The Smile of One Thinking About Jesus

IMG_20160825_1141522

IMG_20160825_1142061

Hey TD!

Some of you have met and know our dear friend, Celestine.  We’ve known her for nearly 20 years.  When you see these pics, you are saying, “Yep, that’s how I remember her,” for that’s how she’s been all these years whenever we fellowshipped together with her, rejoicing together in the goodness of our God.  She was as steady and as faithful in the Lord as could be, always in His Word, listening to sermons, reading devotionals, and asking lots of questions wrought out of her study of Scripture; she brought inspiration and conviction, not with her mouth, but with her life and focus.

So, you can imagine our concern a couple of months ago when we discovered she was no longer reading the Word, was down in spirits, not as sharp or vibrant, and watching lots of TV (something she rarely did before).  It was due to the enormous changes that were taking place in her care facility, leaving her with hardly any social interaction or with much to do.  I told the nurse that she wasn’t as sharp mentally as she used to be.  She agreed and said all this change was having its effects on her.

Well, that shook us. We knew that more regular engagement with God’s Word was going to be necessary for her to begin really living again.  We would need to help dust off  the cob webs and retrain her to feed off of and drink once again from the Living Water.  So, during TD, I presented the need and opportunity to give Celestine a visit a few times a week, do Bible study, sing hymns, pray, and enjoy her company.  A few of you responded to take the baton and visit her during my family’s visit to China.  And those who went were very blessed and charged up.

Well, the pictures above were taken yesterday, during our Bible study in John.  These smiles came spontaneously when we were discussing what heaven was going to be like and what we’d be doing there.  As you can see, her face lit up with the thought of it.  I was only able to catch the end of her lighting up with my camera.  You should have seen her just before I took these pics!  She was smiling so big, it looked like her face was going to break!  That’s the power of God’s Word under the Spirit’s unction and lead.

May I ask you a question that I asked you last Friday?  When was the last time your heart burned within you (or your face lit up so much that it almost broke) when you read the Word of God?  How long has it been?  When was it?  Where was it?  Why isn’t that happening more often in your life?

Friends, hear these indicting words of our Lord,

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the [d]deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place—unless you repent.” – Revelations 2

To repent means to turn around, change direction, and walk in that new direction, leaving the old behind.  Are you in need of that in your life today?  As you start the new school year, this would be a really great time to make that move of repentance, to turn away from your manufactured life, to turn towards the Lord through His Word, and to truly follow Him.  It’s not even really a choice He gives, as much as it is a command He demands.  Follow Him.

We counselors would love to be of help to you, if you are ready to make your move.  Just reach out to us and we will aim to help you! – Arthur

TD Friday: Ohana Means Family and Family Means …

images

Hey TD’ers!

My family returned recently from the most externally beautiful and the most internally and familially beautiful trip we’ve ever had together.  In a word, it was … Narnia … for us.  My heart was so full of richness, it hurt (and still does).  There was a  mutual loyalty and friendship felt that’s hard to describe. “Heaven” was an oft used word. One phrase my boys uttered a few times was, “Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”

It made me think of what heaven’s designed to be like.  The external beauty will surely be there … and so will the internal beauty and richness of loyal friendships, with God and His ohana.  And if our friends (Christian and non-Christian alike) are going to get an idea of heaven, it ought to be via seeing or experiencing authentic Christian “ohana” relationships, where life is laid down one for another (like Christ did) and no one in the “ohana” gets left behind or forgotten.

The Christian church isn’t lacking in verbal arguments or defenses, or even in niceness and nice gestures; but it IS lacking in sacrificial Christ-like others-centered commitment in its Christian “ohana” relationships. And that is a damaging apologetic.  Who wants to join a “family” that isn’t even loyal to each other? Even gangs know better than this (see my message).

Jesus said, “By THIS all people will know that you are My disciples …”  What’s “THIS”? He answers, “… if you have love for one another.”  The word used for love there is agape, the most committed, determined, loyal kind of love in the Greek language; the word used for God’s love.

It’s this kind of demonstrative apologetic that we need to develop … and it is HARD.  But it is what we’ll be working on this Friday at TD in our discussion groups.

“Improving Our Impotence” (mp3 – Arthur)

So, in preparation for this vital discussion, please review my last message, “Improving Our Impotence,” as well as the recent blog posts on loyalty and friendship.

Until TD! – Arthur

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

Wanna Know What Heaven’s Like?

Hey TD’ers, I think I saw the answer to this question when I saw this video.  When you watch it, please don’t be multi-tasking.  Put down what you’re doing for 6 minutes, pray for God to speak to you, and then watch and behold what will be unending in heaven – true love.

After you’re done, I’d love for you to comment and submit some parallels and associations with heaven and the glory of the gospel that you can think of.  Would you do that for me? Thanks … and enjoy! – Arthur