my shelter in times of trouble

My friend is a group leader in NA (Narcotics Anonymous).  He gave me one of their books called “Just for Today”.  I found that this book offers many insightful messages for everyone.

I like to share one of the messages: “I know that faith in my Higher Power will not calm the storms of life, but it will calm my heart.  I will let my faith shelter me in times of trouble”,

Do you have any shelter in times of trouble?  What is it?   For me, my shelter is God.  “God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not be afraid…”

Listening with the ear of our heart

I took my car to the auto shop for regular maintenance.    While I was waiting for the service, I opened the book “a life of being, having, and doing enough” by Wayne Muller.  His writing on “listening with the ear of our heart” touched my heart instantly:

“When our attention is bombarded daily, overwhelmed and saturated with the relentless clanging of so much speaking, announcing, sharing, selling, convincing, offering, presenting, discussing, declaring, and demanding – how can ever find sufficient quiet to listen deeply to anything?  When can we fully attend those still, small voices of inner wisdom that reveal to us what is good, necessary, or nourishing?…..prayers of invocation …asking God to “come here, be with us and bless us”…Who are we…to assume God is not here and everywhere already – and worse, that we must call him as we would a family pet, to come?  The more humble, honorable – and accurate – prayer would recognize it is not God who is missing; rather, it is we who need to show up, to open our closed and fearful hearts, to listen with an ear bent toward the divine”.

When I followed the prayer he offered, I prayed with tear.  For a while, I have not been being mindful of God’s presence and I have not been being attentive to God’s voice.  If you are willing, join me to do and experience the following prayer:

“God, I beg you to cleanse our distracted hearts, that we may center ourselves in you, feel you here, guiding us, so we may listen and attend to your wisdom and guidance for us”.

Definition of Church Planting

I have been discerning and preparing new church initiatives, I got Aubrey Malphurs’ book, “The Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting: A Guide for Starting Any Kind of Church”. In this book, Aubrey Malphurs writes: “I define church planting as an exhausting but exciting venture of faith, the planned process of starting and growing local churches based on Jesus’s promise to build his church and in obedience to his Great Commission”.

Why do we need to plant a new church? We are going to plant and grow a church in obedience to his Great Commission. Since this is an exhausting venture, I need fellow pilgrims. Your prayers and partnership (in many different ways) are invited and appreciated. For the sake of His Kingdom Ministry, let’s follow His way together.

Gender, process or fact?

As a Christian and an Anglican priest (not only because of Christian identity and vocation, but also my passion), I love to reach out to the people in the community. One group of people I have never met personally are transgender. Lately, I start to read a book called “Gender: Your Guide – A GENDER-FRIENDLY PRIMER ON What to Know, What to Say, and What do Do in the New Gender Culture” by Lee Airton.

In this book, Lee Airton writes, “transgender people were assigned a sex and corresponding gender category at birth, but this assignment doesn’t reflect who we are”. In the book, Lee explains how gender works from the perspective of gender as an ongoing, lifelong process.

For me, I am in a lifelong journey/path to be true manhood. I am still learning and becoming a man I was designed by God to be. From this point of view, I experience & see gender as an ongoing, lifelong process.

Invisible but essential and beautiful

French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote, “”it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”. Yes, we cannot see God with our eyes, but we can see Him with our heart.

Antoine also wrote, “the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with heart”. For me, the most beautiful thing is Love.

“God, Love, God is Love” are the essential and most beautiful things that only can be seen and felt by our heart.

They need emotional support.

While I was driving, I turned on the radio and I was shocked by the information the host shared – there’s about 6 – 8 people died daily because of illicit-drug overdoses in BC in the past first ten month 2021.

When I was still the rector of St Elizabeth’s Anglican Church in Mississauga three years ago, we welcomed the NA (Narcotics Anonymous) group in our church building. I was allowed to attend their meetings. One time I had conversation with a Canadian born Chinese young man. He told me he’s trying to live clean but it’s difficult with the emotional support of the family. He was kicked out by his parents because they could not accept his son with drug addiction. I could see his tears when he talked about his family. He loved and missed his family very much. I did not know what to say, I just gave him a hug. He cried and said “thank you” to me. Because he moved to another shelter, he had never come to the NA meeting in our church since that evening. I have been keeping him in prayers.

There are many people need others’ emotional support so that they can continue their journey of living clean. In fact, emotion support is one powerful way to prevent people to use drugs to escape from their personal problems and pains. In fact, we all need others’ emotional support.

The Gospel & Personal Evangelism

According to a recent survey conducted by Alpha Canada and the Flourishing Congregations Institute (The Priority and Practice of Evangelism – Canadian Church Leader Perspective in 2021), 65 percent of church leaders say that evangelism hasn’t been a priority for their congregations over the last several years. Fifty-five percent say their congregations do not equip Christians to share their faith.

According Thom S. Rainer, the top fifteen reasons our churches are less evangelistic today are:

  1. Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.
  2. Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.
  3. Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.
  4. We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.
  5. Our churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”
  6. Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.
  7. Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.
  8. Church members are in a retreat mode as culture becomes more worldly and unbiblical.
  9. Many church members don’t really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation.
  10. Our churches are no longer houses of prayer equipped to reach the lost.
  11. Churches have lost their focus on making disciples who will thus be equipped and motivated to reach the lost.
  12. Christians do not want to share the truth of the gospel for fear they will offend others. Political correctness is too commonplace even among Christians.
  13. Most churches have unregenerate members who have not received Christ themselves.
  14. Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.
  15. Our churches have too many activities; they are too busy to do the things that really matter.

In his book, “The Gospel & Personal Evangelism”, Mark Dever reminds us that “according to the Bible, all believers have received this commission”. The Commission he talks about is the Jesus Great Commission (Matthews 28:18-20).

Mark points out that “We can all contribute to evangelism simply by building up the local church – helping to organize or lead it. We may teach and equip. We may provide hospitality and encouragement. We may pray and serve and show mercy and give. But we also all have a responsibility to speak of God and the good news both insider and outside of the church…God calls all Christians to share the good news. Our churches need to make sure that we know the good news and to make sure that we can all express it clearly. And we should work to train each other in having the kind of Christian lives and clear understanding that will help us to share the gospel’.

I agree with him that “An account of a changed life is wonderful and inspiring thing, but it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that explain what it’s all about and how it happened. And it’s the gospel that turns sharing a testimony into evangelism”.

I think Mark has given us a very concise and precise conclusion on evangelism, “a God-given commission and method, a God-centered message, and a God-centered motive (a desire to obedient, a love for the lost, and a love for God) We should all evangelize. Evangelism isn’t all those other things we considered; it is telling the good news about Jesus, and doing it with honesty, urgency and joy, using the Bible, living a life that backs it up, and praying, and doing it all for the glory of God…The Christian call to evangelism is not simply a call to persuade people to make decisions, but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We do not fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not subsequently converted; we fail only if we do not faithfully tell the gospel at all”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

I pray all Christians say “yes” to the call to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ,

The Anglican Vision

When I was considering to become an Anglican years ago, James E. Griffiss’ “The Anglican Vision” helped me to understand the origin of Anglicanism, Anglican belief and practice.

For someone like me coming from non-liturgical Christian background, his explanation on “the church as sacrament” dispelled my misunderstanding. He wrote, “In our prayer book sacraments are defined as ‘outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace’…The witness of the Bible, the doctrinal tradition of councils and creeds, the discipline of prayer, worship, and action, and our communion with one another and with God – all of these essential components of how the church is the sacrament of God’s presence. They are our heritage in the catholic faith mediated to us and brought to life in the particular historical condition o four church community. By the grace of God, we believe, the Word of Truth will be present with us in the process of our hearing and speaking.”

According to his description, are you and I the sacraments? As a priest, have I been with my “church” experiencing His presence among&in us? May God help us.

Henri Nouwen’s “With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life”

In this timeless book, Fr. Nouwen again insightfully guides me (I hope it helps you too) on a journey to discover the rich and the depth of the Eucharist through the story of the disciples on their way to Emmaus. When I partake the Eucharist, I come in my brokenness before God, heard the Word and the profession of faith, and recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

What has impacted me the most is his reminding us of the end of communion, “Communion is not the end. Mission is …We recognized him, but that recognition is not just for us to savor or to keep as a secret…It is not just the Eucharist, but the Eucharistic life that makes the difference…”

Even though they faced difficulties, challenges and persecutions, the first disciples carried on the mission and lived out their eucharistic lives faithfully. Their witnesses have been inspiring me (I hope you too) to live out the missional life in the midst of pandemic.

Joan Chittister’s “The Liturgical Year: the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life”.

I love to read Sister Joan’s books. This book is one of books in The Ancient Practices Series (I love them all) by Thomas Nelson. This is one of the books helped me to discover and enjoy the rich and the meaning of The Liturgical Year when I came to Anglican from another Christian tradition 8 years ago.

In the beginning of the book, Sister Joan wrote, “every year is a distinct growth point in life… Each year brings something unique to us and calls for something different from us…The way we define our years determine what we think our lives are meant to be about and how we will live because of it…”

Then she wrote and explained “The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ. It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until eventually, we become what we say we are – followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. The liturgical year is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening.”

Her writing has inspired me the most is this, “Like the rings on a tree, the cycles of Christian feasts are meant to mark the levels of our spiritual growth from one stage to another in the process of human growth”.

I have been thinking, as a priest, have I helped my parishioners to experience and cherish the rich and the profound meaning of the liturgical year? How can I have more and mover people journey with me in the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life?

Joe Amaral’s “Understanding Jesus: cultural insights into the words and deeds of Christ”

I just finish reading this book that really has been stirring me to “learn more about our Jewish roots as the people of God as we follow after the One our Hebrew Christian brothers and sisters call Yeshua Ha Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah”. As what Wayne Hilsden wrote, “Joe Amaral sheds significant new light on the person and work of the Messiah and by digging deeper into the Hebraic roots of the New Testament text”, I strongly recommend this book to you.

Do you have faith in God’s love?

When I revisited my “old” Facebook post, this post caught my attention and I would like to share with you:

I was going to leave the coffee shop. A lady sat beside me talked to me, “Father, may I ask you something?” “Oh, sure!” “Father, will God forgive me if I have sinned against Him…?” She had tears in her eyes and she was reading a book written by a very conservation and famous writer (always talked about sin, judgement and hell). I was touched and said, “yes, God loves you before you asked for His forgiveness. Do you have faith in God and His love?” “Praise the Lord and thank you!” She had tears on her face.

Dr. Craton’s “wisdom from the homeless”

I just start to read Neil Craton’s “wisdom from the homeless” and I am touched by his preface and like to share with you.

“Sometimes the world seems like a very dark place. Partisan grievances have increased exponentially. Left and Right find new ways to vilify each other, hardening points of view into the points of a spear. To disagree with someone is to hate them. A new cycle is not complete without a tragic tale of someone killing their neighbor or themselves. Children are terrified that the planet is ecologically doomed, where every breath of wind is perceived as the first whisper of the apocalypse. We are increasingly fearful of one another, drowning in a toxic soup of racial tension, political gamesmanship, ethnic marginalization and the vicious habit of ‘depersonalizing everyone into a rival.’ The affluent seem increasingly obsessed with ‘small minded and lop-sided pursuits.’ Now more than ever, we are suffering from a deficiency of kindness and hope.

I feel the pain of the world and I am part of it. I feel tears filled with my eyes. Dr. Craton continues, “In this dark and angry world, I see a glimpse of light. I have seen kindness, care and hope at a homeless Mission…the source for hope, light, care and kindness is Jes…us of Nazareth…People of all walks of life need hope hope and every problem is easier to handle if we have it. Hope is hard to serve without the garnish of kindness. The present cultural context seems to know little of kindness. I have witnessed far more hope and kindness at Siloam than I see in many celebrities, newscasters or politicians.”…

Yes, if you and I pay attention to the world around us, we should be able to see the glimpse. The call for us is to be the small candle(s) revealing a glimpse of light that helps our neighbors to see Jesus and find hope in him.

About Genesis and Creation – 1

Someone texted me, “Genesis 1:1 in the beginning of God created the heavens and earth. Did God create the universe and earth on the same day?”

Let me make response to this question in point form:

  • Literally yes. However,
  • scientifically, a “day” is caused and defined by light
  • according Genesis, light was created after the creation of the heavens and earth
  • therefore, the “day” in here should not interpreted as the “day” now we understand (with 24 hours).
  • The beginning of Genesis actually was written to declare the fact (at least from the author’s point of view) God created the universe.
  • Because of Genesis, I know that God created the universe.
  • Genesis helps me to understand the why (the universe exists) – God created it.
  • I won’t use Genesis as my scientific reference when I try to understand the how.