父親節

昨天是父親節。爸爸為了配合歐洲時間,一早起來就視訊給我。原因?活了三十年的我,還沒學會怎麼報稅。多年默默幫我報稅的他,今年本來也打算繼續幫助我。差點錯過父親節的我,既沒有送禮物也沒有甜言蜜語,反而要求爸爸早起教我報稅。興高采烈的他,佩服自己可以在視訊時分享螢幕,像老師一般教了起來。三個多小時後,他還是耐心的解釋一步步程序直到報完為止。

今早突然想起兩年前的八八節,應該是因聖靈感動所寫給爸爸的信。很難想像自己當年有這種文筆。兩年後,爸爸依然是我們的後盾,承擔所有我們遺忘的繁雜瑣事,二話不說的包容著我們。願神的大能繼續彰顯在你的生命裡,祂是你的依靠直到永遠。

謝謝你,一直愛著我的爸爸。

2018年8月8日

在離開加州的時候,就知道不能天天陪在你們身邊,現在多麼希望能能抱抱你們,面對面交流。

小時候還不懂事時,不知道你和媽媽在婚姻上的跌跌撞撞。這幾年來,懂事後聽你們敘述在婚姻上的點點滴滴才知道兩個罪人要在一個屋簷下彼此照顧、相愛有多麼困難。除此之外還要為你們兩位軟弱的兒女處處著想,我很難體會你們平時有多麼為我們煩惱,真是辛苦你們了。

今年的父親節應該可以算是一個難忘的父親節。上週聽媽咪述說你近幾個禮拜的情況,知道你為著弟弟感到悲傷、自責、憂愁、無助等種種情緒。做爸爸的你,此刻在心裡應該背負著各種的難受吧。

在你快三十年的父親生涯裡,我看到了你盡責、任勞任怨、盡忠職守、忍氣吞聲的愛。謝謝你在我們人生中,為我們所付出的一切。謝謝你這麼多年來,不論我們怎麼頂嘴、生氣、罵你、欺負你、看扁你、不尊重你、抱怨你,你都沒有因此而捨棄你對我們的愛·。天下的父母確實是偉大,就算在覺得愛不下去的時候,還是堅持著,因為他們知道,除了他們以外,沒有其他人會比他們更愛自己孩子了。謝謝你,一直不放棄我們。為著我過去所造成的傷害與傷痛,以及未來會帶給你的難過像你誠懇的道歉。

謝謝你和媽咪這幾年來在自己的婚姻上,持續的學習與進步著。看在眼裡,我知道不簡單,需要不斷的捨棄舊我、仰賴神在我們心中的工作。希望我們能彼此扶持,繼續奔跑這條成聖的路。

我在網路上找到關於如何做討神喜悅的父親的相關資訊。箴言是所羅門王希望兒子切記的一切。希望在這段時間裡,箴言能帶給你做爸爸力量。希望你能從神那裡持續學習怎麼做一個有智慧的父親。

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-71/crucial-lessons-for-a-wise-father

以下是牧師列的十個重點以及相關經節:

  1. Fear your God – 3:5
  2. Guard your mind – 3:3
  3. Obey your parents – 3:11. 10:13
  4. Select your companions – 1:10. 18:24
  5. Control the body – 2:16, 5:1, 6:20, 24, 32. 7:6, 10, 13, 14, 15, 21. 9:13-18.
  6. Enjoy your wife – 5:15
  7. Watch your words – 4:20, 24. 5:2. 6:12. 10:11, 13, 14, 18, 19
  8. Pursue your work – 6:6. 22:29. 10:4
  9. Manage your money – 3:9. 6:1-2
  10. Love your neighbor – 3:27-28, 30-31, 35

愛你的瑞白

唯有你,在我們搬到美國這麼過年後,還是持續叫我「瑞白」。常常有人問,既然 Jui Pai 是我真正的名字,可否用「瑞白」來稱呼我。我的回覆一直都是,「除了我爸爸以外,沒有人用我的中文名稱呼我。」它會持續是你專有的特權。

Love and Obedience

A JMac sermon from May 27, 1984, but just what I needed to be reminded of today:

In a life where people are literally living by choice -what kind of car, what kind of house, what kind of clothes, what kind of whatever – somehow our approach to Christianity and our approach to the church has gotten meshed into those choices. So that the things we do regarding the kingdom, and the things we do in regard to the Lord, and the things we do in relation to the church seem to us to just be somewhere on that massive list of choices. Just about as optional as anything else. I mean it sort of comes down to the fact that either we’re going to go to church, or we’re going to play golf, or we’re going to take a drive, or we’re going to go to brunch or whatever; or we could have a prayer meeting with our family, or we could watch television, or we could go to a ballgame, or we could take a picnic.

In other words, it seems as though in this myriad of choices that we have, there has been a loss of the distinctive category of the non-optional, which is the spiritual dimension. It’s gotten blended in. With an infinite number of choices, we sort of fit the things of the Lord in there someplace if they are, in fact, the thing we desire to choose. While I guess we could say in terms of the subject of loving the Lord Jesus Christ would be that we have learned to love the Lord Jesus Christ rather selectively. We want to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and we’ll sing to that effect. We’ll sing about how much we love Him.

We’ve said it many times, and if we were asked, “Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?” we would say, “Oh yes.” If we were asked, “Do you love Him with all your heart?” “Oh yes.” “And all your soul and all your mind and all your strength?” “Well, I certainly desire that.” We would verbalize our love for the Lord Jesus Christ, but the question is whether or not that, in fact, fleshes out in the way we live; or whether, in fact, on the one hand we say we love the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, those things which would prove it, are merely a series of options and alternatives along with everything else in the world, and we really find ourselves loving a whole lot of other things just as much as we love the Lord Jesus Christ.

I mean we love the Lord Jesus Christ if the price isn’t too high. We love the Lord Jesus Christ if it makes us comfortable. We love the Lord Jesus Christ if that’s the best choice. I’m concerned about this because I think that we have created in many places in our own nation and in many churches and in our hearts even here potentially, a real problem, where we have lost all sense of the sanctity and the holy and the obligation to that which is divine. The sanctity of the holy, I should say, and the obligation to that which is divine. It’s just a part of the whole sweep of life, which is filled with all kinds of options. I’m concerned about that, and I wanted to see if I can’t this morning set your focus, reset your focus along the lines of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I speak to my own heart, believe me, as well.

What Was the Primary Mark of An Old Testament Saint?

If you want to identify the saintliest feature of an Old Testament saint, what would it be? In Deuteronomy 6:5, I think you have the bottom line in Old Testament spiritual behavior, the bottom line in Old Testament saintly commitment. You have the very basic foundational element of spiritual virtue.

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all they might.”

It was a whole-souled, whole-hearted, whole-strength devotion to God. It was consuming single priority, which could be compared with nothing else. There was no sense in which loving God was an option. There was no sense in which obeying God was an option. There was no sense in which worshipping God, serving God was an option. It was a consuming, dominant life priority.

“And now, O Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee?” -Deuteronomy 10:12a

That is a very important statement. What does God want? What is the bottom line request from God? When it’s all boiled down, what does God want from you?

“But to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. To keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good.” -Deuteronomy 10:12b-13

What is the bottom line? It is to love the Lord your God to the extent that you walk in all His ways, that you serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that you keep His commandments and His statutes, which He commands you.

In other words, to boil it all down to one word, loving the Lord your God is a matter of obedience. It is a matter of doing that which He has commanded to be done, of serving Him with a whole heart and a whole soul. There’s no room for anything else, and that’s why it says in the book of James that anything less than total abandonment with God becomes a prostitution. He says that if you try to love God and love the world, you become an adulterer or an adulteress. You prostitute yourself off to an invasion into the unique and intimate and wholehearted relationship you’re supposed to have with the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the bottom line. We are to love God.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. -James 4:4

Again that Old Testament saint is told to,

“Love the Lord thy God and keep His charge and His statutes and His ordinances and His commandments always.” -Deuteronomy 11:1

I mean there’s no loopholes here. There’s no out. This is a single consuming priority. Is it any wonder that when the lawyer came to Jesus and said,

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” -Matthew 22:36-38

The whole thing boils back to that. The same is true in our lives today. We need to be focusing on the same need to have a consuming love for the Lord Jesus Christ that parallels that command in the Old Testament to the saints of that time to love the Lord their God.

You will notice also that back in Deuteronomy 10:13 it says,

“…and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?

It is not a non-reciprocated love. It is a love which pours out abundant and profuse blessing on the one who offers it to God. Do you remember the prayer of Daniel as he began to pour out His heart on behalf of his people? He said,

I prayed to the Lord my God, made my confession, and said, ‘O Lord, the great and awesome God,” listen, “‘Keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love Him and them that keep His commandments.’” -Daniel 9:4

God keeps and fulfills His promises and God pours out His mercy to the people who love Him. So, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength puts you in the position to benefit from the covenant and to experience the mercy of God.

By the way, that same prayer offered by Daniel was also offered by Nehemiah, almost word for word.

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awe inspiring God who keeps covenant and mercy for them who love Him and observe His commandments.” -Nehemiah 1:5

The fact that those two individuals Nehemiah and Daniel, so utterly unrelated, prayed identically the same prayer, leads me to believe that may well have been a common prayer among the Jewish people. It is a recognition that the people who know the mercy of God and the people who are blessed out of His covenant promises are the people who manifest a whole-souled, whole-hearted love for Him and abandonment to devotion in love. That was on the heart of the psalmist, wasn’t it?

“I will love Thee O Lord, my strength. I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” -Psalm 18:1

It is a volitional act. It is a choice made to love the Lord rather than to distract that love to other things. God says,

I love those who love me.” -Proverbs 8:17

Is This True for Us Today?

Now, is it true in the New Testament? Is it the same? Is this our calling in the New Testament? I believe it is. Peter sums it up for us in 1 Peter 1:9. Speaking of Christ, he says,

“Though you have not seen him, you love him.” -1 Peter 1:8

That’s the mark of a true believer.

“Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. -Ephesians 6:24

With sincerity, with integrity, with honesty, with undivided, unhypocritical devotion. In fact, Jesus says,

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” -Matthew 10:37

Paul says,

“If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.” -1 Corinthians 16:22

What Are We Called To?

So we are called, I believe, to love the Lord Jesus Christ, to love Him with a whole soul, whole heart, whole mind, whole strength kind of love. We would say we do, but I look at our society, I look at the church, and I don’t see that same kind of devotion, that same kind of commitment, that same kind of abandonment to the priorities that are the divine priorities. I see us diffused into a myriad of options, giving equal weight or even great weight to some of the passing things in favor of some of the eternal things. So we need to ask ourselves as we come to this, the Lord’s Table, do we love the Lord Jesus Christ? We would say,

“We love Him because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19

And we would recognize that this, His Table, is an expression of His love, is it not? Because it reminds us of the cross and the cross is the greatest symbol of God’s love.

So when we come here, we think about love. We think about how much He loved us, and how much He gave for us. I don’t know how it affects you, but it makes me stop and think, “I am so eager to receive all the love that God can give me, and I’m certainly less eager to give Him back all that I could give Him.” I mean it’s in no way equal. In fact, I tend to trade on His grace. I tend to want all the love that He can pour out to me with little in return. This, too, is the spirit of our age. It’s the spirit of the church even.

My heart is continually sickened by the self-indulgent theology that’s developing in the churches, by the “name it and claim it” perspective, by the “Jesus has to do this for you” approach; where Christianity has so reversed its mentality that instead of my life being an act of devoted love to Jesus Christ whatever the price, my life becomes a demand on His love that He deliver all the goodies that I ask for. It’s a twisting of the whole intention.

I read yesterday the spiritual autobiography of John Bunyan in which he traces his spiritual pilgrimage to the embracing of the Savior. It’s an incredible thing to read that because you think you’ve just been transported by some time machine into another era of thought. Here is a sinner pounding on his breast realizing he is a sinner, realizing he is damned to hell, scared literally out of his wits that he’s not elected to salvation, fearing that there’s no way the grace of salvation will come from sovereign God to him because he’s so utterly unworthy; crying out that he should please be chosen to be redeemed. When finally he comes to full faith in Jesus Christ, then can do nothing but recite over and over and over and over the endless lists of his evil, and desires only one thing in all the world, and that is to totally abandon himself in every sense of life to the service of Jesus Christ, whatever it cost him. You know what it cost him. It cost him prison, didn’t it?

As I say, “I love you, Lord. I love you.” I don’t have any problems saying that. It’s just living up to it that’s a trouble, and we all recognize that.

Love Fails When It Disobeys

So I want you to sort of test yourself against another life. Look at John 21, very brief as we prepare for the Lord’s Table. But I do want you to focus for a moment on John 21. Do you remember when the apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:18?

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” -1 John 3:18

Yeah, that’s the issue. It isn’t what you say; it’s what you do. That’s the issue. Now, in John 21, we have an encounter between Jesus and Peter. Let me just give you a little background. If you were to read the 28th chapter of Matthew, you would find out that Jesus had said after His resurrection – and He had appeared to the disciples a couple of times.

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.” Matthew 28:16

He said, go to a mountain and stay there. Wait for me, and I’ll come. He told the disciples.

“Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” -John 21:2-3

So they all go to the mountain. They’re with their leader, Simon Peter. This sets up for us a scene that is very instructive in this regard to loving the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first thing I want you to see is the failure of love. Now, remember, in Matthew they were told to go and wait in the mountain. Now, Peter had affirmed his love. Oh, had he affirmed his love, he said,

“Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.” -Matthew 26:33-35

All the disciples chimed in and said it. Peter said, “I love you. I’ll love you if it costs me my life. I’ll love you no matter what the price. I’ll love you. I’ll never forsake you.”

He had all this verbal commitment. All of the words were right. So the Lord gave him a little test, he and the other disciples who confirmed their love. He just said, “Go to a mountain and wait,” and not very tough to fulfill is it? I mean not really one of the great challenges of all time. Just go sit on a hill until I get there. The verbalizing of love sort of set Him up for the kill in a way. We see the failure of their love in verse 3.

“Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”” -John 21:3

I believe he was saying, “I’m going to go back to my old profession.” He was given a simple command, “Wait in the mountain until I get there.” He disobeyed it. I don’t know what all of the factors spiritually and psychologically were in his mind, but the fact is he disobeyed it. They also said to him because he was a leader, “We’re going with you.” They all left the mountain. I mean they have just instantaneously disregarded the very simple and direct command of the risen Jesus Christ, whom they’ve already seen on two occasions. They know He’s alive.

“They went forth and entered into the boat,” the Greek text says, which may well indicate it could have been the very boat that Peter once had used as his own fishing boat. Now he was going back to his old profession. Here was the failure of love. All the verbalization in the world was meaningless. When given a simple command, a simple priority, “Do this because I’ve asked you to do it,” he couldn’t hold onto that. He abandoned that, and his love went right down the proverbial drain. Disobedience to a simple command.

Now, I want to suggest to you a very obvious point: love fails when it disobeys. I don’t care how much sentiment you feel. I don’t care how much emotion you feel about Jesus. I don’t care how many tears you might shed, or how certain songs make you feel misty and weepy. I don’t care about sentiment. That is not the issue. Your love fails when you disobey, plain and simple, because that’s always the test. Jesus put it this way

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” -John 14:21

So, love failed. Of course, they fished all night and caught what? Nothing. The Lord was in control of that. They didn’t catch anything, and you can just see Peter saying to these guys, “Well, I don’t know about evangelism, and I don’t know about all this kingdom preaching, but I know there’s one thing I can do, and I’m going to go do it.” And that was one thing he couldn’t do, catch fish. He’d caught fish all his life. He probably knew where they were in the Sea of Galilee. He could probably follow the movement of the fish pretty well at any given season at any given time of day, but he couldn’t catch them now.

Our Savior Initiates the Restoration of Love

You see, the thing he thought he could do, he couldn’t do anymore because God had put His hand on his life and was in control. This is the beginning of the lesson. So we see the failure of love, but happily we see then the restoration of love. This is good to know because all of us have failed. All of us have said, “Oh, we love the Lord with all of our hearts, soul, mind, strength. Oh, we really love the Lord Jesus Christ.” We may sing those songs, and we sing them with emotion. We feel sort of sentimental about singing them, but we have failed because we have gotten our priorities all fouled up.

I mean you pick up the spiritual biography of John Bunyan, and you feel like the all-time lightweight, you know? The all-time bird bath Christian, about an inch deep. Or you hear about the dedication and commitment level of some missionary whose life is literally wasted out, although not wasted in terms of purpose, wasted in terms of physical capability or until death comes. Or you hear about the martyrdom of only God knows how many thousands of people in the Chinese revolution, and you wonder what kind of commitment level you have when you can’t even get your act together to do some very, very simple things.

I suppose it’s kind of like the Lord giving them a test that was basic so they could handle some of the tougher ones later. All He says here is, “Go stay at a mountain for a while.” Later on, He’s going to say, “Go get crucified for me.” But we’ve all failed, and it’s a happy thing to realize that there’s a restoration of love. Notice please in verse 5. “The morning – ” verse 4 says, “ – was come. Jesus was on the shore and the disciples didn’t know it was Him.” By the way, they never knew it was Him after His resurrection unless He revealed Himself to them. There was some transformation in His person. There was some glory that was His after the resurrection that caused His identity to be somewhat veiled until it was disclosed to them. And so they did not know by looking at Him who it was, although they were only a hundred yards or so off the shore. That may have contributed to their inability to distinguish Him.

Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” -John 21:5

He knows full well what the answer is, and they respond, “No.” It was sort of, I think, a clenched tooth kind of response.”

“He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” -John 21:6

Therefore, the disciple whom Jesus loved, ” who is that? That’s John. Why call yourself John when you can call yourself the disciple whom Jesus loved? I can understand that.

“That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.” -John 21:7-8

“The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” How does he know that? Who else controls the fish? Who else can say, “Drop your net on the right side of the boat; they’re all there”? “When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he put on his fisher’s coat,” because he was literally stripped down to just a loin cloth, “and threw himself into the sea.” I mean he didn’t even think about what was going to happen. He just knew he had to get back to the Lord. He was in a big hurry for the restoration of love, wasn’t he? The other disciples are left in the boat trying to get the whole mess to the shore. Peter is long gone. They dragged the boat along with the net and the fish.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.” John 21:9-12

Now, this is the restoration of love, and it’s a happy thought, people. Listen, no matter how my love has failed, no matter how your love has failed, there is restoration. I want you to notice one thing out of this text. There are many thing we could say, but this one thing I want you to note. The restoration was initiated by the Savior who was offended. You understand that? It was the offended Savior who initiated the restoration and it will always be that way.

I fear sometimes that Christians who know they have failed to love as they ought to love will drift away from the Lord, and they feel some anxiety or shame about coming back. What they need to realize is that He is eager for them to come back. And when they get to the shore, He doesn’t have a whip to beat them with; He has breakfast for them. You understand that? That is the heart of the restoring love of the Savior.

So we see the failure of love, and then we also see the restoration of love, and I’m happy for that because I’ve been out on the sea a lot of times when I should have been in the mountain. I’m always glad when I come to the shore, and He’s not there with a whip. He’s there with breakfast. He’s there to have a meal with me. That’s the way it is with the one who restores. That’s what it says in Jeremiah 31. I think it’s verse 3,

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” -Jeremiah 31:3

Nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ, even our own disobedience. Even our own lack of love from time to time cannot violate that love, which is unending on His part, and which reaches out to bring us back and bring us back and bring us back.

I’m glad for Peter’s eagerness. I mean he just dove in and swam. He wanted it right. He knew. His conscious was pricked the moment he knew it was Jesus Christ. He had no business being out there on the water when he was supposed to be in that mountain, and he knew he was out of line. But the reason he was such a useful man was because as fast as he would fail, twice as fast, he would be restored. When you look at your life, beloved, it is not that you have never failed that makes you useful to God. It is that when you do fail, you are in a hurry to be restored, all right?

It is when you fail and you keep failing and you become complacent about that failure, and you do not desire that restoration to be what God wants you to be, and you find yourself comfortable with some shallow kind of Christianity that avoids the real priorities of God’s kingdom: that’s when you should be worried, for that’s when God finds little use for you. It’s not that you do not fail. It’s that you fail and hurry back to the place of blessing.
So we see the failure of love and the restoration of love, and then the requirement of love. They’re there having breakfast. Jesus comes in verse 13, takes the bread and gives it them and fish. Not only did He prepare the meal, but He served it. Isn’t that something? He serves them. He didn’t sit down and say, “Now, I’m the King, and you’ve disobeyed me. Now, you guys bow before me.” I mean there’s such a beauty about this. He not only makes them breakfast – you know how the Lord makes breakfast, breakfast? So the Lord makes breakfast. They come all around, and instead of Him demanding them to serve Him, He serves those loveless, disobedient disciples. It makes my heart glad because as often as I have failed to love Him, so often has He not failed to love me to the point where when I come back, He serves me.

“This is the third time that Jesus had shown Himself to His disciples after He was risen from the dead.” -John 21:14

Now, we come to the requirement unfolding in this very, very familiar passage in verse 15. “So when they had finished breakfast.” The word “dined” in the King James means to have breakfast.

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah. Simon, son of Jonah, do you supremely love me more than these?’”

He calls him by his old name because he’s acting like his old self. He uses the word agapa, the highest kind of love, the greatest kind of devotion. “Do you supremely love me more than these?”

You see, Peter had said, “Though all others forsake you, I will never forsake you.” It may be the Lord is saying, “Oh, do you really love me more than all the rest of these love me?” Or these may refer to the boat and the nets and the sea and the fish, and all that stuff that Peter loved and grew up with, all the trappings of his life. Not evil, not evil, just not what God called him to do. “Do you really love me more than you love your own way and your own life and your own fulfillment and your own desires and your own enjoyments?”

I mean it’s easy to go back and go fishing. It’s tough to preach the kingdom. It’ll cost you your life. It’s easy to fish. “Do you really love me more than you love this stuff?” Peter says to Him in verse 15, “Yes, Lord, you know that I like you a lot.” The Lord used agapa. There’s no way Peter could have said, “Yes, Lord, I supremely love you.” Then the Lord would have said to him, “You hypocrite. How can you say that when you’ve just disobeyed me?” So Peter knows he can’t claim that, not in front of the Lord and not in front of the others. So what he says is, “Well, I like you a lot.” The Lord says, “Well, if you do, then feed my lambs.” Don’t catch fish; feed lambs. You’re not a fisherman; you’re a shepherd. You’re not catching physical fish; you’re feeding spiritual lambs.

In other words, if you say you love me, then let me see the demonstration of the priorities in your life. What do you spend your time doing? What do you spend your money doing? What do you spend all the energy in your physical frame doing? What do you spend your mind planning to do? Where are your priorities? If you really do like me a lot, then feed my lambs. “He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you really love me?” supremely love me, super love me, if you will, agapa? He said, “Lord, you know that I like you a lot.’” He says the same thing.

He said then, “Feed my sheep. Shepherd my sheep.” The first and third have to do with the feeding, primarily. The middle one has to do with shepherding. Take care of my flock. Don’t worry about fish. You take care of my sheep. You stay in the kingdom. Keep your priorities clear. What He is saying here is, “If you really love me, then show you love me by loving me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and putting all your energy that you have into the thing that is most central to my purpose.”

Then He said it to him a third time and I believe He did this three times because Peter denied Christ how many times? Three times. So He gave him one shot for each one. “Simon, son of Jonah,” and watch what He says here, “Do you really like me a lot?” and He comes down to Peter’s word, phile and says, “I even question whether you like me a lot.” You see, Peter couldn’t say, “I super love you,” but he thought he could get away with, “I like you a lot.” The Lord says, “I wonder if you even like me a lot.” “Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you like me a lot?’” He wasn’t grieved because He asked him three times. He was grieved because the third time He questioned even Peter’s love at the level Peter thought he could get away with it.

He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I like you a lot.” Then Jesus said, “Do this, will you? Feed my sheep.” The test of love is not your emotion. It is not your sentimentality. It is not your spiritual goose bumps when you sing certain songs. It’s not having warm feelings about Jesus. The test of your love for Christ is whether or not the priorities of your life are spiritual or physical, heavenly or earthly; whether you’re into catching fish because you enjoy it and you do it well and it’s an earthly deal, or whether you’re into feeding sheep, which is a spiritual dimension.

Gradual Growth Toward Christlikeness Comes About through Daily Obedience

The requirement of love is obedience. Now, I want to just wrap this up with an interesting kind of approach, I hope for you, that helped me as I was developing spiritually in my own life. I used to think that there were some people who loved God and loved Christ in a sort of a far-out mystical way. Have you ever had that? In fact, some of you may think that about me or about other pastors or spiritual leaders of missionaries like they’ve got – they’re at another level. They’re at another plateau. They’re up in some kind of dimension that you don’t yet understand.

I remember as a kid, I used to read these mystics, and they loved God in this very strange, mystical way. I used to think that something happened in your life to make you jump to that level. I guess you could call it a holy hop. You just went poing! There was some kind of a catapult. You just catapulted up to some level. I would go to church services or camp meetings or whatever kind of things, and some guy would pour out his heart about consecration or dedication. He was really calling for what theologians have called “triumphalism” or the holy hop is what I call it. Just a sort of a big leap up somewhere, and now you’re arrived at another plateau. People tell you, “It can happen when you understand the deeper life, or when you understand the second blessing, or when you understand the baptism of the Spirit, or when you speak in tongues, or when your all is laid on the altar.” Then you make your big hop.

I want you to know, folks, that frustrated me because I just couldn’t pull it off. I couldn’t hop. I saw people trying to hop and I looked later, and they were right back where they used to be, and I wondered what happened. I figured you could also hop back. But this is the idea that there’s some kind of ethereal, mystical sort of area where super Christians live who have unearthly abilities to love. You know something? That’s just a lot of nonsense. That’s a lot of nonsense. It’s just a question of gradual growth toward Christlikeness that comes about through daily obedience. There are no holy hops.

Oh, there may be crisis moments in your life. There may be moments in your life when you come to an understanding of a biblical truth; you come to a point where you relinquish a sin that you’ve held onto for a long time; where you decide you’re going to be faithful, and you make a volitional choice. But that doesn’t catapult you into some new dimension. That’s just one step in the process, maybe a bigger step than some other steps, but it’s a process of growth. I didn’t realize that until I realized that I was growing to love the Lord Jesus more and more and more and more. That’s the issue. That’s the key, and it comes from obedience. That’s the requirement of love; not some mystical thing.

The cost of love then, He says in verse 18 and 19, “You’re going to die. It could cost you your life.” The cost of love is everything. So you have here the failure of love, the restoration of love, the requirement of love, the cost of love, and after He’s given all of that at the end of verse 29, He says to Peter, “Follow me.” At the end of verse 22, He says, “Follow me.”

You see, the bottom line is, as I said, it’s obedience. It’s obedience. It’s the kind of obedience that pleases the Lord. He wants His people to love Him, kind of like the little girl was loving her doll and came in and gave her mother a big hug. Her mother said, “What’s wrong?” “Oh, nothing’s wrong. I’ve just been loving my dolly for a long time, and she doesn’t love me back. And I came in to love you because you love me back.”

I think there’s a sense in which we have to understand that the God who pours out such infinite love to us expects that we should love Him back. In some sad ways in the life of the church, we’ve lost that love, that whole-hearted, whole-minded devote love, and we’re all goofed up with our priorities. As we come to the Table this morning, let’s come confessing our failure to love, seeking restoration, committing ourselves to the requirement of obedience at any cost.

Gaze Beyond

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creationhas been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly aswe wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. -Romans 8:18-25

July 14, 1651

Before I write a word further, I beseech thee to think not that it is thy wife but a friend now that writes to thee. I hope thou hast freely given up thy wife and children to God, who hath said in Jeremiah 49:11, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let thy widow trust in me.” Thy Maker will be my husband, and a Father to thy children. O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations. I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ.

I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my own unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain. Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory. Thou leavest but children, brothers, and sisters to go to the Lord Jesus, thy eldest Brother. Thou leavest friends on earth to go to the enjoyment of saints and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in glory. Thou dost but leave earth for heaven and changest a prison for a palace. And if natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that the spirit of grace that is within thee will quell them, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above. I know thou keepest thine eye fixed on the hope of glory, which makes thy feet trample on the loss of earth.

My dear, I know God hath not only prepared glory for thee, and thee for it, but I am persuaded that He will sweeten the way for thee to come to the enjoyment of it. When thou art putting thy clothes on that morning, O think, “I am now putting on my wedding garments to go to be married to my everlasting Redeemer.”

When the messenger of death comes to thee, let him not seem dreadful to thee, but look on him as a messenger that brings thee tidings of eternal life. When thou goest up the scaffold, think (as thou saidst to me) that it is but thy fiery chariot to carry thee up to thy Father’s house.

And when thy layest thy precious head down to recieve thy Father’s stroke, remember what thou saidst to me: Though thy head was severed from thy body, yet in a moment thy soul should be united to thy Head, the Lord Jesus, in heaven. And though it may seem something bitter, that by the hands of men we are parted a little sooner than otherwise we might have been, yet let us consider that it is the decree and will of our Father, and it will not be long ere we shall enjoy one another in heaven again.

Let us comfort one another with these sayings. Be comforted, my dear heart. It is but a little stroke and thou shalt be there where the weary shall be at rest and the wicked shall cease from troubling. Remember that thou mayest eat thy dinner with bitter herbs, yet thou shalt have a sweet supper with Christ that night. My dear, by what I write unto thee, I do not hereby undertake to teach thee; for these comforts I have received from the Lord by thee. I will write no more, nor trouble thee any further, but commit thee into the arms of God with whom ere long thee and I shall be.

Farewell, my dear. I shall never see thy face more till we both behold the face of the Lord Jesus at that great day.

~Mary Love

Jesus’ Prayer for Me

Jesus’ prayer is not for the disciples alone. Jesus prays also for those who will believe in him through the disciples’ message, that we may be one, just as the Father is in Jesus and Jesus in the Father. May we also be in the Father and EJsus so that the world may belive the Father has sent Jesus. Jesus has given us the glory that the Father gave him, that we may be one as the father and Jesus are one. Jesus in us and the Father in Jesus. May we be brought to complete unity to let the world know that the Father sent Jesus and have loved us even as the Father has loved Jesus.

Jesus wants those the Father has givne him to be with him where he is, and to see his glory, the glory the Father has given him because the father loved him before the creation of the world.

Though the world does not know the Father Jesus knows the Father, and we know that the Father has sent Jesus. Jesus has made known to us, and will continue to make the Father known in order that the love the Father has for Jesus may be in us and that Jesus himself may be in us.

-John 17 (in third person)

Recipe for a Blessed Day

Wake Up – Decide to have a good day.

“Today is the day the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” Psalms 118:24

Dress Up – The best way to dress up is to put on a smile. A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance; but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Shut Up – Say nice things and learn to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking.

“He who guards his lips guards his soul.” Proverbs 13:3

Stand Up -For what you believe in. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.

“Let us not be weary in doing good; for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as w e have opportunity, let us do good…” Galatians 6:9-10

Look Up – To the Lord.

“I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Reach Up – For something higher.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, And He will direct your path.”Proverbs 3:5-6

Lift Up – Your Prayers.

“Do not worry about anything; instead pray about everything.” Philippians 4:6

家人的定義

我一直覺得我的家人,因為神的愛,充滿了接納和包容. 從痛苦裡找出一絲絲的甜蜜和溫馨,讓彼此為了更愛神,更愛這世上的人而改進和奔跑向神國的路. 今天我更是領受到活著的動力,因為復活節就代表了我們同心合力恩愛的原因. 一想到能跟家人有著地球上的緣分和期待永恆的信仰我就對神感激不盡.

神不只賜給我用心良苦的父母,也把我帶到一個愛神的教會. 平常跟主裡的兄弟姊妹們互相激勵,共度了有著歡樂與悲傷的三年. 特別的是今天經歷了以後會在神國相聚的小小幸福. 從另一個愛主的家庭裡,我感受到跟我家裡同樣的愛. 不只認識了家庭裡的成員,也更進一步的了解他們對家人的關心與愛護. 從他們對我和對彼此表達愛的方式裡就能看出這個家庭也一樣擁有帶著瑕疵的真愛.

身為罪人的我們雖有做不好的地方,但只要我們相信神的話語,尋求祂的旨意,行出祂的道,默默的守候祂的到來,終究神一定會遵守祂的承諾,跟我們一起享受完美無瑕的愛直到永永遠遠.

11 Minute Superbowl

Before the game started, I was surprised to find out from a Wall Street Journal article that “the average amount of time the ball is in play on the field during an NFL game is [only] about 11 minutes.” So what are we watching during the other 174 minutes?

Studies from the four recent broadcasts show that “60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps.” And the rest of the time we’re watching a whole lot of replays, shots of the head coaches and referee, couple seconds of injured players, celebrating players, and a lot less of the cheerleaders than we think, because apparently cheerleaders are “bigger in college.”

The Steelers and Packers don’t have cheerleaders, so we didn’t see any of them this year. But we sure got the replays, the coaches and the injured players (couldn’t get more of Maurkice Pouncey). I definitely believe that there was only about 11 minutes of action.

Two Years Later

I have finally acquired an answer. Though it is not one that I had been anticipating, it is still an answer.

For what seemed like the first time, I heard a genuine response to the question that used to make me toss-and-turn at night. A simple, yet satisfactory, “Happiness” was all it took to untangle the mess I had inconveniently created for myself.

When I had asked the most insensitive question, as if pressing a sword against the vein of life and death, I wanted to expose the dirtiest truth. Certainly, there were only two absolute possibilities: coward or douche. As always, God had His way of gently reminding me of my weaknesses and assuring me of His awesomeness. To say the h-word was completely out of my imagination would be an understatement.

But how was I supposed to tell my familiar stranger that while they cherished my existence, I was criticizing their every attempt to achieve reconciliation? How do I tell them that I had been pointing fingers to justify my irrational behavior and convinced others to question the validity of their integrity?

Fortunately for me, the Lord’s faithfulness truly stretches endlessly to the sky. Father, comfort their heart just as You have comforted mine. Your perfection transcends my understanding and I have eternally benefited from Your glory.

Creator of the universe, thank you.

Things

I want to have motivation…
For something, anything.
Where does my motivation come from?
And where is it going to take me?
Could it be.

“You like to create
Things,” she said.
Where are these things?
Please come out from hiding,
Please belong to me.

“Work harder, think
Faster, read, read
And read,” said he.
Can I then embrace these
Things, answer the door, please.