Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Good morning. Hope you have a good start for today. Life is full of challenges like occasional stormy weather. We have no way to prevent its coming. We can only prepare well before it comes. This is how the Lord reminded all of us by using the parable of wise and foolish builders (Matt 7:24-28). Unless we prepare well by obeying God’s principles for life, we will suffer devastative lost when storm knocks on our door. San Francisco is learning lessons from both Haiti and Chile. Both countries were stroked by earthquakes, yet Haiti’s devastation was much greater than Chili even though the latter suffered much higher magnitudes of earthquake. The reason is simple, Chili prepared their building to be earthquake proof. Is your life earthquake proof? It is something for you to think about…
The great attraction for distilling Scripture into truths and morals and lessons is simply laziness. The lazy pastor no longer has to bother with the names, the cities, the odd embarrassing details and awkward miracles that refuse to fit into a modern understanding of the good life. Across this land pastors have turned their studies into “stills,” illegal distilleries that extract ideas and morals from the teeming narrative of Scripture. People, of course, love it. They come to get their Mason jar lives filled with pure truth so that they won’t have to deal with either the details of Scripture or the details of their own lives.
Drinking this pure white lightning bypasses the laborious trouble of hoeing the garden, digging potatoes, preparing and cooking meals, eating and digesting. This distilled liquid goes directly to the bloodstream and gives a quick rush of exhilaration. But it is, in fact, poison. We are not constructed biologically or spiritually for ingestion of this 100-proof stuff. We have mental-emotional digestive systems with complicated interconnections that notice and savor an enormous variety of words and sentences, stories and songs, reflectively take them in and assimilate all the vitamins, enzymes. And calories that give us healthy lives.
This is a great reminder for us pastors who are usually too busy to study the Scripture in details. But it also applies to you too. This kind of study exercise should be a daily habit to develop. If we are too quick and rush in looking at a passage without carefully digging out the truth, we will miss a lot of great insight from the Lord. As a matter of fact, it is not really by our careful study to receive insights. It is through interaction with the Lord that we receive insight from Him. After all, our Holy Spirit wants to guide and teach us the truth. But we have no time for Him.
If we are too busy or hasty in approaching the Scripture, we will properly approach life in the same manner. We only take care of the superficial or physical nature of life but not the inner reality of life. That’s why a lot of precious relationships were broken up or wither pre-maturely. We are too eager to arrive to physical intimacy of a relationship without developing the inner closeness with one another. The latter usually takes a long time and commitment to accomplish. In a high tech and fast pace world that we are in, it is getting more difficult to slow down and dig deep in relationship. However, without this process, we will not harvest the fruits of relationship that will last and rewarding.
Love you in according to John 13:34-35,
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Good morning. Praise God for the refreshing rains. We need His cleansing and nourishment through those rains. Yes, it may cause inconvenience. But we cannot live without rain either. How foolish and short-sighted we are to seek convenience and quick fix in life, but forsake our life necessity for healthy growth. We really need to re-focus and revive our priority daily.
Imagine a human head with no ears as though it was just a blockhead. Eyes, nose, and mouth, but no ears. Where ears are usually found there is only a smooth, impenetrable surface, granitic bone. God speaks. No response. The metaphor occurs in the context of a bustling religious activity deaf to the voice of God: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require” (Ps. 40:6). How did these people know about these offerings and how to make them? They had read the prescriptions in Exodus and Leviticus and followed instructions. They had become religious. Their eyes read the words on the Torah page and rituals were formed. They had read the Scripture words accurately and gotten the ritual right. How did it happen that they had missed the message “not required”?
There must something more involved than following directions for unblemished animals, a stone altar, and a sacrificial fire. There is: God is speaking and must be listened to. But what good is a speaking God without listening human ears? So God gets a pick and shovel and digs through the cranial granite, opening a passage that will give access to the interior depths, into the mind and heart. Or – maybe we are not to imagine a smooth area of skull but something like wells that have been stopped up with refuse: culture noise, throw-away gossip, and garbage chatter. Our ears are so clogged that we cannot hear God speak. Like the way Isaac dug again the wells that the Philistines had filled, God re-digs the ears of His people that trashed with audio junk.
You are what you hear, see and eat. In another word, what you choose to hear, see and eat represents your desire or value preference. No one can force you hear what you don’t like to hear. Even if you are forced to sit through a lecture or sermon, your ear can easily tune off the sound that come through your ear. If you don’t know your relationship with God, you may measure by the “things” you desire to hear. How much do you desire to hear the words of God and do accordingly? If you don’t want to follow, then you don’t want to hear. If you don’t want to follow you don’t want to see the guidance of God. Have mercy on us O Lord! We tends to question the presence of God when we go through suffering. But we seldom question our relationship with God when we enjoy His blessings. Before you ask “where are you God?” you need to ask, “where am I in relationship with God?”
We live in an informational age. We are being bombarded by all kinds of information wherever we go or whenever we turn on our device (iphone, TV, computer). Our ears are trashed with a lot of audio and visual junk. It usually takes me a few minutes each day to delete those junk mail or message that trashed my mailbox. We properly need to do the same to delete a lot of junk message that trash our mind and soul by quiet before Him. Ask the Lord to help you delete those worldly junks from your mind, and make sure you clean your recycle bean as well.
Love you according to His word,
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34)
Monday, March 29, 2010
Good morning. There is no other God but our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Creator God, the merciful savior who sacrificed Himself for our sins, and the One who dwells among us each day for His glory. As we enter into another new week, we are full of expectations to grow and learn in Him. Praise God for His goodness. Indeed He is good to us.
Keeping the weekly rhythm requires deliberate action. Sabbath keeping often feels like an interruption, an interference with our routines. It challenges assumptions we gradually build up that our daily work is indispensable in making the world go. And then we find that it is not an interruption but a more spacious rhythmic measure that confirms and extends the basic beat. Every seventh day a deeper note is struck – an enormous gong whose deep sounds reverberate under and over and around the daily timpani percussions of evening/morning, evening/morning, and evening/morning: creation honored and contemplated, redemption remembered and shared on the Day of Sabbath.
In the two biblical versions of the Sabbath commandment, the commands are identical but the supporting reasons differ. The Exodus reason is that we are to keep a Sabbath because God kept it (Exodus. 20:8-11). God did his work in six days and then rested. If God sets apart one day to rest, we can too. There are some things that can be accomplished, even by God, only in a state of rest. The work/rest rhythm is built into the very structure of God’s interpenetration of reality. The precedent to quit doing and simply be is divine practice. Sabbath-keeping is commanded so that we internalize the being that matures out of doing.
The Deuteronomy reason for Sabbath-keeping is that our ancestors in Egypt went four hundred years without a vacation (Deut. 5:15). They never had a day off. The consequence: they were no longer considered persons but slaves, hands or work units. They were not persons created in the image of God but equipment for making bricks and building pyramids. Humanity was ruined. Lest any of us would do the same to our neighbor or husband or wife or child or employee, we are commanded to keep a Sabbath.
Sabbath is therefore designed for our well being. Just as our Lord Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27), we don’t take Sabbath in a legalistic manner. The spirit of Sabbath, as Peterson said earlier, is to contemplate, think and remember all the work that God has accomplished through us, so that we will not be lost in our busyness and mechanical operations as a slave. We may not live as slaves like the old days. But we are enslaved by Mammon/money god in this capitalistic society. We felt like we can’t afford not to give all our energy and time to earn money, in order to keep up with our lifestyle. It is like the drug addicts who will do whatever in order to get high with a dosage of the drug – they are enslaved by drugs. True Sabbath is meant to free us from such enslavement. But a lot of our Sabbath may be just two hours of religious routines, and then busy ourselves again with chores and work.
Entertainment or recreation is good to free us from work rhythm – to give us freedom to spend with family and friends – to appreciate life as a gift from God. Entertainment is designed on Sabbath as part of worship. After Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem and reinstituted worship at the temple, he said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve." Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them (Nehemiah 8:10-12). With joy and thanksgiving let’s celebrate His goodness on Sabbath!
Love you in His goodness,
Friday, March 26, 2010
Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Praise God for a beautiful day with plenty sunshine and fresh air. Those are precious free gifts without working hard to gain. We work so hard to earn what is man made, and neglect to enjoy what is God-made. The more stressful we are in earning the worldly things made by men, the less likely we will appreciate the natural and supernatural things of God. Prayer is one of those supernatural things that God has designed for us to enjoy but we always neglect or don’t even care…
St. Pius X said: “The Psalms teach mankind, especially those vowed to a life of worship, how God is to be praised.” Too much is at stake here – the maturity of the word of God, the integrity of pastoral ministry, the health of worship – to permit pastors to pick and choose a curriculum of prayer as they are more or less inclined. We can as well permit a physician to make up his medicines from the herbs and weeds in his backyard as allow a pastor to learn prayer from his or her own subjectivities. Prayer must not be fabricated out of emotional fragments or professional duties. Uninstructed and untrained, our prayers are something learned by tourists out of a foreign language phrase book: we give thanks at meals, repent of the grosser sins, bless the Rotary picnic, and ask for occasional guidance. Did we think prayer was merely a specialized and incidental language to get by on during those moments when we happened to pass through a few miles of religious country? But our entire lives are involved. We need fluency in the language of the country we live in. It is not enough merely to take notes on it for putting together the weekly report, which is a requirement of our job. We are required to be graduate students in this comprehensive grammar that provides all the parts of speech and complexities of syntax for ‘answering speech.”
Praying the Psalms, we find the fragments of soul and body, our own and all those with whom we have to do, spoken into adoration and love and faith. The Psalms, of course, are no special preserve of pastors. All who pray, Christians and Jews alike, find their praying “voice” in them – but for pastors, who are in a special place of responsibility to pray, for others and to teach them to pray, it is a carelessness of duty to be ignorant or negligent in them. St. Ambrose, using a different metaphor, called the Psalms “a sort of gymnasium for the use of all souls, a sort of stadium of virtue, where different sorts of exercise are set out before him, from which he can choose the best suited to train him to win his crown.”
I totally agree with Eugene Peterson that we pastors are always invited to say a “little prayer” for meal or special occasion in church or in someone’s home. After a while, prayer becomes some kind of religious pronouncement preserved for clergy or religious leaders in church. It becomes like some religious practice than an intimate conversation with God; our prayer cannot be intimate if it is public and short. In another word, we expect prayer to be short and shallow. It is just a means to invoke spiritual blessings or protection for the unknown future – it becomes a superstition or spiritual manipulation. I hate to describe prayer in such a manner but unfortunately it is how prayer is being conceived in general.
To me, the practice of writing “prayer journal” can help to alter this kind of phenomenon. By spending time to pray with your pen or keyboard, you need to take time to think and write down what you heard and what you wanted to respond to God. Yes. It is time consuming. For contemporary busy people, prayer journal is the least thing they want to do. They prefer short and precise devotional reading like the Daily Bread (this devotional is definitely too LONG), so that they can finish their devotional ritual in less than 5 minutes, and then close with a "little" prayer. There is nothing wrong with Daily Bread, if it helps to “jump start” your meditation and prayer. But if Daily Bread is a means to give you a “security feeling” of being connected with God or paying your due for spiritual protection for the rest of your day, then it totally defeats the purpose of reading it.
Sweet hour of prayer describes an intimate communion with God. It is a time to draw close to your Almighty God and seek to know Him more each day. The more you know God, the more you are aware of His work in your lives and in your environment. The more you are aware of His work around you, the more you become focus in His purpose for you and your priority in life. God expects you to be faithful not only serving in church, but at home and in your workplace as well. Your life will be overwhelmed with joy and serenity as you spend time to pray…
Love you in responding to His purpose,
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Good morning. It is refreshing after the cleansing of rains. Praise God for His graceful provision. As we heard about the serious drought in China and other parts of the world, we should not take rain for granted, and complain the inconvenience that it brings. It is our life support; something we can’t afford to live without. Pray that we, human beings, will stop messing up the ecology that God has created for our well being. We are supposed to manage but not abuse this Nature that God creates. We need to change our personal lifestyle to reduce our ‘contribution’ toward global warming.
According to Eugene Petersons, prayer is dangerous – it moves our language into potencies that we are unaccustomed to and unprepared for – it always puzzles him that so much prayer sounds so limp, that prayer is often so utterly dull. The limpness and dullness of prayer may be no more common in pastors than in laypeople, but they are more conspicuous in pastors, who are more often on public display.
Question: How does it happen that language used at the height of its powers comes out of pastoral mouths stagnant and stale?
Answer: It has been uprooted from the soil of the word of God. These so-called prayers are cut-flower words, arranged in little vases for table decorations. As long as they are artificially provided for with a container of water, they give a touch of beauty. But not for long: soon they drop and are discarded. Such flowers are often used as the centerpiece for a dinner table. They are lovely in these settings. But they are never mistaken for the real business of the table, the beef and potatoes that promise full bellies and calories for a hard day’s work. “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped for the tasks God has for us” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We need to learn using Scriptures in our prayers.
One of the indignities to which pastors are routinely subjected is to be approached, as a group of people are gathering for a meeting, or a meal with the request, “Reverend, get things started for us with a little prayer, will you?” It would be wonderful if we would counter by proclaiming William McNamara’s fantasized response: “I will not! There are no little prayers! Prayer enters the lions den, brings us before the holy where it is uncertain whether we will come back alive or sane, for ‘it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.’”
If we reduce prayer into just a religious routine or some kind of spiritual decoration, we will be in big trouble. Prayer is our communication with the awesome God – a precious privilege and gift from the Creator to an unworthy creature like dust of the earth. Our attitude of prayer humiliates the giver of prayer. Have mercy on us O Lord! Though Jesus called us friend, He is still the awesome God, Creator of the Universe and mankind. We don’t necessarily need to beautify our prayer by using big spiritual words. But it is always helpful to interact with God through His word. By doing so, we emerge ourselves into the Will of the Living God in prayer. It helps to cleanse our attitude, expectation and thought pattern. Prayer places us before the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Let’s don’t down grade prayer into something superficial and ritual.
With Love and prayer,
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Good morning. We are living in an end time (end time began with the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and the whole world has been waiting for His second coming ever since, for the final judgment). But we don’t live with a lay back attitude as though nothing matters anymore since this world will end soon. On a contrary, we seize every opportunity to live life to the fullest on earth in according to His plan and purpose. When we do so, more lives will be transformed by His grace and mercy. We are called to become members of His global family, not only to enjoy His daily presence but to reveal His loving presence through our lives on earth.
We set out to risk our lives in a venture of faith. We committed ourselves to a life of holiness. At some point we realized the immensity of God and of the great invisibles that socket into our arms and legs, into bread and wine, into our brains and our tools, into mountains and rivers, giving them meaning, destiny, value, joy, beauty, salvation. We responded to a call to convey these realities in word and sacrament and to give leadership to a community of faith in such way that connected and coordinated what the men and women, children and youth in this community are doing in their work and play with what God is doing in mercy and grace. In the process we learned the difference between a profession or craft, and a job. A job is what we do to complete an assignment. Its primary requirement is that we give satisfaction to whom-ever makes the assignment and pays our wage. We learn what is expected and we do it. There is nothing wrong with doing jobs. To a lesser or greater extent we all have them; somebody has to wash the dishes and take out the garbage.
But professions and crafts are different. In these we have an obligation beyond pleasing somebody: we are pursuing or shaping the very nature of “reality,” convinced that when we carry out our commitments we actually benefit people at a far deeper level than if we simply did what they asked of us. In crafts we are dealing with the visible realities, in professions with invisible. The craft of woodworker, for instance, has an obligation to the wood itself, its grain and texture. A good woodworker knows his woods and treats them with respect. Far more is involved than pleasing customers; something like integrity of material is involved. With professions the integrity has to do with the invisibles: for physicians it is health (not merely making people feel good); with lawyers, justice (not helping people get their own way); with professors, learning (not cramming cranial cavities with information on tap for examinations). And with pastors it is God (not relieving anxiety or giving comfort, or running a religious establishment). Teach believers with your life; by word, by demeanor, by Love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching (I Timothy 4:12b-13).
Eugene Peterson is admonishing professional clergy like me. But I believe his journal applies to all of us who are called to make disciples of all nations. This is an attitude of faithfulness and commitment to God’s appointment for your life. You are not a “YES” person, trying to please everybody that pass through your life. You exist for a reason; therefore you should be driven by divine principles and purpose, instead of driven by opinions and trends of the world. Your life is more than a “job.” You don’t do the minimum to fulfill your expectation or assignment in life. You pursue the reality of life and what it implies. You live to definite and demonstrate the purpose of your existence. And as you faithfully do your parts like those who commit to a profession and craft, you will benefit people at a far deeper level than you could ever imagine. That’s how your life can impact other people’s life. Don’t underestimate the purpose of your existence, and keep living it in full for the glory of Creator God.
Love you because of our bonding in Christ,
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for holding me accountable to grow by your occasional feedback to my devotional. As I mentioned in my initial invitation, I hope this devotional sharing is not a one way street. I am sure the Lord has been doing great things or giving you great insights in life that can be other people’s blessings, provided that you share. When you share how the Lord has spoken to you through your devotional readings, it will excite me to know that you are growing in the Lord as well. My goal of sharing my spiritual journal with you is not to show you my growth in Christ, but to stimulate you to grow yours – go to the primary source of all insights and enjoy the fresh living waters from above. Then, put down on writing how the taste of the living water and your thankfulness to His grace for each day.
Great crowds of people have entered into a grand conspiracy to eliminate prayer, Scripture, and spiritual direction from our lives. They are concerned with our image and standing, with what they can measure, with what produces successful church-building programs and impressive attendance charts, with sociological impact and economic viability. They do their best to fill our schedules with meetings and appointments so that there is time for neither solitude nor leisure to be before God, to ponder Scripture, to be unhurried with another person.
We get both ecclesiastical and community support in conducting ministry that is inattentive to God and therefore without foundations. Still, that is no excuse. A professional, by some definitions, is someone who is committed to standards of integrity and performance that cannot be altered to suit people’s tastes or what willing to pay for. Professionalism is in decline these days on all fronts – in medicine, in law, in politics, as well as among pastors – but it has not yet been renounced. There are still a considerable number of professionals in all areas of life who do the hard work of staying true to what they were called to do, stubbornly refusing to do the easy work that the age asks of them. Unlike so many, we do not peddle (or market) the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God (2 Cor 2:17).
Long before the church was invaded by consumerism, Apostle Paul had issued the warning to the early church. I guess there is nothing new under the sun. What the
Pray that the Church in America will return to a healthy growth pattern, which focuses not just on the quantity and neglect the quality aspect of the congregation; not just preach the sermons of God’s provision for our materialistic desires, but fail to emphasize the core value of being obedience to God’s words. Have mercy on us O Lord…we all share the responsibility for failing to make disciples of all nations. Help us do it in wherever you place us in life today, whether it is at home, in school or in the market place. Amen?
Love you as a fellow redeemed sinner,
Monday, March 22, 2010
Good morning. Thank God for another wonderful day to grow in Him. He is the author and grower of our faith. We are His workmanship on earth. He designs our lives to reflect His wonderful glory. We live and grow in Him, so that the name of our Creator God is being lifted up on high. We enjoy the communion with our loving Father, who allows different experiences coming our way each day. For from him and through him and to him are all things, and to him be the glory forever! Amen (Rom 11:36).
We learn to pray by being led in prayer. We commonly think of prayer as what we do out of our own needs and on our own initiative. We experience a deep longing for God, and so we pray. We feel an artesian flood of gratitude to God, and so we pray. We are crushed with a truckload of guilt before God, and so we pray. But in a liturgy we do not take the initiative; it is not our experience that precipitates prayer. Someone stands in front of us and says, “Let us pray.” We don’t start it; someone else starts it and we fall into step behind or alongside. Our egos are no longer front and center.
This is so important, for prayer by its very nature is answering speech. The consensus of the entire Christian community upholds the primacy of Gods word in everything: in creation, in salvation, in judgment, in blessing, in mercy, and in grace.
When we take our place in a worshiping congregation we are not in charge. Someone else has built the place of prayer; someone else has established the time for prayer; someone else tells us to begin to pray. All of this takes place in a context in which the word of God is primary: God’s word audible in scripture and sermon, God’s word visible in baptism and communion. This is the center in which we learn to pray.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-12).
Creation by nature is recipients of God’s plan and action. We are created according to His purpose and His word. Light came about when God said, “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3) Human being came about when God said, “Let us made man according to our own image and likeness…” (Gen 1:26). Genesis is not about science, but a revelation about the origin of the whole universe and mankind. We don’t exist out of our own will or plan. We exist out of the Will and Plan of God. Thus, we are the recipients of God’s initiation. If this is the case, everything we do is a response to His plan and action on earth. Prayer as an interaction or dialogue with God is definitely a response to His calling and word. God creates us for communion with Him. Communication is definitely a high priority for our existence. God calls us to have dialogue with Him, or else we become empty or meaningless, because we miss the core of our existence.
Busyness kills relationship. It kills intimate communication not only with God but with our loved one as well. Yes, the first thing to sacrifice in our busy lifestyle is our communion with God, and followed family. The institution of marriage and family are in endanger list of extinction. Number one killer of marriage is communication. Number one killer of family is communication. Have mercy on us O Lord! Help us to pause and talk, first with you and then with our loved ones. Let us enjoy the sweet hour of prayer with you today!
Love you by the power of His prayer,
Friday, March 19, 2010
Good morning. What a wonderful day that the Lord has created for you and I to enjoy! It is the day of experiencing the grace and mercy of our blessed Lord. There is no other God who has created the heavens and the earth. There is no other God but our Lord Jesus Christ, who speaks out through His Word and His creation, so that you and I may have communication with Him in every moment of the day. Blessed we are to be the target of His love…Amen.
What a wildly wonderful world, GOD! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations (Psalm 104:24). Everything is created. Everything carries within its form and texture the signature of its Creator. No part of this material world is unconnected with God: every cell is in the organism of salvation. Biblical religion cannot be lived apart from matter – the seen, felt, tasted, smelled, and listened to creation.
It is; all, precisely, creation. Nothing merely happened along. Chokecherries and tundra and weasels are not random accidents. Since everything is by design, no part of creation can be bypassed if we intend to live in the fullest possible relation to our Creator in his creation. None of it is an inconvenience that we are forced to put with. Nothing is a stumbling block introduced by the devil to trip the feet of those whose eyes are piously lifted in praise to God. Creation is our place for meeting God and conversing with him. The voice that spoke Behemoth and Leviathan into being is the same voice that says, “your sins are forgiven you,” and invites us to call upon him in the day of trouble. External and internal are the same reality. Heaven and earth are formed by a single will of God.
We take box seats in this creation theater when we pray. We look around. The mountains are huge, heaving their bulk upwards. The creeks spill across the rocks, giving extravagant light shows under the hemlocks. The lakes fill up with sky, on earth as it is in heaven. A lion rips its prey. A sparrow builds its nest. Solomon and the Shulamite embrace. An eagle plummets from a cloud to a meadow and takes a rabbit in its talons; for a few moments the two genesis creatures are in a terrible and tangled harmony. An infant drinks her fill of breakfast from her mother’s breast. Matter is real. Flesh is good.
I like the way Eugene Peterson describes the Nature that our Lord creates for our enjoyment. The Nature is also our calling…calling to take care of the creation in according to His divine will. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we fall short of the glory of God. We fall short of the glory of being “human being,” the glory of being the anointed one who can respond to the voice of God, the glory of being temporarily a little bit lower than angels, but one day will become the crown prince and princess in heaven. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” calls for our response to make it happen – allow God’s kingdom and His will be done on earth in our lives. Submit to Him as our Lord of lords and King of all kings. Amen.
Love you in accordance to His will on earth,
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Good morning. It is always a joy to write my journal with your image in the back of my mind. This is what the Lord has blessed me – giving you as a part in my life. And when I pray to God everyday, I am reminded that a community of faith is always there for me.
Prayer is everywhere and always answering speech. It is never initiating speech, and to suppose that is presumptuous. Miqra, the Hebrew word for Bible, properly means “calling out” – the calling out of God to us. “God must become a person,” but in order for us to speak in answer to him he must make us into persons. We become ourselves as we answer, sometimes angrily disputing with him about how he rules the world, sometimes humbling ourselves before him in grateful trust. Prayer is language used to respond to the most that has been said to us, with the potential for saying all that is in us. Prayer is the development of speech into maturity, the language that is adequate to answering the one who has spoken comprehensively to us.
Prayer is not a narrow use of language for speciality occasions, but language catholic, embracing the totality of everything and everyone everywhere. This conversation is both bold and devout – the utterly inferior responding to the utterly superior. In this exchange we become persons. The entire life of faith is dialogue. By means of the Psalms we find our voice in the dialogue. In prayer we do not merely speak our feelings, we speak our answers. We can answer, we are permitted to answer. If we truly answer God there is nothing that we may not say to him.
Isn’t it a beautiful way to describe “prayer”? You may think prayer is your initiation to talk to God about you and your environment as though he is not aware of what is going on. He is always here and there. He does not only know what is going on around the world. In fact, He engineers or orchestrates the whole universe to work so that you and I can live and think. Prayer is not asking the Creator God for what we think and want. Prayer is a response or answer to what God is asking us about life and our world.
It was God who called out to Adam, “where are you?” And Adam did his contemplative prayer, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Gen 3:10). Our prayer should be a “naked” response to God’s initiation through His Word and the environment that we are in. It is not by coincidence that we are where we are at this stage of life. It is by His providence to live and walk where we are. It is not by coincidence that our God calls out to us through our reading of His Word. Are we too wrapped up in our “fear, worry and self-centeredness” that we careless to respond to God in prayer. Are you hiding behind your busyness that you don’t care to answer His call? It is time to respond to your loving God in prayer.
What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me? I’ll lift high the cup of salvation – a toast to GOD! I’ll pray in the name of GOD; I’ll complete what I promised GOD I’d do. And I’ll do it together with his people. (Psalm 116:12-14)
Love you as a response to His call,
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Good morning. We read chapter 4 of Revelation as devotional reading in our staff prayer meeting. Apostle John was led by the Holy Spirit to receive a glimpse of what it is like to live in heaven. He saw how the heavenly beings worship God in eternity. The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and worship Him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being" (Rev 4:10-11).This description of the heavenly worship should be the spirit of our personal worship today.
Christians worship with a conviction that they are in the presence of God. Worship is an act of attention to the living God who rules, speaks and reveals, creates and redeems, orders and blesses. Outsiders, observing these acts of worship, see nothing like that. They see a few people singing unpopular songs, sometimes off-key, someone reading from an old book and making remarks that may or may not interest the listeners, and then eating and drinking small portions of bread and wine that are supposed to give nourishment to their eternal souls in the same way that beef and potatoes sustain their mortal flesh. Who is right? Is worship an actual meeting called to order at God’s initiative in which persons of faith are blessed by His presence and respond to his salvation? Or is it a pathetic, and sometimes desperate, charade in which people attempt to get God to pay attention to them and do something for them (1 Kings 18)?
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev 3:20-22). This is a message that the Head of the Church delivers to the Church: I stand at the door and knock! That means the Head of the church is outside of the church waiting to enter. It can also mean our Lord is waiting outside of our being waiting to enter and truly become our Lord! Will you open the door and welcome Jesus into your life?
True worship is to submit to His lordship and attend to His will. It is not a ritual of singing a few songs and listen to a sermon. We may want to reduce worshipping God to just a weekly 1.5 hours ritual, and enjoy worshipping ourselves for the rest of 166.5 hours weekly. By doing so, we “pay for” the pass to heaven and the security of His blessings daily. If you practice worship in this manner consciously or sub-consciously, you are absolutely wrong and Christ is still outside of your being. If church focuses on producing a “good show” on Sunday morning in the name of worship, she is absolutely wrong and Christ is still outside of the church waiting to enter. Have mercy on us O Lord! We want to welcome you into our church and our being to truly become our Lord and King. Amen.
Love you in the name of our Lord,
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Good morning. It took me a couple of days before I re-adapt to my pace at home. When I was on the road, I would be very focus on my task. But when I returned home, I either felt relaxed and sometime off focus in the midst of running for errands. Good habit and routine helps put life back to right track or in focus again. Writing devotional journal is definitely one of the helpful habits for me. The habit is not my God but way to help me draw close to God. We have nothing to boast but to thank God for His abiding presence that keeps us on track and steadfast in a rapid changing world.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at (1 Cor 4:7). Much anger towards the church and most disappointments in the church are because of failed expectations. We expect a disciplined army of committed men and women who courageously lay siege to the worldly powers; instead we find some people who are more concerned with getting rid of the crabgrass in their lawns. We expect community of saints who are mature in the virtues of love and mercy, and find ourselves working on a church supper where there is more gossip than there are casseroles. We expect to meet minds that are informed and shaped by the great truths and rhythms of scripture, and find persons whose intellectual energy is barely sufficient to get them from the comics to the sports page. At such times it is more important to examine and change our expectations than to change the church, for the church is not what we organize but what God gives, not the people we want to be with but the people gives us to be with – a community created by the descent of the Holy Spirit in which we submit ourselves to the Spirit’s affirmation, reformation, and motivation. There must be no idealization of the church.
Having been in pastoral ministry for 27 years, I totally agree with Eugene Peterson that it is more important to change our expectations toward the church than trying to change the church. It is out of God’s divine plan to put the church together as it is. We enter a church not out of coincidence. It is out of the providence of God. And it is not out of coincidence that we decided to become a member of a church. We may have observed and considered for a period of time before we make our final decision. We thought it was our decision in becoming part of a church. Only when we look back we realize it is out of His providence that we do so. If it is God’s plan for us to join a church, what does God intend for us to be and do? God must have a purpose in mind to place us in this church in our pilgrimage on earth. God’s purpose for each person’s life in church could be very different, but one thing is for sure. God wants to use us to be a blessing to the people in this church.
It was God who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). God bought you into a church and gave you gifts to edify the people in that church – it is totally out of the perfect will of God. Are you exercising your gifts to serve the members of the church, or still waiting to be served?
Love you according to His plan,
Monday, March 15, 2010
Good afternoon. It has been two weeks since I last sent you my devotional. The two weeks of study was really intensive. I dedicated all my waked up hours on either class work or home work. Praise God for giving me another two weeks of spiritual retreat. The class was spiritually uplifting and inspiring. I came to perceive theology and the Bible from a different angle. I did not really know what theology of mission was all about. Most seminaries did not offer this kind of class or require this kind of study 30 years ago. When I started putting on “missional” lenses to see the Scripture last week, I am convicted that our God is truly a “missio Dei” = missional God. And the Scripture is a calling for all His children to take part in His mission. Are you ready for action in following your missio Dei?
"Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message” (Mark 1:15). A common way to misunderstand prophecy, and especially the prophecy of the Revelation, is to suppose that it means prediction. But that is not the biblical use of the word. Prophets are not fortune tellers. The prophet is the person who declares, “Thus says the Lord.” He speaks what God is speaking. He brings God’s word into le immediate world of the present, insisting that it be heard here and now. The prophet says that God is speaking now, not yesterday; rod is speaking now, not tomorrow. It is not a past word that can be analyzed and then walked away from. It is not a future word that can be fantasized into escapist diversion. It is personal address now: ‘for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3, 22:10). “Near” means “at hand.” Not far off in the future but immediately before us; only our unbelief, or ignorance, or timid hesitancy separate us from it. Jesus also announced the immediacy of the prophetic word when he preached “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). St. John’s “near” and Jesus’ “at hand” are the same root word prophetic word eliminates the distance between God’s speaking and our learning. If we make the prophetic word a predictive word we are procrastinating, putting distance between ourselves and the application of the word, putting off dealing with it until some future date. This is what God intended for His revelation.
I have been meditating on the Kingdom of God in the past two weeks. Mission is about pronouncing the coming of the Kingdom of God since the King has already come. Matthew made it clear on this point as he recalled what his Master proclaimed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28:18-19). The authority in heaven and earth represents the supreme reign of God. The resurrected Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Kingdom of God has arrived. We are the witnesses of this kingdom. God wants us to proclaim the reign of God on earth even though the ultimate maturation of this Kingdom is not here yet.
The model prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples also pointed to this spiritual reality, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matt 6:9-10). This is not a prophecy about something that is to come. It is a proclamation of a spiritual reality that has already taken place.
We make disciples not because we feel that it is a good idea. We do so because of our submission to the reign of Christ who is our King of kings. On a contrary, when we fail to do it, it is a deliberate rebellion against His reign or kingship in our lives. We are called to walk and talk like ambassador of this new Kingdom. Only when we recognize the kingship of our Lord Jesus in our own lives by obedience, we will not make disciples of all nations even with the power and resources vested in us.
With love in His kingdom,
Monday, March 1, 2010
After a weekend ministry at Houston, Texas, I returned to Western Seminary last night at around 11 pm. I will spend two weeks of study here. Please pray that I will be able to concentrate and learn what the Lord wants me to learn here. There were a lot of reading, writing and interactions in class.
I may not have time to write my journal every morning. I pray that you will continue your daily walk with the Lord on a consistent basis.
In His love,