Sunday, February 28, 2016

I have moved to a new website called God's Kingdom Revealed at

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Resolution

Welcome 2006.

It is my New Year's Resolution to write a book, the Mystery of Intimacy. I plan to finish the draft within six months and get it ready for publication before 2007.

Everyday I will post my early drafts on this blog, giving everyone a chance to comment before I publish. I hope you all will come back and post contructive comments and questions.

I haven't been blogging or commenting on anyone else's blogs for about 9 months because I felt God wanted to deal with my pride. He challenged me to become smaller, rather than larger. Well of course I was already small, I just couldn't admit I deserved to be small. Not only that, God also challenged me to enjoy my smallness. Now I feel ready to write what I have been living and teaching the past 13 years in Taiwan.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

New Book proposal "The Mystery of Intimacy"

For the past 2 years I have been teaching "how to be close to God". While it may take me another year to finish teaching the class, I feel now is the time to begin writing a book on this topic. I intend to call the book "The Mystery of Intimacy", subtitled "How to be close to God". Here are my proposed contents:

The Mystery of Intimacy
(How to be close to God)

Introduction to a Mystery

Part 1 The Rule of Intimacy

  • Seek conviction of the Spirit
  • Seek filling of the Spirit
  • Seek to walk in the Spirit
Part 2 The Test of Intimacy
  • Fruit of the Spirit
  • Unity of the Spirit
  • Fullness in Christ
Over the next few months I will be writing on these topics. Eventually I will collect them into a book. Feel free to send your editorial comments.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Romans 12:1-8 Gift Centered Service

After devoting eleven chapters to God's mercy, Paul is now going to apply it to Christian living. Interestingly, he starts with the proper use of spiritual gifts. Usually Romans 12:1-2 is not linked to spiritual gifts, but this implies that Paul has no theme at the crucial point of this letter. As I see it, the theme is that gift centered service must be done in the fruit of the Spirit. Since we are focused on spiritual gifts, I will only comment on the first eight verses and leave the fruit of the Spirit for another time.

12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
These words are linked by the Bible: offering, sacrifice, obedience, worship. When we give something to God or do something for God, it shows that we believe He deserves such things. Worship applies to every area of life, but we often exempt Paul's prime consideration: Spiritual Gifts. God has given each Christian a spiritual gift. He wants us to use it. To honor God, we must discover, develop and use our gifts. Using our gifts is an act of worship. Thus ignoring our gifts is dishonoring to God; an act of rebellion.
12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Spiritual gifts are the power of the Holy Spirit, given to break us free from the pattern of this world. The world does not have our power to serve, help, give, teach, lead, govern, etc. Obedience to God yields the fruit of the Spirit. When we develop and use our God given spiritual power, God transforms our mind. It becomes easier and easier to know how use our gift in accordance with God's will. If we remain humble and obedient, this transformation will extend beyond using our gifts, into every area of life.

12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

One of the great dangers of success is pride. When we use the power inherent in our gifts, we will succeed more than the world can. The pattern of this world is to glorify self. If our minds are not transformed, we will become proud of our spiritual gifts and the success they bring us. We must always keep in mind that our powers are not earned, they are gifts from God. Without Him, we can do nothing.

12:4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 12:5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
All the Christians in the world, and in fact throughout the ages are members of one body. We all have different purposes, but we are united in Christ. We must take direction from the head (Christ) and go about our specific functions. It can be difficult at times to adjust to the other members when our own purpose is so pressing, but we truly need each other. In humility we must remember that only God can behold the whole body working at once.

12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 12:7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 12:8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Not only do we have a diversity of gifts, but also those with the same gift have differing amounts of power and areas of service. One gift may be for teaching children only. Such a gift would not help when teaching adults. Another teaching gift could be for one-on-one situations, and still another for mass audiences. Whatever the gift: find, develop, and use it as God directs. Concluding this selection is a partial list of gifts, note how they have been turned into verbs of action: prophesy, serve, teach, encourage, give, govern, show mercy. In view of God's mercy, let us worship God by using our gifts to serve others. In doing so, He will transform us into his image.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Spiritual Gifts Series: Romans 12:1-6 Gift centered service

Using your gift is an act of worship

When you use your gift, God changes you
Using your gift helps you know God’s will
Don’t become proud of your gifts (they come from God)
A body has many members with different functions
In Christ, we (the church) form one united body
God has given us differing gifts in differing amounts
Use the gift God has given you: prophesy, serve, teach, encourage, give, lead, show mercy

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Spiritual Gifts Series

Last week in my Sunday School Class I began the new semester topic of Spiritual Gifts. I'd like to summarize the material as a FAQ (frequently asked questions). Much of my material is adapted from Peter Wagner's book, "Your Spiritual Gifts can help your church grow."

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Spiritual Gift: a special power God gives to Christians through the Holy Spirit to help others and glorify God.

things to note about this definition:

  • a special power: a spiritual gift is nothing less than the power of God
  • God gives: this power is a gift from God which we must discover
  • to Christians: every Christian has one or more spiritual gifts
  • through the Holy Spirit: the Holy Spirit lives inside each Christian and provides access to this power
  • to help others: each gift is designed to benefit others
  • and bring glory to God: the ultimate purpose of the gifts is to enhance our ability to bring glory to God.
How many Spiritual Gifts are there?

There is no definitive list, although there are several partial lists in the Bible. Every book on Spiritual Gifts comes up with a few differences. I prefer to use Wagner's list of 27 gifts. I have arranged them as:

Governmental (to prepare God's people for works of service): apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher

Public (gifts that tend to get noticed by others):
exhortation, leadership, healing, miracles, tongues, interpretation of tongues, exorcism, missionary, martyrdom

Private (gifts that tend not to be noticed by others):
administration, service, giving, mercy, wisdom, knowledge, faith, discerning spirits, helps, celibacy, voluntary poverty, hospitality, intercession

I could include others such as arts and worship leading, but I'll delay that to another day.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Julie, merciful servant

I have one Sunday Bible class student, Julie, who has been in my class since I started teaching in Taiwan, over 12 years ago. Julie speaks Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese (her favorite I think) and English. She is a retired travel agent and still likes to travel around the world. She also has a gift, from the Holy Spirit, to serve.

Julie is a senior citizen, but she serves the rest of us. She takes attendance for the class records, organizes the tables and chairs if they are disorganized and brings me a glass of water if I need one. Julie used to make copies of class handouts before class, but the church office recently complained that they are too busy to help supervise our copying, so now I have to submit my class materials a week ahead so they can be copied at a more convenient time for the church staff. (We have an exceptionally organized church, but there isn't much room for spontaneity.)

Anyway, our church, Suan-Lien Presbyterian, is over 90 years old and Julie has grown up in it. She is very happy now because her husband finally became a Christian last year and her daughter is finally getting married this year.

Back when I was making trouble over the 2-28 Incident, Julie took me to lunch and helped me understand some things. At the beginning of the 2-28 Incident, the Taiwanese people rose up in revolt against the corrupt government imposed on them by the mainland (China, ruled by Chang Kai-Shek). For four days, gangs ran through the streets and searched the houses looking for mainlanders to punish. Julie was a young secretary working in Taipei at the time. One of her coworkers was another young woman from the mainland. Julie was worried about her friend's safety, so she invited her to stay at Julie's house. Julie shepherded the woman past the gangs, and hid her until the trouble was past.

This was an element of the 2-28 Incident that I'd never heard before. I had only heard about the suffering of the Taiwanese, never the mainlanders. Julie told me that I was right to say the Taiwanese should forgive the government, but with a pained expression she asked me not to push the issue. "People just don't want to talk about this," she said.

I don't remember how soon, but I did follow her advice. I used to bring up this topic once every year on the last day of February, but now I just slip it into my general teaching on forgiving our enemies, without specifically highlighting the 2-28 Incident. I still love and respect those who refuse to forgive, perhaps they will see beyond my brashness, to merciful heart of God. But as for Julie, I believe her reward will be greater than all the successful, high placed leaders who are spiritually crippled by bitterness. Meanwhile, revival tarries.