Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Devotional 301110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for your prayer. I slowly recover from my jetlag. As I was waking up this morning, few words kept flying over my head. I therefore tried to write them down on my iphone. But somehow I could not save them in my memo app. As soon as I pressed “done” it automatically deleted what I wrote down. I repeated several times with same effect (I never had this problem before). Finally I had them written down in an email and sent it back to myself. They were not some new insights, but something came up as the phrase “八十后” (born in the 80’s) surfaced. The reason I had this thought was because I had watched a Chinese you-tube presentation called”八十后” before I went to bed last night. I guessed those words were my hope for this young career generation:
無所求No wants
無遺憾No regrets
無徹退No retreats
無愧羞No ashamed
無保留No reserved

This generation of young careers is well educated and affluent. They are the future leaders of our global village. They can make a much bigger impact in this “flat world” than their previous generations. The challenge is whether they have the passions for God or not. If they are willing to abandon themselves to the hands of Christ, they will truly shine bright like a light house not only at the coast but on top of the hill.

I saw my job as John the Baptist, preparing the way for this up coming generation. We build platforms and gospel posts so that this coming generation could use them for the advance of God’s Kingdom in the last frontier of global missions. The missions for us, Baby Boomers, is to equip these future leaders and give them the trust to finish the missions that we were called to start. It is a grand plan but not an easy task. We need to sincerely pray for revival in this generation, so that many will become great Christian leaders and mission workers in the new world. Amen.

With love in Him,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Devotional 291110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Hope you “recover” from a long weekend of eating and having fun. Some claimed to have gained several pounds over this weekend – it usually takes several months of diet plan and exercise to recover your waist size and weight. There is always a price to pay for having so much fun with food. We need to be reminded once again that man shallnot live by bread alone but by every word of God. It is time to turn our eyes to spiritual food which is always edifying.

Just having print on page and knowing how to distinguish nouns from verbs is not enough. Reading the Bible can get you into a lot of trouble if you do not do it rightly. You might own your own Bible but you don’t own the Word of God to do with what you want—God is sovereign. Your Morocco leather Bible might be thing that you paid fifty dollars for, but the Word of God is personal, living and active—God is love. If in our Bible reading we do not submit to the sovereignty and respond to the love, we become arrogant in our knowing and impersonal in our behavior.

The wisdom, counsel, and skills that have developed around this concern through the centuries coalesce under the Latin heading, Lectio Divina, often translated as “spiritual reading,” by which we are taught to read the Bible with humility and intimacy.

The word “spiritual” in the phrase doesn’t refer to reading about spiritual things, but to the way in which a book is read. Primarily it has to do with the way we read Holy Scripture, listening to the Spirit, alert to intimations of God, but the skill can be extended to nearly anything written, including letters, poems, novels, even cookbooks.

The concern of Lectio Divina is quite simple, really—at least simple to grasp. It means reading personally, not impersonally, reading for a message that affects who we are and are becoming, the way we live our lives, and not merely for information that we can use to raise our standard of living.

[Jesus said,] “. . . if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” (Matthew 7:16-17). Unfortunately, a lot of Christians read the word but did not apply to their lives. As a result, their lives are like building sand castles at the beach (not even building a house on the sand beach), which could not stand a gentle wave of life. I was approached by one lady in church who sought counsel for her husband. She claimed he was a devoted Christian and aware of all the teachings in the bible but could not apply them in life. What could she do for her husband? It was a very personal question for this brother in Christ. He knew but he did not apply the truth in his life. As a result, he struggled in his life by his own strength with no satisfaction at all (other than making money). Allow the Word of God take hold of our lives is a life long experience. But once we make it a habit to obey God’s word in whatever “baby step” at a time, we will grow in Him each day. Amen!

With Love in Christ,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Devotional 241110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is good to be home again. Thanks for your prayer for my ministry in Philippines. The Word of God was preached and some responded positively to His prompting. Many felt that the sermons directed to the issues they encountered in church. This church is the most missional one among all Chinese churches. The Mission budget is 75% of their general fund. They supported missionaries all over the world. 38 missionaries came back to attend the 45th Mission Conference of their mother church. God is doing great things through this congregation both locally and globally. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to see how He uses this church for His glory. I was humbled by how the Holy Spirit used me to challenge this congregation to grow even more. My experience ties in well with what Eugene Peterson shared about in his devotion.

We are mistaken when we look at the Bible as a spiritual toolbox. We can’t take things out of the Bible and make them work for us. The whole process of the spiritual life is to come before the God who is alive, who becomes present to us in his Word, and who by means of that Word creates and redeems. We don’t use Scripture; God uses Scripture to work his will in us.

Jesus said, “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you II find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want” (John 5:39-40).

It is a great blessing to have God’s Word written so that we can read it at any time, but that the Word is written also involves us in difficulties not attended to often enough. These difficulties are at the very center of the spiritual life. The difficulties radiate out of a position of ownership—supposing that we own the Word, rather than letting the Word possess us. The simple act of buying a Bible has subtle side effects we need to counter. It is easy to suppose that since we bought it, we own it, and therefore can use it the way we wish.

This danger was not as acute when most Christians were illiterate, for they never read Scripture; they heard it. The words of the Bible were first spoken and listened to. Most of it was in oral form before it was written down. Even the Epistles, which originated as writings, were read aloud and listened to in the churches to which they were written.

Hearing a word is different from reading a word. When we hear, we are poised for response; something is happening. A listener doesn’t take a word or a phrase, then walk off and analyze it—that would be to miss the message. A speaking person presents a whole message to us, and we respond as whole persons. But the moment the message is written down, we can stop listening if we are so minded.

Have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken! (Mark 12:26b-27)

I agreed with Peterson that our attitude toward Bible tends to be like reading a regular book that we possess. So we take it out to enjoy it if our mood is right. But if it does not give us what we want, we simply put it away back to our bookshelf and ignore it. We dictate and choose what we want from the Bible. Not unless we submit ourselves to the Bible just as we submit under God, we will not give Holy Spirit the freedom to speak to us through the Bible in whatever way He wants. The written word of God invites different analysis and interpretation, which creates division in church. The word of God is meant to call for our obedience to His Word instead of critical analysis of it. Have mercy on us O Lord. Help us to discern our attitude as we submit ourselves to your Word.

With Love through His Word,

Monday, November 8, 2010

Devotional 081110

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for rains and beautiful sunshine. The sky is so clear after a day of rain. Thank God for a great celebration event last night. Close to five hundred people came to share our joy in seeing His guidance for Gospel Operation International. May God continue to do His great work through this mission agency! God is shaping His people through His work throughout the globe. Sometimes He humbled us by His divine intervention. Sometimes He molded us by using difficult circumstances or afflictions. Whatever means God may use the goal remains the same – make us godly and Christ like.

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:3-5). It is essential to distinguish between hoping and wishing. They are not the same thing.

Wishing is something all of us do. It projects what we want or think we need into the future. Just because we wish for something good or holy we think it qualifies as hope, it does not. Wishing extends our egos into the future; hope desires what God is going to do—and we don’t yet know what that is.

Wishing grows out of our egos; hope grows out of our faith. Hope is oriented toward what God is doing; wishing is oriented toward what we are doing. Wishing has to do with what I want in things or people or God; hope has to do with what God wants in me and the world of things and people beyond me.

Wishing is our will projected into the future, and hope is God’s will coming out of the future. Picture it in your mind: wishing is a line that comes out of me, with an arrow pointing into the future. Hoping is a line that comes out of God from the future, with an arrow pointing toward me.

Hope means being surprised, because we don’t know what is best for us or how our lives are going to be completed. To cultivate hope is to suppress wishing—to refuse to fantasize about what we want, but live in anticipation of what God is going to do next.

I appreciated the insight that Eugene Peterson shared with us. A lot of time, we are confused with these two words – hoping and wishing. We thought they are interchangeable, but his explanation helps clarify the two. We tend to hope for what we wish. When we do not get what we wish for we give up hope. This distinction is very helpful. The author of Hebrews said, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). If hope desires what God is going to do in our lives, we remains hopeful in the One who knows what is better for our lives, and are in full control of what will come before us. We struggle with the calling of God for our lives when we focus on what we wish than what we hope in Him.

Please remember our international staff retreat in the coming three days. Afterward, I will be flying to Philippines to speak in mission conference and missionary retreat. Pray that God will make me a channel of His blessings to the brothers and sisters in Philippines.

With Love in Him,