get sore muscles when they begin training. A commitment to Christ and obedience to his commands stretch us beyond ourselves, and that hurts. But this is a very different pain from that inflicted by torture or punishment. Growth pain is the kind we don’t regret; it leads to health and not disease or neurosis.

The problem with most of us was to avoid pain or any uncomfortable feelings. We therefore shy away from doing exercise, which causes problem to our body eventually. The author of Hebrews made it very clear to us. We need to grow in Him. We need to stretch our faith or apply our faith to action. People compare faith with muscle – the more you use or exercise your muscle, the stronger it will grow. In the same token, the more you exercise your faith, the stronger your faith will become. And we will become mature believers who can discern the will of God in our lives.

Eugene Peterson did not advice using introspection for our spiritual growth. The spiritual masters in our faith consistently discourage introspection. Growth takes place in quietness, in hidden ways, in silence and solitude. The process is not accessible to observation. Constantly taking our spiritual temperature is bad for our health. When we are introspective about our growth, what we are actually doing is examining our feelings—and feelings are notorious liars, especially in matters of faith.

Attentiveness to spiritual growth that does not become introspectively neurotic is only accomplished by participation in a worshiping community. Healthy spiritual growth requires the presence of the other—the brother, the sister, the pastor, the teacher. A private, proudly isolated life cannot grow. The two or three who gather together in Christ’s name keep each other sane. The Bible said, “Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world” (James 1:27 The Message). We need Christian community to nurture our faith, because only in and through which our faith and love will be stretched and we will really grow to become a Christ-like person. It is through the community of faith that we understand what agape love is all about. Have mercy on introverted persons like me, O Lord. Help us participate in a worshiping community to nurture our spiritual growth in you…

With Love in growing process,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Devotional 191010

Dear brothers and sisters,
Thanks for your prayer for my preaching trip to New York. It was a fruitful experience of seeing God’s work in a very mission-minded church. This church is a growing church with clear focus on the Kingdom of God worldwide. All the pastoral staff and key leaders of the church commit to evangelize both locally and globally. I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to learn from this church in how to mobilize a big congregation for world missions. God cares for the well being of all nations. He loves all those whom He created according to His own image.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8)

Prayer is an orienting act. We begin to discover who we are when we realize where we are. Disorientation is a terrible experience. If we cannot locate our place, we are in confusion and anxiety. We are also in danger, for we are apt to act inappropriately. If we are among enemies and don’t know it, we may lose our life. If we are among friends and don’t know it, we may miss good relationships. If we are alongside a cliff and don’t know it, we may lose our footing. While praying Psalm 8, we find out where we are and some important aspects of who we are.

We are the children of God who were appointed to manage the planet earth for His glory. God gives us ability to interact with the Creator God and the creativity to manage this beautiful world. But when we lost the orientation of why we are here, we failed to fulfill our calling and miss the blessings that God intended for us to have. We did not use our capability to interact with the Creator God, and we abuse the creativity for our own selfish gain. As a result, we bring curse to the Nature, we abuse the earth and we suffered from it. Have mercy O Lord.

Alongside the basic fact that God made us good (Psalm 8) is the equally basic fact that we have gone wrong. We pray our sins to get to the truth about ourselves and to find out how God treats sinners. Our experience of sin does not consist in doing some bad things but in being bad. It is a fundamental condition of our existence, not a temporary lapse into error. Praying our sin isn’t resolving not to sin anymore; it is discovering what God has resolved to do with us as sinners.

Only when we admit our sinful nature and helplessness, will we seek God’s help to resolve our problem. Self help will not lead us to God but to our self destruction. The more we focus on the greatness of God and our dependence on Him, the more we can put off the “old self” that hold us back to our sinful nature. We are totally helpless but God is totally majestic and powerful. It was the Lord who made His salvation known to us (Psalm 98:2a). In another word, it was Him who invented our salvation but not us.

The world is a fearsome place. If we manage with the help of parents, teachers and friends to survive the dangers of infancy and childhood, we find ourselves launched in an adult world that is ringed with terror—accident, assault, disease, violence, conflicts. Prayer brings fear into focus and faces it. But prayer does more than bravely face fear; it affirms God’s presence in it.

Indeed, we live in a fearful land, a spiritual battle field. Temptation is everywhere. Satan will do whatever to pull us into hell. We are helpless in fighting against the evil force around us. If we continue to rely on our own strength to deal with our enemy, we will fail. Prayer gives us the assurance that God is with us in facing our daily battle. In Him we have hope. Through Him we have strength. With Him we see His victory in our lives.

With love through prayer,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Devotional 141010

Dear brothers and sister,
Good morning. I am heading to airport for New York at around noon. Pray that I will witness His work in the life of the community where He ordained me to serve. This is a distinct honor to be in His service. And this is a humbling experience to see God at work through an unworthy and inadequate person like me. Your prayer for me is greatly appreciated. Pray that people are motivated to participate in His Kingdom dream.

It is both natural and appropriate to be excited about a person’s conversion. It is the most significant event in life—to be born anew, to be a new creature in Christ. But that significance and the excitement accompanying it do not excuse ignorance and indifference to the complex process of growth into which every Christian is launched via this new birth. Because growth involves so much—so much detail, so much time, so much discipline and patience—it is common to dismiss it and turn our attention to something we can get quick handle on: the conversion event. Evangelism crowds spirituality off the agenda. But having babies is not a vocation; parenting is. It is easier, of course, to have babies. But a church that refuses or neglects the long, intricate, hard work of guiding its newborn creatures into adulthood is being negligent of most of what is in Scripture.

The Bible is full of references to growth and growing. Luke, for example, describes both Jesus and John as growing. John “grew and became strong in spirit” (1:80), and Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (2:52). The word grew is the last word on both John and Jesus before their public ministries are narrated. Both the greatest of the prophets and the unique Messiah grew into the fullness of their ministries.

The apostle Paul used growth words frequently as he urged people to enter into the full implications of their life in the Spirit. When we become mature in the faith, he said, “we will no longer be infants…but we will in all things grow up into him who is the lead, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:14, 15). “Your faith is growing note and more” is his commendation to the church at Thessalonica (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

Peter urged believers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Comparing them to newborn babies, he said, “Crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you nay grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

Growth is the basic metaphor in several parables that involve us in participation in the kingdom. The most dramatically placed growth image is at the center of the Gospel of John (12:24). Jesus said that unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it does not grow, but if it dies, it grows. Growth is a major concern of John’s Gospel—maturing into everything that God does in Christ, gathering all the parts of our lives and all the details of Jesus’ life into a single whole. John arranges his Gospel into two almost equal parts: this growth image in 12:24 is the hinge that holds the two halves together.

[Jesus said,] “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, its sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal” (John 12:24-25). It takes a life time to realize this goal of dying to the world. Our ego always gets in the way for our growth. Not only do the new converts have this problem, even mature Christians are battling with this process of putting to death our “old self” on a daily basis. Being a minister of the Gospel, we have nothing to boast as though we are better than those young in faith. We are as vulnerable if not more to temptations. Pray that we will all be alert at all times, and hold each other accountable to bury our “grain” for the sake of growing a new life from it. Hope you find time to re-examine your lives during this weekend.

With love through Christ,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Devotional 121010

Dear brothers and sister,
Good afternoon. What a hot day in October! After running some errands and attending a meeting before lunch, I hardly slowed down for meditation without falling asleep. But I need time to recharge myself, otherwise, I will be running low on spiritual energy. Tomorrow is a clean up day in my office. It will be a day for work out – I hope I will not be too tired for my preaching trip to New York the day after. Pray that it is a bonding time for our team in truly working on a common project together. I look forward to this exercise day.

We are only capable of renouncing a false life when we are familiar with a real life. Those years of association with Jesus for the disciples, years of “growing up,” were years of realizing in sharp and precise detail that life is what God gives us in Jesus: grace, healing, forgiveness, deliverance from evil, a miraculous meal, the persona presence and word of God. And now that they know what it is, they know it is not self-preservation, self-help, self-aggrandizement, self importance. Life is the Jesus-revealed life that becomes plain as day in the cross—the sacrificial life, the life that loves generously and extravagantly, the life that through voluntary and sacrificial death to self becomes resurrection for the world. So—“deny yourself and take up your cross.”

Renunciation clears out the clutter of self, of false spiritualities, of pseudo-life so that there is room in us for God and true spirituality and eternal life. Not infrequently in dealing with these matters of intense and precious and endangered spirituality in our youth, we parents in a shock of recognition see that our spirituality is in question: we have let a busy life substitute for a spiritual life, and a responsible life replace a responsive life. Sometimes, to our surprise, we realize that pseudo spiritualities have turned into addictions that are destroying our inner life, robbing us of freedom, leaving us flatfooted and tuneless in our midlife. When that happens the adolescent in our home very often is in a position to do John the Baptist work for us as a “prophet of the Most High” (Luke 1:76) and make us aware of the presence and glory of Jesus. We’re given a second chance to cultivate the resonant depths of soul that make it possible to both “glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Indeed, God used our children to humble us – to make us aware of our inadequacy, and make us depend on Him even more. Our adolescence children frequently removed our pseudo-life and make us naked before the Almighty God in begging for mercy. Yes, how much do we need to grow up and be real to ourselves – but we need to recognize our pseudo-self before we can truly renounce it. Otherwise, our true “old self” is still safely preserved behind our false holiness and superficial spirituality. Have mercy on us O Lord!

With love in Him,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Devotional 111010

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. The weather is extremely beautiful. I am thankful for such treat when I am in home base. It is indeed a good feeling to be home for more than a week and with such good weather – what a bonus! God intended for us to enjoy life in accordance to His original plan for mankind. If we obey His design for us, we will be truly blessed. Unfortunately, our rebellious nature gets in the way. Our soul detours us from the great plan of God for our lives….we suffer and groan without knowing why. We even demand God for an answer of our suffering. As a result we live in our own bitterness and rebellion – our little self-centered world. Have mercy on us O Lord!!!

Poetry is language used with intensity. It is not, as so many suppose, decorative speech. Poets tell us what our eyes, blurred with too much gawking, and our ears, dulled with too much chatter, miss around and within us. Poets use words to drag us into the depths of reality itself, not by reporting on how life is, but by pushing-pulling us into the middle of it. Poetry gets at the heart of existence. Far from being cosmetic language, it is intestinal. It is root language. Poetry doesn’t so much tell us something we never knew as bring into recognition what was latent or forgotten or overlooked. The Psalms are almost entirely this kind of language. Knowing this, we will not be looking primarily for ideas about God in the Psalms or for direction in moral conduct. We will expect, rather, to find exposed and sharpened what it means to be human beings before God.

Prayer is language used in relation to God. It gives utterance to what we sense or want or respond to before God. God speaks to us; our answers are our prayers. The answers are not always articulate. Silence, sighs, groaning—these also constitute responses. But always God is involved, whether in darkness or light, whether in faith or despair. This is hard to get used to. Our habit is to talk about God, not to him. We love discussing God. But the Psalms resist such discussions. They are provided not to teach us about God but to train us in responding to him. We don’t learn the Psalms until we are praying them.

I totally agree with Peterson that we always like to talk about God but not to God. Only if we are aware of what and who we are before God, we will not be able to live a full abundant life in Him. God intended for us to live an enjoyable life. We just need to recognize who we are and who God is before we can enter into this beautiful communion with our Creator – just like the good old days in the Garden of Eden, where the Creator had daily communion with His creatures – Adam and Eve. Deep down inside, our soul desires this kind of communion because it is the ultimate void within us.

With love in Christ,

Friday, October 8, 2010

Devotional 081010

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning. It makes me feel so good to have a whole week at home. I treasure the time at home or in office more than at the lounge in airport. Praise God for giving me this ministry to mobilize churches for global missions in wherever God wants me to go. I am thankful to be at home as much as being on the road for His Kingdom’s sake. This is a gift from above that I can still travel and fall asleep on new bed wherever I go. I appreciate how Eugene Peterson caught so much insight from Psalm 131 in his meditation. I am sure his message is from God at all time, but we are simply too busy to listen when we study our bible.

My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore (Psalm 131).

Our lives are only lived well when they are lived in terms of their creation, with God loving and we being loved, with God making and we being made, with God revealing and we understanding, with God commanding and we responding. Being a Christian means accepting the terms of creation, accepting God as our maker and redeemer, and growing day by day into an increasingly glorious creature in Christ, developing joy, experiencing love, maturing in peace. By the grace of Christ we experience the marvel of being made in the image of God. If we reject this way the only alternative is to attempt the hopelessly fourth-rate, embarrassingly awkward imitation of God made in the image of man.

Many who have traveled this way of faith have described the transition from an infantile faith that grabs at God out of desperation to a mature faith that responds to God out of love … as content as a child that has been weaned.” Often our conscious Christian lives do begin at points of desperation, and God, of course, does not refuse to meet our needs. There are heavenly comforts that break through our despair and persuade us that “all will be well and all manner of things will be well.” The early stages of Christian belief are not infrequently marked with miraculous signs and exhilarations of spirit. But as discipleship continues the sensible comforts gradually disappear. For God does not want us neurotically dependent upon him but willingly trustful in him. And so he weans us. The period of infancy will not be sentimentally extended beyond what is necessary. The time of weaning is very often noisy and marked with misunderstandings: “I no longer feel like I did when I was first a Christian. Does that mean I am no longer a Christian? Has God abandoned me? Have I done something terribly wrong?”

The answer is, “Neither: God hasn’t abandoned you, and you haven’t done anything wrong. You are being weaned; the apron strings have been cut. You are free to come to God or not come to Him. You are, in a sense, on your own with an open invitation to listen and receive and enjoy our Lord.”

The last line of the psalm addresses this quality of newly acquired freedom: “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and for evermore.” Choose to be with him; elect his presence; aspire to his ways; respond to his love. This is the expression of a mature child of God. We don’t crave for God’s constant attention. We love and enjoy His presence at all time. We have confidence or security that He is a faithful God who will never forsake us. Whether we “feel” His presence or not, we know He is always here for us. Earthly kingdom may change and economy may collapse but He remains in reign forever. This is the kind of hope we have in Him that can make a difference in our daily encountering with our world and the people around us. It should be our joy to see God’s name be glorified in and through our lives! Amen? Have a blessed weekend.

With love for His glory,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Devotional 071010

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for your prayer for my final comprehensive exam. My professors were very gracious (each professor graded the part of exam question that he or she gave). I got an “A” from my 5 combined scores!! It means I can move on to begin my dissertation project now. This is like the last leg of my academic program. I need to submit my paper by the end of this year if I want to graduate next year…Pray that the Lord will grant me enough strength and concentration to finish this research project. Again I covet your prayer for me. Please intercede on my behalf….thanks!

It is difficult to recognize pride as a sin when it is held up on every side as a virtue, urged as profitable, and rewarded as an achievement. What is described in Scripture as the basic sin, the sin of taking things into our own hands, being our own god, grabbing what is there while you can get it, is now described as basic wisdom: improve yourself by whatever means you are able; get ahead regardless of the price; take care of me first. For a limited time it works. But at the end the devil has his due. There is damnation. Apostle Paul said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4).

It is additionally difficult to recognize unruly ambition as a sin because it has a kind of superficial relationship to the virtue of aspiration—an impatience with mediocrity, and a dissatisfaction with all things created until we are at home with the Creator, the hopeful striving for the best God has for us—the kind of thing Paul expressed: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). But if we take the energies that make for aspiration and remove God from the picture, replacing him with our own crudely sketched self-portrait, we end up with ugly arrogance. Ambition is aspiration gone crazy. Aspiration is the channeled, creative energy that moves us to growth in Christ, shaping goals in the Spirit. Ambition takes these same energies for growth and development and uses them to make something flashy and cheap, sweatily knocking together a Babel when we could be vacationing in Eden.

Eugene Peterson helps surface the hidden pride that we may not be aware of in life. It hides behind the “good character” that we want people to see. Only when we take time to carefully examine our souls on a regular basis, we cannot recognize the sins that held us back from our freedom to serve God. That’s why we need to draw close to God in order to allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to see our hidden problem. I don’t think any woman will do make up on their face without turning on the light. The more clearly you want to see, the brighter light you need. Let the best make up artist, our Holy Spirit, improves your look each day. But you need to walk into the light of His presence.

With love in His presence,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Devotional 061010

Dear brothers and sisters,
Thanks for praying for my comprehensive examination yesterday. I felt so peaceful and enjoyable to spend 10 hours at home to answer 5 big questions. I could tell somebody must be praying for me…10 hours went very smoothly. Yes, I have to budget my time well in answering all 5 questions. No, I wished I had more time to do a better job. Anyway, I have done my part. I leave it to the Lord to do His part, so that I know what to do next in life. I covet your prayer for my last phase of this study – 3 course assignments and one big dissertation to finish before the end of this year….At the meantime, I still need to preach in different places until Thanksgiving: New York, North Carolina, Brazil and Philippines.

My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore (Psalm 131). Psalm 131 is a maintenance psalm. It is functional to the person of faith as pruning is functional to the gardener: it gets rid of that which looks good to those who don’t know any better and reduces the distance between our hearts and their roots in God.

The two things that Psalm 131 prunes away are unruly ambition and infantile dependency, what we might call getting too big for our breeches and refusing to cut the apron strings. Both of these tendencies can easily be supposed to be virtues, especially by those who are not conversant with Christian ways. If we are not careful, we will be encouraging the very things that will ruin us. We are in special and constant need of correction. We need pruning. Jesus said, “Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). More than once our Lord the Spirit has used Psalm 131 to do this important work among his people. As we gain a familiarity with an understanding of the psalm, he will be able to use it that way with us “that we may bear more fruit.’

Jesus said, “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every ranch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken” (John 15:1-2). Since we are part of Christ, we are expected to bear fruits. And the way to bear fruits involves trimming or pruning – take away all the extravagant leaves and branches, so that all the nutrition will go to fruit bearing. This is priority setting and life-purpose checking. Don’t busy yourself in doing a lot of good “stuff,” instead of the most important stuff in life. It is time to trim your calendar and reserve more time to serve God.

With love in Christ,

Monday, October 4, 2010

Devotional 041010

Dear brothers and sisters,
Thanks for your prayer for my preaching trip in Vancouver, Canada. It was a blessing to witness God’s work in His church. I thank God for this healthy missional church. God is motivating young people in this church for missions, and many adults are faithful in answering God’s call to serve Him in whatever capacity. Pray that God will bring to completion the good work that He has started in this congregation, so that they can become the channel of His blessings to their community.

The world of religion generates a huge market for meeting all the needs that didn’t get met in the shopping mall. Pastors are conspicuous in this religious marketplace and are expected to come up with the products that give customer satisfaction. Since the needs seem legitimate enough, we easily slip into the routines of merchandising moral advice and religious comfort. Before long we find that we are program directors in flourishing business. We spend our time figuring out ways to attractively display god-products. We become skilled at pleasing the customers. Before we realize what has happened, the mystery and love and majesty of God, to say nothing of the tender and delicate subtleties of souls, are obliterated by the noise and frenzy of the religious marketplace.

But then who is there who will say the name of God in such a way that the community can see Him for who He is, our towering Lord and Savior, and not the packaged and priced version that meets our consumer needs? And who is there with the time to stand with men and women, adults and children in the places of confusion and blessing, darkness and light, hurt and healing long enough to discern the glory and salvation being worked out behind the scenes, under the surface. If we all get caught up in running the store or the program of the church, who will serve as the pastor?

This happened to the first church in Acts. The Bible said, “The Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word” (Acts 6:2-4). We need pastors in this world of consumerism to remain watchful for the well being of the flock, instead of busying themselves in entertaining the flock. Have mercy on your church O Lord. It is definitely not an easy task. We need to pray for our pastors, who will spend time listening to the Great Shepherd in knowing how to lead their flock with spiritual boldness from above. And we also need to pray for congregation who will encourage their pastors in focusing on prayer and preaching God’s Word.

With love in Him,

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Devotional 300910

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I have been on the road in the last two weeks, and will continue so until end of October. I sincerely covet your prayers for me. Pray that the Lord will use this “loud speaker” to communicate His words to His people despite his inadequacy.
Lately, I learnt a fresh new lesson on divine appointment. I received an email from someone I never met, who responded to my devotional from this blog. He read my devotional that I mentioned about the tragic death of Joyce Lau, and he was the eye-witness of the hit and run incidence. Owing to his attempt to follow the car and reported to police the license plate, it led to the arrest of the suspect. His email said that he was moved by the devotional, and asked me to send his condolences to the Lau’s family. I thanked him for his help on behalf of the family.

Last Friday, I received a long email from this witness’s mother, who told me that his son died not soon after, and told me the story of her son. In her message, this mother told me how she was glad to read her son’s message to me. She said, “While I felt I couldn't mention God (but he read them later with the word God) but shared that life is fragile" and also that I was so proud of him how he showed honor to this woman's life. I told him that you made her matter, you honored her and you didn't even know her. I am so proud of the Man he was, or is. He was a champion of the little guy.” I thank God for using this young man to bless the Lau’s family, before He called him home. God used this young man to make a difference on earth, and touch the life of “strangers.” Indeed, we should treasure the time we have and seek to become a channel of God’s blessing to others.

Eugene Peterson said it well, “In every site, every meeting I attend, every appointment I keep, I have been anticipated. The risen Christ got there ahead of me. The risen Christ is I that room already. What is he doing? What is he say? What is going on?” In the remote mountain region of China, our risen Christ had been there before we went. It was not our initiation or research to go there to reach out to a people group. It was the risen Christ who invited us there. All we need to do is to respond in obedience, and follow His prompting with full anticipation of His active guidance. Peterson continued to say, “We are always coming in on something that is already going on. Sometimes we clarify a word or feeling, sometimes we identify an overlooked relationship, sometimes we help recover an essential piece of memory – but always we are dealing with what the risen Christ has already set in motion, already brought into being.” In a similar manner, it was not a coincidence that this young man was there at the scene to witness Joyce Lau’s accidence. It was some "good" that God brought out mysterioysly even in the midst of a sinful and chaotic world.

I am reminded from the connection of these two deaths. We really don’t know how long we may live on earth. It could end unexpectedly. So, enjoy the time we have today in making a difference in the life of others. Maximize our influence just like what the Apostle Paul said, “Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:16-21).

You may not hear from me tomorrow because I will be flying to Vancouver. Please remember my comprehensive examination on Tuesday. I will have 10 hours to answer all the questions that my professors give me in one day. I need to pass this examination before I can begin my final research project and dissertation. At the mean time, my priority is to prepare my sermon and teaching materials for a mission conference in Vancouver. Thanks

With love in Christ,