Reminder: SPCH on Saturday, No TD Friday

Just a friendly reminder that there is no TD this Friday.  We will be having our monthly ministry to the convalescent home.  Meet at my house at 9:30 a.m.  We will NOT be eating lunch at the Hsieh’s home this month, as we have the Youth Speakers Association Drill at church at 1 p.m.  So, please have your parents pick you up from the Hsiehs’ at 12:15 p.m.  Thanks.

And here’s a big shout out to our Youth Speakers:  Aileen, Alex, Bev, Carolyn, Daniel, Erika, Iris, Joseph, Judy, Melody, Micah, and Priscilla!  God’s best to you guys as you proclaim His truth! 

A Father’s Sacrifice

As a father, both physically and spiritually, my eyes and ears are always attuned to stories about fatherhood, mentoring, and sacrificing for the next generation.  As Jim Daly writes, “At the core of our faith we see a Father’s sacrifice, and we see the second Person of the Trinity give His life for us.”  In this video, we see the moving story of the Vander Woude family, who experienced this kind of father’s love and sacrifice.  It raises issues and about the value of human life – like, are some lives more valuable than others, if those lives have more “ability” and potential?  Is it really better to lose the head of your family for one who probably won’t make much of a visible and measurable contribution to the family and society?  Tough questions.  Anyway, would love to hear your thoughts. – Arthur

 

Temporarily Able Bodied

T-A-B (Temporarily Able-Bodied) $12.99

On Saturday, Sandra, Eunice, and I were able to help Jenny as she teamed up with prolific author and disability ministry specialist,  Dr. Jeff McNair, to help train World Impact missionaries to the inner city in how to rightly think about and understand those affected by disability, according to God’s eyes and will. 

It was a special time and a great time of reminder and value for me, even though I am a leader in disability ministry.  And that’s how it is, isn’t it?  Those of us with titles, experience, knowledge, etc. are often the ones who most need fresh reminding of why we do what we do in the first place.  This Slice of Infinity by Margaret Manning is a great essay for all of us to read and remember who we really are. – Arthur 

My friend Sylvia is a paraplegic. She has not been able to use her legs since she was a high school girl. A horrible accident took away her ability to walk or to run, and left her without any discernible feeling in the lower half of her body—her spine severed, the nerves do not receive the necessary information to register sensation or stimulation.

Prior to her accident, Sylvia was an aspiring athlete. Without the use of her legs, this aspiration would be put on hold, but not permanently. Though she is paralyzed in body, she is not paralyzed in spirit. And she eventually competed in several World Championships and in the Paralympic Games. Her determination to excel at world-class competitions, despite her injury, and her intention to live a full-life has been an immense inspiration to me.

Sylvia uses a term for people like me who have the use of our legs. We are “TAB’s”—Temporarily Able Bodied. Every day I wake up with a new ache or pain, or I see my stamina waning, I recognize the truth of her naming me a “TAB.” I truly am temporarily able bodied—at some point in my life, I will need assistance in many of my daily tasks.

Sylvia is not one to ask for help: she drives, works at least a 40 hour week and has traveled the world. She has mastered the art of navigating the world in a wheelchair. Yet, there are times when even this accomplished athlete needs some assistance. She is grateful for the technology that has developed excellent, lightweight wheelchairs. She is grateful for friends who can reach for the pan in the high cabinetry when we have gathered for home-cooked meals.  And she was grateful when we helped her out of the wheelchair and into the lake so she could swim one beautiful summer day not too many years ago. She welcomes the kind of assistance that develops her abilities in spite of her disability.

While I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be physically paralyzed like my friend Sylvia, I certainly understand the emotional, spiritual and psychological paralysis that results from trauma or duress. After suffering my own form of paralyzing accident, I experienced what I could only describe as a numbing paralysis. While my body functioned, my mind and heart were paralyzed. I could not create any momentum to move me past the questions that imprisoned me or the doubts that bound me. Initiative fled away, drive and determination left me. I was stuck and unable to move. All that had propelled me forward in the past stalled, stopped, and froze. I was, practically speaking, immobile.

I know that my emotional, psychological and spiritual paralysis doesn’t compare to my friend Sylvia’s being a paraplegic. But it did help me understand what it must feel like to lack the freedom to move and to have a sense of being able.

The gospels are filled with stories about paralytics. But the story that always gets my attention occurs in Mark’s gospel. Jesus was teaching in Capernaum in a house that was filled to capacity with listeners. There was not any more room for anyone, let alone a paralytic being carried on a cot by four friends. Yet the crowded house would not deter these determined friends. They were so determined to get their friend to Jesus that they got up onto the roof of the house, with their paralyzed friend, removed the portion of the roof above where Jesus was teaching, and lowered their friend down on his pallet.(1)

I’m not sure how the owners of the house felt when part of their roof was removed, but Jesus, the gospel tells us, saw their faith—faith that went to extraordinary lengths to bring their friend to him. As a result of their faith, Jesus declared that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven. To demonstrate his authority to forgive sins, Jesus then heals him and tells him to “rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And immediately, the paralytic jumps up (perhaps for the first time) and went out before everyone so that “they were all amazed and glorified God.”

In periods of paralysis, we are forced to depend on others, perhaps even relying on the faith, courage, and strength of those who see our abilities even through our disability. Something very beautiful and healing occurs when we allow others to offer us assistance. In my own paralysis, friends gathered around to help me. They did the things I could not do any longer. They said the prayers on my behalf; they believed on my behalf. When I slowly began to move again, they held my arms and steadied my legs. I came to experience a kind of healing because of the assistance and help of my friends. Their faith inspired movement in me towards the God who heals. Indeed, those who are willing to carry the cots of their paralyzed friends embody God’s healing love and care.

There will always be times in life that inhibit forward movement—or any movement at all. In those times, we trust that there will be others to help carry us and care for us.  And when we are moving along, perhaps with such momentum that we could miss those lying in cots along our path, may the same kind of care and determination to help others cause us to stop, pick them up, and carry them with faith to Jesus.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

“On Authority, Demons, and Jesus’ Purpose” (Luke 4:31-44) – TD Bible Study

For our next TD small group study on 3/21, we are going to have YOU (yes you!) help develop the study for vv. 31-37 … AND … explore anew the following closely related passage that we have not taught on yet (vv. 38-44)!  You will get to go “behind the scenes” and see what it takes to “work through” a passage in preparation for a message or Bible study.  If we all do our part, we are going to experience a new exciting dimension to our small group Bible study time.

So, here’s what you need to do.  Listen to or re-listen to the message below while taking notes.  Then, follow the instructions in the Bible Study instructions below.  PLEASE come well prepared and ready for God to use your preparation for His purposes! – Arthur

“On Authority, Demons, and Jesus’ Purpose” Luke 4:31-37 (Arthur’s message)

“On Authority, Demons, and Jesus’ Purpose” Luke 4:31-44 (Bible Study instructions)

Who Are You God? The Immortal Word

Last night in TD, we began to get more clarity and soberness with respect to the spiritual world that we live in.  It’s certainly important to understand and get a handle on, for the realm of demons, angels, and the supernatural is real.  It would be foolish to ignore.  The Bible doesn’t. 

As we continue in our Who Are You God? series, in this piece, Nathaniel peeks through the curtains and gives us a vivid description of what heaven may be like.  It’s a brilliant and moving piece that he wrote when in high school that left me not only more concretely aware of the supernatural realms, but increased my yearnings and desires to know my Destiny more fully.

Please take the time to stop, read, ponder, and stroke your imagination; something God-given that we Asians tend to under-cultivate … but need to.  – Arthur

Stunned, I passed by the columns of heaven, glimpsing what appeared to be intensely familiar.  I looked again, intently studying the rich marble and the radiant gold lettering.  Yes indeed, embedded in the gates of the celestial city were the chronicles and laws of Moses, the laments and warnings of prophets, the cries and songs of David, the miraculous accounts of Luke, the impassioned letters of Paul, and the vivid revelations of John.  Scripture, Holy Scripture, indelibly etched into heaven’s eternal gates.  Yet my countenance must have revealed my awed bewilderment, for Empyrean, my guiding angel, aptly remarked, “It’s as if you’re stunned to see the Words of life immortalized.”  “Stunned alright,” I admit. “Wasn’t the Bible given for our use on earth?  I mean, I have just always assumed that being in the presence of God would be enough.  There is no need for partial revelation when we are basking in the full light of His glory, is there?”  Empyrean strolled along then paused in front of a massive column.  “You are wrong, my son,” he affectionately stated, “being in the presence of the Almighty, basking in His light is not enough.  It’s more than enough.  In fact it is more than any angel or man could ever absorb, process, or know.  No, for all eternity I will never cease to revel in and learn from the Holy One.”  Those were my thoughts exactly and that was why I was so stunned to see something from the finite realm transcend into the infinite one.

The Bible was God’s special revelation to humanity, but wasn’t its express purpose to shine light in a dark, distorted world?  Here, nothing could possibly add light to the brilliance of the Son.  To me, Scripture was an accommodation.  Yes it is so glorious and full of truth that it works in conjunction with the Spirit himself.  But isn’t the Word necessary only because we cannot stand before the face of God and live; only because fellowship has been broken; only because our hearts are hardened and our eyes blinded?  There was no need for Scripture in the garden when pre-fall man walked with Him and talked with Him, was there?  Empyrean stepped over to the massive edifice and reached out his undefiled hand.  Running his fingers over the golden words, he uttered, “Timeless truth, within these precious words are timeless truths. They are the Master’s words, each letter pointing to the heart of a Father.”  The column shone with haunting luminescence, reflecting its deep light off of the angel’s white robe and into my awe- stricken eyes.  Then Empyrean turned, casting me into the shadow of his massive figure.  “Define Scripture,” he ordered, suddenly taking on the role of a learned teacher.  “Scripture is,” I started, and then paused to collect my thoughts, “Scripture is the compilation of sixty-six documents written by over forty authors across a span of about sixteen hundred years.  Each and every passage was inspired by God and is profitable for bringing the elect to salvation and continuing the process of sanctification.”  Satisfied with what I believed to be a fairly comprehensive answer, I waited for a response from my angelic teacher.  “O, but it is so much more,” Empyrean exclaimed, “Scripture probes past sterile details and even musings of the mind. In this sacred text are words that pierce the heart.  The Word does not merely recount the Almighty’s words; it reveals the Creator’s own heart.  Likewise, the Bible does not merely chronicle the utterances of humanity; it exposes and lays bare their hearts, every thought, intent, and desire.  Scripture,” he declared with cadence, “is the pouring out, in love, of God’s timeless thoughts and omniscient heart.  What God has to say was never meant solely for a moment.  He is eternal and so are His words.”

Speechless, I stared dumbly at the pillar, pausing to absorb the weight of the words which had been uttered.  Then I started reading.  JOHN 19 the heading stated, “Pilate then took Jesus and scourged him and the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face.” I gazed at these all so familiar words and thought to myself, “Well the best is yet to come.  Good Friday always segues into the glories of Easter morning.”  Yet my anticipation soon turned into contemplation as I looked past the etched letters.  Before long, my gaze penetrated the immortal words and the pillar came to life.  As if by some cinematic miracle, I was confronted with the sheer agony of the Savior.  In vivid color I glimpsed the crimson blood dripping down the Savior’s face, past a tearful eye.  In rapturous sound I heard the cruel jeers of the crowd, the brutal mocking of the Roman centurions, and the silent sobs of a mother who was losing her firstborn son.  Overwhelmed, I shouted, “This is not the way it is supposed to be!  Where is the heaven without tears, without sadness, without death?”  Empyrean strode over to the column with an expression of satisfaction, “The eyes of God are not confined to time.  All of history is ever before Him.”  Stepping closer, Empyrean confronted me, “You see, dear one, Heaven is tearless only because of the bitter tears and bloody sweat of Gethsemane.  Heaven is joyful only because of the infinite sacrifice and total atonement of Golgotha.  Heaven is vitality itself only because of the victory of a hollow tomb.  Heaven is a place of remembrance.”  From my prostrated position I lifted my eyes and saw for the first time not merely grandiose Ionic columns, but stones of perfect remembrance.  I myself recalling the choruses of earth could not help but raise my soul in worship with the words of Robert Robinson, “Here I raise my Ebenezer; Here by Thy great help I’ve come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.”

Suddenly, as if the blinders were removed from my eyes, I realized where I was.  The pillars of remembrance were arced in massive yet graceful semicircle, and there I was, in the middle, in front the central column.  “Do you finally see?” Empyrean inquired, “We are witnessing the climax of history, what all of creation has been and is longing for.  For this moment had God stepped out of eternity and into time so that you could step out of time and into eternity with Him.”  Indeed as my eyes slowly passed over the vivid heavenly gates, I realized that not only all of Scripture, but all of history converged at Calvary.  The near sacrifice of Isaac and the actual human sacrifice of the Aztecs spoke to the need for a bloody atonement.  The prophetic voices of Isaiah and John the Baptist mingle with the cries of Jezebel’s Baal worshippers who were acutely aware of their need for deliverance.  The epistles of Paul are viewed side by side with the condemning edicts of Nero, for both testify to the uncontainable and powerful truth of a dead and resurrected Christ who is worth dying for.  I turned and stared into the words of John 19.  Exuding from the image was an indescribably luminous beauty.  The torn, whipped flesh, the mingled dust, sweat, and blood, described with poignancy who God was.  Knowing that I had just experienced the piercing power and timeless purpose of the Word, Empyrean asked with the air of a masterful teacher, “So, who is God?”  “God is indescribable,” I started, knowing that no sole answer could satisfy such an ultimate, hallowing question.  Yet before I could excuse myself, my eyes fell on what was God’s very own answer through the special revelation of the Word and the incarnation of His Son.  Falling on my knees, I exclaimed to the Lord of the celestial city, “God, You are eternal truth poured out in Calvary love.”  And then with tears in my eyes, I managed to stammer what I should have been saying all along, “Thank You, thank You, thank You.”

– Nathaniel Hsieh

TD Friday: “On Authority, Demons, and Jesus’ Purpose” Luke 4:31-44

Jesus knew why He came to earth. Do you? On His journey, He would encounter much opposition, including evil forces. So will you. Jesus won His battles. Will you? With Jesus, you can. Join us as we study how.

I look forward to seeing you all at TD, as I will be speaking.  I’m excited to get into God’s Word with you and to learn better how to live this life right. – Arthur

Consider the Lilies

It was a Saturday morning and some of my family were out on a walk around the more secluded parts of the beautiful Orange Grove area of Pasadena, when suddenly Sandra started reading “Consider the Lilies,” written by our friend, Jill Carattini, out loud and without warning.  It spoke to us and graciously but firmly, like an iron hand in a velvet glove, elicited tasteful discomfort in my conscience, knowing full well that I succumb to the “anxious preoccupied life” it seeks to help detour.  Well, it succeeded, and I pray that it would keep succeeding in my life.  If you need a fresh and fragrant rescue from the tyranny of the now, read on. 

And for those of you non-readers (i.e. video watchers), please begin training yourself to be able to read.  It will serve you very well, especially if you are to behold a fuller, more complete expression of the delights of the Word Himself. – Arthur  

Wendell Berry has written a poem that haunts me frequently.  As a creative writer, the act of paying attention is both a spiritual and professional discipline. But far too often my aspirations for paying quality attention to everything dissolves into something more like attention deficit disorder. As it turns out, it is quite possible to see and not really see, to hear and not really hear. And this is all the more ironic when my very attempts to capture what I am seeing and hearing are the thing that prevent me from truly being present. Berry’s poem is about a man on holiday, who, trying to seize the sights and sounds of his vacation by video camera, manages to miss the entire thing.

…he stood with his camera preserving his vacation even as he was having it so that after he had had it he would still have it. It would be there. With a flick of a switch, there it would be. But he would not be in it. He would never be in it.(1)

I sometimes wonder if one of the most quoted sayings of Jesus is not often employed with a similar irony. “Consider the lilies,” Jesus said, “how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field…will he not much more clothe you?  Therefore, do not worry” (Matthew 6:28-31). Typically, Jesus is quoted here as giving a helpful word against worry. And he is. But worry is not the only command he articulates. Consider the lilies, he said. We hear the first instruction peripherally, hurriedly, as mere set up for the final instruction of the saying. And in so doing, we miss something great, perhaps even something vital, both in the means and in the end. With our rationalistic sensibilities, we gloss over consideration of the lilies; ironically, in an attempt to consider the real work Jesus is asking us to do.

But what if considering the lilies is the work, the antidote to anxious, preoccupied lives? What if attending to beauty, to the ephemeral, to the fleeting details of a distracted world is a command Jesus wants us to take seriously in and of itself?

It is with such a conviction that artist Makoto Fujimura not only paints, but elsewhere comments on Mary and her costly pouring of perfume on the feet of Jesus. The anger of Judas and the disgust of the others are all given in rational terms, the cacophony of their reaction attempting to drown out her quiet act of attention: That bottle would have cost over a year’s wages. The poor could have used that money. This sinful woman clings to a holy man’s feet. Does he not see who it is who touches him? Their response to her and her act of beauty exposes their own inattention to a world beyond the one they see—to their own peril. As Fujimura writes, “Pragmatism, legalism, and greed cannot comprehend the power of ephemeral beauty. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness; the opposite of beauty is legalism.  Legalism is hard determinism that slowly strangles the soul. Legalism injures by giving pragmatic answers to our suffering.”(2) The corollary, of course, is that beauty can offer healing; that paying attention, even to fleeting glimpses of glory, is deeply restorative.

When Jesus asks the world to consider the lilies, to consider beauty in the midst of all the ashes around us, his request is full of promise, for he is both the Source of beauty and its Subject. Paying attention to the ephemeral, being willing like Mary to risk and to recognize beauty, is in and of itself restorative because it is paying attention to him. Here, both the anxiety-addicted and the attention-overloaded can find solace in a different sort of kingdom: one in which there is room for the paradox of a fleeting world with eternity in its heart.

But perhaps Jesus also instructs the world to consider the lilies because it is characteristic of God’s concern for us. The daily liturgy of lilies comes with unceasing care and attention for all who will see it, the gift of a God who revels in the creation of yet another flower, the details of another sunset, the discovery of even one lost soul. Consider the lilies; how they grow. They neither toil, nor spin. 

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. 

(1) Wendell Berry, “The Vacation,” Selected Poems, (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1998), 157. (2) Makoto Fujimura, “The Beautiful Tears,” Tabletalk, September, 2010.

The Drop Box

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matt. 25:40

There is an faithful Christian brother in South Korea who believes this verse and lives by it.  Watch below to see the incredible way he took God at His Word and took action!  May it serve to inspire us to live by faith and to live effectively for Him.  Is there something God is calling YOU to do in serving “the least of them”? – Arthur