Thursday, February 25, 2010
Good morning. Praise God for giving us another beautiful day to be in His service. I reached home at about 1 am this morning and woke up at 7 am. I was working on a video project for our vision sharing event. The editorial work was so tedious (I marvel the details of God’s creation by His Word. I wished I had that power to finish our project by just saying, “Let there be a video project!”). Our team spent 4 hours to finish only 2 minutes of our presentation. And the video is more than 10 minutes long. Therefore, we still need to work on it this evening. Hopefully, it will not take us till midnight because I have to fly to Houston tomorrow morning with it. Please pray for God’s creative power for our team to finish it on time.
Let’s read the spiritual journal from Dr. Eugene Peterson in his book Living The Message. No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this. Never so much as imagined anything like it – What God has arranged for those who Love Him. But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you (1 Cor 2:9-10 Message). Every Monday I leave the routines of my daily work and hike along the streams and through the forests of Maryland. The first hours of that walk are uneventful: I am tired, sluggish, and inattentive. Then bird-song begins to penetrate my senses, and the play of light on oak eaves and asters catches my interest. In the forest of trees, one sycamore forces its solid rootedness on me, and then sends my eyes arcing across trajectories upwards and outwards. I have been walking these forest trails for years, but I am ever and again finding an insect that I have never seen before startling me with its combined aspects of ferocity and fragility. How many more are there to be found? A rock formation, absolutely new, thrusts millions of years of prehistory into my present. This creation is so complex, so intricate, so profuse with life and form and color and scent! And I walk through it deaf and dumb and blind, groping my way, stupidly absorbed in putting one foot in front of the other, seeing a mere fraction of what is there. The Monday walks wake me up, a little anyway, to what I miss in my sleepy routines. The wakefulness lasts, sometimes, through Thursday, occasionally all the way to Sunday. A friend calls these weekly rambles “Emmaus walks”: “And their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Luke 24:31).
What walking through Maryland forests does to my bodily senses, reading the Revelation does to my faith perceptions. For I am quite as dull to the marvelous word of Christ’s covenant as I am to his creation, “O Lord, and shall I ever live at this poor dying rate?” Not if St. John’s Revelation has its way. A few paragraphs into the Revelation, the adrenaline starts rushing through the arteries of my faith, and I am on my feet alive, tingling. It is impossible to read the Revelation and not have my imagination aroused. The Revelation I forces and enables me to look at what is spread out right before me, and to see it with fresh eyes. It forces me because, being the last book in the Bible, I cannot finish the story apart from it. It enables me because, by using the unfamiliar language of apocalyptic vision. My imagination is called into vigorous play.
In spite of these obvious benefits and necessary renewals, there are many people who stubbornly refuse to read it, or (which is just as bad) refuse to read it on its own terms. These are the same people who suppress fairy tales because they are brutal and fill children’s minds with material for nightmares, and who bowdlerize Chaucer because his book is too difficult as it stands. They avoid the demands of either imagination or intellect. If they cannot read a page with a rapid skim of an eye trained under the metronome of speed reading, they abandon the effort and slump back into passivity before cartoons and commercials.
But for people who are fed up with such bland fare, the Revelation is a gift—a work of intense imagination that pulls its reader into a world of sky battles between angels and beasts, lurid punishments and glorious salvations, kaleidoscopic vision and cosmic song. It is a world in which children are instinctively at home and in which adults, by becoming as little children, recapture an elemental involvement in the basic conflicts and struggles that permeate moral existence, and then go on to discover again the soaring adoration and primal affirmation for which God made us.
Hope you find time to enjoy meditating on the book of Revelation with similar imagination like Eugene Peterson.
Have a blessed day of service,
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Good morning. Hope you had a good start this morning. A friend of mine visited me from NY. After having breakfast with him and sending him to airport, it was almost 10 am already. But it is always good to rekindle relationship with some good old friend. Life is too short on earth to care only about work. Relationship has eternal value than our accomplishment on earth. It is God’s grace that we are able to work and accomplish things on earth. But if it is in the expense of our relationship with God and family, I don’t think it is worthy.
I’m thanking you, GOD, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders! (Psalm 9:1). ‘Charis always demands the answer eucharistia (that is, grace always demands the answer of gratitude). Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice m echo. Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightning” [Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics]. God is personal reality to be enjoyed. We ire so created and so redeemed that we are capable of enjoying him. All the movements of discipleship arrive at a place where joy is experienced. Every step of assent toward God develops the capacity to enjoy Not only is there, increasingly, more to be enjoyed, there is steadily the acquired ability to enjoy it.
Best of all, we don’t have to wait until we get to the end of the road before we enjoy what is at the end of the road. So, “Come, bless the LORD . . . The LORD bless you!”
I named my daughter Cara which should be spelled chara = a joy came from charis (grace). It is God’s grace that we live today. Our joy and peace ultimately came from His charis for us. Therefore, we should give thanks to Him at all time. Without His grace, we ceased to exist; this is our Christian theology. Rain and sunshine are His common charis/grace for mankind. Even though mankind does not give thanks to Him nor recognizes His existence, God’s common grace does not therefore cease to come upon them. But the more thankful we are to God’s grace, the more joyful we become as His creature/children. And we find new strength in living abundantly because the joy of the Lord is our strength. Amen?
Love you in His charis,
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Good morning. Thank God for the nourishment of rains. Our soul thirst for God just like desert thirsts for water. How desperate we need the presence of God in our lives each day! My daughter told me about a recent experience she had encountered with her husband. On their way home after church service, her husband tuned into a Christian radio program that he seldom listened. Therefore, she asked him whether he knew he was listening to a preaching program. He said he did. With curiosity she asked, “Didn’t we just hear a sermon from church already?” He said, “I didn’t hear enough of the Word of God. I want more from Him!” I was thrilled to hear this testimony from my daughter. They both attend a marriage seminar offered by their church on every Thursday night for 13 weeks. My daughter is also attending a prayer seminar on Thursday night for 4 weeks. They both desire to want more of God in their lives. Pray that God will satisfy their thirst like deer panted for water.
My life is on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning (Psalm 130:6). Such are the two great realities of Psalm 130: suffering is real, God is real. Suffering is a mark of our existential authenticity; God is proof of our essential and eternal humanity. We accept suffering; we believe in God. The acceptance and the belief both come from “the depths.”
But there is more than a description of reality here; there is a procedure for participating in it. The program is given in two words: wait and hope. The words are at the center of the psalm. “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits or the LORD more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the lord!’’
The words wait and hope are connected with the image of the watchmen waiting through the night for the dawn. The connection provides important insights for the person in trouble who asks, “But surely, there is something for me to do!” The answer is yes, there is something for you to do, or more exactly there is someone you can be; be a watchman.
A watchman is an important person, but he doesn’t do very much. The massive turning of the earth, the immense energies released by the sun—all that goes on apart from him. He does nothing to influence or control such things: he is a watchman. He knows the dawn is coming; there are no doubts concerning that. Meanwhile he is alert to dangers, he comforts restless children or animals until it is time to work or play again in the light of day. ….
Nor would the psalmist have been content to be a watchman if he were not sure of God. The psalmist s and the Christian’s waiting and hoping is based on the conviction that God is actively involved in his creation and vigorously at work in redemption.
Waiting does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying.
And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion of fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let him do it his way and in his time. It is the opposite of making plans that we demand that God put into effect, telling him both how and when to do it. That is not hoping in God but bullying God. “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word 1 hope; my soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”
It is by His mercy that we find strength to deal with different challenges in life. Wait and hope are two important lessons of Christian living. But for sure they are essential for our spiritual growth.
Love you as fellow watchmen,
Monday, February 22, 2010
Good morning. What a gorgeous day we have in Christ! Praise God for this Spring like weather. Pray that you will find His mercy and grace sufficient for you today. We truly live in His wonderful provision. And the more He gives, the more He wants us to give away in order to experience an abundant life we have in Him. He wants to give you a life of blessings.
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God (Cor 9:11-12). Christian blessing is a realizing that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” As we learn to give and to share, our vitality increases and the people around us become “fruitful vines” and “olive shoots” around our tables.
The blessings that are promised to, pronounced upon and experienced by Christians, do not of course exclude difficulties. Bible never indicates that. But the difficulties are not inherent in the they come from the outside in the form of temptations, seductions, pressures. Not a day goes by but what we have to deal with that ancient triple threat that Christians in the Middle Ages summarized under the headings of the world, the flesh, and the devil: the world—the society of proud and arrogant mankind that defies and tries to eliminate God’s rule and presence in history; the flesh—the corruption that sin has introduced into our very appetites and instincts; and the devil—the malignant will that tempts and seduces us away from the will of God. We have to contend with all of that. Wt are in a battle. There is a fight of faith to be waged. But tithe way of faith itself is in tune with what God has done and is doing. The road we travel is the well-traveled road of discipleship. It is not a way of boredom or despair or confusion. It is not a miserable groping, but a way of blessing.
There are no tricks involved in getting in on this life of blessing, and no luck required. We simply become Christians and begin the life of faith. We acknowledge God as our maker and lover, and accept Christ as the means by which we can be in living relationship with God. We accept the announced and proclaimed truth that God at the center of our existence, find out how he has constructed this world (his creation), how he has provided for our redemption, and to walk in that way. In the plain words of the psalm: “Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!”
The abundant life we have in Christ is a life filled with the love of God. And the essence of love is giving, “God so loved the world that He gave…” It is self deceiving to say we love yet we don’t give our self or our possession to those we love. Giving is a natural expression of a lover. The more you love the more you give. A lover will never ask whether he or she gave too much or not. Giving is never enough for a person who is filled with love.
When we give or sow the seed of love, we harvest plenty of love in return. Our lives become abundant when we see others are blessed by your giving. Your garden will not be filled with the color and fragrant of flowers if you keep the seed in your closet. You have to give them out so that your lives will be abundant. The more we worry or concern that we may not have enough, the more we will gather for ourselves. This is what we called “scarcity mentality.” Chinese in general live with this kind of scarcity mentality no matter how much they may have in the bank. They are still enslaved in either their past experience of poverty or fear that they will be poor again. Many people were trapped in this kind of scarcity mentality that they can never enjoy abundant life that our Lord has offered. God wants to use them to become channel of His blessings to others. But their fear and worry hold them back in the prison of scarcity mentality. Hope you will not enslave yourself in the same prison. Bless others with your generous giving…
Love you because of this abundant life,
Friday, February 19, 2010
Good morning. There is so much to catch up and deal with after the merging of two organizations. Numerous emails, phone calls and meetings have been dedicated to iron out our differences. It is like martial adjustment between two persons, who are so different in background and personality, trying to become one in marriage. There are many questions and suspicions on why other party or team does not do according to the way we do? It indeed requires divine intervention for two teams to truly become one. Please pray for our unity in Christ.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-47). John Calvin, preaching to his congregation in Geneva, Switzerland, pointed out to his parishioners that we must develop better and deeper concepts of happiness from those held by the world which makes a happy life to consist in “ease, honors, and great wealth.”
Psalm 128 helps us do that. Too much of the world’s happiness depends on taking from one to satisfy another. To increase my standard of living, someone in another part of the world must lower his. The worldwide crisis of hunger that we face today is a result of that method of pursuing happiness. Industrialized nations acquire appetites for more and more luxuries and higher and higher standards of living, and increasing numbers of people are made poor and hungry. It doesn’t have to be that way. The experts on the world hunger problem say that there is enough to go around right now. We don’t have a production problem. We have the agricultural capability to produce enough food. We have the transportation technology to distribute the food. But we have a greed problem: if I don’t grab mine while I can, I might not be happy. The hunger problem is not going to be solved by government or by industry, but in church, among Christians who learn a different way to pursue happiness.
I agree that our happiness is defined by the world. One of the main things that we should not conform to the world is the standard of happiness. Without we know it we have picked up what the world tells us about the secret of happiness: to possess more wealth and more fame. Mass media bombards us with the glamorous and happy pictures of movie star and celebrities, as though they held the secret of happiness. Our children want to become rich and famous because the Media tells them that this is the goal of life. Is it really the case? Most parents do not have any complain on this kind of influence. They use this standard as motivation for education, “if you have better education, you will become rich and famous like those celebrities on TV. Therefore study harder.”
Christians are not immune from this kind of worldly temptation. Many will avoid any Biblical teaching on simple lifestyle or self-denial as extreme or unrealistic ideal. They attend church but not necessarily endorse wholeheartedly to the Word of God. Giving one self and money for example, are direct opposite to the goal of worldly happiness: rich and famous. But at the end of the day, their lives are not happy nor fulfilled even though they try. Moreover, they cease to become light and salt of the world. The world cannot be a better place when even the church conforms to the endless pursuit of materialistic wealth and economic manipulation of the poor. Before we condemn the world for their sins, we Christians need to confess our sins and repent from our worldly lifestyle and greed problem. Have mercy on us O Lord!
Love you with the passion of Christ,
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Good morning. The tree in my backyard is totally covered with bright red flowers in announcing the coming of spring. Trees outside of my office window are also budding with little green leaves even though they still look kind of barren. Little birds are feeding on those fresh green leaves for breakfast. They are so noisy in singing praises to God for His wonderful provision of daily fresh meal. It reminds me to do the same when I am enjoying a fresh new day with all the provisions that my Creator God has graciously given to me.
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.… (Psalm 124:1-5). The proper work for the Christian is witness, not apology, and Psalm 124 is an excellent model. It does not argue God’s 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 alone?” 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 Lip against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then over us would have gone the aging 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.
Christians saw God at work from time to time while pre-Christian friends did not see it at all. It wasn’t God not doing anything for pre-Christian friends. It was the problem with the focus. When we focus on our relationship with God from time to time, we saw how He at work around us and among His children. It is a reality that God is actively working among His people; He either uses the environment to save us or shape us. Pre-Christian friends may describe God’s miraculous intervention as ‘coincidence.’ But when ‘coincidence’ happens on a daily basis, it cannot be coincidence any more. It is a ‘pattern’ or ‘norm’ of how God at work among His people. When one Christian shares his or her testimony of how God at work, all other Christians echo and affirm such experience to be true, because it also happened to them before. Therefore, don’t stop sharing your testimony. It helps to bring out more echoes of praises and thanksgiving from among the hearers.
Love you as fellow witnesses of Christ,
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Good morning. I felt energized and fully recovered from jetlag. I slept well and felt good as I woke up this morning. Thanks for your prayer. I have a lot of “home work” to catch up from my study. Please pray that I will be able to concentrate in my study, and balance my time in office work as well as with my sermon preparation. I need to prepare sermon and workshop at an Indonesian church in San Jose this Sunday, and a mission conference in Houston in the following weekend.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have (1 Cor. 13:4-5). Marriage is a classic act of freedom. Marriage partners, by leaving their natural family ties, break out of networks of necessity and predictability and at that moment become prime movers in the politics of freedom. This is true even in an arranged marriage: though the free will of the partners is not consulted, the arrangement is a result of someone’s choice and not the mere product of biological necessity. Every marriage, then, introduces into society fresh energies of love and freedom that have the power to unself not only the lovers themselves but America itself. The mere introduction of these energies is not enough, however, or we would have become Utopia long since. They need continuing and perfecting. Where can we get that but in Christ? A prayed and praying faithfulness carries us into the long life of love in which and by which the world will not perish.
That’s why Apostle Paul used marital relationship to describe the love we have in Christ, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church--for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Eph 5:22-32). It is out of free will that we offer ourselves to Christ in marriage. It is not out of biological necessity or political manipulation for us to enter into this intimate relationship with Christ. It is totally an act of freedom. It is out of freedom of love that a wife will submit to her husband. And it is also an act of freedom that a husband will love his wife sacrificially.
The more I meditate on this passage on marriage, the more I am convinced that Apostle was thinking about the relationship of Christ and the Church. Yes, it is an ideal marital relationship. But we are limited by our human ability and egocentric tendency. I wished I could make my wife holy and blameless. But I can’t. I try my best to feed and care for my wife. But in reality, it is a mutual feeding and caring relationship. That’s why I believe Apostle Paul was describing the loving relationship of Christ and the Church. As a church or a wife, all we need to do is to submit to our Husband or Christ, and enjoy the abundant love, security, nourishment and cleansing from Him. O how blessed we are to have a husband like Christ! Let’s enjoy our intimate relationship with Him today.
Love you because of Christ,
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Good morning. I am glad the fog is gradually lifted, and the whole nature seems to come alive again under the sun. Life involves different seasons; we may appreciate some changes in life but not the other. But no matter how seasons of life may change, His love remains unchanged. We need to hold on to this fact so that we can press on in life, no matter how good or bad our experience may become. Amen?
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies (1 Cor 13:3-8a Message).
If I, deeply in love with another, begin describing with passionate appreciation what has been unnoticed or ignored by everyone else for years, some people around me are sure to dismiss me, “Love is blind.” They mean that love diminishes my capacity to see what is actually there so that fantasy, tailor-made to fit my desires, can be projected on another and thus make him or her acceptable as lover. The cynical follow-up is that if this did not happen, if I saw the other truly, I would never get involved. Why? It is because everyone is, in fact, quite unlovely, either visibly or invisibly, or, in some particularly unfortunate cases, both. Love doesn’t see truth but creates illusions and incapacitates us for dealing with the hard-edged realities of life.
But the popular saying, as popular sayings so often are, is wrong. It is hate that is blind. It is habit, condescension, and cynicism that are blind. Love opens eyes. Love enables the eyes to see what has been there all along but was overlooked in haste or indifference. Love corrects astigmatism so that what was distorted in selfishness is now received accurately and appreciatively. Love cures shortsightedness so that the blur of the distant other is now in wondrous focuses. Love cures farsightedness so that opportunities for intimacy are no longer blurred threats but blessed invitations. Love looks at the one who had no “form or attractiveness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” and sees there the “fairest of the sons of men … anointed with the oil of gladness above your fellows,”
If we could see the other as he is, as she is, there is no one we would not see as “fairest … all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.” Love penetrates the defenses that have been built up to protect against rejection and scorn and belittlement, and it sees life created by God for love. We are created to be target of God’s love, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” (John 3:16a). We are lovely in God’s sight simply because God did not allow hate to distort His perception of His children. And He allows love to dictate His acts and plans for mankind. In the same way, God wants His children to love one another just as the way He loves them. It may take a life time to put love into practice. But it takes daily reflection and appreciation of His perfect love for us, so that we know what love really is (correct our misconception about love). The Holy Spirit will then guide and empower us to put His love into daily action, if we are willing to submit to His Word despite of our human weaknesses.
Love you in according to His plan,
Monday, February 15, 2010
Good morning. It is nice to have a special day off to catch up with my study and some chores at home. When life is always on the fast lane, you may not have time to truly enjoy the kind of life that God has given to you, and the relationship that you have developed over the years. We all need some quiet time to draw close to our Creator God from time to time, so that we will not become too busy to lose touch with our most fundamental relationship in life. Indeed, our relationship with Christ is and should be fundamental to all other relationships that He has given. Once we are too busy to interact with God, we will become too busy with family and loved ones.
Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don't deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don't deserve me. If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me (Matt 10:36-38 Message). The self cannot be itself if it does not grow, and for a creature made in the image of God to grow is to love. No living being can be static, the self cannot be preserved in amber. Every new act of love requires detachment from what is outgrown, what serves merely to infantilize us. Karlfried Durchheim used to insist: “You never kill the ego, you only find that it loves in a larger house than you thought.” The self, if it is to become itself, must find a larger house to dwell in than the house where everyone coddles us and responds to our whims. The passage from leaving home to entering marriage is the archetypal transition from the comfortable, cared-for self to be strenuous, caring-for self.
Self-love is obsessed with keeping what it has and adding a little more of the same. That is why it is so boring. There is never anything new to say, nothing new to discover. Self-love assesses its position by what it has and is panicked at the thought of losing any of it. Forced into new relationships, into new situations, its first consideration is not of the new fields for love but of the appalling prospects of loss. So it clings. It holds. And it whines.
The detachment that is prerequisite for mature marriage prepares us for maturity in love across the board. We outlive our past over and over again. There comes a moment when I am no longer a spouse, I am no longer a parent, I am no longer employed, I am no longer healthy. There are periods of my life that are immensely valuable and enjoyable and useful but which by their very nature cannot be perpetuated. Ironically, if we try to perpetuate them in the name of love, we ruin love.
Detachment is not disloyalty; it is a requirement for the next movement of love, which is a movement into a more perfect love. Such movement almost always begins in feelings of loss, of deprivation. But detachment is not loss – it is a precondition for fresh creativity.
I found this to be true when I was traveling by myself in Southeast Asia last month. I felt my love for Loretta (my wife) being renewed. I treasured the time to write her love notes whenever I had Internet accessibility. Love grew a lot during that brief period of detachment. It was not driven by fear of losing her love if I did not write, but more of treasuring that loving relationship with her instead. I don’t think God wants us to really ‘hate’ our parents and spouses, if those relationship were His gifts for us in the first place. The command, to love Him first or to love Him more than any human beings, is more to grow love in a proper priority and reality. God is love. The more we focus on God in solitude or quiet time of detachment from worldly relationship, the more we are empowered by His love to love others as a result. Therefore, if you are too busy to find time for God, you are too busy to grow love. And when you are too busy to grow love, you are too busy to really enjoy the kind of lives that God has designed for you to live. Amen?
Love you through His abundant Love,
Friday, February 12, 2010
Good morning. Happy Chinese New Year to you and your household. Thanks for your prayer and by God’s grace I finally slept through the night (I guess new born baby properly need to make sleeping adjustment like our jetlag). Having enough sleep or rest makes a whole lot difference in our daily effectiveness of life. I just could not sit still to read or meditate without falling asleep in the last couples of days. Praise God that my biological clock is adjusting well so far.
Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him (Psalm 2:10-12). For Christians, “political” acquires extensive biblical associations and dimensions. So rather than look for another word untainted by corruption and evil, it is important to use it just as it is so that by it grace. The people who warn that “religion and politics don’t mix” certainly know what they are talking about. The mix has resulted in no end of ills – crusades, inquisitions, witch hunts, exploitation. All the same, God says, “Mix them.” But be very careful how you mix them. The only safe way is in prayer. It is both unbiblical and unreal to divide life into the activities of religion and politics, or into the realms of sacred and profane. But how do we get them together without putting one into the unscrupulous hands of the other, politics using religion or religion using politics, when what we want is a true mixture, politics becoming religious and religion becoming political? Prayer is the only means that is adequate for the great end of getting these polarities in dynamic relation. The psalms are our most extensive source documents showing prayer in action.
It is very sensitive for our missionaries to serve in countries like Myanmar and Cambodia; political corruption and bribery are like basic fabric of their social structure. When they encourage Christians to make impact in their countries as light and salt, these missionaries need to teach them how to handle these social corruptions that directly hinder the healthy development of their culture and society. If you have money, you can easily pass the public College Examination, and buy yourself into any University. You can even buy yourself a “Five Stars” General position in the Army (The Prime Minister is 7 Stars General). Police randomly stop drivers on the road to check whether they have renewed different kinds of licenses. Their onsite payment did not necessarily mean license’s renewal. It just gave you a “one time pass” until you encounter another police check point. If you do not “maintain good relationship” with the government officials, church or Christian organization could never be approved for religious license to operate. This is their political system. You can either apply your official license through some “connection and means,” or you operate illegally. How should missionaries or Christians operate in such environment and make “appropriate” decision? It definitely requires spiritual discernment from the Holy Spirit to serve in those countries.
I am sure Christians in this country also have their share of challenges. We need to know the rule of the games; what is politically correct and incorrect? How should we make impact or change public policy through “proper” channels? It may not have money transaction, but it does take spiritual discernment, network of relationship and political sensitivity in the process. Sometimes, line is so fine for us to maintain the balance being as "shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16b). Have a blessed weekend and a happy Chinese New Year!
Love you in His Holiness,
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Good morning. I woke up at 5 this morning because of jetlag, even though my body was still half asleep. It was good to get up early to read and interact with God in silence. Once I overcame and subdued my fatigue body, I was able to concentrate mentally on my reading. As a full human being, I believe our Lord Jesus went through similar struggle in prayer and meditation just like we do. He made effort to maintain an intimate walk with His Heavenly Father on a daily basis. He did not have access to spiritual books or even personal Bible like we do. But our Lord stayed focus on His Father constantly in prayer…
While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.” Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come” (Mark 1:35-38 Message). The single most widespread American misunderstanding of prayer is that it is private. Strictly and biblically speaking, there is no private prayer. Private in its root meaning refers to robbery. It is stealing. When we privatize prayer we misuse the common currency that belongs to all. When we engage in prayer without any desire for or awareness of the comprehensive, inclusive life of the kingdom that is “at hand” in both space and time, we deprive the social reality that God is bringing to completion.
Solitude in prayer is not privacy. The differences between privacy and solitude are profound. Privacy is our attempt to insulate the self from interference; solitude leaves the company of others for a time in order to listen to them more deeply, be aware of them, and serve them. Privacy is getting away from others so that I don’t have to be bothered with them; solitude is getting away from the crowd so that I can be instructed by the still, small voice of God, who is enthroned on the praises of the multitudes. Private prayers are selfish and thin; prayer in solitude enrolls in a multi-voiced, century-layered community: with angels and archangels in all the company of heaven we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”
Prayer is a means to an end. But the end goal is not egocentric interest but Theo-centric interest (It aims at Thy Kingdom comes and Thy Will be done, as Jesus taught in the Lord's Prayer). If any prayer detours from this very core foundation, it violates its purpose or true meaning. We are praying to a Heavenly Father who cares for both individuality and multitude. We cannot exclude other Christians and humanity when we address God as Heavenly Father of all. He cares for the needs and challenges of a person but not without the context of the needs and challenges of multitude. God cares for you so that you will care for others. When Peter confessed his love to Christ, he was asked to “feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
Our solitude time with God is to enter the intimate union with Him (listen and talk to God) or give God the ultimate attention in silence. And this solitude time will always involve the well being of others at the end. God will not whisper a secret word to you without edifying the rest of His people. His love for us is both ‘private’ and ‘public.’ Of course, we will not become a channel of God’s blessing to others without ourselves being connect to His blessing first. Once you are constantly connected to the Source of all blessing and love, your focus of prayer will no longer be egocentric but Theo-centric. You will always look out to the well being of others as a result. Just as Apostle said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil 3:12). Let’s pray for one another in pressing toward this goal of prayer.
Love you in His abundant blessing,
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Good morning. There are so much to catch up in office that I need to start with meditating on the Word of God and prayer. Otherwise, I will be too restless and lost. There are so many urgent needs that want to seek our attention or demand priority at work. If we allow them to dictate our time we will be everywhere – trying to put out fire. It should be “me” who determine the ultimate priority in “my” schedule, even though your boss may not agree. I choose to “seek Him first the Kingdom of God…” (Matt 6:33). Once I give God the priority He deserves, I believe in His promise that I will receive strength to effectively taking on the demands and urgency in life.
Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this I life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you. Not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses; chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? (I Corinthians 1:26-28, Message) Apostle Paul talked about the foolishness of preaching; I would like to carry on about the foolishness of congregation. Of all the ways in which to engage in the enterprise of church, this has to be the most absurd – this haphazard collection of people who somehow get assembled into pews on Sundays, half-heartedly sing a few songs most of them don’t like, tune in and out of a sermon according to the state of their digestion and the preacher’s decibels, awkward in their commitments and jerky in their prayers.
But the people in these pews are also people who suffer deeply and find God in their suffering. These are men and women who make love commitments, are faithful to them through trial and temptation, and bear fruits of righteousness, spirit-fruits that bless the people around them. Babies, surrounded by hopeful and rejoicing parents and friends, are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Adults converted by the gospel, surprised and surprising all who have known them, are likewise baptized. The dead are offered up to God in funerals that give solemn and joyful witness to the resurrection in the midst of tears and grief. Sinners honestly repent and believingly take the body and blood of Jesus and receive new life.
But these are mixed in with the others and are, more often than not, indistinguishable from them. I can find, biblically, no other form of church. In His divine plan, our Lord called the existence of this kind of church on earth. It is out of this kind of community that the name of our Lord is proclaimed and uplifted.
There is no perfect church on earth. As we always said, if you could find a perfect church, it will immediately become imperfect when you join in. Imperfect people will not form perfect church. Only God is perfect. When we unite with God in perfect submission, we begin to realize the kind of Christian community that God has intended. We will still experience hurt, betrayal, abuse, fight, fear and depression as we draw close; they are realities or consequences of imperfect community. But it is through this kind of community that God wants us to practice love, acceptance, forgiveness, forbearance, fellowship and submission, which ultimately change the world. We have no clue how it may work, we just need to submit to live out the message that comes upon us through the Holy Spirit and His words. It will take a life time for us to realize through a Christian community about this reality: “we love because He first loves us” (1 John 4:19).
Love you in submission to this Truth,
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Dear brothers and sisters,
Thanks for your prayer for me. Finally I am back to my office after more than 6 weeks on the road. I suffered only little jetlag and digestion problem (drank too much coconut juice in one day). God granted me special grace and strength to witness His wonderful work in South East Asia. Of course, there are a lot of works to do in those countries, but workers and resources are few. Pray that the Lord will inspire more to support the work in both Myanmar and Cambodia in days to come.
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom" (Isaiah 40:28). Exhaustion means that the vital forces are worn right out. Spiritual exhaustion never comes through sin but only through service, and whether or not you are exhausted will depend upon where you get your supplies. Jesus said to Peter - "Feed My sheep," but He gave him nothing to feed them with. The process of being made broken bread and poured out wine means that you have to be the nourishment for other souls until they learn to feed on God. They must drain you to the remains. Be careful that you get your supply, or before long you will be utterly exhausted. Before other souls learn to draw on the life of the Lord Jesus direct, they have to draw on it through you; you have to be literally "sucked," until they learn to take their nourishment from God. We owe it to God to be our best for His lambs and His sheep as well as for Himself.
Has the way in which you have been serving God betrayed you into exhaustion? If so, then rally your affections. Where did you start the service from? Was it from your own sympathy or from the basis of the Redemption of Jesus Christ? Continually go back to the foundation of your affections and recollect where the source of power is. You have no right to say - "O Lord, I am so exhausted." He saved and sanctified you in order to exhaust you. Be exhausted for God, but remember that your supply comes from Him. "All my fresh springs shall be in Thee."
Yes it is a joy to be exhausted for God. Give my all and all to Him simply because He deserves all that I have. Everything I have is a gift from God. Exhausting my all does not mean I don’t take care of myself. Our Lord Jesus led a balanced life, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Spiritual exhaustion is to give with no reservation to God in service to others. Self reservation is a common excuse not to give our best to His service.
I saw how mission workers in Myanmar and Cambodia gave their best to serve God. They had little materialistic resources but they had a lot of love for His people. The living condition of the orphanages, student centers, and seminaries were very poor in comparing with American standard. I don’t think anyone of us will prefer those living environments. But the love of God was rich in those communities. They were happy to have shelter over their heads, and two simple meals per day. They were eager to plant churches for the Kingdom of God. They knew they exist for this very purpose for Christ. Praise the Lord!
Hope you have time to see the pictures I posted in the blog last week. It will give you an idea of our ministry in those two places.
May God bless you with new opportunity to live for Him!
Love you in His name,
Thursday, February 4, 2010
This old school was once a torture house that killed thousands of innocent victims...
This little girl, who walked in dirty and rocky roads with no shoes nor slippers, was happy to play in a band with her little instrument.