Earthly Tent 


Earthly Tent

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God…”           II Co 5:1


     This earthly tent is all we know and all we have, and our future home is unknown to us. We can only imagine what it is going to be like and what we conjure up in our imagination will not be completely accurate. “No human mind has conceived- the things God has prepared for those who love him.”

     We know this earthly tent of ours will be destroyed someday, but the realization does not keep us from pampering it and making it as strong and beautiful as we possibly can. Our earnest desire is to make our tents last as long as humanly possible. So we continue to take our vitamins and exercise, hoping and praying that we will survive the assault of time and the onslaught of disease.

     It gets more and more difficult as we age.

     We are afraid to look beyond the time when our tents are no longer serviceable. Young people do have the luxury of not having to ponder on how much time they have left, for the end of their journey seems to be so far off and their tents are still pretty fresh and stout. But that’s not the case for us oldies, since we are reminded constantly by our aging bodies that our end is drawing nearer and nearer. 

     “No more morbid thoughts,” Kathy warned me during our teatime. I do have a bad habit of speaking about my aging tent.

     Pondering about the destination of our journey may greatly lessen the pain we are experiencing on the road. It’s so comforting to know that there are warm meals and a soft bed waiting for us when we get there. Besides, the thought of seeing our loved ones beyond the river does make our journey a little easier.

     We will not become naked and homeless when we wake up from our sleep. We will have a building from God.

     “What sort of building”? we ask. It will not be a tent made of cloth, for sure. And whatever it is, it will be permanent. This is music to the ears of those who have gotten tired of moving. We are afraid to pitch our tents too firmly, for fear that we may have to move at a moment’s notice. We try so hard to hold on to things, yet deep inside we know that we will have to give them all up when our tents are torn apart against our will. We long to have some sort of permanence while we live in our tents, but all things seem to be fleeing from us.

     There is no permanence but the permanence of God.

     It appears to be quite a bargain if we can trade our tents in for a permanent home, but not being so sure about our future homes, we hold onto our tattered tents as long as possible and are heart broken when we have to depart from them.

     Am I again entertaining morbid thoughts? Why is it morbid if that which I am meditating upon concerns a joyful homecoming to our eternal home? I bring this subject up merely because I am getting a little weary of living in my aging tent, which is slowly becoming less and less user-friendly, and the idea of trading it in for a new one seems to be quite enticing sometimes.      

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Temporary and Eternal 


Temporary and Eternal

“For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

             II Co 4:18


     What do I see in all my loved ones? They are all jewels in my eyes and I have never gotten tired of looking at them.

     “I can’t believe Rob is twenty-nine years old,” my wife said to me over the breakfast this morning.

     “Well, he is still very young. I was once twenty-nine and I felt young then,” I replied.

     “You were a dad at that age,” Kathy reminded me.

     I guess I was a new father to Rob, who was the loveliest thing I had ever seen. I think I was on cloud nine, for lack of better terms to describe how I felt.

     That was twenty-nine years ago. You can easily figure out my advanced age if you do the math.

     All things living are growing older, even the ancient redwoods in Northern California, the oldest living things on earth, are becoming older and all of them will die someday.

     I need to train my eyes to see eternity in fleeting things on earth; otherwise life will becoming increasingly depressing.

     “I weighed a lot less than I do now when I was first pregnant with Rob,” Kathy added in our conversation.

     “You haven’t changed all that much,” I said to her sincerely. I guess I am used to seeing everlasting youth in her, which is the eternal quality that I see in my wife.

     We will become younger and younger if our inner selves are truly being renewed day by day, which is the childlike innocence that we witness in some elderly people. I often saw that quality surfacing in my father-in-law, who took that youthful attribute with him when he entered into eternity two years ago.

     “So much of our Christian life is learning how to see.” I ended with this sentence in my previous devotion.

     “Learning to see what?” you may ask.

     We ought to learn to spot eternity in temporary things. Beauty is only skin-deep. Most people agree with this cliché, but we still focus our attention on shallow beauty when we look at things.

     What is there to see in Elizabeth Taylor after she aged and went through seven husbands? Not much at all. It is a pity that she has probably spent tons of money trying to retain what she possessed as a young woman, but the result is less than satisfactory. After the temporary was stripped away from her, there was nothing left in the woman for us to behold and to be amazed by.

     “You are aging very well,” I commented to one of the church ladies. I wasn’t just trying to be nice or flattering when I said that. She has aged well because she has been cultivating her inner attributes that don’t vanish or fade with time.

     No wonder my wife is becoming more and more beautiful as she ages. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 6:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fix Our Eyes 


Fix Our Eyes

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”

           II Co 4:18


    What is seen may keep us from seeing what is unseen. That’s the problem. We may have to close our eyes to see.

     I once hit a low branch of a tree while I was walking, for I was focusing on the unseen and missed the seen. I have a habit of praying when I walk.

     I should have kept my eyes open when I prayed.

     Why do we keep our eyes shut when we pray to God? What we are trying to do is to keep our focus on the unseen by closing our eyes.

     We can see and hear better by closing our eyes. That’s why some people have a tendency of keeping their eyes closed when they listen to their favorite music. They try to hear the “unheard music.”

     Our imagination takes wing when we close our eyes. No one dream dreams with their eyes wide open. Daydreams aren’t really dreams.

     Seeing the unseen takes great effort and clear focus. It’s an intentional seeing. It’s more looking than seeing.

     I am not speaking about creating something through the power of imagination or seeing something that’s isn’t really there. That’s something we call illusion.

     We Christians are not delusional; we are inspirational. We see things inspired by the Holy Spirit.

     William Blake, a romantic poet, used to see angels dancing in trees. Were they real or not? They were real in the poet’s eye, but I believe they weren’t in reality. What he saw wasn’t inspired by the Holy Spirit, for the things he composed through his experiences weren’t consistent with the Scriptures.

     “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” We fix our eyes on what the Lord desires for us to see.

     I recently bought a couple of birdfeeders and hung them outside of my dining room window. They attract many birds and I have never gotten tired of looking at them. Do I just look at the birds or something else? Those finches and sparrows are seen, but there are other invisible things that I witness in the visible. In the sparrows I seem to see the love and care of God, which is more glorious than the dancing and singing of birds.

     “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care,said the Lord Jesus.

     What did the Lord want us to see in two sparrows? They were worth about a penny, if we look at them from a purely materialistic perspective, but we see God’s love and case for us if we look at the sparrows spiritually.

     So much of our Christian life is learning to see.

Monday, August 1, 2011 6:41:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Momentary and Eternal 


Momentary and Eternal

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”           II Co 4:17


     Very few of us have actually experienced the weight of God’s glory in this world; therefore it’s difficult for us to bring it into the context of our suffering. How can we, mere humans, acquire such foresight to lessen the pain that we are going through on earth. For most of us, pain is all too real and heavenly glory seems to be always in the future tense. The present is known and the future is unknown, and it’s not always easy to compensate the known present with the unknown future, which is the point where faith and sight collide.

     How do we solve this predicament?

     One of the solutions is to learn to add the weight of eternal glory to our momentary suffering. “How do we do that?” you may ask. To be honest with you, I don’t really know the solution to this and all I can do is speculate and the answer that I reach may not be that applicable, for there may be a wide chasm between theory and practice.

     We need to try to ponder the glorious aspect of our pain, which is indeed a daunting task. We can sometimes inject meaning into other people’s suffering, but we become numb and lost when we ourselves are in the midst of it. Besides, the meaning we conjure up as a third person concerning people’s suffering is often misconstrued. It would have been far wiser for Job’s three friends to remain silent than to spew out words void of real meaning.

     Suffering is a means to an end, so considering its ultimate end in the midst of our trouble may actually soften its blow. When we are in any sort of difficulty, dwelling on the present is always troubling, but thinking about the future brings us hope. Aspirations for tomorrow may ease today’s tribulation.

     Our suffering enables us to better identify with the suffering of Jesus and also causes us to have more hope for the resurrection afterward. Suffering isn’t glorious, but resurrection sure is.

     First it was feeling of numbness and desperation followed by depression. That was how I felt when I found out about my mother’s illness. When there was nothing that could be done to ease the difficult situation, I had no one to turn to but God. When the sad news finally arrived, all I could do was to endure the pain silently. I couldn’t have transferred the pain to anyone and all I could do was to absorb all of it, knowing that the sorrow would lessen as time went by. Earthly sorrows are, no matter how severe, momentary by nature, and after the pain is lifted, heavenly glory awaits.

     Just a brief glimpse of our future glory may ease up the lengthy sorrow we are going through. All earthly things, either good or bad, must come to an end, but God’s glory is endless. May the weight of our future glory crush our momentary troubles of today to pieces.       


Friday, July 29, 2011 7:04:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Being Renewed 


Being Renewed

“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”           II Co 4:16


     Being renewed may sound like a passive act, but it does take effort on our part. It’s natural that our bodies will waste away as we slowly age, but our inner selves need not waste away with time. We can do something to prevent that from occurring.

     The most common resolution that we make during special occasions is to exercise and lose weight. We certainly pay a lot more attention to our outward appearance than our inner condition. We do so because we are outwardly visible to the watching world but are invisible to her inwardly. Our preference is to present our best to the world. By doing various things we try to defy our age and to keep our bodies looking good as long as we are able in order to impress our friends and neighbors.

     Much to his parent’s displeasure, one of Michael’s friends at medical school gave up medicine after he graduated to become a personal trainer. The young man must have thought keeping people looking good was more vital to their well-being than keeping them healthy.

     We seem to have all our priorities misplaced. Our fine appearance may impress our peers, but it will never impress God, who undoubtedly considers our inner beauty far more important than our physical shape and appearance.

     “Lubbock Chinese Spiritual Gym.” This is going to be the name for our church. Church should be the place where people go to get their spiritual life in shape so that they will be fit for heaven. Even though we don’t charge a membership fee, not many people are interested in coming to join us. Why?

     We make our bodies strong and fit so that we will get to use them for about eighty years, yet we neglect shaping our spiritual bodies which we may need for eternity. This is indeed quite irrational, isn’t it?

     There is only time, and eternity is a myth. We seem to stake our lives on this half truth. What if we are wrong? I suppose the reason why we are so fearful of death is because we are so ill prepared and poorly equipped for eternity.

     How in the world can our inner selves be renewed daily if we spend several hours a week exercising and working out, yet spend very little or no time in fasting and prayer? No wonder many of us have become giants outside, but dwarfs inside who are well suited for the world but ill fitted for the world to come.

     Let’s make a new resolution to make our physical and spiritual life more balanced. From now on we should at least spend an equal amount of time whipping our physical and spiritual bodies into shape. If we discipline our inner selves consistently, we will be pleasantly surprised that, albeit we are growing old grow physically, we will become younger and younger spiritually, and we will finally become spiritual infants fit for heaven when we depart from this world.  

Thursday, July 28, 2011 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“…so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”        II Co 4:15


     We have to know what God’s grace is before we develop a thankful heart, and the more we know it, the more thankful we are to God. My main calling as a minister of the gospel is to point out to people where to locate God’s grace and to become more appreciative of it.

     Concerning God’s grace, we don’t need to be taught; we just need to be reminded. Deep inside, we are quite aware of our inherent limitations as a person and, by God’s grace, what we are able to do is a lot more than we are capable of doing.

     We see miracles everywhere if we have an eye for miracles. How can’t we not be overwhelmed by the interior universe when we look within and not be completely dumfounded when we look at the exterior world.

     It’s through God’s grace we are what we are, and we are to consider anything otherwise as an anathema. I pray we won’t wait until it’s too late to know this truth. Many of us only start to treasure something beautiful after we lose it.

     We don’t really appreciate the stunning beauty of life until we are about to lose it. The ones who are given a second lease on life tend to treasure life more than those who take life for granted because their lives have never been threatened. 

     The first thing you do after you wake up in the morning is to wiggle your toes and move your fingers to see if they are still functioning properly, and then you slide to the edge of the bed and get on your feet and take your first step of the day. Do you shout with excitement, as if you were an infant who was just learning how to walk, or do you just walk to the bathroom without thinking about the fact that you can actually walk?

     We will lose sight of God’s grace unless we do all things as if they may be the last time we do them and, with this in mind, we will regain the joy and excitement of doing something for the very first time. This is what I call “conscious living,” which simply means people lead their lives in such a way that they are conscious of God’s presence every moment of the day.

     Paul intended to cause more thanksgiving to God by spreading God’s grace. We Christians are both the possessors and dispensers of God’s grace. May we never forget this.

     There is more and more self-glorification and narcissism in this world and God’s name is completely ignored. We continue to draw attention to ourselves by being more and more talented and spectacular. What matters to us is what we can do through our own strength, not what God can do through us. Even we Christians seem to desire more of God gifts and have very little knowledge of God’s grace.   

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 6:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional

I Believe 


I Believe

“It is written: ‘I believe, therefore I have spoken.’”

          II Co 4:13


     I couldn’t read through the first few chapters of Joshua without pausing and sighing a few times. “Was it necessary to kill all of the people in the city of Jericho and Ai, including women and children?” I found myself questioning. I was unable to believe, therefore I couldn’t speak with boldness.

     I seemed to have put myself in a position of judging as I was reading the Scriptures. At least, I thought it was essential for me to come up with an apology for God for all the slaughtering that appeared to have been sanctioned by him.

     Billions of people throughout human history have died, and the Lord should be responsible for every death since he is a sovereign God. Was death a necessity?

     Come to think of it, God has sovereign control over death, but he does not cause death to happen. The One who creates life does not produce death at the same time. When sin entered into the world, so did death. Death was generated by Satan and was caused by our sin. We are the secondary cause of our own death. 

     From a non-Jewish perspective, the settlers in Canaan were merely protecting their home against the invaders, which were the Israelites. Their homeland might have been the Promised Land for some other people, but it had been their home for generations and they were not about to give it up.

     Watching the history of the Aztec Indians on PBS solved some of my predicament. Did the Indians deserve to die at the hands of the ruthless Conquistadors led by Cortez? They probably did, judging the way they practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism. It’s well researched and documented that they ripped people’s hearts out while they were still beating and presented them to their sun god.

     What would you have done to those people had you created those creatures with your own hands? This may be a little bit far fetched. What do we do to computer software or programs we have created that have gone bad? We trash them, right?

     I believe some of the Canaanites practiced human sacrifice

     “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you…” said the Lord in Deuteronomy. This particular verse provides for me a good apology concerning the conquest of the Promised Land. 

     “I believe, therefore I have spoken.”

     God is not a capricious God and he does not do thing randomly. I have no business proclaiming his name if I ever lose my faith in his integrity and his loving kindness. God does not owe me an answer to all my questions and doubts, yet I do owe him my ability to think and to doubt. I guess this is one of the ways to read Descartes’ “ I think, therefore I am.”  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 7:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Life Through Death 


Life Through Death

“So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

             II Co 4:12


     We are redeemed through the death of our Lord Jesus. Salvation wouldn’t have been possible had Jesus not died on the cross. Had Christ Jesus decided to conquer the entire world with his sword as his disciples had expected, he might have established the greatest kingdom on earth, but he wouldn’t have had any power to save us from our sins. The greatest news in human history was Jesus chose to die. Death was at work in him, but life was at work among the people in Christ Jesus’ generation, and the generations to come.

     Christ died two thousand years before I came into being, yet his death had something to do with me. He died for my sin before I started to sin and resurrected so that I can be raised from death after I die.

     To be saved by the blood of Jesus is to live for Christ; and the only way to live for Christ is to die for him. Unless death is at work within us, life will not be at work among the people to whom we minister. Jesus’ death is the key to our life, and our death may become the key to other people’s life.

     Why aren’t we effective ministers of the gospel? The answer is indeed quite simple: death is not at work among us. We are too alive to be of any use to God and to his kingdom.

     We may be alive to fame and fortune; we may be alive to the vainglory of the world; we may be alive to people’s applause and praise; we may be alive to our aspirations and dreams. Yes, we are so alive and vibrant that we believe we can single-handedly achieve great things for the Lord. Yes, we are totally essential, indispensable, and irreplaceable in God’s kingdom, aren’t we?

     If we become silent, the stones may cry out to sing praises to God. By the same token, if we don’t do our job reaching out to the unsaved, God can raise stones up to take our place. Yes, we may be talented and greatly endowed with spiritual gifts, yet we can easily be replaced by lesser men.

     Let death come to me, O my soul. Let me die to myself so I no longer care when people slander me and say all sorts of things against me; when people look down on me and consider me rubbish; when people deem me a lousy preacher and worse pastor; when people treat me with disgust and contempt. O Lord, may you become everything in my life and let me be nothing; may you be magnified and let me diminish; may you increase and let me decrease; may you live and let me die; may death continue to work in my life so that life may be at work among the people you have placed under my care.

Monday, July 25, 2011 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Death and Life 


Death and Life

“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”      II Co 4:10


     Baptism symbolizes our unity with Christ, both in his life and his death. We have no problem unifying with him in his life, but we seem to have great difficult identifying with Jesus in his death. No wonder we have such trouble revealing the life of Christ in our mortal bodies. Unless we unite with him in his suffering and death, the life of Jesus will not be “lively portrayed” in us.

     To a certain extent, our eternal life means eternal death while we are still in the flesh. For us who are redeemed, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul was obviously speaking about his physical body in this context, but he also remarked elsewhere by quoting the Psalmist: “For your sake we face death all day long.” We must die thousands of death before we actually die.

     To die to the self is to consistently deny our bodies’ titanic demands and to bring our every thought and action into conformity to the will of God. We will not be any good to God’s kingdom if we continue to pamper our flesh and cater to its every little need, which eventually will make us wimpy Christians who are unfit to fight any spiritual warfare. We have become “chocolate solders,” as one of my missionary friends put it. We melt away rather quickly under the heat of pressure.

     People who are unified with Christ in his death are no longer hypersensitive to how they are perceived by the world; therefore fame and fortune are not something they desire to pursue. Their passion in life is to be more like Christ and their daily pursuit is to get closer to Christ in their walk.

     For us to magnify the Lord in our lives is to become so small that we are almost invisible and, when people look at us, they see no one but Jesus and nothing but the things the Lord has wrought in us.

     Putting ourselves to death is an endless endeavor that may last for a lifetime. No doubt the Lord calls us to conquer the world with the gospel, but he first demands that we bring our bodies into submission, which may be a greater and more difficult task for us to do than the great commission. Many Christians may have brought the gospel to others, but they themselves are forsaken.

     The death of Christ isn’t necessarily his physical death on the cross; it’s rather the death-in-life he was leading. The Lord probably only carried his cross for a short distance before he became exhausted and Simon had to do it for him, but in essence, he had been carrying an invisible cross his entire life, which is the very cross we are commissioned to bear. It’s the cross of “not my will, but your will be done,” which is a life of dying to the self and living for Christ. There is no other way for Christ’s life to be revealed in us except this way.        

Friday, July 22, 2011 6:21:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Hard Pressed 


Hard Pressed

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair…”         II Co 4:8


     “One day at a time.” Dad wasn’t a Christian, but this was what he repeatedly said to me when I called to ask how his health was. He had had a stroke three years prior and from then on, he was sitting on a time bomb, anticipating something big to happen. Another stroke took his life instantly a month after I last visited him. He was a worrier like me but, deep inside, he knew he couldn’t do anything to alter what was going to happen. He did everything to keep his BP low, but what was inevitable inevitably took place and he passed away at 76.

     We can deal with the pressure this day, but the thought of handling it tomorrow and the day after tomorrow may put us into a great depression. The days were very difficult when I was in the service, but what made it so much harder was I kept on counting the days before I would be discharged and, the more I calculated, the slower the days passed. I was indeed hard pressed from all sides, including from inside. I was extremely restless and depressed. The days would eventually become a little easier, but my inner turmoil didn’t ease up until the day when I walked out of my camp a civilian.

     What did the apostle Paul have to look forward to had he looked at his immediate and distant future? The Roman Empire wasn’t going to suddenly loosen up her tight grip on the Christians, and the Jews would still be there, attempting to stone him. There were dangers and death looming from all sides and he couldn’t have done anything to change the adverse circumstances. I would probably have been overcome by anxiety and terror had I been in his shoes, but that did not seem to be the case with Paul. In the midst of uncertainties, he was certain about one thing - the Lord was in control and nothing would happen outside the realm of God’s loving will. With this assurance in mind, Paul was able to carry on his mission without fear.

     For sure we will be hard pressed one way of another in life, but the pressures will not crush us if we learn to handle adversities the right way.  “Strength for today is mine always and all I need for tomorrow.” May this line in a hymn always remind us in times of difficulty.

     What we fear isn’t necessarily the ultimate reality when death strikes all of us; we mostly dread the painful process of getting to our final destiny; yet it’s not up to us to choose when and how it will take place. We believe the Lord will provide for us enough strength whenever strength is needed. Therefore, before it happens, let’s strengthen our faith by practicing the important lesson of trust by trusting in all areas of our lives.

     “When will I get good in Spanish,” my son asked impatiently.

     “Learning a new language is accumulative,” I responded, which is quite similar to learning the lesson of trust, I suppose. As long as we learn our vocabulary and grammar daily and faithfully, we will become proficient in a new language someday.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011 6:17:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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