Friday, May 21, 2010

Devotional 210510

Dear brother and sister,
Good morning. I will be leaving tonight for my preaching trip to Toronto, Canada, and it will embark a preaching marathon that involves 30 sermons and 5 geographical locations until July. You may not hear from me during this period of time. Hope that you will remember me in prayer, and continue to draw close to the Lord each day for your own well being.

All men and women hunger for God. The hunger is masked and misinterpreted in many ways, but it is always there. Everyone is on the verge of crying out “My Lord and my God!” but the cry is drowned out by doubts or defiance, muffled by the dull ache of their routines, masked by their cozy accommodations with mediocrity. Then something happens-a word, an event, a dream---there is a push toward awareness of an incredible Grace, a dazzling Desire, a defiant Hope, a courageous Faithfulness. But awareness, as such, is not enough. Untended, it trickles into religious sentimentalism or romantic blubbering. Or, worse, it hardens into patriotic arrogance or hypocritical pride like Pharisees. The pastor is there to push the awareness past subjectivities and ideologies into the open and say “God.”

You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant (Timothy 4:3-5).

This is how Satan wants to accomplish by pushing people into busy routines in order to distract or detour us from the pursuit of God. Deep down inside, we have this void that is craving for fulfillment. We thought success and materialistic wealth were the answers. But when we acquire them we are still unfulfilled. We thought we would be satisfied when we need a little bit more. But the void remains and the inner craving cries even louder. Then we turn to self-help books or spiritual disciplines like yoga or transcendental meditations to calm our restlessness from within. We choose to believe in our own ability and will power that can accomplish all things. We want to be our own god. Even when we come to a dead-end street, we still choose to look around instead of looking UP to God. Have mercy on us O Lord!

Some one may can say that this kind of stubborn and rebellious spirit distinguish human being from animals. This is the kind of fighting spirit that enables men to conquer nature and subdue the world. But this is also a self-destructive stupidity of mankind that prohibits us from drawing close to God in humility.

Perseverance and fighting spirit are good if they are under the lordship of Christ. In another word, if we persevere out of obedience to Biblical truth, then it is a commendable behavior. The Bible highly encourages people for this holy pursuit, “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8). Fighting or unyielding spirit can be a blessing from above, if we apply it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and for the sake of standing firm for the Truth. Remember His promise for us, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b).

Your brother in Christ,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Devotional 200510

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it. Every day is a great day because it is a gift from above. I thank God for giving me another new day to experience His wonderful grace and mercy. If we focus on the faithfulness of God and learn to count His blessings each day, nothing can detour us into finding satisfactions by worldly means. The core of spiritual discipline is learning to choose godliness in our encountering with all things and all people in life.

There are a thousand ways of being religious without submitting to Christ’s lordship, and people are practiced in most of them. We live in golden calf country. Religious feeling runs high but in ways far removed from what was said on Sinai and done on Calvary. While everyone has a hunger for God, deep and insatiable, none of us has any great desire for Him. What we really want is to be our own gods and to have whatever other gods that are around to help us in this work. We are trained from an early age to be discriminating consumers on our way to higher standards of living. It should be no great surprise to pastors when congregations expect us to collaborate in this enterprise. But it is serious apostasy when we go along. “And Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did this people do to you that you have brought a great sin upon them?’” (Exodus 32:21). Aaron’s excuse is embarrassingly lame but more than matched by the justifications pastors make for abandoning worship in our enthusiasm to make the congregation flourishingly successful.

Our Lord Jesus predicted what would be coming,"Brother will betray brother to death and a father to his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:21-22).

It is not easy to stand counter-currently against consumerism that is taking place around us. It is almost like a choice between being faithful to Biblical mandate and being rejected by religious consumers. It is hard to grow a church without compromising to the needs and expectations of your consumers in the congregation. Even though the word of the Lord is not taking place in the church of America yet, the trend is leaning toward this direction: majority of people in this nation will hate you because of your steadfastness in Biblical principles. But the promise of God also affirms those submitting to Christ’s lordship: those who remain faithful till the end will be saved.

Can we slow down the growth of church if it means compromising to consumerism? Can we give up a building project for new sanctuary if it has to please the religious consumers who donate to the project, by building a golden calf? I still remember the gentle word of this little nun from Calcutta, Mother Teresa: “we are not called to be successful but to be faithful.” In this world preoccupied by desire for success, let’s be reminded that we are called to be faithful – faithful to God’s words, faithful to His priority or value system, and faithful to Christ who is the author of our faith and salvation. A great awakening is on the way, I pray that a great revival will come upon the Body of Christ in North America. The Church in America is not dead yet. She is very much alive and strong but among the ethnic community in America. Praise God that there are still faithful remnants who stand firm in their faith today. Just as God affirmed Prophet Elijah in his hopeless uncertainty, “I reserve seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal (materialism, consumerism and individualism etc.) and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (1 King 19:18). God has preserved and will continue to raise up His prayer warriors to turn the spiritual tide. Remember. The victory was secured on the cross two thousands years ago. We just need to be courageously watchful and don’t let the dying evil force to lure us into its scheme of destruction.

Stand with you in Christ,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Devotional 190510

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. The Psalm we read in prayer meeting this morning reminded me, “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:32). Our Father God who is perfect desires His children to be perfect, even though He understood we could not do so by our own strength. That’s why He empowers us daily to approach perfection. Our desire to please God and do His will is the fruit of the His Spirit. By our own nature, we have no appetite to seek godly things. Only when the Spirit of God comes upon us, we desire to listen to His Word and do His Will. Amen?

The people in our congregations are, in fact, out shopping for idols. They enter our churches with the same mind-set in which they go to the shopping mall, to get something that will please them or satisfy an appetite or need. John Calvin saw the human heart as a relentlessly efficient factory for producing idols. Congregations commonly see the pastor as the quality-control engineer in the factory. The moment we accept the position, though, we defect from our vocation. The people who gather in our congregations want help through a difficult time; they want meaning and significance in their ventures. They want God, in a way but certainly not a “jealous God,” not the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Mostly they want to be their own god and stay in control but have ancillary idol assistance for the hard parts, which the pastor can show them how to get. With the development of assembly-line mass production, we are putting these idols out in great quantities and in a variety of colors and shapes to suit every taste. John Calvin’s insight plus Henry Ford’s technology equals North American Religion. Living in golden calf country as we do, it is both easy and attractive to become a successful pastor like Aaron, who gave the kind of god (golden calf) that his congregation wanted [Exodus. 32].

Jesus said, “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character” (Matthew 7:15-16, The Message).

This is a warning especially for us pastors, even though I am not pasturing a congregation right now. How easily we will yield to the pressures or expectations of our congregation who are brain-washed by consumerism and materialism. Our role as preacher is supposed to warn the people of God from the penetration of worldly values. But a lot of time, we yield to the worldly expectations instead. If Christians do not penetrate the world like salt and light of the world, then the worldly mindset or influence will penetrate the church. This is happening in the church of North America and in Europe. The Church lost her influence in society and is constantly shaped and molded by societal values.

When Christians are too busy with life and with programs within the four walls of the church, they really don’t have time to think or discern what is right and wrong in terms of their attitude toward things. They will easily just do whatever the world does and attitude that goes with it. When majority of the congregation adopts the worldly thinking about god or spirituality, they will easily pressure the church to give what they want; otherwise they will withhold their donations or go to another church. Once the church falls into Satan’s scheme to adopt the spirit of competition and desire for success, she will unconsciously build the golden calf for her congregation just like Aaron did for the Israelites.

Have mercy on us O Lord! Satan is all out to destroy the influence of God’s work on earth before its end time arrives. This spiritual battle is real and severe only if church pastors, leaders and congregation are aware of it. Satan will give whatever ‘growth and success’ to lure the church into its scheme. Pray that the church will stand firm in her teaching and commitment to discipleship making – something that will empower the true followers of Christ to lead godly life. Just as Apostle Paul said, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5), we need to restore Christ-like mindset in both pastors and parishioners in our church today - indeed, we need to pray for revival within the Church in North America.

Love you with the attitude of Christ,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Devotional 180510

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for a refreshing day after some light rain last night. Life is full of uncertainty. There were so much disasters going on around the world. Every part of the world seems to have some devastations going on. Rain storm, earthquakes, Tornados, flooding, plane crash, riots and car bombs that killed hundreds of people are flooding our News each day. There is no peace on earth. There is only peace in Christ. Amen? As we draw close to Him each day, we grow in our security in Him. God commits to nurture our growth in Him. And there is no shortcut in spiritual formation. It always takes time and focus to grow in Christ…

Spirituality requires context. Always. Boundaries, borders, limits. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” No one becomes more spiritual by becoming less material. No one becomes exalted by ascending in a gloriously colored hot-air balloon. Mature spirituality requires askesis, a training program custom-designed for each individual-in-community, and then continuously monitored and adapted as development takes place and conditions vary. It can never be mechanically imposed from without; it must be organically grown in locale. Askesis must be context sensitive.

God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life (Psalm 23 The Message).

Indeed, God train each one of His children differently according to the locale and situation that He put them in. It is not by coincident that you encounter the situation that you are in today. It is by His divine providence that He places you there. Then, the question you should ask is what kind of lesson that your Shepherd wants you to learn? It is your God-shepherd who has bedded you in that meadows and that quiet pools of water. It is your God-shepherd who allows you walk through Death Valley. And He must have a plan for you to grow through it. This is the askesis that Eugene Peterson talked about.

God’s training ground or askesis for His children may not be within the four walls of the church or in religious schools. It could be at some very unlikely places like fish belly for Jonah, and the cave where David encountered King Saul in the dark (1 Sam 24). God is our Provider, Protector and Pruner (the One who prunes us in according to John 15:2, so that we can bear more fruits). He will not stop shaping and molding His children in wherever they are. You may not like it. You may not be aware of it. You may even rebel against it, but you cannot stop Him loving you and pruning you so that your life will become awesomely whole and abundant just as He has promised. Take a prayer break and think about His lesson for you today.

Love you because of His amazing grace,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Devotional 170510

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for giving me a fruitful weekend of ministering to two churches in two different locations. I gave a workshop on Friday night at San Jose, and preached on Sunday at San Diego. It was my first encounter with these two congregations. I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to serve them.

We have been looking at how Eugene Peterson unpacked the message of Jonah to us. In that story Jonah didn’t drown. He was swallowed by a great fish and so saved. His first action in his newly saved condition was prayer.

This is the center of the story, a center located in the belly of the fish. The drowning of religious careerism is followed by resurrection into a vocation or submission to a calling. We become what we are called to be. We become what we are called to be by praying. And we start out by praying from the belly of the fish.

The belly of the fish is a place of confinement, a tight, restricted place. The ship to Tarshish was headed for the western horizon - limitless expanses of sea with the lure of the mysterious and beckoning unknown through the Straits of Gibraltar and beyond.

Religion always plays on these sublime aspirations, these erotic drives for completion and wholeness. Jonah, heady with this potent elixir and cruising confidently under full sails, the sea breeze and salt tang deepening the sensory anticipation of a thrilling life in the service of God, found himself instead in the belly of the fish.

The belly of the fish was the unattractive opposite to everything Jonah had set out for. The belly of the fish was a dark, dank, and probably stinking cell. The belly of the fish is Jonah’s introduction to askesis.

Askesis is to spirituality what a training regimen is to an athlete. It is not the thing itself, but the means to maturity and excellence. Otherwise we are at the mercy of glands and weather. It is a spiritual equivalent to the old artistic idea that talent grows by its very confinement that the genie’s strength comes from his confinement in the bottle. Jesus said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the drivers seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all” (Mark 8:34b, The Message).

The story of Jonah is inspiring. It describes how God mentored His servant, and how He revealed to mankind His attributes. Many religions describe God as cruel and horrible judge, who waits for opportunity to punish man for his sins. But Christian Bible describes God as a caring and gracious God, even though He is still righteous and would not compromise sins. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, He punished them but also clothed them with garment of animal skin (Gen 3:21). This is the kind of attributes that God revealed Himself to us.

Here in the Book of Jonah, God showed Jonah that He cared for not only His chosen people but those who sinned against Him. They were the terrorists in Jonah’s eyes. They were enemy of the Jews. In their theology, the people of Nineveh did not deserve the grace from God because they persecuted the people of God. But God did not act according to Jonah’s theology. God loved even the enemy of God’s people. This is how Christianity spread to the land of barbarians like the Vikings, Huns and Goths, who invaded the Roman Empire and took captive of many Christian women and children. These barbarians were later conquered by the love of God and were converted to Christianity. God worked in a miraculous way.

I hope we don’t need to go through the training closet like a fish belly in order to learn the lesson of obedience. God will allow suffering to shape His church and people so that we become the blessings of all nations near and far. Amen?

Love you in accordance to God’s attribute,

Friday, May 14, 2010

Devotional 140510

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I did not have time to write my journal yesterday, because I was invited to update my ministry in a senior citizens’ fellowship in the morning. By the time I returned to office after lunch, I was scheduled to attend some meetings which took up almost the whole afternoon. That’s why I prefer to do my devotion first thing in the morning; otherwise I will have difficulty to find time to meditate. Again, this is not just a ritual to make me feel religious but a need to be recharged like eating a healthy meal.

"Have you understood all these things?" Jesus asked. "Yes," they replied. He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old" (Matt 13:51-52). For years I have searched the scriptures for help in pursuing my life as pastor or Christian leader. Time after time I have come upon rich treasures, but somehow I missed the book of Jonah. I missed, which turns out, three of the most provocative and amusing pages in the scriptures for my purpose as minister.

The Jonah story is sharply evocative of the vocational experience of minister or Christian leader. Story incites story. Story-tellers swap stories. As I tell this story among my friends, listen to them tell theirs, and in turn tell a few of my own, the stories develop images and metaphors that give shape to a spirituality adequate to shepherding ministry. Stanley Hauerwas argues [Vision and Virtue], convincingly to me, that if we want to change our way of life, acquiring the right image is far more important than diligently exercising willpower. Willpower is a notoriously powerful engine on which to rely for internal energy, but a right image silently and relentlessly pulls us into its field of reality, which is also a field of energy.

The book of Jonah is a parable at the center of which is a prayer. Parable and prayer are biblical tools for bringing a sharp personal awareness of truth to people whose spiritual perceptions are dulled by living habitually in an overtly religious context.

The moment we drift away from dealing with God primarily (and not merely peripherally), we are no longer living vocationally as Christian leaders, no longer living in conscious, willing, participatory relation with the vast reality that constitutes our lives and the entire world around us. The storm either exposes the futility of our work (as in Jonah) or confirms it (as in Paul). In either case, the storm forces the awareness that God constitutes our work, and it disabuses us of any suggestion that in our work we can avoid or manipulate God. Once that is established, we are ready to learn the spirituality that is adequate to our vocation, working truly, easily, fearlessly, without ambition or anxiety, without denial or sloth. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear you vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it (Philippians 3:15-16 The Message).

The book of Jonah to me is a metaphor of how God wanted to impart a vision to His servant who was reluctant to change his paradigm or mindset. Sometimes Christian leaders like pastor could minister within the little box of our theology, which come with various blind spot and prejudice. Even though he knew that God was merciful, Jonah could not accept the fact that God would love people like even his enemy in Nineveh. But God used different circumstantial factors attempting to change his mindset. Jonah exercised willpower to do what God commanded him to do in Nineveh, and it brought blessing to the people there. Imagine if Jonah were to go to Nineveh with a renewed vision, it would bring many folds of blessings to both the hearers and the preacher. Hope you will open up to God as He intend to renew our mindset and value system each day for His glory, and for the well being of all those around us.

Love you for His glory,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Devotional 120510

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for another beautiful day. Even though I had a lot to catch up in ministry and study, I found time to enjoy the Nature that God has prepared for us. It is indeed a free gift from our Creator God. I reminded myself that busyness is an illness of spirit, a rush form one thing to another because there is no weight of vocational integrity and no confidence in the primacy of grace. Busyness imposes on us the functional, technological, and dehumanizing definitions about life. If we allow busyness to dictate our daily encountering in life, we become corrupted in all kinds of meaningful relationship that God intended for us to enjoy. In busyness we have no time to explore who we are, what we have and why we exist in this time and culture. We feel like we are constantly under the threat of a Goliath from whom we try to flee.

The image of the stones, waiting to be selected from the brook by David as he prepares for his meeting with Goliath, holds my attention. David has just discarded King Saul?s armor as ill-fitting. The offer of bronze helmet and coat of mail was well intentioned. But accept it would have been disastrous. David needed what was authentic to him. This is equally true to my own situation. Even though the weaponry urged upon me by my culture in the form of science and knowledge is formidable, I cannot work effectively with what is imposed from the outside. Metallic forms hung on my frame will give me, perhaps, an imposing aspect but will not help me do my proper work.

And so I kneel at the brook of scripture, selecting there what God has long been preparing for the work at hand, and I find a few smooth stones. The rough edges have been knocked off. The soft parts have been eroded away. They are bare and hard. Nothing is superfluous. Nothing is decorative. They are clean and spare. Scripture has that quality for me?of essentiality, of the necessary. I feel that I am, again, traveling light, delivered from an immense clutter. 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 up for the tasks God has for us (2 Tim 3:16-17 The Message).

David was driven by a passion to become an instrument of God. He did not concern of what did not have. He was aware of what he had. Others may not see the power of his weapons ? a few smooth stones. They imposed on him the weaponry that he was not used to. He went to fight the giant not by self confidence but by his faith in the Almighty God. It is by this simple faith (other may see it as naive) that David removed the most fearful enemy of his time. Are you aware of what God has gifted you? Have you been using those spiritual gifts to serve God? Even though God had gifted David was the skill, it would not help if he did not practice or apply it before. The more you exercise your spiritual gifts, the more you are ready for God to use you for a greater purpose.

Love you by His grace,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Devotional 110510

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for many of your comments on my devotional yesterday. I am glad that the subject matter captured your attention and stimulated you to meditate. There are many lessons we can learn about our new life in Christ, as we going through different stages of personal growth. Sometimes we are too busy to engage our soul in spiritual dialogue with God. We don’t pause and think. We just accept Satan’s excuse for us: my soul is willing but my flesh is weak. As a result, we sink deeply into the black hole of narcissism or self-centeredness, and harvest only self-destruction without even aware of it. Therefore, it is important to take time out to meditate, and allow God to free you from Satan’s hidden traps in your life.

Adolescents exhibit the process of growing up into adulthood in a particularly vivid form. Their parents are unavoidably involved in it. Every parent of an adolescent is thus provided with a gift — It is a kind of living laboratory in which to take the data of growing up, work experiments with it in personal ways, and then re-experience it in an act of faith to the glory of God. Parents don’t always look at it this way. Not infrequently, they are heard to complain about it. Many stoically stick it out, assured by the experts that adolescence is self-curing and will be over in seven or eight years. They never open the gift; they never enter the laboratory.

But adolescence is a gift, God’s gift, and it must not be wasted in complaints or stoic resistance. There is a strong Christian conviction, substantiated by centuries of devout thinking and faithful living, that everything given to us in our bodies and in our world is the raw material for holiness. Nature is brought to maturity by grace and only by grace. Nothing in nature—nothing in our muscles and emotions, nothing in our geography and our genes—is exempt from this activity of grace. And adolescence is not exempt.

Apostle Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus, “No prolonged infancies among us, please. Well not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for imposters. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love— like Christ in everything” (Eph 4:14-15 The Message). Ephesus was a sophisticated city in Ancient time. When I walked on the ruins of this city last year, I marveled with their architecture and city design. They even had a beautiful library in the center of the city. Ephesians were not illiterates. Greeks uplifted education and philosophy. They were eager to learn new things. That’s why when Paul began his ministry in Ephesus, he daily engaged in debate with scholars and local people at their lecture hall, “Paul took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:9-10).

The problem with learned people or scholars is their sophistication. They are too complicated that they cannot make up their minds on simple truth and follow Christ with childlike faith. They are being tossed around by new theories and philosophies. They are like teenagers who are influenced by whatever new trends in the market or on Internet. They want to follow the trend and open to all kinds of sophistications and philosophies of life. The problem of Ephesians’ believers were like the teenagers’. They were being tossed around by different cultic teachings, and that’s why Apostle Paul reminded them to stand firm in their faith. We need to be equipped on the Word of God continuously. But we also need to accept the Biblical Truth by childlike faith. This balance is what adolescence needs to learn in their laboratory of life. Many of us may be still struggling in this stage of life even though we should be in a maturing age. It is time to grow up and pursue the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13b).

Love you according to the measure of Christ,

Monday, May 10, 2010

Devotional 100510

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It has been two weeks since I sent you my last devotional. The two weeks of study in seminary was really intensive. It was also the time for me to catch up with my homework from last courses. During these two weeks of study, I had the bonus to celebrate Loretta’s birthday at Portland. I invited Loretta to spend the weekend with me so that I could show her my school and environment. Spring time in Portland was beautiful. The whole city became like a huge garden. Flowers were blooming everywhere. If you look at the slide show in my blog, you will see a lot of flowers we captured during Loretta’s birthday weekend. Enjoy it.

When I talk with people who come to me in preparation for marriage I often say, “Weddings are easy; marriages are difficult.” The couple wants to plan a wedding; I want to plan a marriage. They want to know where the bridesmaids will stand; I want to develop a plan for forgiveness. They want to discuss the music of the wedding; I want to talk about the emotions of the marriage. I can do a wedding in twenty minutes with my eyes shut; a marriage takes year after year of alert, wide-eyed attention.

Weddings are important. They are beautiful; they are impressive; they are emotional; sometimes they are expensive. We weep at weddings and we laugh at weddings. We take care to be at the right place at the right time and say the right words. Where people stand is important. The way people dress is significant. Every detail—this flower, that candle—is memorable. All the same, weddings are easy.

But marriages are complex and difficult. In marriage we work out in every detail of life the promises and commitments spoken at the wedding. In marriage we develop the long and rich life of faithful love that the wedding announces. The event of the wedding without the life of marriage doesn’t amount to much. It hardly matters if the man and woman dress up in their wedding clothes and reenact the ceremony every anniversary and say “I’m married, I’m married, I’m married” if there is no daily love shared, if there is no continuing tenderness, no attentive listening, no inventive giving, no creative blessing…

Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind if “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets (Hebrews 13:16 The Message).

I was asked to provide pre-marital counseling for a missionary who will get married in the field. It is difficult and challenging because I don’t know this couple at all. There are a lot of potential issues that may involve in their background as they enter into marriage. It is easy to prepare a wedding for them. But to prepare them for a life time commitment and adjustment is not easy. Definitely not a few session of premarital counseling can prepare a couple for such a life time commitment. There are a lot of variables, inward and outward factors that could affect the health of a marriage. It requires God’s grace and love to daily flow through this couple, so that they will become a mutual blessing to one another. A marriage is like a new creation in Christ that needs to be transformed daily through our abidance in Christ. Without the power of God’s love, our will power for such a life time commitment cannot last too long. Indeed, we love because we experience God’s love (paraphrased from 1 John 4:19).

Love you in Christ,

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Celebrate Loretta's Birthday at Portland

I am glad to celebrate Loretta's birthday at Portland. I have two intensive courses to study Missiology at World View Center. She just spent one weekend with me.