In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), we see a person attacked by robbers, stripped, beaten, severely injured and left alone half dead. It is told that a priest saw the man but passed him by on the other side. Likewise, a Levite sees the man but passes him by on the other side as well. Even though the priest and the Levite completely ignored the man and his wounds, essentially leaving him alone to die, they considered themselves to be good and spiritual Christians because they read the Bible, prayed to God, listened to sermons and observed religious regulations. However, their piety to God was not genuine or real but rather superficial and philosophical at best. I sometimes feel pained and burdened in my heart, wondering whether I have produced genuine and real followers of Christ, or rather superficial and philosophical “religious” people, who hear much and know much but do little.
While realizing that ten years ago I didn’t have the faintest idea that I would end up where I am now, I still like to keep up the illusion that I am in control of my own life. I like to decide what I most need, what I will do next, what I want to accomplish, and how others will think of me. While being so busy running my own life, I become oblivious to the gentle movements of the Spirit of God within me, pointing me in directions quite different from my own. It requires a lot of inner solitude and silence to become aware of these divine movements. God does not shout, scream, or push. The Spirit of God is soft and gentle like a small voice or a light breeze. It is the Spirit of Love. (Henri Nouwen, You Are the Beloved, 128) Happy Friday and Have a blessed House Church tonight. Miss you all.
If ANF does house church ministry only because the early churches of the first century did, we fall into the danger of traditionalism. Under traditionalism, people focus so much on how they did things in the past that they are quick to forget the spirit of, or why they are continuing, the traditions to begin with. For these reasons, I find it worth re-emphasizing that our church does house church ministry only because we believe it is the best way to restore the spirit of the New Testament church, which includes, (1) restoring the purpose of the church, namely making disciples of Jesus Christ, (2) restoring the biblical method of discipleship through modeling, (3) restoring the biblical model of ministries, where there are works of ministry for every believer, and (4) restoring the biblical model of leadership, namely servanthood. Forms can and should be modified depending on the context or situation. However, the spirit should be left unchanged.
I heard from several pastors who are doing house church ministry this week that many of their house churches have not been meeting on time, remembering to prepare praise or word time or praying for their VIPs or missionaries as of recently. Because of this current COVID-19 pandemic, our house churches, too, have been unable to gather in person and are instead meeting virtually through Zoom. Surely, the platform by which we do house church has changed. However, our church must make consistent efforts to maintain the spirit of house church regardless of this situation. I believe that all of our house churches in ANF have been doing well. However, I want to encourage you all to continue gathering on time, preparing praise and word time ahead of time, sharing how you all have been serving your VIPs, praying for your VIPs and missionaries and so forth. I pray that all of our house churches in ANF would continue to restore the spirit of the New Testament church, even during this pandemic.
In Luke 10:25-37, an expert in the Bible came to Jesus and asked him, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus says to him, “What does the Bible say?” He answers with confidence, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He already knew what the Bible had to say about his question, yet he did not act accordingly. Therefore, Jesus says to him, “DO what you have read and known from the Bible.” However, instead of responding to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, I will go and do it now,” he asks Jesus yet another theological question, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells him the parable of the Good Samaritan and instructs him again to “DO likewise.”
It seems that the story ends here, but I assume that the expert probably went back to Jesus with yet another question, such as, “Is it more important to love God or to love our neighbors?”
Jesus’ point is extremely clear and straightforward. It can be summarized well with James 1:22, which says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” I encourage you to try and do one small thing that you know that you should be doing from the Bible but have not done yet. I miss you and love you all.
Did you know that you can choose to be joyful, no matter the circumstance, when we know and believe in God’s perfect love for us? I believe that Henri Nouwen’s journal below can remind us of how we can practically apply this perfect love of God into each of our daily lives:
Joy is essential to the spiritual life. Whatever we may think of or say about God, when we are not joyful, our thoughts and words cannot bear fruit. Jesus reveals to us God’s love so that his joy may become ours and that our joy may become complete. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing—sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death—can take that love away. Joy is not the same as happiness. We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there because it comes from the knowledge of God’s love for us…. Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us. (Henri Nouwen, You Are the Beloved, 169)
The love that God has for us is (a)ccepting, (b)elieving, (c)aring, (d)esiring, (e)rasing, (f)orgiving and (g)iving love. I pray that you would be able to reflect on and experience God’s perfect love for you, as well as imitate such love in your relationships with those around you. If anyone of you were offended or hurt yesterday by me using the term, “educated people”, please forgive me. My sole intention was to encourage all of you to actively participate because I knew that all of you were capable of guessing the answers, but, if any of my words hurt your feelings, I apologize, and I promise to be more careful.
Following Sunday Corporate Worship yesterday, ten people sent me their commitments and prayer requests via e-mail and text. I have copied their commitments below, in hopes that our ANF family might continue to encourage and motivate one another and be reminded of the message that God had given us yesterday.
I also had people send me text messages, saying that they wanted to be my disciples. If you want to be my disciple, let me know:
- I want to imitate God's love for us to others. I want to be more giving and serving for others. I want to be able to have a more forgiving heart to others.
- To reflect more on God’s love for me and to show more love to everyone around me.
- I commit to seeking God's love more intentionally. I commit to accept His love and appreciate His love more. I commit to sharing the love He has given me with others around me. To accept them, believe them, care for them, desire them, erase the sins, forgive them, and give them. I pray that I don't take advantage of God's love selfishly but to share His love selflessly. I pray that I don't seek relationships that will help me personally but seek relationships where I can help others.
- I will remember these words that describe Jesus's love and explain to others who have questions about Christianity, especially to VIPs.
- I commit to God that I want to share all these kinds of love that Jesus has for us to others. I am beyond blessed that God loves us so much that I want to try to imitate God’s love to VIPS.
- I commit to becoming more like Jesus and love and forgive those around me as Jesus loved me unconditionally and forgave me without limit.
- My commitment this week is to desire more of His love and trust in His love within all my relationships.
- I want to more consistently remember the perfect love God has for me. I want to be satisfied with that love, as I should be. I also want to try to have a more accepting, believing, caring, desiring, erasing, forgiving, and giving love for others and myself.
- I commit to sacrificing more of my time to VIPs (being more caring).
Good morning, ANF Family! This is my prayer for all of us today.
What a beautiful prayer it is!
I bless thee that I know thee,
I once lived in the world, but was ignorant of its Creator,
was partaker of thy providences, but not the provider,
was blind while enjoying the sunlight,
was deaf to all things spiritual, with voices all around me.
understood many things, but had no knowledge of thy ways,
saw the world, but did not see Jesus only.
O happy day, when in thy love’s sovereignty
thou didst look on me, and call me by grace.
Then did the dead heart begin to beat,
the darkened eye glimmer with light,
the dull ear catch thy echo,
and I turned to thee and found thee,
a God ready to hear, willing to save.
(from the puritan’s prayers, 112)
It is possible to have intimate relationships with loved ones who have died. Death sometimes deepens the intimacy…. [I believe] that after separation certain people continue to be very significant for us in our hearts and through our memories. Remembering them is much more than just thinking of them, because we are making them part of our members, part of our whole being. Knowing this experience allows me to live from the deep belief that I have love to offer to people, not only here, but also beyond my short, little life. I am a human being who was loved by God before I was born and whom God will love after I die. This brief lifetime is my opportunity to receive love, deepen love, grow in love, and give love. When I die love continues to be active, and from full communion with God I am present by love to those I leave behind.
(Henri Nouwen, You Are the Beloved, 338)
Passages to New Life
One of the most radical demands for you and me is the discovery of our lives as a series of movements or passages. When we are born, we leave our mothers’ womb for the larger, brighter world of the family. It changes everything, and there is no going back. When we go to school, we leave our homes and families and move to a larger community of people where our lives are forever larger and more expansive. Later when our children are grown and they ask us for more space and freedom than we can offer, our lives may seem less meaningful. It all keeps changing. When we grow older, we retire or lose our jobs, and everything shifts again. It seems as though we are always passing from one phase to the next, gaining and losing someone, some place, something. You live all these passages in an environment where you are constantly tempted to be destroyed by resentment, by anger, and by a feeling of being put down.
The losses remind you constantly that all isn’t perfect and it doesn’t always happen for you the way you expected; that perhaps you had hoped events would not have been so painful, but they were; or that you expected something from certain relationships that never materialized. You find yourself disillusioned with the irrevocable personal losses: your health, your lover, your job, your hope, your dream. Your whole life is filled with losses, endless losses. And every time there are losses there are choices to be made. You choose to live your losses as passages to anger, blame, hatred, depression, and resentment, or you choose to let these losses be passages to something new, something wider, and deeper. The question is not how to avoid loss and make it not happen, but how to choose it as a passage, as an exodus to greater life and freedom. Finding My Way Home
(Henri Nouwen, You Are the Beloved, 343)
Because I was unable to be there physically to console my sister-in-law and her two kids, who were grieving the loss of their loving husband and father, I asked my friend in Korea to visit them on my behalf. He lives in a different city, so it took him about an hour to visit them by car. I have known him for about 18 years now. He was once my house church member, mentee and disciple and is now my fellow brother, friend and co-worker in Christ. He is someone that I can always ask for help whenever I am in need. I am so grateful to have him in my life. I dream that the same may happen in each of my relationships with you. Even though most of you began your relationships with me as my house church members, church members and disciples, I hope that, ten to twenty years from now, you all may become my fellow brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers in Christ, if not my teachers, mentors and examples as well.
Today is my 50th birthday. There is a famous teaching of Confucius, which says, “At fifteen, I aspired to learning. At thirty, I established my stand. At forty, I had no delusions. At fifty, I knew my destiny. At sixty, I knew truth in all I heard. At seventy, I could follow the wishes of my heart without doing wrong.” According to this teaching, I have become of age to know my destiny. Having a Christian pastor talk about a teaching of Confucius may seems funny or even misplaced. However, it reminds me of 2 Timothy 4:6-8, which says, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
Likewise, as I grow older and as the time of my departure from this world comes nearer, I hope that I may know more of my destiny and about God’s heart, mind and will for my life.
Thank you everyone for your prayers and birthday wishes.
I miss you and love you all.