Friday, January 29, 2010

A fruitful visit

A group of committed staff to run a Christian schools to train Wa People in ministry at the mountain region of Myanmar. Many of them have Chinese blood.

A small orphanage serves as home for 15 kids

A village church that is small but filled with the glory of God like the big one in town.

A young missionary couple from USA serving at a church in Myanmar

A seminary that train young people to reach Buddhists for Christ.

A Buddhist temple that was covered by tons of gold in a poor country. They raised fund to rebuild the temple after a disastrous storm but not relieve effort to save lives.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Devotional 150110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good afternoon. Time flies. This is the last day of my two weeks study. I have learned a lot and inspired a lot in the area of cultural anthropology. For a long time I wanted to study about the history and trend of culture. I felt like Christians are always under the driving currents of Modern culture without our awareness. I thought it should come under the discipline of Sociology. Now I realized that it was actually social anthropology that focuses on this area of study. I thank God for guiding me into this study without I even knew how to choose. I am fascinated by it and have bought several books that my professor has recommended. Praise the Lord! We are serving a God who is actively involving in the life of His people. Our Holy Spirit guides us in the light of His path, so that we enjoy or delight in His Word.

When they said, “Let’s go to the house of GOD,” my heart leaped for joy. And now we’re here, oh Jerusalem, inside Jerusalem’s walls! (Psalm 122:1-2) Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God—it intensifies our appetite. Our need for God is not taken care of by engaging in worship—it deepens. It overflows the hour and permeates the week. The need is expressed in a desire for peace and security. Our everyday needs are changed by the act of worship. We are no longer living from hand to mouth, greedily scrambling through the human rat race to make the best we can out of a mean existence. Our basic needs suddenly become worthy of the dignity of creatures made in the image of God: peace and security. The words ‘shalom’ and ‘shalvah’ play on the sounds in Jerusalem, ‘jerushalom,’ the place of worship.

Shalom, peace, is one of the richest words in the Bible. You can no more define it by looking up its meaning in the dictionary than you can define a person by his social security number. It gathers all aspects of wholeness that result from God’s will being completed in us. It is the work of God that, when complete, releases streams of living water in us and pulsates with eternal life. Every time Jesus healed, forgave or called someone, we have a demonstration of shalom.

And shalvah is security. It has nothing to do with insurance policies or large bank accounts or stockpiles of weapons. The root meaning is leisure—the relaxed stance of one who knows that everything is all right because God is over us and for us in Jesus Christ. It is the security of being at home in a history that has a cross at its center. It the leisure of the person who knows that every moment of our existence is at the disposal of God, and lived under the mercy of God.

Worship initiates an extended, daily participation in peace and security so that we share in our daily rounds what God initiates and continues in Jesus Christ. We normally view worship as a religious ritual to please God at church. But worship, indeed, is a way to intensify our peace and passion in God. Therefore worship is about God and for us to realize our being in Him. The communion of Triune God wants to extend His relationship to us. It is like us inviting our friends to fellowship. God is inviting us to have fellowship within Him. Shalom and Shalvah are gifts from the Creator God to His Creatures that bear His Image. He intended for us to enjoy this shalom and shalvah as we find shelter in His Grace. When we worship we know we are enjoying the peace under His wing. We don’t need to worry or afraid if we know the one we worship is Almighty!

Love you because we are His beloved children,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Devotional 130110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is always a joy to share with you my journey of life in Christ. Whenever God gives a gift to us, He does not expect us to just keep it to ourselves. He expects us to share. All that we are and we possess, are the gifts from above. Once we arrive to this realization, we cannot stop sharing with others. Unfortunately, a lot of people in this world do not arrive to the same conclusion. They chose to believe “I think therefore I am.” Their existence depends on themselves and for themselves. They will do whatever it takes to accumulate wealth and well being for themselves, because, after all, this is the reason for their existence. As a result, their lives are under constant stress and worry. And they wonder why lives are full of so much fear and pain.

Deliver me from the liars, GOD! They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth” (Psalm 120:2). 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 as 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 to 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 difficult uncertainties of the life of faith. A person has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, or she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace.

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 what is 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.

Jesus assured His disciples that He will not leave them as orphan in the world, because the Holy Spirit will abide with them during their life journey. He promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). This is the undeserving GRACE that we receive from our merciful God, so that we can walk through our journey of faith with surpassing peace and joy. Our Lord continued to say, “I have told you these things (the Word of God), so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (16:33). Our inner peace is not a self-help or man-made psychological temporary tranquility. It is a super-natural peace that comes out from our union with the Holy Spirit from within. Our Lord desires to offer us His peace through our intimate relationship with Him. Do we want to build our security on the unreliable world or the unfailing love of God? Choose Him today!

Love you because of this Peace,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Devotional 120110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Hope your new day bring you new excitement to anticipate God’s leading and lesson for your life. You don’t need to go back to school like me in order to learn new things about God and His work around the globe. You can experience Him in the informal classroom called life. One of my friends in seminary committed to serve among an unreached people group in the mountain region of Peru. His ministry is to train the local Christians to become pastors. He said that the best learning time for these students was when they had coffee after class. Nobody would have any questions to ask in class. But during the informal coffee time they opened up their souls to one another and many questions were raised. I guess it is equally true to Chinese. We share more during refreshment time than during formal Bible study time. Our Lord wants to visit us during the informal time besides the formal worship or gathering time that we do as a ritual. He will visit you in the most informal setting in your life too.

The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?” He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight” (Matthew 13:10-13 Message). Jesus was a master at subversion or sedition. Until the very end, everyone, including his disciples, called him Rabbi. Rabbis were important, but they didn’t make anything happen. On the occasions when suspicions were aroused that there might be more to him than that title accounted for, Jesus tried to keep it quiet—“Tell no one.”

Jesus’ favorite speech form, the parable, was subversive. Parables sound absolutely ordinary: casual stories about soil and seeds, meals and coins and sheep, bandits and victims, farmers and merchants. And they are wholly secular: of his forty or so parables recorded in the Gospels, only one has its setting in church and only a couple mentions the name God. As people heard Jesus tell these stories, they saw at once that they weren’t about God, so there was nothing in them threatening their own sovereignty. They relaxed their defenses. They walked away perplexed, wondering what they meant, the stories lodged in their imagination. And then, like a time bomb, they would explode in their unprotected hearts. An abyss opened up at their very feet. He was talking about God; they had been invaded!

Jesus continually threw odd stories down alongside ordinary lives and walked away without explanation or altar call. Then listeners started seeing connections: God connections, life connections, eternity connections. The very lack of obviousness, the unlikeness, was the stimulus to perceiving likeness: God likeness, life likeness, eternity likeness. But the parable didn’t do the work—it put the listener’s imagination to work. Parables aren’t illustrations that make things easier; they make things harder by requiring the exercise of our imagination, which if we aren’t careful becomes the exercise of our faith.

Our Lord knows the rebellion in human heart. Instead of spoon feeding us the spiritual food (He knows many will refuse), He offers in the form of informal story telling. If our hearts are ready to seek the truth, we will be inspired by His story. If we are still trying to save ourselves or prove our wisdom better than God, we will walk away wondering why God will send a most unlikely teacher to tell such simple story. One way or the other, He is still able to trigger our imagination to ponder on the truth.
Therefore, don’t underestimate the little thing that may happen to you today. Who knows, it may be the divine providence of God to make you think about Life above.

Love you in His Truth,

Monday, January 11, 2010

Devotional 110110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I hope you are fully energized after a weekend of Sabbath. I enjoyed my quiet time with the Lord and fellowship time with my classmates on campus. At first I could not imagine how I would spend my weekend away from home. But it turned out to be so short when my days were so richly blessed with His presence.

The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, And a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger (Proverbs 25:11-12). 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 that leads to 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 lot describe, they point, they reach, they embrace. Every time I go to the ill, the dying, the lonely, it becomes obvious after 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 clich├ęs 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.

Indeed, we are being conditioned by this hedonistic, egocentric and materialistic world, not to speak sincerely and openly our words of communion – our intimate relationship with God. We are conformed to believe that these words of communion are irrelevant to a highly functional and technological world. And when we talked about agape love or sacrificial love of God, people will avoid us as though we are there to “convert” them or “sell” them our religion. In order to maintain our popularity and friendship, we stay away from words of communion, and simply follow the flow to talk about superficial jokes and teasing words. Let’s pray that we first enter this communion with God daily, and become sensitive to the needs of our coworkers, so that we will communicate the words of communion to them as He inspires.

Love you out of His communion love,

Friday, January 8, 2010

Devotional 080110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I can’t believe that this is already the last day of my first class on Cultural Anthropology. I have a lot of home work and preparation to do over weekend, before my next class on Contextualization will begin. So far I have been enjoying myself in this meaningful mental exercise. This class generates a lot of serious reflection on my whole being in God and in the community of faith. Hope it will translate into some paradigm shift and attitude change.

There is an enormous communications industry in the world that is stamping out words like buttons. Words are transmitted by television, radio, telegraph, satellite, cable, newspaper and 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.

The Scripture gives us this clear warning: Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words. You know. If they are not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul (2 Timothy 2:l6-I7 Message).

I like the way Eugene Peterson translate it. Paul warned his spiritual son, Timothy, to avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly (v. 16 NIV). We are living in an informational world; we constantly engage on the fast track of communication. We just can’t stop read and reply email or text messaging. Words of the world basically crowd out the voice of God. Unfortunately, most of these words or conversations are not godly or god-related. The more you engage in godless chatter, the more you don’t feel comfortable to talk about God. All of a sudden, the whole world stops when someone brings out God in the conversation. All the fun or laughter seems to run away or stop, when Christians start talking about God or Jesus Christ even in a thankful and joyful manner. If you don’t find it fun to chat about God but something else, you will become more and more worldly or ungodly as Apostle Paul put it.

How often did you text messaging about your testimony or walk with God to each other? How often did you share about your devotion with great joy of thanksgiving? The world is filled with words. But the Word of God is knocked inside the 4 walls of the church. We don’t have Communist policy to confine our freedom of worship and studying God’s words within the 4 walls of the church. We give up our freedom of worship and study God’s words outside of the church even though we live in a free world. We compartmentalize our faith and content to live in a dualistic lifestyle: Sacred man on Sunday morning and Secular man on the rest of the time. No wonder we don’t feel comfortable to enjoy talking about God! Leave you something to think about over this weekend.

Love you in according to His Word,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Devotional 080110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is truly a spiritual retreat to be able to focus on study and learning for two weeks. I could not believe Cultural Anthropology would touch on theology, sociology, psychology, political science and so forth. Our professor made it clear to us that he was not trying to give us answers for our subject matter, but to give us questions to motivate us to conduct life time study and research. Indeed, he did cause me to re-evaluate different perspectives of my ministry over the last 30 some years. How easily we could be blinded by our enthusiasm and passion to serve or work, without carefully examine the attitude and orientation of our relationship with God. Eugene Peterson is one of those teachers who remind us to meditate on some little conversation in life that could change the whole focus of our ministry and life orientation.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose (Proverbs 18:21). When my daughter, Karen, was young, I often took her with me when I visited nursing homes. She was better than a Bible. The elderly in these homes brightened immediately when she entered the room, delighted in her smile, and asked her questions. They touched her skin, stroked her hair. On one such visit we were with Mrs. Herr, who was in an advanced state of dementia. Talkative, she directed all her talk to Karen. She told her a story, an anecdote out of her own childhood that Karen’s presence must have triggered, and when she completed it, she immediately repeated it word for word, id then again and again and again. After twenty minutes or so of this, I became anxious lest Karen become uncomfortable and confused about what was going on. I interrupted the flow of talk, anointed the woman with oil, laid hands on her, and prayed. In the car and driving home, I commended Karen for her patience and attentiveness. She had listened to this repeated story without showing any signs of restlessness or boredom. I said, “Karen, Mrs. Herr’s mind is not working the way ours are.” And Karen said, “Oh, I knew that. Daddy; she wasn’t trying to tell us anything. She was telling us who she is.’’

Nine years old, and she knew the difference, knew that Mrs. Herr was using words not for communication but for communion. It is a difference that our r culture as a whole pays little attention to but that pastors must pay attention to. Our primary task, the pastor’s primary task, is not communication but communion.

In a functional and technological world that we are in, we emphasize on efficiency and effectiveness in communication. The focus is more on the speed and content of the message but not so much on content of the relationship. Communication is a means to fulfill the end, which is a need to resolve a problem, or a need to achieve your goal. Communication becomes a form of manipulation because the end is not on the one you have communication with. Communion, on the other hand, focuses on relationship. It does not matter what is communicated but the time to have communion in knowing others. The goal is to interact or reach out to the one you care and love. In a high tech communication society, we need high touch communion to build community of faith or Body of Christ. Hope you are not too busy today to enter communion with Christ and with each others.

Love you out of communion with Christ.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Devotional 060110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Oregon is blessed with moistures and green environment. One can easily senses a fresh cool quietness in the air that is so inspiring; it makes you feel like writing poem or song…

Heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness. I pour it out in a poem to the king, shaping the river into words (PSALM 45:1 Message). Anyone of us, waking up in the morning and finding ourselves included in that part of the creation called human, sooner or later finds ourselves dealing with language, with words. We are the only creatures in this incredible, vast creation doing this. Language is unique to us human beings. Turnips complete a fairly complex and useful life cycle without the use of words. Roses grace the world with an extraordinary beauty and fragrance without uttering a word. Dogs satisfy tens of thousands of us with faithful and delightful companionship without a word. Birds sing a most exquisite music to our ears, lifting our spirits, giving us happiness, all without the capability of words. It is quite impressive really, what goes on around us without words: ocean tides, mountain heights, stormy weather, turning constellations, genetic codes, bird migrations—most, in fact. Of what we see and hear around us, a great deal of it incredibly complex, but without language, wordless. And we, we human beings, have words. We use language. We are the only ones in this stunning kaleidoscopic array of geology and biology and astronomy to use words. We share a great deal with the rest of creation. We have much in common with everything around us, the dirt beneath our feet, the animals around us, the stars above us, and we recognize links in this family identity. But when it comes down to understanding our humanity, who we are in this vast scheme of things, we find ourselves attending to language, the fact that we speak words, and what happens to us when we do.

I thank God for the gifts of language. Currently, I am in a class studying Cultural Anthropology. One of the disciplines of Anthropology is linguistics. Language is part of culture, and language is means for human to express our inborn relationship with the Triune God and with one another (we born into a network of relationship). Scientists believe animals have language ability too, even though we may not fully understand what they try to communicate. The language ability from God is to express an inner reality of our relationship with the Triune God, who constantly communicates or interacts with one another and with us. He is delighted to interact with the human “being,” which He created according to “their” image – a relational “Being.” Therefore, the gift of language is meant for us to initiate and cultivate relationship, a means to express love and blessings. Thus, brothers and sisters, watch your tongue or language in case it becomes an evil weapon of destruction and curse.

Love you in according to His words,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Devotional 050110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning and happy New Year. I did not send out my devotional for a period of time. As you know, I went to Urbana and it's schedule was fully packed. Praise God for that conference. Many lives were touched and changed. And right after I returned home, I needed to prepare for my two weeks study in Oregon. And here I am, writing to you before my class in school dormitory.
This year, I will use Eugene Peterson's devotional materials called Living the Message to remind my walk with Christ. Hopefully, this study will also remind you to obey God's words instead of just studying God's words. I encourage you to buy a copy of this book and we study it together.
I am saddened when friends tell me, “I’m swamped with must reading; I don’t have time for novels or poetry.” What they are asking is that they choose to attend to the routines and not to the creative center.
There is no “must” reading; we choose what we read. What is not fed does not grow; what is not supported does not stand; what is not nurtured does not develop. Artists are not the only people who keep us open and involved in this essential but easily slighted center of creation, but they are too valuable to be slighted.
Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation (I TIMOTHY 4:15-16 Message).
I need to find time to rebuild my reading habit this year. Yes, I am reading a lot for study and for preparing sermon. But Eugene reminded me to cultivate the artistic side or the creative side of our brain through reading novels and poem.
May God help you grow in your walk with Him today.