Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Devotional 310810

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for another wonderful day to be in His service. We are called to serve Him in wherever He places us. God uses each one of us in this world for one special agenda, which is to make disciples of all nations. The Great Commission, indeed, is our core value. If we sincerely want to seek Him first the Kingdom of God, then we know His Kingdom involve people who are willing to submit to His kingship. Do you really want to crown God as King in your life today?

The gospel introduces us to a life that begins by receiving the life of God. God pours out his love for us. He mercifully provides the access to forgiveness. All of that is very exhilarating. It is a clear and vast improvement over living on the basis of appetites and impulses, getting and grabbing. We embark on the way of faith. We become free. We are filled with hope. We live more intensely and more amply than ever before.

Now, having begun there, what is the next step? What is the next step after love? Is it cautious mistrust? That is silly. What is the next step after faith? Anxious attempts to avoid anything that might displease God? That is silly. What is the next step after grace? Cannily bargaining with God so that we can manipulate Him for our benefit? That is silly. That is like saying, “Having learned algebra, I will now go back to counting on my fingers.”

“Use your heads,” says Paul. Common sense ought to keep you from abandoning the gospel of grace. Only as we remain rooted in the gospel can we apply the great truths of love and forgiveness and grace to everyday affairs. “Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. “If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it,” said Paul, “how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!” (Galatians 3:3).

The claim of the gospel is that it puts us in touch with reality—all of it, not just a part. It puts us in touch with a God who creates and with the people and world he created. It puts us in touch with Christ who redeems and the people whom he loves. It puts us in touch with our feelings of hope and despair, with our thoughts, doubt and faith, with our acts of virtue and vice. It puts us in touch with everything, visible and invisible, right and wrong, good and evil. It puts us in touch and then trains us in mature ways of living.

We live in a world where people are going crazy. We have a gospel that sets us free to think, and in so doing it develops us in a rich and robust sanity. The sanity of the gospel is one of its most attractive features. Persons who truly live by faith are in touch with reality and become conspicuously sane.

The more I talked to pre-Christian friends, the more I realized what Peterson said here is true. On one hand people realize they are not God but on the other they try to play God. They become so confused at time that they really don’t know what we are thinking or arguing. They could not accept the existence of God. They prefer the existence of a big confusion. It takes the act of humility to receive the illumination of the God and the redemption of Christ to make use sane and whole again.

Love you in His mercy

Monday, August 30, 2010

Devotional 300810

Dear brothers an sisters,
Good morning. After a whole week of schooling and service in a church retreat, I am back to my routine in office again. I enjoy my routine where I have better control of my time. Instead of being rushed into one thing to the other, I can balance my time in my daily routine. It is always refreshing to start the day with some quiet time to meditate on God’s words and my relationship with Him. How important it is to be reminded of the fact that our self worth depends on Him but not on our accomplishment in life.

All of us grow up with an inferiority complex. Some of us are able to disguise it better than others, but the feelings of inferiority are there le same. One reason is that during the most formative years of our lives, we were small, less knowledgeable, weaker and less experienced than the important people in our lives (parents, teachers, older children in the neighborhood). There was always someone around who was better than we were in some way or other. We lose some of those feelings as we mature, but never entirely. We are always vulnerable to self-doubt. Am I worth anything at all? Does anyone care if I really exist? If I disappeared tomorrow, how long would it take before everything was normal? Would it take a week, a month, or a year? We try in various ways to become indispensable to people around us so that we can have our significance verified, but our efforts are not convincing.

We cannot experience freedom when we live that way. A feeling of inadequacy is enslaving. No matter how free we are told that we are, if we don’t think we are worth anything, we will not be motivated to express our strengths, will not be confident in developing our gifts, will not feel up to enjoying the blessings of the day.

The gospel counters that enslaving experience by telling the story of our redemption: “We were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had filly come, God sent forth his Son; born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (paraphrased from Galatians 4:4-5) The action-packed sentence is a powerful description of Christ’s great work on behalf of all of us. One word in it tells us what we are worth: redeem.

All Paul’s readers would have been familiar with the first century Greek process for freeing slaves. The word redeem describes this process. Sometimes a slave caught the attention of a wealthy free person and for some reason or other—compassion, affection, justice—the free person decided to free the slave. The free person would then go to the temple or shrine and deposit with the priests the sum of money required for manumission. The priests would then deliver an oracle: The god Apollo has purchased this slave so-and-so from owners such-and-such and is now free. The priests then passed the redemption price on to the recent owner. The ex-slave who all his or her life had been treated as an inferior, useful J only for purposes of running someone else’s errands, doing someone else’s work, was no longer subject to such evaluation. The person was free. No price could be put on that head again. The person was valuable not to do something but to be someone.

That, says Paul, is what has happened to each and every one of us: we have been singled out for redemption. We are free in Christ. We have received a new identity – a child of God. We become a new person with a new worth or value. We are unique and valuable for a divine purpose. For that reason, “we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original” (Galatians 5:26). This is a new day that God has prepared for you. Maximize the opportunity of this day to fulfill God’s plan for your life. Amen.

Love you in Christ,

Friday, August 20, 2010

Devotional 200810

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. What a wonderful day to have some leisure time with God! 4 days of planning and evaluation meetings were quite draining mentally. On top of it, I still need to catch up with my school work which is over due at night…Thank God for extra grace and strength for me to press on. I believe our loving Heavenly Father will surely watch over each one of His children as we commit to walk with Him and live for His glory.

My son has left for college early this morning. Please pray for him. He is driving a very old Honda by himself with no air condition system from California to Tennessee, passing through desert and central plains. It will take him 3 days (driving at least 12 hours a day) to get there. And he will start school on Monday. Pray that the Lord will give him a safe journey and a long quiet time to interact with the Holy Spirit. “3 days” is a unique term in the Bible. It produces a life changing experience like Jonah in fish’s belly, our Lord Jesus in the tomb and Paul in total blindness…and at the end, a new life was born through it. Pray that it will have a similar effect on my son that his life is transformed and revived for the glory of God.

From day one, we human beings like to become God. We want to see like God and comprehend like Him. We prefer not to obey His Word but act according to our own wisdom and street smart. We always thought we knew better than even God. And because of this pride, we are tempted to go our own way and do our own things. We’re careless about God’s principles. We sugar coat this rebellion with words like “liberty” and “human rights.” In reality, we abuse liberty and human rights, to indulge our self-centeredness, just like we abuse God’s grace in many ways.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! (Acts 8:18-20). A curious thing happens to us when we get a taste of God. It happened first in Eden and it keeps happening. The experience of God—the ecstasy, the wholeness of it—is accompanied by a temptation to reproduce the experience as God. The taste for God is debased into greed to be God. Being loved by God is twisted into a lust to God-performance. I get a glimpse of a world in which God is in charge and think maybe I have a chance at it. I abandon the personal presence of God and take up with the depersonalized and canny serpent. I flee the shining face of God for a slithery world of religion that gives me license to manipulate people and acquire godlike attributes to myself. The moment I begin cultivating the possibility of acquiring that kind of power and glory for myself, I most certainly will want to blot out the face, flee from the presence of the Lord, and seek a place where I can develop pride and acquire power.

May God give you a good weekend to enjoy His presence…

Love you in His goodness,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Devotional 190810

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I was fully occupied by our annual evaluation and planning meetings this week. That’s why I had no time to write my journal. I am glad I could come back to office a little bit earlier to enjoy some leisure time with God. I believe we all need a prayer break or devotional break from our hectic schedule in life.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his enfolding grace (2 Corinthians 4:16). We all know people who spend a lifetime at the same job, or the same marriage, or the same profession, who are slowly, inexorably diminished in the process. They are persistent in the sense that they keep doing the same thing for many years, but we don’t particularly admire them for it. If anything, we feel sorry for them for having got stuck in such an uninteresting rut with neither the energy nor imagination to get out.

But we don’t feel sorry for Jeremiah. He was not stuck in a rut; he was committed to a purpose. The one thing that Jeremiah shows no evidence of is bored drudgery. Everything we know of him shows that after the twenty-three years his imagination is even more alive and his spirit even more resilient than it was in his youth. He wasn’t putting in his time. Every day was a new episode in the adventure of living the prophetic life. The days added up to a life of incredible tenacity, of amazing stamina.

The mark of a certain kind of genius is the ability and energy to keep returning to the same task relentlessly, imaginatively, curiosity for a lifetime. Never give up and go on to something else; never get distracted and be diverted to something else. Augustine wrote fifteen commentaries on the book of Genesis. He began at the beginning. He never felt that he had got to the depths of the first book of the Bible, down to the very origins of life, the first principles of God’s ways with us. He kept returning to those first questions. Beethoven composed sixteen string quartets because he has never satisfied with what he had done. The quartet form intrigued and challenged him. Perfection eluded him—he kept coming back to it over and over in an attempt at mastery. We think he did pretty well with them, but he didn’t think so. So he persisted, bringing fresh, creative energy to each day’s attempt. The same thing over and over, and yet it is never the same thing, for each venture is resplendent with dazzling creativity.

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours (Hebrews 11:39-40). The text of faithfulness is not on how big a faith you have to take on huge project for God. It is how committed you are to the divine purpose for your life. God has a plan for each one of our lives. We are called to give our best to work on it day and night. As you are doing what God intended for you to live and work, your lives will never be bored. It is full of challenge and energy to press on. The martyrs do not hate life. They love life so much that they want to live it to the fullest extent for their life giver.

Love you in Christ,

Monday, August 16, 2010

Devotional 160810

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Last week flew by very fast when I was fully engaged in meetings with leaders of my denomination at New Mexico. It was an annual report time to the Mission Committee of my denomination since they support a portion of my salary in serving at GOI. Many brothers and sisters did not know that GOI expects me to help raise for the general fund which includes my own salary. I am thankful that my mother church supports 10% of my salary and my denomination supports another 5%. I praise God for many brothers and sisters like you who pray for me and support me financially. I believe my Lord will provide our needs one way or the other – this is exactly the lesson of faith that He wanted me to learn as I answered His call. In my quiet time, the Lord keeps on reminding me that His grace is always sufficient for me… It is indeed a miracle to see how God provides for GOI. I strongly believe that the Lord of the Harvest will surely provide for workers in His harvest field.

Active listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s only for five minutes. Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time. Only in that mood of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance.

Speaking to people does not have the same personal intensity as listening to them. The question I put to myself is not “How many people have you spoken to about Christ this week?” But “How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?” The number of persons listened to must necessarily be less than the number spoken to. Listening to a story always takes more time than delivering a message, so I must discard my compulsion to count, to compile the statistics that will justify my existence.

I can’t listen if I’m busy. When my schedule is crowded, I’m not free to listen: I have to keep my next appointment; I have to get to the next meeting. But if I provide margins to my day, there is ample le to listen. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place (Mark 6:31-32).

I hope you will find time to rest (give yourself leisure time) to listen to God and others. Our heart will fill with fear and worry when our lives are always on the fast lane. It is hard for modern people to slow down and truly listen. We are always pre-occupied by many things and issues in mind. We discover our significance when we rest in Christ.

Love you because of His presence,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Devotional 100810

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I will be preaching at the Senior Fellowship in Chinatown. It has been a while that I did not share my ministry with the senior citizens in our church, who have been faithfully praying for our ministry. Pray that God will use me to be a blessing to them just like they have blessed me with their support.

Eugene Peterson pointed out a common problem that Christians would easily stumble upon – which is to portrait a wrong image of God in our culture. Satan is very smart to penetrate our culture and alter the image of God through the manipulation of mass media (T.V. and movies etc.). Unconsciously we accept the ideology or value system that Mass Media delivers. As a result we develop a wrong concept about who God really is.

It is wicked to tell a person that God is an angry tyrant storming through the heavens, out to get every trespasser and throw him into the lake of fire. It is wicked to tell a person that God is a senile grandfather dozing in a celestial rocking chair with only the shortest of attention spans for what is going on in the world. It is wicked to tell a person that God is a compulsively efficient and utterly humorless manager of a tightly run cosmos, obsessed with getting the highest productivity possible out of history and with absolutely no concern for persons apart from their usefulness.

If we believe that God is an angry tyrant, we are going to defensively avoid him if we can. If we believe that God is a senile grandfather, we are going to live carelessly and trivially with no sense of transcendent purpose. If we believe that God is an efficiency expert, we are going to live angry at being reduced to a function and never appreciated as a person.

It is wicked to tell a person a lie about God because, if we come to believe the wrong things about God, we will think the wrong things about ourselves, and we will live meanly or badly. Telling a person a lie about God distorts reality, perverts lire and damages all the processes of living. While we were in conference we were infiltrated by spies pretending to be Christians, who slipped in to find out just how free true Christians are. Their ulterior motive was to reduce us to their brand of servitude (Galatians 2:4, The Message).

That’s why I openly speak against Santa Clause as a celebrative figure of Christmas. Even though genuine Christians know that Santa Clause is only a man-make myth, unfortunately, people accept it as a portrait of God. God is like a Santa Clause who will reward children with gifts for their good behavior. Is it a true image of God? Yes, God is loving and kind like Santa Clause. He is a fair judge who will reward people for doing good. But God is more than that…and Christmas is not about this mythical figure. Christians need to know and tell who God really is. Amen.

Love you because God first loves us,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Devotional 090810

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. The news of the senseless murder of 10 American medical missionaries kept surface in my mind as I drove to work. One of the missionaries has spent 30 years in Afghanistan serving the people in remote mountain region. They were motivated by the love of God, and were called to demonstrate the love of God in that country. Indeed, they pay the ultimate price of love – pour out their own lives for the people in Afghanistan. They followed the footstep of their Master with no regret. Do the people of Afghanistan deserve this kind of love? They don’t. Do we deserve this kind of love in Christ? We don’t. We thank God for these brothers and sisters who lived out a genuine Christian life, which is always costly and filled with compassion. This is the kind of core value that God wants to grow within us.

I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finished line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. . No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself (Corinthians 9:26-27). The marathon is one of the most strenuous athletic events in sport. The Boston Marathon attracts the best runners in the world. The winner is automatically placed among the great athletes of our time. In the spring of 1980, Rosie Ruiz was the first woman to cross the finish line. She had the laurel wreath placed on her head in a blaze of lights and cheering.

She was completely unknown in the world of running. An incredible feat! Her first race a victory in the prestigious Boston Marathon! Then someone noticed her legs—loose flesh, cellulite. Questions were asked. No one had seen her along the 26.2 mile course. The truth came out: she had jumped into the race during the last mile.

There was immediate and widespread interest in Rosie. Why would she do that when it was certain that she would be found out? Athletic performance cannot be faked. But she never admitted her fraud. She repeatedly said that she would run another marathon to validate her ability. Somehow she never did. People interviewed her, searching for a clue to her personality. One interviewer concluded lat she really believed that she had run the complete Boston Marathon and won. She was analyzed as a sociopath. She lied convincingly and naturally with no sense of conscience, no sense of reality in terms of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable behavior. She appeared bright, normal and intelligent. But there was no moral sense to give coherence to her social actions.

In reading about Rosie I thought of all the people I know who want to get in on the finish but who cleverly arrange not to run the ace. They appear in church on Sunday wreathed in smiles, entering into the celebration, but there is no personal life that leads up to it or out from it. Occasionally they engage in spectacular acts of love and compassion in public. We are impressed, but surprised, for they were never known to do that before. Yet, you never know. Better give them the benefit of the doubt. Then it turns out to be a stunt: no personal involvement either precedes or follows the act. They are plausible and convincing. But in the end they do not run the race, believing through the tough times, praying through the lonely, angry, hurt hours. They have no sense for what is real in religion. The proper label for such a person is religiopath.

Jesus cautioned his followers to calculate the cost when they followed him after he had fed 5 thousands. We don’t just want the blessing of God without paying the price of obedience. You may fool all the people in your church with your religiosity, but you can never fool the Head of your church. You may enjoy the adoration of man, but you may not be able to stand the judgment of God. God knows the heart of all men. Let’s hold each other accountable to lead a godly and genuine Christian life, which is costly, compassionate and consistent.

Love with the risk of rejection,

Friday, August 6, 2010

Devotional 060810

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I am glad to be able to resume my writing mode for my homework. It is hard to focus your mind on a subject matter, when you are preoccupied by many different chores at home and at work, while your body was also adjusting to another time zone. By God’s grace, my mind is getting back to normal operation. Peterson’s devotional thought on the word “pastor” caught my attention. But it does not necessarily apply to clergy only. The spirit of his sharing could be applied to evaluate all kinds of role and identity in our culture today.

A healthy noun doesn’t need adjectives. Adjectives clutter a noun hat is robust. But if the noun is culture-damaged or culture-diseased, adjectives are necessary.

‘Pastor” used to be that kind of noun—energetic and virile. I e always loved the sound of the word. From an early age, the word called to mind a person who was passionate for God and compassionate with people. And even though the pastors I knew did not embody those characteristics, the word itself held its own against its exemplars. Today still, when people ask me what I want to be called, I always say, “Pastor.”

But when I observe the way the vocation of pastor is lived out in America and listen to the tone and context in which the word pastor is spoken, I realize that what I hear in the word and what others hear is very different. In general usage, the noun is weak, defined by parody and diluted by opportunism. The need for strengthening adjectives is critical.
I find I have to exercise this adjectival rehabilitation constantly, redefining by refusing the definitions of pastor that the culture hands me, and reformulating my life with the insights and images of Scripture. The culture treats me so amiably! It encourages me to maintain my orthodox creed; it commends me for my evangelical practice; it praises me for my singular devotion. All it asks is that I accept its definition of my work as an encourager of the cultures good will, as the priest who will sprinkle holy water on the culture’s good intentions. Many of these people are my friends. None, that I am aware of, is consciously malign.

But if I, even for a moment, accept my culture’s definition of me, I am rendered harmless. I can denounce evil and stupidity all I wish and will 1 be tolerated in my denunciations as a court jester is tolerated. I can organize their splendid goodwill and they will let me do it, since it is only for weekends. The essence of being a pastor begs for redefinition.

You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the Christians there, and you’ll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion (I Timothy 4:6-7a, The Message). I believe the noun “Christian” needs to be redefined too. Muslims perceive Christians as the kind of Americans that Hollywood movie portrait – immoral or amoral, violent and abusive, no respect for parents, seniors and god, sexually wild…They have no respect of Christians because to the devoted Muslims, Christians betray the teaching of Jesus or what he represents. The noun “Christian,” to some people, could imply religious hypocrite. Have mercy on us, O Lord. We need to take our faith and Christ’s teaching seriously, otherwise, we bring shame to name of “Christ.” God knows we are weak and imperfect. But it does not mean we surrender to our flesh and let Satan take over. Let’s hold each other accountable to stand firm. Finally, be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes (Eph 6:10-11).

Have a blessed weekend to rest in the Lord!

Love you in Christ,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Devotional 050810

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Sunshine is blocked by a heavy layer of fog, but nothing can block us from the love of the Son who is always available for us. We simply call upon the name of Christ; our sweet Holy Spirit will remind us that He abides in us at all time. This is the new life we have received from our Heavenly Father. This is the good news that we are experiencing each day.

Someone says, “Listen, God doesn’t have time for your little problems. He is busy in the Middle East right now. He has bigger fish to fry. If you want something for yourself, you better get it the best way you can: buy this product and you will be important; wear these clothes and everyone will realize how distinguished you are; read this book and the knowledge will set you a cut above the crowd. Take care of yourself “

That sounds good; we begin to respond and then we hear Paul’s indignant, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ.” Instinctively, immediately, we know that he is right. The only good news that will make a difference is that the living God personally addresses and mercifully forgives us. He sets things right at the center. That is what we need. What we want. We determine that we will not abandon the free life of the gospel and live in the fantasy dreams that others paint for us and then sell to us for a fee. We will live forgiven and in faith, not as a bloodsucker on others, but creatively for others. We will not mope or cringe or whine. We will praise and venture and make. Let the people who tell us those lies about God be cursed!

The personal dimension of the gospel is good news about ourselves. The reality of what is within us is every bit as important as the news from the political, industrial and scientific centers of the world. Even if world peace were an accomplished fact and the domestic economy stabilized to everyone’s satisfaction, we still must deal with ourselves.

No matter how nice a house we live in, no matter how well educated we become, no matter how secure we feel in job or family, no matter how well we manage to provide an appearance of competence and happiness, if we are filled with anxieties and guilt and hopelessness, we cannot make it. If we cannot escape the conviction that we are no good or have no meaning, that is bad news. We need a sense of integrity and purpose. We need to count, to mean something, to be important to somebody, to make a difference.

Paul said, “It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine, but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that” (Galatians 2:20b).

This is the kind of attitude we should enjoy our new life in Christ. It is a constant spiritual battle and temptation to save ourselves or proof ourselves to be capable like god. The more we attempt to do so, the more miserable our lives become. Stop trying to play god. Start surrendering to God and live for His Son.

Love you because His love abides in us,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Devotional 040818

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It has been a busy morning after prayer meeting – many emails and business decision to make before I can switch to my meditative mode. It does require a deliberate act to choose spending time in meditation or listening to God. We tend to react or to be driven by urgency around us, even when we have the liberty to choose how to use our break time. You can either use it to gossip or worship. I like the way Petersons explored the theme of freedom in his devotional. It could be over your head if you don’t pause and meditate. But if you follow him closely, you will enjoy the insights he shared.

It takes a certain bold courage to receive freedom. The free life is demanding life. Living in freedom is demanding and sometimes painful. If security is our highest priority, we will not want to live free. Erich Fromm’s book “Escape from Freedom” traces the elaborate attempts by which people avoid the freedom that is given to them, preferring to exist in the secure slaveries provided by totalitarian governments, or totalitarian habits, or totalitarian emotions, or totalitarian addictions.

In every generation great crowds of people mindlessly shuffle along with the herd and do nothing beyond providing statistics for sociological surveys. But also in every generation a few persons live intelligently and courageously in freedom. For these persons, the letter to the Galatians has often been the catalyst to the free life. At several critical times in history this letter, listened to by small groups of Christians, has shifted the direction of the age just enough to make the difference between a surge of new life and a drifting into decline.

When people have felt victimized by fear and oppression, it has been a means of setting them free. When many have been paralyzed by anxiety and apprehension, it has stimulated them to an energetic hope. When there has been widespread confusion and bickering and uncertainty about what life was, it has clarified and convinced people of exactly what it means to live openly and well, convinced them to the point of participation in the rescue by which God sets us free to live.

Paul’s greeting anticipates what we can expect: “grace . . . and peace.” Grace! Life is a gift. Peace! Life is whole. The two words declare that we are, fundamentally and finally, free to live. Life is what we are given, not what we salvage out of the ruins of home and culture. Life is an entirety into which we grow, not a fragment that we snatch on the run.

So I greet you with the great words, grace and peace! We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us from this evil world we’re in by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins. God’s plan is that we all experience that rescue (Galatians 1:3-4 The Message)

It is very demanding to exercise your fingers if you want to have freedom on playing piano, guitar or any music instruments. It is even more demanding if you want to have freedom in Christ. It is a spiritual battle that we are engaging daily. Satan will do whatever to enslave us in our animal instincts or sinful nature. In Christ we are no longer bond by sins. We are free. But our nature is still under the curse and bondage of sinful tendency. We need to constantly discipline or teach our soul to follow God’s way instead of our natural way. Have mercy on us, O Lord! Our nature tells us to take an easy way – live in the bondage of Satan: “Why bother to fight back?” Yet, Holy Spirit encourages us to walk in the light of God – enjoy a new free life in Christ. Choose freedom today!

Love you by this freedom in Christ,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Devotional 030810

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning. It is a blessing to have sunshine in Burlingame where I worked. I could not believe that I had to turn on my heater as I drove to work – a cold summer of San Francisco as usual. Gradually I recovered from jetlag and was able to resume my study at night. Praise the Lord! Please pray that I am able to focus on my home work after dinner. I attempted to finish all my course work within this year. Thus, I have to face the consequence of this decision (out of my free will) in the next couples of months, which is hard work after hard work… Trust that my Lord will give me sufficient grace to handle this challenge.

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you (Galatians 5:1). The world had seen succession of political and social revolutions that had featured the word freedom. Especially in the Western world, but hardly confined there, aspirations to freedom were very strong. But when I looked at the people I was living with in church – fairly affluent, well educated, and somewhat knowledgeable about the Christian faith – I realized how unfree they were. They were buying expensive security systems to protect their possessions from burglary. They overcome with anxieties in the face of economic depressions. They were pessimistic about the prospects for justice and peace in a world bristling with sophisticated weapons systems and nuclear devices. They were living huddle worried, defensive lives. I wanted to shout in objection: Don’t live that way! You are Christians! Our lives can be a growth into freedom instead of a withdrawal into anxious wariness.

Instead of shouting I returned to my regular round of work – preaching and teaching, visiting and counseling, praying and writing, encouraging and directing—but I was determined to seek ways in which I could awaken a hunger and thirst for the free life among people who had lost an appetite for it, and then, having awakened the appetite, to find the food and drink that would satisfy it. The more I did this, the more I became convinced that the experience of freedom in the life of faith is at the very heart of what it means to be human.

Freedom is not an abstraction, and it is not a thing. It is a gift and a skill. It is a gift that another provides; it is a skill that must be exercised by each person within the learned limits of reality. If we would understand freedom, we must be taught; if we would acquire freedom, we must be trained.

I found my best help in doing this in Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Among the writers of Scripture, Paul is the specialist in matters of freedom: “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness” (Galatians 5:16-17 The Message)

The more I exercise the freedom I have in Christ, the more strength I acquire to deal with all kinds of oppositions or hardship in life. Depression or frustrations induced by relational issue can be overcome by exercising our freedom in Christ. If we build our security and joy solely on a relationship or a person, we are actually surrendering our freedom to the jurisdiction of this relationship or person. That’s why God forbids His people to worship any idols in the 10 Commandments. If we do, we will be disappointed and hurt badly through it. Don’t idolize your spouse or your boss – don’t give them the power to control your security and joy. They are not God. They cannot give you the ultimate peace and joy that you desire. Give yourself to God and worship Him alone. Amen!

Love you as fellow worshipper of Christ,


Monday, August 2, 2010

Devotional 020810

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I came back from China on Thursday but was fully occupied with answering emails and catching up with work. I don’t know why it took me longer to recover from my jetlag this time – it could be two Asian trips within two weeks that confused my body. But thanks for your prayer. I am feeling better today.

I was preaching in BACBC yesterday on Holistic Spirituality. Spirituality is not just a religious activity of our lives. It is a non-negotiable and personal part of life, which directs and empowers all the other elements of our lives. As we face hardship or pain in life, our spirituality puts us in direct link with our Creator God for help. And the Holy Spirit will mentor us through His very own presence. I like two Peterson’s devotional sharing about enemy and sin to be helpful reminders for myself:

If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and GOD will look after you (Proverbs 25:21-22). The last word on the enemies is with Jesus, who captured the Psalms: “Love your enemies and pray for them that persecute you.” But loving enemies presupposes that we know that they are there whether many or few, and have begun to identify them. Enemies, especially for those who live by faith, are a fact of life. If we don’t know we have them or who they are, we live in a dangerous naiveté, unguarded from the “virus that stalks in darkness” and “the destruction that wastes at noonday,” foolish when we pray “deliver us from evil.”

Our hate is used by God to bring the enemies of life and salvation to notice, and then involve us in active compassion for the victims. Once involved we find that while hate provides the necessary spark for ignition, it is the wrong fuel for the engines of judgment; only / love is adequate to sustain these passions.

But we must not imagine that loving and praying for our enemies in love is a strategy that will turn them into good friends. Love is the last thing that our enemies want from us and often acts as a goad to redoubled fury. Love requires vulnerability, forgiveness, and response; the enemies want power and control and dominion. The enemies that Jesus loved and prayed for killed him.

* * * * *

Sin is not what is wrong with our minds; it is the catastrophic disorder in which we find ourselves at odds with God. This is the human condition. The facts of this disorder are all around and within us, but we would prefer to forget them. To remember them is also to remember God, and to remember God is to have to live strenuously, vigorously, and in love. We have moments when we desire to dc this, but the moments don’t last long. We would rather play golf V would rather take another battery of tests at the hospital. We would rather take another course at the university. We keep looking for ways to improve our lives without dealing with God. But we can do it.

When we pray, we immerse ourselves in the living presence o God. When we pray the Psalms we pray through all the parts of our lives and our history and cover the ground of our intricate implication in sin. We acquire a colorful lexicon of words by which we recognize our detailed involvement in the race’s catastrophic separation from God: rebel, wanderer, lawless, evil-doer, guilty, liar, fool, corrupt, wicked. The seven “penitential psalms” (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) are the most famous for bringing us to this awareness but hardly a psalm goes by that does not bring another detail of our sin out of the shadows of our practiced forgetfulness.

I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed has been floating forty days and nights. On the flood of my tears, my mattress is soaked, soggy with tears (Psalm 6:6).

I hope they are helpful to you as you encounter life with God each day.

Love you in Christ,