Thursday, September 29, 2011

Devotional Digests

Sites of interests: (English)


God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars
 -  Martin Luther 1483 - 1546  German theologian, and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation

"God is in everything I see." 
This explains why nothing is separate, by itself or in itself.

You are not a human on a spiritual journey
You are a spirit on a human journey.

- Unknown
 Reflections from Students of the School of Theology, CJCU

When I read the article entitled Believing on this blog site, some sentences caught my eyes... When Jesus says that whoever believes “into” him shall never die... Eternal life is not the result of believing in.  It is the experience of believing.’

Indeed, we have so many imaginations about “eternal life”, but if we did not get “into” Him, how could we say we are disciples of Jesus?  
潘霍華 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906~1945) :「當基督呼召一個人時,祂是來召他為祂死。」

If belief did not change our thought, our mind or any ideology, our lives are never renewed with God’s words. The words just got into our brain and stay as part of knowledge, but never sparkle in our life. And logos never root in our body.  How could we then say: we receive Jesus as our Savior?

Right. That is cheating ourselves and our brains.  We do a lot of services to show that we are Christians, but it’s not helping our eternal life.

- 吳信達


關於這篇The Bible and I的 Blog,裡面提到:
Faith is not just a course to be completed, but a life time journey.  We are here not only to learn what to think, but how to think.」
- 葉加恩



  Grace is something you can never get but only be given.


- 陳安祺


Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is himself the way.
不同於其他宗教大師,指出到達神的. 耶穌本身就是道路,

Joy is the simplest form of gratitude. 喜樂是表達感恩最簡單的形式.

Conscience is the perfect interpreter of life.

Faith in God's revelation has nothing to do with an ideology which glorifies the status quo.
上帝啟示得到的信仰, 不同於自我炫燿的意識形態.

Faith is never identical with piety. 信仰虔誠是不同的.

Grace must find expression in life, otherwise it is not grace.
生活中不能顯示出來的恩典, 不能視為恩典.

In the Church of Jesus Christ there can and should be no non-theologians.
在耶穌基督的教會, 每個人都應該是神學家.

It is always the case that when the Christian looks back, he is looking at the forgiveness of sins.
當基督徒回首過往, 他所數算的, 是諸罪得赦免的恩典. 

It may be that when the angels go about their task praising God, they play only Bach. I am sure, however, that when they are together as family they play Mozart.
當天使們讚美上帝時, 他們會選奏巴哈樂曲; 但我相信, 當他們家人在一起時, 他們演奏的是莫札特.

- Karl Barth (1886-1968) Swiss Reformed theologian


Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life. 沒有火, 蠟燭不能燃燒; 沒有, 人不能生息.
- Buddha 563 BC - 483 BC

Hope is a waking dream 懷抱希望是實踐想的第一步.
- Aristotle 384 BC – 322 BC

Miracles happen, not in opposition to nature, but in opposition to what we know of nature. 奇蹟不是反自然的現象, 倒是我們對大自然現象的無知- Saint Augustine 354 - 430

Some people are always grumbling that roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses. 有些人總是抱怨玫瑰有刺. 我很感激,旁邊有玫瑰.
- Alphonse Karr 1808 – 1890 

Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then find a way. 首先決定能夠做,且必須做的事物, 然後再找方法去做.
- Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them. 不讀好書的人, 就像文盲一樣可惜.
- Mark Twain 1835 -1910

Spiritual relationship is far more precious than physical. Physical relationship divorced from spiritual is body without soul. 靈命操練的重要性遠超過身體. 沒有靈魂的身僅是一個骨肉空架.
Mohandas Gandhi 1869 – 1948

One truth stands firm. All that happens in world history rests on something spiritual. If the spiritual is strong, it creates world history. If it is weak, it suffers world history. 真理立場明確. 世界歷史的關鍵取決於人的. 性高, 創造歷史. 軟弱, 傷害歷史.
Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965

A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire. 生命之別, 基於. 人不能事奉二師. 你的一生取決於你生命所定的目標.
Thomas Merton 1915-1968

Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness. 有兩件要素: 寬恕和善行.
Billy Graham  1918 -

The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises. 我撒種, 它成長開. 與人共享知識和笑容, 獲得充分的喜悅. 這些都是我靈命操練經歷.
- Leo Buscaglia 1924 - 1998


“A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live.”

“If a man is to live, he must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit.” fromThoughts in Solitude

“In order to find God in ourselves, we must stop looking at ourselves, stop checking and verifying ourselves in the mirror of our own futility, and be content to be in Him and to do whatever He wills, according to our limitations, judging our acts not in the light of our own illusions, but in the light of His reality which is all around us in the things and people we live with.”   from “No Man is an Island”
                                    Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968)

Merton was also known as Father Louis; A poet, a monk and a world renown spiritual writer. He had studied at Cambridge University in England (1933) and Columbia University in the United States (1935). Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding. He pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including Dalai Lama, Japanese writer D. T. Suzuki, and Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. 

Among his well known books: The Seven Storey Mountain, 1948;  No Man Is an Island, 1955; Thoughts in Solitude, 1958.





Precious Lord, Take My Hand (親愛, 牽我手) - Sung by Elvis Presley 貓王演唱


Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I'm tired, I'm weak, I'm lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand, precious Lord, Lead me home

When my way grows drear
Precious Lord, linger near
When my light is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand, lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, Lead me home

When the darkness appears
And the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river, I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, Lead me home

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I'm tired, I'm weak, I'm lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, Lead me home

Music: George N. Allen (1812-1877)
Lyrics: Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993)



Prepositions can be very eloquent.  A man is “in” architecture or a woman is “in” teaching, we say, meaning that is what they do weekdays and how they make enough money to enjoy themselves the rest of the time.  But if we say they are “into” these things, that is another story.  “Into” means something more like total immersion.  They live and breathe what they do.  They take it home with them nights.  They can’t get enough of it.  To be “into” books means that just the sight of a signed first edition of Alice in Wonderland sets your heart pounding.  To be “in” books means selling them at B. Dalton’s.

Along similar lines, New Testament Greek speaks of believing “into” rather than believing “in”.  In English we can perhaps convey the distinction best by using either “in” or no preposition at all.

Believing in God is an intellectual position.  It need have no more effect on your life than believing in Freud’s method of interpreting dreams or the theory that Sir Francis Bacon wrote Romeo and Juliet.

Believing God is something else again.  It is less a position than a journey, less a realization than a relationship.  It doesn’t leave you cold like believing the world is round.  It stirs your blood like believing the world is a miracle.  It affects who are and what you do with your life like believing your house is on fire or somebody loves you.

We believe in God when for one reason or another we choose to do so.  We believe God when somehow we run into God in a way that by and large leaves us no choice to do otherwise.

When Jesus says that whoever believes “into” him shall never die, he does not mean that to be willing to sign your name to the Nicene Creed guarantees eternal life.  Eternal life is not the result of believing in.  It is the experience of believing.

- Frederick Buechner Whistling in the Dark: An ABC Theologized”, 1988


英語的貼切使,可以. 建築和教師乃是人們選擇(in)的職業如果他們()(into)某種興趣愛好, 將會他們日夜擁抱, 呼吸的心態和生命. 猶如愛書的人看見一本難得的, 心跳加速, 衝擊, 快樂!
新約希臘文所談的信仰, 不僅選擇(in)的相信理念, 更是一種生命(into) 的信仰,信靠相信上帝也許是一種知性的理念, 諸如相信弗洛伊德的釋夢理論, 未必導致死大事信仰, 信靠上帝大大不同. 是一個旅關係. 就像有一天, 發現有人真誠愛你, 將會改變, 影響你的一生. 
[相信地球是圓的] 一種理性思維. 
[相信世界是一個奇蹟] 會激你熱血沸騰. 
()上帝, 猶如我們上帝面對面, 別無選擇. 
當耶穌說,()靠他人將永遠不死, 並不意味著耶穌將給予一張永生的證書 
永生不是相信的 結果”, 乃是()靠主身受與經驗.

-- 畢克納 牧師 (神學教授, 作家)


“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.
The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
 - C S Lewis 1898-1963

“Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”

“Authentic Christianity never destroys what is good. It makes it grow, transfigures it, and enriches itself from it.”
- D T Niles 1908-1970

“Christianity does not remove you from the world and its problems; it makes you fit to live in it, triumphantly and usefully.”
- Charles Templeton 1915-2001

"Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love.
- Henri Nouwen 1932-1996

"How can I be a great man - like you?"
"Why be a great man?" said the Master,
"Being a man is a great enough achievement."

The Master's expansive mood emboldened his disciples to say,
"Tell us what you got from enlightenment. Did you become divine?"   
"Did you become a saint?"  
"Then what did you become?"  

It intrigued the disciples that the master who lived so simply would not condemn his wealthy followers.
"It is rare but not impossible for someone to be rich and holy," he said one day.
"When money has the effect on his heart that the shadow of that bamboo has on the courtyard,"
The disciples turned to watch the bamboo's shadow sweep the courtyard without stirring a single particle of dust.

- Anthony de Mello, “One Minute Wisdom” 1985

Every new born baby brings us a message that God still has not yet given up on humankind.

- Rabindranath Targore (泰戈爾) India - 1913 Nobel Prize winner for Literature


The World Communion Sunday Special  -  Oct 2, 2011

And who, under the same circumstances, am I? Or what shall I prove to be? 
It’s not as if I haven’t been warned.  Jesus has spoken at least 3 times of his suffering and death – and fully as many times he’s declared that if I intend to come after him I must deny my self and take my cross and follow him.

“For those,” he said, “who would save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives for my sake and the gospel’s will save them.” 
Who can forget such words?  “Go, sell what you have, and come, follow me.”
Those words.  And these: ”The cup that I drink – you will drink.” 

The cup.

And I, with all his disciples, heard and agreed. “Yes,” we said, “we are able to drink that cup.” And I meant it!  No, I was not lying.  I would do anything for Jesus. 
But that was during the period of words and learning, a sort of prelude, I suppose. Sunday school, confirmation, sermons, study, preparation.  A time of pieties and promises.

Well – here comes the cup!
Here’s the real world, and the world’s at war! And my deeds are my words now, and the deeds don’t lie.     Matthew 20:20-23

- Walter Wangerin, Jr, “Measuring the Days” 1993


Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden.
And I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.
For I am gentle and lowly in heart,
And you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

- Jesus, Nazareth                                          

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Good Mornings

When I get to heaven, I shall see three wonders there. The first wonder will be to see many there whom I did not expect to see. The second wonder will be to miss many people who I did expect to see. And the third and the greatest wonder of all will be to find myself there.   John Newton (1725-1807)
      -- 寂寞神學 陳中潔 --
     (摘自19761257期 教會公報)

John 14: 1-9        Seeing God      "看上帝"      Oct. 2011

In this morning scripture reading, the disciples raised two questions. For Thomas, Jesus answered one of the most known answers in the Bible, “耶穌說, 我就是道路, 真理,生命. 若不藉著我, 沒有人能到父那裡去. Jesus said unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.”  To Philip Jesus said, “腓力、我與你們同在這樣長久, 你還不認識我麼? 人看見了我, 就是看見了父. 你怎麼說, 將父顯給我們看呢?”  “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how said thou then, Show us the Father?”

Earlier this year, my wife and I took a quick trip to Austria to visit two cities, Salzburg and Vienna. Why not?  Austria has been a country known for her richness in music and culture.  While wandering on the streets of Salzburg one day, we entered a gift shop to see if there were any handy gifts to bring home. Within a few minutes, my wife whispered to me that she over heard some Taiwanese spoken.  I told her that she could have been day dreaming, due to the time zone effect.  Who in the world would speak Taiwanese half way around the world where I could not even get a straight answer in English from a information desk.   
Just when I said that, I saw an oriental lady stood by a cashier machine. So I went over and ask her, “May I ask where you come from originally?”  “Taiwan,” she answered.  I looked at my wife with a nod and continued the conversation, “Do you speak Taiwanese?” 
“Of course!” she answered with a big smile. That was all it took. So we continued our shopping and conversation.  Soon we found out that she and her husband were from Kaohsiung city where my national ID card was established decades ago. We also found out that they were both Christians involving in weekly Chinese Bible study class every Monday evening, and they found out that I was a retired minister. 

We ended up having dinner at their home, followed by an informal Bible study and general discussion on the subjects of the spiritual growth, the Church, denominations and so on. By the time they drove us back to Hotel, it was past midnight.   
We were really surprised to receive a phone call the next morning from them. Mr. and Mrs. Lu insisted that they would drive us to the train station for a trip to Vienna since the station was under heavy constructions with detour instructions in German language everywhere. And we were so grateful and touched to have their helping hands, or we would’ve easily gotten lost not knowing the language.
Where there is love, there is God – we found that out there and then. We have emailed back and forth with them the next few weeks and found out too that they had experienced very busy days since we left.  They said they had never been so busy during that time of the year, “Must have been nice to show hospitality to strangers, especially one of them is a minister.”    
Four Taiwanese in a city of Salzburg where Mozart was born, together, we saw God.

What Jesus said to Philip was simply saying that seeing Jesus meant seeing God the Father.  The way Jesus carried the sick, the outcasts, the lost sheep and His cross… we see the Way, the Truth and the Life. And we see God as well.

* Come and See     "來看"      John 1: 43-48      Oct 4, 2011 
It is a human nature that we like to see for ourselves. It even sounds romantic sometimes. Remember the first time you went to see your girl/boy friend? Was it exciting?  We see a picture of place or someone, we want to be there and see for ourselves. Who would be your first choice to see nowadays? Ms Lin (林志玲)? Or Brad Pitt (布拉德皮特)? 

Now who wants to see Jesus?  What is there to see?

Philip was the one who liked to see things for himself. And he also liked to invite his friend to do the same. 

In today’s world, people like visual effects.  Power point presentations are everywhere.  More than once I was asked by the church officials to provide the power points of my sermon before my arrival.  My excuses are like, “I'd like to keep my sermons open for the interventions of the Holy Spirit…”

Now that Nathanael went with Philip to see Jesus even though he did not expect anything exciting coming out from Jesus of Nazareth.  To his surprise, Nathanael was seen by Jesus before he saw Him.  Also to his surprise, not only Jesus saw him, knew him but loved him deeply.  What they saw was the caring eyes of Jesus, the love beyond description, and the life that they had always secretly longed for.

I once was a guest speaker at a church near Denver, CO.  After the service, a couple in their 40's invited their pastor, elders and me to join their house warming party.  That couple were excited as if they just won the jackpot.  My expectation was that they must have a really nice house that they just moved in. 

Once we got there, what I saw was an old and moderate home. There were spots needed to be fixed, paints to be done, and a garage door could not come down completely.  They invited us in and joined them for a brief thanksgiving service.  After the service, they kneeled down on the floor hand in hand smiling. The rest of us joined them kneeling down as well. Right there and then I could actually see some insects running around under the old floor.  

Do you know what I really saw then?  What I really saw was the love marks all over that old home. I saw the love between the couple, their love of the nature and the love of God through their smiles and thanksgiving.  After a short prayer, they embraced.  I noticed then that I was not the only one with the teary eyes.   
Come and see Jesus of Nazareth, where you'll see and experience the love of God. 
Come and see for yourself.  

* Prayers   祈禱        Luke 18: 9-14              Sep 27, 2011     

There is always a tendency that one thinks he or she is an excellent prayer by comparison.  So, what are we thinking?  Do we really think that God pays more attention to our use of words, grammar, and Biblical/theological understanding level than what we are saying from the bottom of our hearts?

Here is another perspective: One of the last things a Christian should do is to speak of how great his/her achievements are.  Even though one did have an outstanding achievement in the past month or the last ten years, it should rather be viewed as a gift from God. One has not earned it. One is given. The congregations won’t pay much attention one way or the other when preachers praise themselves instead of praising God.  Besides, the church/temple is a house of the Lord for prayers, not a political platform.

This is exactly the problem of some religious and self-justified people who entered the temple looking down the others and promoting themselves above everybody else.  Not so with that tax collector who knew his role and his shortcomings.  
“Know thyself,” someone once said.

The religious and self-justified guy got nothing when he exited the temple,  because he asked nothing from the Lord.  He probably thought he got the whole world in his hands.

The tax collector asked for forgiveness. He got it. 

The good news is always meant for the humble, honest and simple minded people.  Amen.

Hello and Good bye     Matt 12: 43-45     Sep 20, 2011     

One goes to an institution with different attitude:

1.     Closed minded – never willing to open for new ideas or messages or friends or love.  After years of ‘education’ one comes out pretty much the same as he went in years ago.  Education. What education?

2.     Empty minded – Takes in whatever comes without much choice. It might end up with enough garbage and nothing constructive really taking place.  Degree. What degree?

3.     Open minded – One has to say good-bye to the old, childish stuffs and say hello (make room) for the new, mature, meaningful, creative and loving ideas from the classrooms, chapel, library, coffee/tea time and a few talks under the tree on campus.

The scripture we read this morning gives us an example of the terrible results when one says good-bye to the bad spirits without receiving something new and better.
It is your mind, your spirit and your body that you invested here. 

It is your life after all.  Be careful.  Good luck. 
And remember: God be with you, always.