Tuesday, December 13, 2011

實踐靜觀默想的禱告Contemplative prayer

禱告是與神建立關係的一個途徑或過程。故此禱告是人與神進入一種亙動的相愛和相交關係。既然是一種相交的關係、這過程必然會運用到人身體的五觀來體會領受。正如使徒約翰所描述他與主的經歷﹕「論到從起初原有的生命之道、就是我們所聽見所看見、親眼看過、親手摸過的」(約壹 1:1) .當然、約翰在這裡是要見證那位跟他一齊生活過三年多的主耶穌、就是那起初原有的生命之道。但對於那些因他的見證而日後跟隨主的門徒來說、他也強調這生命之道是可以與人相交、而非一種神學思想而已。若現代人要體會這種與神相交的關係、我們必須對禱告的觀念(paradigm)和實踐(practice)有所更新、否則我們把禱告只看成單向把我們的需要感謝交託稟告神、而忽略接收回應神同在的美意。


實踐靜觀默想的禱告生活習慣、我們可以從以下的三種操練來入手﹕

放慢 → 安息 → 沉澱 → 思想 → 領悟 → 改變
從放慢我們日常生活的節奏和多元活動、才能達到每天讓神在我們生命中的更新改變。

靜止 → 放手 → 棄權 → 釋放 → 恩典 → 自省
在急劇改變的環境中停頓下來、方才讓我們有空間去省察如何活在和活出神的恩典來。

享受 → 放下 → 交託 → 開放 → 仰望 → 聆聽
神願意我們透過禱告去享受神的同在、好叫我們的心靈能敏銳和聆聽到神微小的聲音。

Friday, December 2, 2011

事工分享及代禱信

主內兄姊、平安!
今年,「神州華傳」展開了歷史性的新一頁。神的大能在我們中間大大展開、帶領我們進入四個新方向﹕


一)我們差派了第一對宣教士進入非洲工場。我們也正積極在烏干達申請正式成為一個非牟利的基督教機構,好藉此申請更多宣教士進入這國家服務。這奠定了我們在非洲大陸工場的新開始。

二)我們正計劃發展三個地方的工場,成為「神州華傳」的「宣教拓展基地」。這些基地主要用來培育實習宣教士和建立宣教團隊、好進入該地區的不同工場工作。我們希望在這三個基地拓展更多不同的事工平臺,好讓將來有更多的神學生或專業人士能使用這些平臺去提供跨文化的服務。這工作需要許多禱告和經濟投資才可以達成目標。若你有負擔更多了解如何參予這些平臺的建設工作、歡迎隨時透過「神州華傳」的網站 www.gointl.org 或 Facebook (GoGospelGo)與我聯絡。


三)我們國際董事會上月正式決定把總部遷移到香港、好叫我們能更有效地配合神在亞洲各地所發展的工作。事實上,「神州華傳」大部份的事工都是在亞洲和中東一帶地區。我們上下一心認定這是神帶領「神州華傳」所應走的方向。因著這歷史性的決定,我和彩環都順服在神的呼召下於明年中旬搬回香港事奉。搬遷的確實日期還未明朗,因為要拔根離開這住了三十年的家實在不容易,所要處理的事情極多。懇請你們在禱告中多多記念我們。然而,我們深信這是神讓我們學習信心跟隨衪、體驗簡樸生活的好機會。我們會留下兒女在美國,彩環會辭掉她在政府的工作並計劃在這房地產市道極差的時間出售我們在帝利市的房子,好無後顧之憂地在亞洲服侍上帝。這一切都是我們體會豐盛生命的美好學習。我們會繼續讓你知道我們日後的新進展。請特別留意我們會有許多書籍和家具大贈送啊!

四)最後一個極興奮的新發展,就是國際董事會選出了候任的新總主任去接替將在2012年底退休的林安國牧師。林牧師日後仍會義務協助「神州華傳」作培訓宣教士的工作。新國際總主任─余俊銓牧師,是我們目前澳洲辨事處的主任。他是香港三元福音倍進佈道的前總幹事,具備豐富的訓練和帶領國際機構的經驗。也編寫了不少有關傳福音的書藉。我們歡迎董事會的決定,並委身全力支持新主任的帶領,一同搬到香港開展事工。

我們和「神州華傳」極需要你的代禱,好讓我們能順利過渡這搬遷計劃。我們深深感謝你們多年來的忠心支持和代禱。我們的兒女和女婿都經歷神所賜的大復興。兒子國謙計劃明年底大學畢業。女兒和女婿都在神的話語和事奉上有積極的參予,我們祈求神使用他們更愛主和愛人。


願主祝福你的忠心,也在此預祝你和你一家聖誕及新年快樂!


你的天國同工,
馮永樑
敬上

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

翻天覆地的神國福音

神的國是不斷在成長、擴張和成形的過程之中


神的國不是強調進入天堂、乃是在乎出自天堂

神的國不是在乎地域和人權、乃在乎神的王權和大能

神的國是在於關係網絡的重建 – 人的身份、人與神、人與人、人與世界、人與靈界

故此、神國的福音不是二元分割、也不是單強調靈界的救贖、而是靈界和世界的更新



施洗約翰所描寫的天國 - 帶來政治和經濟形勢的大改革

正如先知以賽亞書上所記的話、說、『在曠野有人聲喊著說、預備主的道、修直他的路。 一切山窪都要填滿、大小山岡都要削平、彎彎曲曲的地方要改為正直、高高低低的道路要改為平坦。凡有血氣的、都要見 神的救恩。』 (路 3:4-6)



馬利亞所祈待的天國福音 - 救贖主帶來社會文化的更新

馬利亞說、我心尊主為大、我靈以神我的救主為樂。因為他顧念他使女的卑微.從今以後、萬代要稱我有福。 那有權能的為我成就了大事.他的名為聖。他憐憫敬畏他的人、直到世世代代。他用膀臂施展大能.那狂傲的人、正心裡妄想、就被他趕散了。他叫有權柄的失位、叫卑賤的升高.叫飢餓的得飽美食、叫富足的空手回去。(路 1:46-53)



撒該所經歷的救贖也直接影响了他的政治改革和經濟措施

有一個人名叫撒該、作稅吏長、是個財主。他要看看耶穌是怎樣的人.只因人多、他的身量又矮、所以不得看見。 就跑到前頭、爬上桑樹、要看耶穌、因為耶穌必從那裡經過。耶穌到了那裡、抬頭一看、對他說、撒該、快下來、今天我必住在你家裡。他就急忙下來、歡歡喜喜的接待耶穌。眾人看見、都私下議論說、他竟到罪人家裡去住宿。撒該站著、對主說、主阿、我把所有的一半給窮人.我若訛詐了誰、就還他四倍。耶穌說、今天救恩到了這家、因為他也是亞伯拉罕的子孫。 (路 19:2-9)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

歇與竭

嚴謹帶來愧疚
竭力追求完全是人生應有的態度
這樣看來、我親愛的弟兄、你們既是常順服的、不但我在你們那裡、就是我如今不在你們那裡、更是順服的、就當恐懼戰兢、作成你們得救的工夫. (腓 2:11)

這不是說、我已經得著了、已經完全了.我乃是竭力追求、或者可以得著基督耶穌所以得著我的。(所以得著我的或作所要我得的). (腓 3:12)

自由帶來混亂
安歇釋放的生命也是美好的心態
使我認識基督、曉得他復活的大能、並且曉得和他一同受苦、效法他的死.(腓 3:10)

論到第七日、有一處說、『到第七日 神就歇了他一切的工。』5又有一處說、『他們斷不可進入我的安息。』 (來 4:4-5)

歇與竭必須同行
治死老我安息主懷才能復生

Monday, November 14, 2011

與神相交


 
我應該懼怕失信不忠過於我懼怕懲罰和被羞辱

我應該渴慕追求上帝的榮耀過於祂所賜的快樂

禱告是住在神的愛中

禱告是一種渴求 - 渴求上帝所期盼我們渴慕所得的

例如: 渴慕十字架,裡外被羞辱,老我被治死,上帝在我破碎生命的廢墟中建立祂的寶座

要在日常的瑣碎小事上實踐忠心,

比起在非常偉大的事上顯現美德是更重要

追求關愛別人不望回報,

但卻喜歡別人欣賞此舉

讓人知道我為己無所求,為主無保留

愛事用人 愛人用事


捨己越增多、平安滾滾來。

要在小事上好公義和真誠。

當我們不能忍耐別人的不完全、就肯定了我們自己是更不完全。

作一個忠心受教的人、就是要不斷否定你的自信、好叫你在弱勢中仍得益處。

要効法小孩的樣式、虛心接受管教。就是在你的困弱中,謙卑更能成為你的力量。

上帝要親自摧毀我們的自戀、

更要根治我們所深藏的自我。

神可輕易地揭露我們的隱私、

並攔阻撒旦在人心中的破壞。

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Love note to my beloved brothers and sisters

Dear brothers and sisters,
It has been a long time since I last wrote to you. I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to witness His work throughout the globe. My previous trip to China was indeed a meaningful and fruitful one. We were able to bring some M Christians to visit their own kinsmen in the remote part of China. This visit marked a new beginning of our work in that region for the last 5 years. We had been praying for this moment ever since we began our work there. To those of us, who were called to this mission project, this trip was truly a great accomplishment and an answered prayer. We felt like a bridge builder between the M church and the M people. We labored for many years to cultivate the soil, and a new seed was finally planted. We pray that this plant will grow and bear much fruits in the future. We covet your prayers for this exciting project down the road.

My journal writing was not consistent in the past few months. It was partly due to jetlag and traveling schedule. And the other reason was due to my evaluation of my journal writing in the past few years. Ever since I started to post my journal on the blog, I felt like my journal was more for edifying others than an intimate communication between me and Abba Father. Spiritual journal was supposed to be my transparent interaction with God. If I expect to write for others to read, I will tend to be “superficial” and more careful in sharing my naked thought and feeling. I did not feel like I was reading and meditating for this deep encountering, but for the growth of my beloved brothers and sisters like you, for which I have no regret at all. However, I felt like it is time for me to return to my previous journaling habit of writing for my own reading only. In this way, I will feel more at ease to dig deep into writing my prayer and reflection with God.

I hope I have demonstrated to you in the last few years of what spiritual journaling is all about, and motivated you to do the same. From now on, I will occasionally share my devotional thought with you, and update you about my ministry through my blog. But I will not send you my devotional reading on a daily basis. I pray that you will continue your walk in the Lord and draw close to Him each day.

I will have two more international trips in coming months. Afterward, it will be mainly domestic travel in North America. May God bless you with His own presence daily!

Love you in Him,
Lawrence

Friday, July 15, 2011

Devotional thought 150711

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good afternoon. I need your prayer support for a revival meeting that I will preach at Golden Gate Reform Church in San Francisco. The event will begin tonight, and I already experienced some spiritual attack that tried to distract my focus and preparation. I will be preaching tonight, tomorrow night and 2 services on Sunday. The theme that I will preach on is on how to renovate your life. My first sermon is on "how to renovate your heart," second is on "how to renovate your relationship," and the last one is on "how to renovate your church." Please pray that I will be faithful in delivering the messages that God placed in my heart.

I will be departing for China on this Sunday night. I am thrilled to be able to serve the English teachers in Jin Ping. We have been serving these teachers for several years. I am glad to bring people of different race to visit these teacher friends of ours through conversational English activity. They usually need a day or two to warm up before they can communicate with us freely. This year, we are happy to have several Mienh leaders to join us. We hope to also bring them to visit their kinsmen in the mountain region.

I will keep you posted if I have Internet accessibility. otherwise I will update you upon our return. We will return to Bay Area in the evening of 7/30. At the meantime, please cover us by your fervent prayers. Make sure to spend time interacting with God who is eager to bless you.

In His wonderful love,
Lawrence

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Devotional reading 070711

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It feels like yesterday since I last shared my devotional reading with you. But as a matter of fact, it has been many weeks…The traveling and ministry aboard were tiring but meaningful. I heard many testimonies about God’s faithfulness and calling in different people’s lives. It humbles us to see how lives changed through our interaction with one another and with God. I wished I had time to record all the sharing that told place in the last two months of my journey. I still have several overseas assignments before I return to my home based (North America) traveling schedule in October. Your prayer and support are greatly needed…

I did not have time to read The Other Side of Silence until this morning. On the road, I was reading a book on Spiritual Mentoring and lately one on Renovation of the Heart instead. It is good to return to this book and discover how different teachers of spirituality echo with each other on their views of spiritual growth or formation. I extracted part of Kelsey’s comments from chapter 12 for my own notes below:

There is a basic difference between those who see the universe as ultimately characterized by impersonal MIND and those who see it as principally LOVER…The idea of love between beings and God is based on the understanding that God is so deeply interested in the real physical world that He became incarnate in it, and that He is so deeply concerned about real human beings that He died for them. He wants us to become fellow coworkers with Him and so He makes His power available to us in the physical world. The individual who meets these realities in the inner self is constantly renewed, transformed and changed. There is suffering, but this is only part of the growing process and not the end of it. There seem to be no limits to the possible growth of the human psyche in its fellowship with God. One probability is that life in the hereafter is a continuation of the same growth process begun within the world of space and time.

At the same time there is another, almost equally important goal related to evil. While it is not popular these days to consider evil, particularly as a psyche, spiritual and metaphysical principle, not believing in it provides practically no insurance against its activity in our lives…Event the best of us need His help, not only against petty and self-seeking egotism, but in dealing with the Evil One or the very source of Evil.

The purpose of meditation must be understood in terms of God’s interest in this world and His desire to have us become free to relate to Him. He also offers to pay a ransom to help people become free from the destructive force that runs through all of reality. He offers this in the same way that the father offered his prodigal son acceptance and reconciliation in the story told by Jesus of Nazareth.

We find contact with God in the inner world, as well as finding contact with the power of Evil, and in both cases our way of learning about the contact and what it demands of us is through images…Mother Teresa of Avila described the prayer of quiet by saying that the will is lovingly fixed on God; the memory is occupied with His love too; the understanding is in darkness; the imagination romps and fools around wildly where it wishes. St. John of the Cross spoke plainly about the importance of disregarding images from within: For God begins to communicate Himself to our soul, no longer through senses, as He did aforetime, by means of reflections which joined and sundered its knowledge, but by pure spirit, into which consecutive reflections enter not, but He communicates Himself to it by an act of simple contemplation, to which neither the exterior nor the interior senses of the lower part of the soul can attain. From this time forward, therefore, imagination and fancy can find no support, in any mediation, and can gain no foothold by means thereof.” In spite of this thinking, St. John of the Cross continued to listen to his inner promptings all through his life, and his superb religious poetry contains some of the most sensual imagery.

What people experience as religious content depends largely on two factors: It is determined first by people’s psychological development, and second by their understanding of the structure of the world, or their world view, and the kind of experience it allows them to be open to. Our worldview is like a filter or lenses through which we see and interpret meaning of our circumstances. For example, why does God allow us to live through the kind of experiences we encounter today?

Lately, I have been praying for many of our cancer patients. We troubled by hearing these beloved ones of our going through this kind of illness. We always hoped to offer them some edifying words of comfort or explanation about their suffering. At the end, we ran into nothing but helplessness and silence. Our mind was blank and speechless. We stared into eternity with only one assurance: The God of eternity will not forsake us even though our senses do not conceive any signs and messages from above. At this stage of lives, our devotion and meditation seem to enter into another mode that is beyond human comprehension. This is what St. John of the Cross described as “the darkness of the soul.” Nevertheless, this darkness is not necessarily negative or bad. It is a waiting in uncertainty, which is part of His design for us to walk with an unfathomable God, and to understand His incomprehensible love for mankind.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God…. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Share this love with you in Christ,
Lawrence
PS. I will depart for Vancouver, Canada tomorrow.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Devotional reading 060611

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I will be leaving for Hong Kong and Thailand today. This is mainly a training trip. I will conduct workshop in a Youth Mission Conference in Hong Kong, and in our annual mission internship training in northern Thailand. This is the first youth conference of this nature in Hong Kong. Pray that the Lord will raise up an army of young people like He did in the student movement of early last century. Many missionaries of today are products of this revival movement among college students in last century. I pray that the same Lord of Mission will bring renewal to the lives of many high school and college students, who will dedicate their lives for global missions in wherever God may place them.

Our God is a very personal God. In the book of Isaiah, God reminds His children through the proclamation of Isaiah, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’" (30:21). This is the promise of the Lord. He will walk with us and remind us of our choices in life. God chooses to speak to us with little small voice if we pay attention to Him and seek His way. The world definitely wants to drown out the voice of God by various sounds and noises. It is our choice to focus on Him and His small voice.

A lot of time, we chose to listen to ourselves or what our body tell us to do. Our body craves for something that our appetite or hormone desires. Sometimes it is the commercial that tells us how we should choose. We forget to ask what the King of kings and Lord of lords wants. Our sweet Holy Spirit is the God who dwells within our souls who constant teach us and guide us in our paths of life. We are too busy to listen. No wonder why we feel like God is so quiet to a point of totally absence within us. God is faithful and kind. He is the heavenly father who will not forget His promises for His children.

We follow Him wherever we may be. We listen to Him in whatever situation we are in. Your God is with you in the marketplace. He uses you to make impact in your school and office. Only if we pay attention to what He has to say to us in gentle small voice, we will not be able to experience Him as a loving Father. It is God who puts you in wherever you are to serve Him. Ask yourself what God wants to speak and bless through you today. Your coworkers and neighbors will experience God by observing how you conduct your lives today. May God glorify Himself through your lives today!

Love you in Christ,
Lawrence

Friday, June 3, 2011

Devotional reading 030611

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is so comforting to know that our God is “waiting” to bestow mercy to those who “wait” upon Him. 耶和華必然等候、要施恩給你們.必然興起、好憐憫你們.因為耶和華是公平的神.凡等候他的都是有福的 (30:18)。 What captivated me was the word “wait.” The Almighty Creator of the Universe chooses to wait for His children to repent and wait on Him. Isn’t it amazing that God will limit Himself – limits His divine character as the prime mover or ultimately proactive designer/author of both history and universe, in order to bless those who obey His agenda and timing for humanity. Wow…this is the kind of God whom we worship and walk with each day. Praise His Holy Name…Amen.
When will we need to wait for Him? It was during the time of suffering. We don’t feel like waiting when we are having fun in life. Usually we exercise patience when we don’t feel good or when things did not meet our desires or expectation. We expect our lives to be smooth and prosperous. We expect the economy of our nation to be healthy and strong. But when the economy does not turn around and unemployment continues to dive down, it requires patience to wait upon the Lord for His mercy. Yes, we continue to conduct our lives as everyone else – go to work and do our chores. But deep down inside our souls, we are not restless like those who run around in fear and worry. We rest in Him!
God wants His children to learn reliance through suffering. That’s why Isaiah said, “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.” Suffering is our teacher of life. It is through suffering that we draw closer to God. No matter how much warning did God proclaim to this generation, people do not repent and follow His way! They may remorse of their rebellion when they fall into the pit of suffering. Have mercy on us O Lord. Help us to see you and the lesson that you want us to learn while we are waiting for your deliverance from our affliction in life. We need you Lord. We need you.
Paul said, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:19-21). Our waiting in suffering is a preparation for eternal glory. If this is the case, we don’t need to feel restless or helpless. We can rejoice in Him at all times.
Please remember me in your prayer as I will depart for Hong Kong and Thailand on Monday. I will be leading different workshops in these two places for the entire month of June. Pray that God will continue to strengthen your walk with Him for your growth and well being.
In His love with you,
Lawrence

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Devotional reading 020611

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Our Lord is gracious and kind. He cares for all those who seek for Him. When I look back to the brothers and sisters whom we visited in Africa, we can’t cease to give thanks for how the Lord protects and provides for all those who serve Him with obedient heart.

Pastor Melody, the woman missionary from Taiwan, who answered God’s call to Nairobi many years ago, served faithfully among the poorest of the poor. Up to this day, she is still passionate in serving the people in the slum area. She is really outstanding in that area, because she was the only Chinese woman walking through the dirt road to the only school that she founded in the slum.

Pastor Jeff, the missionary from Singapore who was crippled by polio, answered the call to serve God in a war torn Uganda twenty some years ago. Even though the civil war had been ended many years ago, you could still see helplessness on many people face and inner city roads filled with many holes. A common joke in Uganda says, “If you drive straight in Uganda, it means you are drunk.” What is the hope of this country? Our Lord Jesus is their only answer. God used obedient servants like Jeff to bless this country with hundreds of new churches, two seminaries and all kinds of charitable projects among the poor. God demonstrated His power through a cripple in accomplishing all these for His glory. Indeed, it is not by human plans or power for all these good works. It is the work of God through His obedient servants

Again, the proclamation of God in Isaiah 30 proves to be true. This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it" (v15). God is the one who accomplish the impossible. Salvation and strength come from Him. Our busyness is not the way to accomplish His work. Only when we repent from our self-reliance and truly obey Him, we can witness His good work shines through impossibility.

If we are ready to calm down and let God be god, then we realize the source of our strength is in Him alone. God continued to reassure His people in verse 18 of the same chapter, "The LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (v. 18)

Do you believe in this promise that God will bless those who wait for Him?

Love you in Christ,
Lawrence

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reflect upon my Africa trip

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good afternoon. I have returned from Africa and Toronto for over a week now. Praise God for not having jet lag at all. I was fully engaged in ministry immediately after my return. I had international board meeting and several preaching engagements that totally captured my attention. Thanks for many of you who have been praying for me. I sensed the providence of God throughout my trip and ministry back home. Please continue to support me in your prayer.
I have been meditating on Isaiah chapter 29 and 30 in the last couples of weeks. God reminded me to focus on the essential practices in life despite of all the religious activities I conducted.
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it" (30:15). Salvation could be deliverance from any difficulty or evil scheme but not just deliverance from eternal condemnation. As we encounter uncertain future or challeneges, God reminded us to repent from our relying on our own wisdom or value system to handle things, but to rest or focus on God as our ultimate savior. Unless we give up trying to save ourselves, we will not experience God as our true savior. The psalmist said, "rest and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10a).
Another parallel warning that God gave me during the trip was to trust and be quiet before the Lord. These two attitudes or practices are essential in our daily encountering with God.
As I looked back to the all the trips that I made and "accomplishments" that God gave me, I was humbled and amazed with what God had done in and through me. None could finish a doctoral program in 15 months with heavy workload and busy traveling schedule. During those days, one thing I did not stop doing and you could testify to that was my spiritual journaling. It was a time to reflect on God's words and to receive power from above. My experience echoes what our Lord Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). I found it to be so true!! Our God is so faithful and true. Remember to walk closely with him each day for your own good. I will share with you more about my Africa trip in days to come... (see my slide show on my blog).
In Christ,
Lawrence

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Graduation Celebration













Dear brothers and sisters,

Thanks for your loving support. I celebrated my graduation on 4/30. When I looked back, it was indeed an amazing journey to finish my doctoral program in 15 months. I could never imagined myself doing so in the beginning. I had planned to finish within 4 years, or the shortest two and a half. But by God's grace, I finished early. One of the possible factors that might contribute to this accomplishment was my journal writing. Since I have developed this jorunaling habit for over 20 years, this might help in putting my thoughts on writing as I wrote my papers and dissertation. Morover, journaling also helps in concentration. This is a discipline that enables me to articulate my thoughts and interaction with the Holy Spirit. So, let me encouage you to do the same.


I will depart for Africa tomorrow morning. Please remember us in your prayer. This is an exploration trip to cover 3 countries (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) in Eastern Africa. Since 4 of us are traveling without a guide, we count on the Holy Spirit to protect and provide us. Our field director waits for us in Uganda. We hope to establish a non-profit organization in that part of the world. Please pray for wisdom as I will contact some government official and legal professional in exploring this possibility. Once we become a registered organization in Uganda, it will become a platform for us to apply visa for future M workers into Africa.


I will not be able to write during this whole trip. I pray that God will continue to motivate you to draw close to Him each day for your own growth and nurishment.


Love you in Christ,

Lawrence

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Devotional reading 280411

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. By God's grace, I recovered from jetlag sooner than before. Again, thanks for your prayer. While I was driving to office this morning, I recalled a unified theme being preached by various speakers at London conference, which is "to be real from inside out." This theme became the central message from the Holy Spirit at the conference. These speakers had submitted their sermon outlines ahead of time, and without comparing notes with one another they gave the same emphasis. Yes, in order to seize "the opportunity of this time," we need to seek the lives of obedience under the Lordship of Christ. Dr. George Murray, our last speaker of the conference said, "Great Commission begins with lordship of Christ because Jesus siad, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me...therefore go and make disciples of all nations.'" Without obedience there will be no spiritual revival. Without spiritual revival there will be no Great Commission. A lot of time, we want God to be involved in our plan for ministry and life. But He prefers us to be involved in His plan. We focus so much on what "we want" to accomplish for Christ instead of obeying to what "He wants" to accomplish through us. And the life of obedience is to be expressed in our daily living as a person, and our interaction with other beings in our daily context - to be a real and genuine follower of Christ.

Our first speaker of the conference quoted a phrase from one of another speakers who said in other occasion, "life should be our sermon, and daily living should be our pulpit." Renewal or revival, therefore, should be starting with our genuine relationship with the Triune God on a daily basis. It does not matter how much one knows about the Bible. What matters is how much one obeys the teaching of the Bible. Another speaker echoed, "many Christians ended their lives with many good wishes without being put into practice." They knew what God had intended for their lives, and wished to be involved in His glorious plan for their lives, but they ended their lives with nothing but regrets. Unfortunately, this is a life description of many Christians. We hope to summarize our lives with an inscription on our tombstone as "a good and faithful servant of God." But in reality, many of the inscription on Christian tombstone is "wished to be a good and faithful servant of God."

Have mercy on us O Lord! Help us to be obedience to your plan for our lives and finish well. Let's encourage each other to practice what we preach or know.

Love you in Christ,
Lawrence

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mission update 260411

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for your prayer support. I had a fruitful trip in London. It was the first Mission conference for Chinese churches in England and Europe. I had opportunity to meet many Chinese Christians and pastors from different countries in Europe. It was an eyes opening experience to find out how God was at work in many Chinese communities throughout Europe. Even though the Chinese churches in general did not feel like they were ready to send out missionaries, many came to pick up our magazines and enquire about our mission fields. Pray that the Lord will revive the Chinese churches in Europe for His mission.
Europe (UK included) is considered to be mission field for Chinese churches. Many churches do not have full time pastors. Among all the Chinese churches in UK, there were less than 5 full time English ministers to serve their second generations. There is indeed a big need for English youth minister in Chinese church. However, a new UK homeland security policy made it harder for religious workers or students from going into the country. They are very tight on granting work visa for religious workers and student visa for seminarians. We need to pray for spiritual revivval in many Christian nations in Europe. Pray that their leaders (including their royal family members) will take their relationship with God more seriously.
I did not sleep well last night because of jetlag. It is therefore difficult for me to focus in meditation and prayer. Pray that I will recover soon. My next trip is a short one to Portland, Oregon. Afterward, I will be leaving for three countries in East Africa in May, and Toronto, Canada as well. Appreciate your prayer for my health and travel...
In Christ,
Lawrence

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Devotional readings 041211

Dear brothers and sisters, Good morning. I have been reading the book of Isaiah for my personal devotion while I was traveling in China. The Prophet was called to ministry during a critical time in his country. In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne (Isaiah 6:1)… It was during a major transition in the political arena of his country that Isaiah saw the throne of God in his vision. God chose to call His people to serve Him while the environment was most unstable and fearful. Nobody knew what the future might hold when a king died. Was the king murdered or died of natural cause? Could the new king provide political stability for the country? Would enemies take advantage of the transition to attack our country? It was during the most unstable time of his life that Isaiah heard the calling of God, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah immediately said, “Here am I. Send me!” We are in a unstable and fearful time too. Natural disasters and political uprising in the Middle East are upsetting people all over the world. None can tell what the future may hold for us. Will the economy recover? Will the environment be contaminated by nuclear radioactivity from Japan? It is during this time of turmoil that we should focus more on the throne of God instead of on our environment. Instead of figuring out a backup plan to secure our future, it may be time to listen to what God have in mind for our world today. God for sure has a plan for this historical moment of time. He has a plan for His church and definitely a plan for His people like you and me. The question is whether His people are willing to listen to Him and answer His call. It is usually during the most difficult time in life that people will be more in tune to God. In helpless desperation people turn to God for a way out. God uses this moment to call people to repent and bring awakening to people’s souls. But whom shall God send? And who will go for God to fulfill His plan? I pray that God will raise up a new generation of Kingdom workers to meet this challenge. Indeed, a revival is going on among the college students and young professionals in China today. Many came to know the Lord, and many dedicated themselves to serve Him in whatever capacity. God is going to bless the world through them. And you can be a channel of His blessings for the world too! Listen and focus on His throne… Share in His precious love with you, Lawrence

Friday, March 11, 2011

Devotional reading 110311

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I can’t believe it is Friday again. Time really flies and we should better take good use of the opportunity that He gives us each day. No matter what kind of responsibility that God has appointed you to do today, do it as a sacramental worship to the Lord with love and joyfulness. God never forsakes you even though you may go through tough time in life like those who suffer in natural disaster in Japan. Pray that God will comfort those who lost their loved ones in Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. There are many missionaries station in that earthquake zone. Pray that Christians and the church in Japan will do whatever to help victims from this natural disaster. Seize this moment when you still have today to fulfill God’s purpose for your life, because nobody knows whether tomorrow will come or not.

A person’s religious experiences can probably be understood best in term of the way that person perceives the divine, and allows it to work in his/her life. As I have suggested, there are three main kinds of these experiences—the sacramental, the contemplative, and those giving an inner perception of the divine in images. The most common and widespread of these experiences are the sacramental ones in which the divine comes into focus directly through some element of the outer, physical world. In the Communion, for instance, a person has the outer experience of receiving the bread and wine, and at the same time may experience receiving Christ inwardly.

It is easy to look down on the original forms of sacramental experience as primitive, and consider it quite unconscious to project the inner, spiritual reality upon outer things…The great Christian sacraments, beginning with baptism, have offered a new step of breaking off from one’s old life and entering into a new relation with God. For Catholics and also many liturgical Protestants the Commune or Eucharist is the continuing place of renewal where the divine touches humanity. The bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ; m partaking of them one actually shares the life of the Risen Christ. For the average Protestant the Bible itself has some of the sesame sacramental power. While most non-liturgical Protestants have shied away from the obviously sacramental, the Bible is literally seen as the congealed thought of God, and if this is accepted, one may then be in touch with God Himself. Total and absolute authority are often given to the words and ideas of the Bible, and thus authority is sometimes projected upon the one who preaches them, which sometimes causes explosive situations. In these churches there is an absence of sacramental action and this gap is only partly filled by services of prayer and great music.

Human beings do not outgrow their need to use sacramental experience. This should be clear to anyone who has ever fallen in love and known the power of projection. Suddenly to one in love another person appears luminous and carries all value and meaning. Poetry often flows, even from those who never before wrote poetry. As Plato originally pointed out, physical love lead to an appreciation of the beauty of spirit of another human being, and then on to worship of God Himself. Thus falling in love can in a sense be a sacramental experience of the divine.

Equally, anyone who has nursed a full-blown hatred or anger can understand how well projection works. Another person seems ns to become the very devil. One need not even know the person to feel the revulsion…People who project this evil onto others believe that the worst that can be done to them is fully justified, because the purpose of harming them is only to eliminate evil in the world. Even so, projection is an important function of the human psyche. So long as we do not think that what we are projecting is necessarily real in the outer world, this is one way of coming into contact with the forces that work from within, so that we can tap some of their power and even begin to learn about these forces.

Even the most conscious people find that some of their meaning and power comes to them through projection. There is great value in these religious experiences, in which spiritual reality is projected upon seemingly inanimate matter. By providing the religious community with its rituals, they offer continuity and stability to religious life. The group itself is held together and given energy by their experiences in common. Psychologically a person is safer in this experience than in many of the others because it is a religious experience that is brought down to a power level that humans can manage easily. Yet there are some real dangers when sacramental experience is seen as the only valid kind of religious expression. In The Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, the Scotch writer James Hogg turned one possibility into a delightful satire. His single-minded hero found himself among the elect of God and proceeded to act as God’s instrument to eliminate the non-elect by murder, beginning with his step-mother.

I believe the extreme form of fundamentalism begins from this form of sacramental type of religious experience. This is how cult begins. When a group of worshippers project their absolute love and devotion to a person, who is considered to be the only true messenger of God, they will do whatever irrational things or perform even immoral behavior without hesitation. Suicidal bombers from extreme Islamic group are typical example. To them, these suicidal acts of hurting others are acts of sacramental worship or ways to project their ultimate devotion to God. And this is definitely dangerous. Satan likes to turns blessing into curse. When worshippers do not discern their religious experiences in sacramental worship, they will become gullible to Satan’s scheme. Let’s not flow the baby out with the bath water. Sacramental worship is a valid religious experience. It is one of the ways to express our love and devotion to God. We should enjoy it as a gift from above but watchful at the same time, in case Satan will sow seeds of deception.

You probably will not hear from me for a long time since I will be on my mission trip around the globe (Asia, Europe and Africa) for next two months. Please pray for journey’s mercy and open doors for ministry in new fields like East Africa. I pray that you will continue to walk with the Lord and digest the materials that I shared with you so far. If time allows in between trips, I will still drop you my devotional reading. May God bless your daily encounter with your Lover.

In Christ,
Lawrence

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Devotional reading 090311

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I took 6 medical injections in preparing for my trip to Africa on Monday, and my immune system reacted “well” against those incoming “viruses” from flu and yellow fever shots. I felt symptoms of flu like body ache, fever and sore throat (Loretta had running nose too). They were not as severe as regular flu but uncomfortable. As a result, I need to take sick leave and stay home to rest for two days. We both recovered well this morning. Praise the Lord!!

Silence unbinds a person from ordinary perceptions and attitudes and offers a fresh look at life and reality, r. By giving us in the West a new perspective on the ideas we have inherited, it can bring us a vision of the world and humanity as more than just materialistic. Silence can open a door on a new dimension of reality. It is like finding a trap door or a secret passage, giving a way out of our usual, ego-dominated existence. Sleep often has somewhat the same effect. Sleep can separate us from the world of space and time in two different ways. Sleep can provide a dreamless rest which releases tension and recharges life and this in itself is a tremendous gift, bringing courage and energy to start on a new day. Then there is the sleep which leads one into dreaming and so into an existence which is experienced as outside of space and time.

Here the rules of our ordinary existence do not apply. The dreamer can be two different people at the same time, expanding or contracting time to fit the circumstances of the dream, merging one place into another or changing locations as if space were no problem. Logic and rationality no longer apply. And yet there is so much meaning in this strange movement of images that it can even show us the very meaning of our lives.

In sleep one automatically goes from outer physical sensations to a peaceful state. What happens in sleep seems so easy and natural that the person who has trouble sleeping is even considered sick. Yet one can also go from the outer physical world to the peaceful, quiet state while awake, by consciously deciding enter into it in meditation. There are much the same physiological effects in both sleep and the meditative state, as well as almost the same sense of a person’s losing life in order to gain it. Then there is the flood of images that in well-up in the same way in the psyche whenever one becomes completely still, whether in sleep or through a conscious, directed movement into the inner realm in meditation. Mystics of every tradition speak of the images that flood in upon one during silence, and in sleep much the same thing happens at least four to seven times a night in dreams.

Whether a person is willing to look at dreams at all depends upon whether one can see any meaning in them or not. In meditation one also has a choice—to pay attention to the images that arise within and see where they lead, or to dismiss them as meaningless, or as a dangerous distraction, and then return to utter and undisturbed stillness. In the latter case, one steps into a state which no words or images seem to describe.

Are the images of sleep and meditation a snare and a delusion, or do they lead us further and further into meaning? This is one basic question which faces the individual who learns to be silent, and the answer will determine the kind of religious practice that person takes up and follows. It is my suggestion that few things are much more important for the development of our religious matter how extraordinary it becomes—than knowing the images that arise within us and meditating upon them.

Many bible characters saw divine visions, and believed in dreams as some means through which God spoke to mankind. To them, those images or messages were as audible and visible like the way physical seeing and hearing. They anticipated that God would speak to them, just as Prophet Habakkuk described his “mystical” experience in the first verse of chapter two, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” Habakkuk looked with anticipation what God would say to him and how he would converse with Him in silence. I believe many Christians would think Habakkuk to be extreme if not cultic by expecting God to speak to him directly. But he is not alone. New Testament characters like Apostle Paul saw vision and heard angels several times (Acts 9:4-7; 22:7-9; 18:9-11; 22:17; 23:11 and 27:23), and the entire book of Revelation was what Apostle John heard and saw. We believe those images and records from John to be true revelation from God. And they were revealed to John through his meditation in silence.

Meditation and spiritual dreams were like lost arts in Christian spiritual exercises. We read books that are records of other people’s meditative journals, but not hearing from the primary source - God Himself. If theology is prayer language, commentaries and other spiritual books are definitely language of meditation and silence. If we don’t have time to rest or still, in no way we can communicate with God and experience His cleansing power from inside out. We need some good sleep to recharge our body. And we need some good silence to recharge our souls, so that we can become blessings to the world around us. So, enjoy your day of conversation with God in wherever you are now…

With Love in Him,
Lawrence

Friday, March 4, 2011

Devotional Reading 040311

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for this spring like weather, even though Daly City was covered by fog. Praise God for His daily presence and work in the lives of His children. In my quiet journey to work, I enjoyed His words of encouragement whispering to my soul. He surfaced the concerns and struggles that I had from within. He called me to repent and relinquish all my concerns to Him…then the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding sprang up in my soul. I need this kind of cleansing work of God that helps refocus my life in the midst of my busyness.

There are some similar forms of prayer found in the West, but without concentration on the name of Jesus or on any particular words. One of them which has had an influence halfway around the world was developed by a lay brother who remained a cook and servant. In The Practice of the Presence of d Brother Lawrence told how he tried to make the least thought or the leanest task an offering in the presence of Jesus, even to picking up a straw from the scullery floor as he went about his job of cleaning up after others.

There is no finer description of this way of quiet, of realizing the presence of God, than the writing of Thomas Kelly, another Westerner who practiced this kind of prayer. Kelly died as a relatively young man, and his writing were brought together by Douglas Steere. A Testament of Devotion tells essentially of living on two levels at the same time, being aware of the outer world of business and people and at the same time being in touch with a deeper level and with a quiet and living presence. In it Kelly clearly suggests that this joining of awareness does not make one less adequate in dealing with outer things, but more responsive and able to act.

Our understanding of the Holy Spirit or the actual presence of the Christ Spirit forms a bridge ‘to the use of the Jesus prayer. This prayer can then become a way of entering and reinforcing our inner stillness so that this Spirit can be heard and given leeway to accomplish two things in us. First, we can allow it to work upon the images of divided parts of our own personalities, helping us to become integrated or whole. Second, we can then allow it to form a deep pool of quiet within to which we can return again and again for refreshment, renewal, regeneration.

Researchers have demonstrated that people have the capacity to receive information from other minds without ordinary communication (telepathy), and to be in touch with both the future and the past (pre- and post-cognition). Other students are working on psycho kinesis (the capacity to influence objects by mind power alone) and psychic healing. Each of these capacities has been verified by research using careful scientific controls. Almost overnight we are being forced to realize that we have the ability to receive knowledge which does not come through ordinary perception and consciousness, and that the way this happens most often is in a relaxed condition of mind and body, either in the natural state of dreaming or in a meditational state.

Each of the ways toward silence that we have considered is an external vice, a method meant to help the individual find a way to seek an individual experience of God through silence. Any of these practices can be helpful so long as one is fairly sure that this is a method that fills one’s own personal need then follows it consistently and sincerely toward the goal of being silent. Christianity suggests there is more to life (in Christ) than silence and detachment and if this is clear to us, we can make use of these practices without becoming lost.

Prayer is more than words, meditation far more than a rational or cognitive process. It involves the whole person, the entire being—breathing, moving, acting, rising up and lying down, entire days and nights. Only as the whole person is turned toward the meditative process does the experience of God in Jesus Christ become a reality.

It is true that the scientific community has not fully explored the dynamics of our mind. There are so much in the “spiritual” consciousness of our mind that we have not used. In silence we are in touch of the untouchable (physical sense). We recognize the work of the Holy Spirit within and among us, yet we have not really tasted the beauty and power of His presence. Satan would do whatever to stop us from exploring not to mention exercising the power of God, which has been bestowed upon us in Christ. Jesus made it very clear as He commanded the disciples to do the Great Commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18-19). It is not by our own power and might to fulfill the Great Commission. Jesus knows well that our human effort is limited. We need super-strength or super-perseverance to meet this challenge. Spiritual authority is available to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the question is whether we are aware of the authority and exercise the authority against the evil resistance. Charismatic movement recognizes the spiritual power from within and focuses on exercising the power to reach out or to grow the church. Evangelical community tends to be more intellectual and concerns the danger of this “unknown” spiritual power which may lure us away from the passion for God’s word. To me, we cannot serve without the power from above, and this power is fed or charged by God’s word. In silence we recognize the reality of a spiritual warfare from within. The more we engage in this spiritual warfare, the more we agree with Paul that we need to put on the full armor of God which include truth, righteousness, peace of the gospel, goodness, salvation and God’s word. And to Paul, the battle field of this spiritual warfare is within our mind (2 Cor 10:5b). So if we do not resist Satan in our mind, we surrender to his dominion even though we claim to be on God’s side. Have mercy on us, O Lord. We give up too easily before we have not even engaged the spiritual warfare. Help us draw close to you through meditation and prayer in silence…

Your fellow comrade in Christ,
Lawrence

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Devotional Reading 030311

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It gave me good feeling to be able to run some errands at home before coming to office. Procrastination should be treated as some kind of chronic disease. It definitely involves changing one’s lifestyle or habit in order to heal procrastination. And we know that kicking a habit is not easy. I guess it is the same in developing a good habit too. Pray that you will not continue to give yourself excuse not to develop the devotional habit for your own well being.

No other function of the body is as sensitive to our inner state as our breathing. The slightest excitement produces a noticeable change. If one is worried about making a plane, rapt in watching a sunset or a new puppy, in communion with a loved one, or waking out of a peaceful sleep, the breathing is quite different. The idea of controlling it sounds strange to most Christian ears. Our “Christian” religious practice has been largely cerebral for so long that we have built up a sizeable tradition which scorns and rejects the body. We have almost lost any understanding of the relation of the body to the religious encounter.

Breathing is one internal function which the conscious mind can control with comparative ease. With a little attention one can learn to use certain muscles, making the breathing more rapid or slow, more shallow or deep, quite at will. Then by taking careful note of the muscle action when awakening from peaceful sleep, one can learn to produce almost the same effect by directing it consciously. This kind of breathing comes from the diaphragm. The chest barely moves, while the impetus comes from below in a slow rhythm of the abdominal muscles. This takes practice and discipline, but it is effective in quieting both mind and body.

The effect of controlled breathing is almost like communication with the less conscious parts of one’s being, saying to them: Simmer down and listen there is something beyond this turmoil. It is communication in action that often works when words merely ‘ go in one car and out the other, not even changing the cognitive mind. In essence the effect is to turn all the elements of one’s will toward stillness and waiting…Researchers in brain activity have learned that this breathing pattern goes along with alpha and theta wave activity in the brain, which is characteristic of our mental state in meditation. Again, simply learning to breathe in this way will often help a person to reach this state.

The ancient Christian traditions of Hesychasm stressed the use of the Jesus prayer and an imageless sense of God’s presence as well as awareness of breathing. The essential element linking these practices was the search for silence, for inward stillness. For centuries one form or another of the Jesus prayer has been used for this purpose. One form is simply to invoke the name of Jesus, using it almost as a mantra. Usually the longer form-“Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”—is used, and not only at times of meditation. The goal is to repeat this prayer until it can be heard within oneself at all times, until it becomes an unconscious or subliminal turning toward the Christ. Beginning in the silence, constant repetition makes this prayer the underlying theme of all one’s activity.

Using the Jesus prayer is something nearly anyone can do. As one awakens and goes to sleep, one repeats this prayer; working on the job or playing, one repeats it; and in times of pleasure or of personal struggle, one keeps repeating the prayer over and over within oneself, like the beating of the heart. The hope is that not only the words t the presence and spiritual reality of Jesus will permeate every aspect of one s being. The underlying idea of this prayer is that somehow the reality of Jesus is tied to the name…If this kind of prayer can be used as a way of becoming quiet so that the individual is able to find a relationship with God and be reshaped by it, then this way has much to recommend it. Otherwise, using the Jesus prayer becomes an end in itself, often more like the devotional practices of Eastern religions than a truly Christian practice.

I found this practice to be helpful in calming down my brain activity and focus on Christ. It is important to recognize that this kind of spiritual exercise is only a means to help you enter silence. And as you enter the silence state of mind, you want to focus on Christ Jesus our Lord in meditation and prayer. So the practice of the little prayer of Jesus focus not on the means but the end. If you confuse the means to the end, which is attentive to the Holy Spirit who lives in us, this kind of spiritual exercise could become misleading and even dangerous – you are lost in the spiritual world of unknown. We are living in the information age that is filled with all kinds of distractions and temptations. If we don’t make intentional effort to focus our brain activities on God, we can be totally distracted in our spiritual sensitivity. I usually use this breathing exercise and method like Jesus prayer to calm down my mind before I meditate with the Word of God. While I am meditating on the portion of Scripture I follow each day, I either use a written journal or computer to assist my interaction with God. I found this process to be fruitful and refreshing. I hope you will take your devotional life seriously by developing some good habit in meditation.

With His eternal love for us,
Lawrence

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Devotional Reading 020311

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It has been several years since I started sending out my devotional journal to you. I hope you will find it helpful. This journal is only a sample of meditation tool that I have been using personally for my spiritual growth in Christ. In no way I consider this as the way of devotional exercise. Nevertheless, journal is an aid in the practice of silence. Otherwise your “walk with God” becomes superficial and ritualistic. My purpose of sending you my journal is in hope that you will follow my footstep. It is like what Paul said to the Corinthians, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). This is an act of discipleship.

There are some ways of coming to silence and starting on the inner journey besides the ones we have been considering in previous chapters. While certain of them may seem too far out for some people to try, these are suggestions that may prove helpful to one individual or another, and at least one of them is probably vital for almost everyone who seeks the inner silence. This is the use of a journal which prepares a person to slow down and helps to direct the inner processes of thought, feeling, sensation, and intuition. In a different way controlled breathing may be almost as important for many people because it reinforces and deepens the stillness in one’s own body.

For some people a small group of like-minded individuals, a prayer group. Opens the way into silence and beyond. For others relation with a spiritual director, which resembles the prayer group in many ways, is a necessity. Often the dream gives people a re-entry to the stillness from which it came. Meditative reading and the use of images are further aids in entering silence and drawing out the meaning that arises. These particular practices require special discussion, and in this chapter we shall consider mainly those that are aids just for getting into the silence. Let us start with the journal which is important both at the beginning and later on.

It is difficult for many people to quiet their minds. As soon as they beg center down, ideas start to come up that jar them out of the silence. Perhaps one has been thinking about some problem, and in the quiet right away a new solution pops into mind. Or there is suddenly a picture of some vitally needed new project. One part of the mind tries to hold onto the problem or the good idea and get it worked through. For such people it is helpful to have a notebook at hand. If one quietly records the thought—and it may be a very valuable one— one can let it go and return to stillness. If the thought keeps on returning, one can then push it aside and say to it: You are taken care of. Stop bothering me.

Sometimes if one has been involved in a trying emotional situation, he or she may be so flooded with ideas and experiences that it seems futile to even think about settling down. One seems to be caught in a squirrel cage, running as hard as possible and getting nowhere. At times like this almost anyone will find real help in writing the feelings and thoughts down in a journal or notebook…Simply the fact of setting down these thoughts, fear other emotions gives them body and makes them distinct. The more concrete they become the easier it is to separate them from one’s soul. The most difficult reality to deal with is the kind that appears like a grey amorphous cloud. One cannot understand it or get a picture of it. There is no way to get a handle on it…Pushing these things out of the way only makes the worse. We can usually deal with the reality if we will look at it and bring it the silence.

There is a great difference between avoiding a thought or emotion and laying it aside after taking the trouble to look at it. In the first instance a person is pretending that there is nothing there, and so repressing these things and later on they can rise up from the depth and harass one. The other is simply a way of marking out one’s inner place of stillness and putting these calls on hold, asking them to wait until one is better prepared to take care of them.

I agree with Kelsey’s experience that it is difficult to come to silence until I have paid these aspects of myself their due. With a journal and pencil ready, I start by looking at the circumstances that have been bothering me. As I write down what- ever comes to mind about them, often bubbling up helter-skelter, they begin to lose their power over me. The concerns are no less important. They will be there when I get back to regular activity, but I know by experience that I will have a fresh outlook about them because of touching a level beyond my ordinary ego life. Keeping a record that gives a before and after look is a tremendous help to me in slowing down and ceasing activity. Moreover, the journal can be used as my dialogue with God when I submit all these concerns of mine to Him.

Sometimes, the emotions and thoughts that flood my mind in silence could be issues that I need to deal with in the light of God’s words. They could be “things” that God surfaced for me to encounter. Instead of resolving them by my own wisdom and experiences, I surrender them to Christ and admit my inadequacy in handling them. I resume back to a quiet mode of listening to what God has to say to me. Journal writing definitely serves the purpose of focusing on God in meditation and prayer. Finding words to write my prayer to God helps clarify my understanding of the situation that I am facing in life. And to my surprise, I found insight coming through silence while I was writing my prayer or love letter to God. I sincerely encourage you to try out this path of communion with God in silence.

Love you because of His passion for you,
Lawrence

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Devotional reading 010311

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning. Thank God for spring like weather – cool but filled with sunshine. God is doing amazing thing each day. He plans to use His children to become channels of His blessing to the whole world. We are blessed when we become His blessings to others. In order to experience this kind of blessing, we need to encounter Him in silence. Silence is not an easy practice – it directs you into the spiritual realm, which is unfamiliar territory to most of us. It may be scary for beginners. But once you familiarize this encountering, you will enjoy the beauty of it.



Out of silence disturbing emotions often come to the surface which are difficult to control. They can range from vague apprehension to terror and panic. Or they may vary from bitterness and indignation to aggressive hatred and rage… Most of our lives are constricted by half-conscious fears of some kind extreme reaction like becoming rigid at the thought of seeing the doctor or the fear of losing a job, or exploding with anger over some imagined slight.



It is not easy to accept that these violent and disturbing emotions are a part of our being and not caused just by some situation in die outer world. Realizing this, however, is not the end of the difficulty. Since these feelings do arise essentially within us, it seems on the surface that we should be able to still them to the point of extinction. And once they are under control, why should we let human passions disturb our meditation at a we should be able to reach a state of perfect relation to God that will free us from any disruption m our emotional life.



We forget that the real task is to bring the totality of our psychic being to God and not just to repress and split off those parts of ourselves that we cannot change. If we deny our emotions, we do one of two things. We may successfully repress them and so cut ourselves off from one vital source of energy, becoming zombis, half dead. Or else we dam these emotions up to the point where they break loose on their own and use up that valuable energy, usually in the most destructive ways. Easterners deny the value of the physical world and so there is little legitimate reason for emotion.



The difficulty lies in making these reserves of psychic energy available for our best use. This is possible through meditation and the effort to grow up spiritually and emotionally. In the silence one can allow feelings to arise, disconnect from their ordinary targets in the outer world, and learn to deal with the depth of the psyche directly. Meditation requires silence, and silence opens a person to the direct impact of emotions and to knowing the autonomous images that arise along with them…



People who have tested the use of silence in this way often speak of finding the transforming power of God. By making an effort to bring as much of themselves as they can to the encounter, they almost always find a plan for their lives. They often emphasize their realization that God’s greatest desire for the individual is to find wholeness, the integration of every aspect of personality into a whole. This work of redemption and salvation goes on in the silence when one is free to allow something besides ordinary occupations and ordinary levels of being to have an effect. The net result is spiritually mature individuals who have something to give to God, as well as taking something from Him.



Sometimes people have a profound experience of God and then fail to realize its full meaning for their lives because they do not stop long enough to listen. Unless such an experience is brought into relationship with one’s desires and fears and angers, it inevitably loses most of its force. An experience of God can begin to change our old feelings into new strengths—for instance, our desire for power over our children or employees, or our fear of the government or of a hostile universe, or our hostility toward our neighbors or people in the club— but only if we will bring these feelings into relationship with that experience of God. Few people find this way of integration until they try to be still.



Realizing the dividends of silence is like eating. Few of us quibble about our need to keep on eating. We can even sense the dangers of starvation. In much the same way, the life of the soul in most people needs to be sustained by the regular practice of silence, day after day, month after month, year after year. One cannot go in for silence in a big way, make a pile and then retire. It would be better to settle for a more modest undertaking so that one could stay in business and keep at it. Otherwise the profits soon dry up. One loses the capacity to have a sustained relationship with the world of the Holy Spirit and with the Father. Silence, for many people, allows the soul to grow and develop in its spiritual dimension. In fact, the more one finds the reality of silence, the more significant it becomes. While this in itself is a danger, the same is true of anything else we touch which has such real value.



This kind of soul search is very challenging. It takes time to quiet before the Lord, and emotional maturity to handle. If our devotional practice is simply Scripture reading and prayer for only 5 minutes a day, we cannot even touch the surface of our soul. We need time to dig deep, and it requires time. Modern people just don’t have the time to do such kind of soul searching…as a result we miss the transforming power of God, and experience Him in a most intimate manner. Yes, we may not have enough time to meditate and pray each day. We need to at least set aside time to encounter God in silence during weekend. Otherwise, our inner being remains undelivered from Satan’s bondage, even though we claim that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor 5:17). We need to take our spiritual life seriously, or else we will not be able to grow and stumbling other people along the way. Have mercy on us O Lord! We need your help to transform us on a daily basis…



Encourage you in His love,

Lawrence

Monday, February 28, 2011

Devotional Reading 280211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It was a blessing to host a guest from Singapore in our home last weekend. I discovered later on that this “stranger” from Singapore is a friend of some good old friends of mine. What a small world! We never know the kind of blessing that we may receive from the Lord when we submit to His Will and Word, just as the Bible said, “Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrew 13:2). The ministry of hospitality is truly a way to experience blessing from the Lord!

Returning back to our reading on silence, in the beginning, most of us need a place that eliminates practically all outer sensations. It is hard enough to forget one’s own body, and until a person learns how to cut consciousness off from the usual sensory barrage, one needs—figuratively at least—to shut the outer door. Wherever the place, it should be free of personal clutter, no letters to answer or papers to read or clothes to mend. Any position is right which relaxes the body’s control over our thoughts and feelings…Sometimes after every whisper of activity has ceased, the body is still too tense to let go. It communicates in jerks and twitches, even cramps. Of course, the tension may be caused simply by a hyperactive day, but even this is usually a sign of emotions and desires which we have not faced and which have dropped into the unconscious. From there they are sending up messages to the body to be vigilant and ready to act. As human beings, however, our first task is to get the psyche alert and vigilant so that it can take direction of our actions, and to do this, the body must be taught to be still and wait. The simplest way—the one to try first—is to let go as best one can and quietly tell one part of the body after another to relax, waiting patiently.

Besides this there are visual aids to settling down which may be helpful at one time or another. One can fix the eyes on a single object, perhaps on the sanctuary lamp in a church, on a distant vista m a picture or a rock in the bubbling water of a stream. At other times one may find that the only way to stop thinking and sensing is to close the eyes and focus on a black dot in the center of nothingness. Some people are able to concentrate on sound as a more or less meaningless object, one that brings up few associations, so that the sensory world dies away into stillness. At times music may be quieting to start with, but this is true only in settling down. In the silence itself music is a distraction, and the greater its impact the greater the distraction. I find music a spur to creativity, particularly in writing, but this is very different from silence.

Obviously silence cannot begin until the outer flow of talk has ceased, but something more than the mere sound of words must also die away. Words themselves can be used rhythmically to help produce silence…Our talking does not end with articulated words. It goes on a mile a minute inside the individual. Much of our thinking is actually an inner dialogue. Our minds are full of ideas and pictured desires and purposes that we talk and think and discourse about to ourselves. One can almost feel the tension in mouth and throat in this kind of thinking and inner talking. If one is to lay it aside, the approach must be cautious, like a policeman stepping into the intersection, first motioning traffic to slow down, and then holding up a hand that means “Stop!’ This must be done without words, without adding to the disturbance when one more item of unfinished business slips in demanding to be considered.

Just as the silence seems complete, a noise or other sensation may intrude. Or an interruption may come purely from within, perhaps an idea about to- morrow’s plans or a worry about a foolish remark or something one has forgotten to do. It does no good at all to get angry. This only adds to the activity that is trying to break in. With good-natured patience, one puts the cares of yesterday and tomorrow into the suspense file…Out of nowhere daydreams may also pop up. One may see the Little League team become national champions. We may find appetites and desires we scarcely recognize as our own. Perhaps we see ourselves handling millions of dollars, or as movie stars giving autographs, or as kings and queens. Daydreams are the partially conscious spinning out of desires and hopes in a pictorial fashion. They are an extension of our ego consciousness. Even when they reveal more than we have figure about ourselves, they are the ordinary stuff of private fantasies which anyone can discover with a little imaginative play.

This kind of silence cannot be hurried or forced; it does not come through effort. Instead, it must be allowed to happen. This is like eating an artichoke. It must be done a leaf at a time, down to the heart. If one tries to take it in a single bite, all he gets is a mouthful of thistles. One has to set aside time for silence and then turn toward it with composure, letting go of immediate things a little at a time in order to enter a world where dreams and also the energy for life are born.

This is the point at which something in the silence takes over and become active on its own. One is no longer involved just in a world of personal experiences or even private daydreams. There is contact with a flow of images of different nature, images which have a life and power of their own. Some may find themselves powerfully moved as they act out scenes of a drama within their own psyches. The images are charged with emotion, and they have the same autonomous life as dreams and the same psychic significance…It is very difficult to deal with these basic psychic realities that we meet in the form of autonomous images. Most of us are afraid of experiencing the emotions they arouse, which underlie our human behavior and with good reason. Yet these archetypal images and forces do not remain dormant simply because we keep out of touch with them. They go right on working, hidden from our conscious minds so that we often fail to understand them and either react negatively or become possessed by them, causing untold difficulties. The worst difficulties people get themselves into are generally the result of their failure to respond in the right way to these universal forces of the spiritual world which we meet as images in the silence.

I heard of many stories in terms of how people saw images while they practiced silence. It sometimes stirred up fear, guilt or shame within their psyches. They either resisted or avoided them, fearing that they were being attacked by some evil forces. But this could also be the process of soul cleansing by the work of the Holy Spirit. Some of these images may represent some hidden sins that God surfaces for us to remove. It is like the process of purifying gold. The goldsmith will remove unwanted particles that are surfaced in the melting pot under blaze. Without paying much attention to such images, one simply relinquish them to the Lord and return to silence before Him. If one is too anxious to hear from the Lord or expect something from the Lord in silence, our impatient could also become a distraction or hindrance when we encounter these images. One needs to simply surrender himself or herself to the Lord in silence, and let God have the full freedom to act, cleanse and mold us in whatever way He desires. Hope you find time to enter into silent interaction with your Loving Father today.

With Love from Him,
Lawrence

Friday, February 25, 2011

Devotional reading 250211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. How wonderful it is to have a break of sunshine after the storm! It is so refreshing and cool. The budding tree looks so lively and beautiful like a new born baby. The nature indeed proclaims the glory of the Lord in all the earth. Praise God for this precious gift of life to enjoy His creation on earth. God does not want us to “hate” this materialistic world as though it is totally evil. In silence, we learn to appreciate this world from God’s perspective.

In Western religion detachment is equally important, but not as an end in itself (like Eastern religion). Instead the aim is freedom which will allow the individual to find new and richer attachments to God and to other human beings. Christian devotional practice stresses this goal of freedom from relationships of actual dependency. It is mainly in this way that we can come to the inner wholeness that allows us to give ourselves freely to God and to our fellow men.

So much of the time our lives are scattered in unconscious reactions to the demands of one attachment or another. Often we are not even aware of their strength, and only in silence can we begin to seek detachment from them. As one begins to withdraw and feels the surge of emotion of losing something, self- knowledge begins. By discovering this lack of freedom, one becomes able to loosen the ties that need to come unbound. Then one can gradually discover the bits and pieces, fragments of responses and reactions and emotions, can be gathered together into a whole personality.

Neither freedom nor inner-directedness is a final goal. Instead, each is valuable tool in moving toward wholeness. They are steps on the way to learning the meaning of God’s love for us. As one finds the reality of that love, it becomes possible to offer oneself to God in a mature way and to give some of the same love and understanding to others, self-giving love without strings attached. This way of wholeness and love is central to the life and teaching of Jesus, and to most Christians who have caught the inner meaning of His life and words. Whatever else it involves, one finds in this process of detachment and reattachment the meaning of being born again, of giving up an old life and being given a new one.

This is not an easy way to follow, however. Detachment is a tricky process. And the word itself can be twisted into all sorts of meanings. By a simple shift of emphasis, detachment can be twisted to mean denial and a practice of devaluing and rejecting anything that is stamped “worldly.” Anything not purely from God, or leading directly to God, may be seen as evil and harmful to the religious way. This is the kind of attitude that rejects and hates all that is natural and human in this world, and it can lead to the most extreme and dangerous asceticism.

There is danger in mixing detachment with asceticism in this way because it may be prompted by masochistic self-hatred rather than by a search for relationship with God. It is one thing to start with a judgment on the body, or the psyche or the world, with two strikes against them, and quite another to try to stand off from these things so that they can be put into a proper perspective of value. They can then become allies in training for the true freedom of a life of service to God.

This takes effort. Detachment in this sense demands as much discipline as either Western asceticism or Eastern separation for its own sake. There is no shortcut that leads to instant wholeness or mature attachment. Meaningful relationship is born out of detachment, which is usually first quickened by reflection in silence. The importance of detachment for the religious way, and its dependence on silence, can hardly be overemphasized. One reason for the power of social action of Martin Luther King was the way it sprang out of his wholeness which was the wholeness of a person recollected in silence and the presence of God. Almost all Christian reform of any significance which in the end healed rather than destroyed, has sprung out of the same source.

Silence can be a mini-experience of death and resurrection It is a temporary cessation of one’s doing and planning and desires. When we actually die we give up the possessions that have mattered to us and entrust them to the care of others. Much the same thing happen when one stops in silence. Action, planning, desiring are all suspended, entrusted to the Other in silence, while the thoughts and emotions and realities that surround them are given a chance to regroup.

It is much easier for introverts to turn inward than for extraverts. The introvert feels at home in the silence for such a person’s interest is already there. For the extravert this means an about-face or turning away from all that seems valuable and familiar. The difficulty for the introvert is in stepping out of the self, in reaching out, say, to a stranger in church or at the swimming pool. Turning towards the inner world is just as difficult for the extravert, and also just as necessary and valuable. Both are as vital to the Christian life as the two halves of a beating heart. But today’s world applauds our efforts to reach out and tries to forget that those efforts require an inner basis which is found in silence. It is silence, and the fact that something happens in the silence, which needs to be stressed today.

Kelsey’s discernment here is absolutely correct. We rediscover our true meaning of existence through detachment in silence. Not the silence itself can produce any effect but our encounter with the Holy Other in silence that makes a difference. The attitude is therefore important in silence. We don’t detach for detachment’s sake. We detach so that we can focus on God, and allow Him to surface our wound that needs to be healed and transformed. It is not by our might and our wisdom that can produce lasting change in life; it is purely the work of God in us. The author of Proverbs said, “Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is the commanding center of our reason, emotion and will. Our heart is our passion which is like an engine of a train or a car. If the driver is evil, the potential of this train will be destructive. If the driver is good and faithful, the vehicle will become blessings to many. That’s why our Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5). The word “meek” is a tamed horse. A tamed horse is a potential under control by its owner. A meek person is someone who surrender the control of his or her potential for God’s use. In silence, we allow God to surface our inner drives that always want to be in control. Once we recognize our inner desire to drive or control, we surrender it to Christ willfully for His usage. By doing so we become blessing to God and to those around us. A new life in Christ involves detachment for prayer and meditation each day for His glory. Have a blessed weekend to refresh your soul.

Love you in Christ
Lawrence

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Devotional reading 240211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is a calm and cool day before the storm – I look forward to see snow in Daly City or San Francisco tomorrow. By God’s grace, I finally submitted my dissertation yesterday and finished all my academic requirements for graduation. The most pleasant word from the Chair of my dissertation committee was: “approved!” So I am expecting to earn my doctoral degree in Missiology on April 30th. I can now start a new “pattern of life” without academic pressure to submit papers constantly. It is time to truly enjoy reading all the books (textbooks and reference books) that I bought during the course of my study. Praise the Lord!

I agree with Kelsey that the idea of linking silence with prayer may sound like an out-and-out contradiction to many Christians. We are accustomed to thinking of the familiar forms of prayer that people use when they join together to worship or ask God for something. These forms almost always follow a lead given in the past. They shaped by words set down in the Bible, particularly the psalms, or by other poetry and by the liturgy. They can vary from the words that come spontaneously in the simplest service to the most elaborate prayers that have grown up und the Eucharist and other sacraments, and either may be used in private devotions. Of course, there is no question about the value and importance of this way of turning to God, but it is not the only kind of prayer that we need.

There is another, equally important way of praying in which a person becomes silent and tries to listen instead of speaking. Instead of picking up a familiar lead and speaking about the things that all of us feel are needed, one tries to become still. One’s effort is to be silent enough to hear, first, the deepest needs of one’s own heart, and then the prompting of the creative Spirit in whatever direction it may indicate. In this second kind of prayer, which we call meditation, one is trying to follow one’s own inner road as it is opened.

For the most part, however, modem man sees no place for silence among the realities of life, and so finds little time for it…Most modern life is a studied attempt to avoid ever being alone, faced with the reality of the inner world. Obviously to find the way of silence one needs to disconnect, to unhook from much of the activity and even turn off some of the light that seems so necessary to modern living. In a very real sense the way of meditation is a way of detachment.

Almost every approach to religious practice suggests ways of human growth and development that depend on separating from one’s ordinary round of activity. In most religions the understanding is found that people must nearly always let go of reactions and ideas that are simply customary or habitual before another level of life and meaning can break through to them. As long as one is like a ping-pong ball, bounced back and forth by every emotion and outer relationship, it is all too easy to overemphasize detachment as if this were the only route to God, and this often results in a pathological and distorted denial of life.

So long as a person thinks that life cannot be lived without someone or something, perhaps father or mother or parental substitute, or that life will fall apart without the accustomed indulgences or the round of activity, that person has not approached psychological maturity, but is living a dependent existence rather than becoming a self-contained individual, a person is in his own right who can give love without any strings attached. The ability to give love without expecting anything in return is one expression of maturity. The mature person is also able to be alone and silent, and the effort to turn inward in silence leads toward this detachment and the maturity that goes with it.

Becoming inner-directed, of course, does not guarantee maturity. Unless the individual takes the inner direction out into the world around him and tries to put it to use, this inner-directedness can become just as one-sided as today’s total emphasis on outer direction. It can even be schizophrenic. What maturity requires is a balance between the two.

One basic difference between Eastern and Western religion is this matter of balance between detachment and attachment. In both East and West the immediate goal is the same, to help the individual achieve self-containment through detachment. But in Eastern religion this is final as there is nothing further to become attached to. Buddhism sees no God at the end of the process, and so one of the central themes is escaping from. The final goal is to become detached from this miserable wheel of existence. Zen, springing from the soil of Buddhism, also seeks detachment as an end in itself. Yoga is based on a similar principle of freeing one’s self physically, emotionally and spiritually from entanglement in the world.

This kind of detachment practice is easier for or us Chinese to understand, because we grow up with this kind of religious concept. If you want to be serious in religious life, you should detach yourself from the “worldly” environment and enter a monastery to practice meditation and prayer. And the goal is definitely “escape.” Thus, Easter religious practice is an attempt to escape from the entanglement of life which creates all kinds of stress, frustrations and pain. The way to resolve the pain of entanglement is detachment.

However, this is not the way Jesus taught His disciples. Jesus emphasized detachment as a rhythm of life. Detachment and engagement are equally important in forming a godly lifestyle. There is time for detachment and time for engagement. Over-emphasis of either one can be damaging to holistic living. Nevertheless, Kelsey is correct that modern day people needs to learn detachment because the whole trend is to promote engagement. The social network technology emphasizes on reaching out or in touch with someone out there. We seem to live without not engaging with someone else. We need time to rest and connect with ourselves and God through prayer and meditation. Do you feel comfortable to detach from the world in silence for a lengthy period of time? It is healthy lifestyle not only spiritually but psychologically too.

Lover you through Christ in silence,
Lawrence

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Devotional reading 230211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Life is full of all kinds of challenges and surprising turns. Who knows how the political unrest in the Middle East may lead to at the end? The spirit of revolution is spreading like wild fire in that general region. Many M workers who have been ministering in that region for a long time, believe this political unrest should bring better future for the grass-root people. The question is how much will it cost for such revolution. Let’s pray for peaceful transition and minimum casualty in that region. Pray also for churches and Christians in those countries that they will not become scapegoats in the conflict…

One of the most positive of the ten commandments stresses the need for a weekly time of reflection. The commandment to keep holy the Sabbath requires that once a week we stop every kind of active endeavor, that we rest and turn to our Creator and to our fellow creatures. We meet together for worship. It makes little difference whether the time of rest is Saturday or the Christian first day of the week; the principle is the same. We need both the activity of worship and the time for preparation, time for a little spiritual housecleaning beyond the daily tidying up and dusting. We need to take out the trash in ourselves and perhaps straighten up the deepest closet or file away some of the things on top of an inner desk.

I find that I need a couple of hours each week for this, to see what I have been doing, how I have been doing, and what I need to be doing. This is a time for centering and getting my perspective back, in which my daily times of quiet are brought together and come to fruition. This time can be used in various ways, perhaps to read more in the Bible, or to take a longer look at either a problem or a project in one’s spiritual life. It may be needed to probe deeper, to get at the roots of things and unravel those too complex for the daily times of quiet. Sometimes these hours are needed just to become really still, to let the rush within one die down. Or again, they can be used to check one’s life and action against the priorities one has set for oneself…When these longer periods of stopping have borne fruit, they carry over into ordinary life. We become aware of this deeper level of reality in the midst of ordinary preoccupations, and strangely it does not make us less efficient, but more so. It is almost as if, even when we sleep, we become conscious of the presence of God touching us.

I have learned to try to check with this deeper insight and when I do, the best intuitions come. They are purely given, striking like an arrow with a message hanging from it that passes before the inner eye. Even in public when I am speaking from a prepared talk. I find that if only I can hang loose, often a new idea inserts itself into my outline and I say something unexpected that gets through to people. This is just a sample of the ways in which one can catch momentary reflections of the spiritual dimension and find oneself looking both horizontally—at the physical world—and vertically at the same time.

The same thing happens when people use the Eastern Orthodox technique that has become so widely known as the “Jesus prayer.” As a person says this brief prayer over and over again—“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”—gradually the entreaty becomes the undercurrent, the very foundation of life and action. Somewhere deep within, a person becomes aware of contact with another reality. The classic story of this devotional practice, the Way of a Pilgrim, describes the growth of this awareness and some of the effects on the world of people and matter. This kind of sustained concentration on another level of reality can go on while one is at work mowing a lawn, or even while adding a column of figures or writing a letter. It is possible to live on two different levels at once, and even to increase one’s efficiency in the outer world at the same time.

Someone has said that the lives of most persons are like jewelry store where some trickster has mixed up the price tags. The diamonds are priced at next to nothing and some worthless baubles at thousands of dollars. Unless we stop business as usual and take stock, we are likely to end up in bankruptcy. So long as the store is crowded with people, there is no chance of taking inventory and putting things to rights. We must close the doors and take the time alone. Then we can check with the stock list, our list of priorities, and give the right value to the right object. If we truly believe that God is a loving Father, there need be no fear He will take away what we need (or think we need). He wants us to find Him so that He can bring us to our deepest and most lasting satisfactions.

Still, life has a way of keeping our priorities or price tags shuffled, and to bring order and harmony into life, to find meaning in it, requires stopping and redeeming time by reflection in quiet and silence. Indeed, we need to quiet before the Lord, collect our many fragmented pieces in life and submit them to Christ. If we are attentive to the Author of Life in meditation, we will discover how He can put all these fragmented pieces of life into a beautiful picture for us. It is energy saving when life is integrative. It is draining when life is compartmentalized into different pieces – we feel like we are being torn apart by different demands in life. Through our quiet time in the Lord, He put us back into one wholesome being again. So again, devotional time is not something you do for God’s favor but for yourselves. You are being built up and healed through your daily devotional time with the Risen Christ or Holy Spirit…Remember. God wants to make you whole again.

Enjoy His love with you in Christ,
Lawrence

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Devotional Reading 220211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for some of your prayer, I had a fruitful weekend preaching in Vancouver, Canada. God spoke through me to challenge this historical church (100 years old) in the heart of Vancouver Chinatown. I had the opportunity to minister to the English and Chinese congregations. The Mandarin group was vibrant and active in serving the Lord. Pray that God will continue to revive this congregation for His Kingdom.

Unless one takes the time to turn inward and be silent, meditation and the spiritual quest will not get very far. We seldom find God in a hurry, or in bits and pieces of reflection on a day of busy activity. An efficiently busy life, which keeps us occupied without being harried and keeps our attention entirely on interesting outer things, is probably more potentially destructive of spiritual growth than debauchery or alcohol or hard drugs…On the other hand, a quiet, efficient and busy life spent continuously in good works can shield an individual most effectively from any plunge into the depth where God dwells. Time for silence is a prime requisite for finding that inner depth through meditation.

The reason that most of us fill up our time and stay busy is that we are afraid to be alone. We do not want to deal with everything we find in ourselves. It seems that if we will just keep busy enough, we won’t have to deal with them. But that is an illusion. Fact of the matter is, if we stay busy enough, we do not even notice the mischief our inner demons are doing to others.

People find excellent reasons for turning to these Eastern practices since the Church makes almost no effort to offer instruction about such practices, or even to suggest that finding God is an even more vitally important reason for meditating. Are we afraid to ask this much of people, or has Western religion been so brainwashed by our emphasis on the material world that we really don’t think there is value in taking time to turn inward? Or has Christianity lost its under- standing that spirit can restore both body and mind?

For a long time the Church was sure of the value of time for meditation. The early Church simply assumed that all Christians would have their daily times of meeting the Risen Lord. When Christians lived with the knowledge that at any moment they might be apprehended and condemned to death for the treasonous art of supporting an illegal religion, they had reason to seek this presence. I doubt if they could have survived the tensions of that world and changed it as thoroughly as they did without the vivid consciousness of God’s presence.

In the Protestant Reformation there was an attempt to provide some sense of responsibility for the average Christian. In some sects there was a measure of success, but when religion for most people was a matter legislated for them, it was hard to persuade many of them to take the religious life seriously. In the end the theologians of most of the major Protestant groups concluded that humankind was caught in a totally physical world, shut off from any experience except the physical one. In the long run most people are more consistent than we generally realize, and Protestants of almost every brand fell in line with the understanding that it is silly to think of stopping to get in touch with another dimension or realm of reality. Thus there is little understanding of the practice of meditation among the standard Protestant groups. I remember how it worried one of my professors in the seminary that some of us were always in chapel before the rest. He considered us a little too intense and thought it might well represent some psychological imbalance. As a result of this attitude more and more Christians have turned to TM or Zen or Hare Krishna.

There is good reason for letting go of enforced routines of prayer and imposed periods of silence in the religious Orders. No one can force another person to take the inner way. Turning inward is a venture that each of us must assent to and pursue on our own, because we desire it. It turns sour if another tries to take me by the hand and pull me along against my will. Unless I ask for these experiences out of my own need or for my own reasons, I can receive little spiritual insight or guidance from them, and I am likely to feel put upon, or even tyrannized in the most devastating way.

I had a lot of quiet time while I was in Vancouver. I chose not to go anywhere but spending time with the Lord at my host home or at the airport. My plane was delayed in San Francisco for 2 hours because of weather problem, and delayed again in Vancouver for another 2 hours because of mechanical problem upon return. It gave me some quantity time to spend with the Lord. I enjoyed the quiet time to draw close to the Lover of my soul, and allowed Him to speak freely to me while I was “wasting” my time at the airport. It was an interesting experience to see people rushing around you but you feel so serene to be with the Lord in prayer and meditation. We need this kind of quiet time to rejuvenate our whole being. It is truly a gift from God that we are created with this ability to interact with God and in touch with the spiritual realm.

Hope you can find time to rest and focus on the Lord in prayer and meditation…

With Love in Him,
Lawrence