“如果没有明确的目标，你所做出的决定，对于时间的分配和资源的使用就没有基础，你会倾向于根据当时的环境、压力和心情来做出选择；没有明确的目标，你会不断地改变方向、工作、关系、教堂或者其它外在因素——希望每一次变化都会解决目前的混乱或填补你心中的空虚，”接着，华理克牧师提醒我们圣经所说的，“不要做糊涂人，要明白主的旨意如何 （不要漫不经心地、不假思索地生活， 确保你明白主人想要什么）”（以弗所书 5:17）。(Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002, 32)
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today is July, 26th, 2020, the twenty-sixth “cloud worship” Sunday with the English fellowship. We hope everyone would reserve the time from 11: 30 to 12: 30 to worship our God together.
“Without a clear purpose you have no foundation on which you base decisions, allocate your time, and use your resources. You will tend to make choices based on circumstances, pressures, and your mood at that moment; without a clear purpose, you will keep changing directions, jobs, relationships, churches, or other externals--hoping each change will settle the confusion or fill the emptiness in your heart,” Rick Warren then reminds us what the Bible says, “Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants” （Ephesians 5:17). (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002, 32)
Do you understand what the Master wants for you?
Pastor Rachel He
Love has Found us
Nothing but the Blood
Set a Fire
Sacrificial Love, Unconditional Love
Good morning, brothers and sisters. Peace in the Lord! Today, we are going to think about an old, yet fashionable, topic-“Love”. Before we start, let’s bow down and pray.
Dear Lord Jesus, we thank you for your wonderful love for us, that you gave up yourself upon the cross and redeemed us with your precious blood. Lord, we pray that your Spirit will open our hearts to know your love, and for your will upon each of us individually. In your holy name we pray.
Mark 12:28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
Mark 12:29 The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: `Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
In late 2016, one sister gave me some guitar lessons to go, for which she paid. She said, “Now you are on the staff team of the church, and you are the leader of the worship team. I believe it will be helpful if you learn how to play guitar.” What a kind and faithful sister! So, I went to the lessons, picked up some basic knowledge of guitar playing as well as some primary chords. As time passed by, and the lessons finished as well, I practiced playing guitar less and less, and less. Not because it was boring, well, it was boring, but mainly because it destroyed my beautiful fingers, especially of my left hand.
I know there are thousands of standards of beauty, but this is my ideal look for my hands (pic)-round neat fingers with long beautiful nails, - and even better if I have some cool colors on. However, as I kept practicing playing the guitar, I found the strings horribly hurt my fingers, and I had to cut my nails short and shorter to make the chords sound not too wired.
Later, I consulted some guitar players and observed their fingers, and they told me that the fingers of a guitar player should be like this! (pic)
Wow, what pain and sacrifice to be a guitar player! Although I knew I wouldn’t be a professional guitar player ever, I didn’t want to sacrifice my fingers for playing guitar, even for worshipping! I told myself that I can worship God with my vocals, and that’s enough. Now you know why I still struggle with playing guitar, and why I haven’t improved as a worship leader in musical skills during the past 4 years.
This experience reminds me how conditional my love is to God. I can give up a lot of time, passion and energy on worshipping, but there is still something that I want to reserve to myself. As Christians, we always say that we should respond to God’s calling positively and immediately, and we know very well the stories in the Bible of those who are called by God and the way they responded, as examples and lessons. Also, we have many worship songs as responses to God such as the song: “Alabaster Jar”, of which the chorus part says, “Here I am, take me as an offering; Here I am, giving every heartbeat for Your glory.” Yet, when God calls us to do something new, or something we don’t like, or something that needs sacrifice, we usually hesitate and find some excuses for not following God’s call.
Jesus told us to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. We know what “ALL” means, it is a simple word, yet it has heavy meaning. When I say, “Lord, I love you, and I will give you everything to glorify you”, it should be “everything”, including my fingers, right? In such case I mentioned about guitar playing, I have to admit like this, “Lord, I love you, and I will give you everything to glorify you, except my fingers…” Isn’t it funny? It is funny, but that is a snapshot of our human love, conditional love.
There is a saying that the most romantic sentence in the world is “I love you.” Yet, the most hurtful sentence in the world is, “I love you, but…” or “I love you unless…” We always say “I love you”, to God, to our family, or to our friends. (Well, it is better to say so than not to anyway.) However, when we think about our love carefully, or when we have conflicts with others, we will realize that our love is limited and conditional. The true deep thoughts might be:
- to our parents, “I love you, but I can’t bear your nagging”;
- to our kids, “I love you if you stop being naughty;”
- to our spouse, “I love you, but you have to wash the dishes”;
- to our friends, “I love you but you can’t hurt my feelings”;
- or to our colleagues, “I love you - except when we have a conflict of interest in business gains” …
If we sit down and think about our “love”, we can find many more conditions attached on, like a negotiation, or a contract signing.
Yet, God loves us. His love is sacrificial love, his love is unfailing love, and his love is unconditional love. Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. And He promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Deu 31:6), and he sent his only beloved son, Jesus, into the world to die for us.
- 1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
- Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Christ died for us, while we were still sinners. He didn’t say, “Well, you are sinners, I won’t die for you” or “You treat me badly, how can I give up my life for you?” Life is precious, and death is painful. It was not an easy thing to Jesus although he is the son of God. Before Jesus went to the cross, he prayed in Gethsemane. Luke 22:44 “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Even so, Jesus chose to obey God’s will and finish his work on earth. He was arrested, and mocked, and beaten, and nailed to the cross. Even as he was treated so badly, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."(Luke 23:34) Let’s see the picture when Jesus said this:
- the soldiers, who mocked Jesus and beat him, were casting lots to divide Jesus’ clothing; some of them came up and offered him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
- the people, of whom many shouted “Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest heaven!” when Jesus entered Jerusalem, were standing by, watching. Some of them might also have been the ones who shouted “Crucify him!” when Jesus was before Pilate.
- the leaders scoffed at Jesus, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”
- There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
Brothers and sisters, if you were Jesus, what would you do then? Facing such people, would you love enough to die for these guys? Though Jesus could have asked the Father to send more than twelve legions of angels to save him, and he could have use his power to come down from the cross, to show them that He is the son of God, he did not do that. He did not use his power to revenge as human always do, but went to the cross and prayed for those guys. Not only this, but Jesus also prayed to his Father for the forgiveness of those people who hurt and killed him. That is unconditional love. Jesus loves us so much that he was willing to die for us, even while we were still sinners; this is God demonstrating his own love for us.
Jesus set an example for us of how to love, and he clearly taught us how to love:
To love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. It requires the whole of us, no reservation. He wants us to love him without conditions. He wants us to love him without “but” or “unless” or “if”… Recently, when I have shared something in my small group, I realize I say things like this, “I know what God wants me to do, but, I don’t want to.” Brothers and sisters, may I ask if you have a similar struggle? Such as:
- I love God, but he hasn’t answered my prayer, and I wonder if he really cares me?
- Lord, I love you, but I don’t have much time to give to you.
- Lord, I love you, but I shall consider your teaching carefully, maybe some of them are out of date now.
- Lord, I love you, but I won’t do more for you, that’s who I am!
- Lord, …, do I really love you?
Indeed, sometimes it does seem that God wants to take away the very thing that we love, such as money, or time, some habit or hobby, someone or something we love, such as when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, when Job lost his children and property, when Jesus told the young rich man that he needs to sell all that he owns and distribute the money to the poor and follow Jesus, when Jesus called his disciples, and so on.
Loving God with all our heart, and all our soul challenges the very person we love the best in our heart. In Luke 14:26, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.” Wow, that’s very challenging! I am not saying that we should hurt our parents, our family or ourselves to please Jesus, to show how much we love him. No, he doesn’t mean this, either. He just wants that we love him first, that we put him in first place.
Let’s think about the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac once more. In Genesis 22:1, it says, “After these things God TESTED Abraham.” And God called Abraham and commanded him to offer Isaac there as a burnt offering. God described Isaac to Abraham as “your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love”. Isaac is the son whom Sarah gave birth when Abraham was a hundred years old, and he is the very son that God promised Abraham, about whom God says, “it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you” (Gen 21:12; Heb 11:18). We can imagine how much Abraham would have loved Isaac. In Genesis 22, verses 12 and 16, God talked to Abraham and described Isaac as “your son, your only son”, and because Abraham was willing to offer Isaac to God, he was called “the man who fears God”(Gen 22:12) and he was blessed by God(Gen 22:17-18).
God’s will is to help us to get rid of the very thing that we love greater than him, so that to turn us back to him. Whom do we love the best right now? Is it Jesus or our family, or ourselves? Maybe God won’t call us to sacrifice the one we love the best as He did to Abraham, but it is good for us to think about our love for God compared to the love for others.
Loving God with all our heart, and all our soul challenges the very thing we love the best in our lives. Another interesting story is written in the book of Mark, Chapter 10, verses 17-22. A young rich man ran to Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. After some conversation, Jesus loved him and said, “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” And the response of this young rich man was, “when he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving,” and the reason was “for he had many possessions." In other words, this young man loves his possessions more than eternal life.
In Matthew 13, Jesus uses parables to illustrate what the kingdom of God is like. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matt 13:44). And, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matt 13:45-46) “To sell everything” means sacrifice. Seeking God’s Kingdom needs sacrificial love. In Luke 14:33, Jesus said, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” To be the disciple of Jesus needs sacrificial love. I don’t mean we have to sell everything right now to achieve a target named “to be the disciple of Jesus”, that is not a title. But, when God calls you to sacrifice something, will you do it?
It doesn’t mean God wants us to be lonely, to be poor, to be down and out, to be penniless and frustrated. Actually, God owns everything. He is the creator of the world and it is he who holds the universe, to keep everything running in its time and in its way. On the contrary, he wants us to have a good life. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” God wants our love to him wholeheartedly, with all our strength.
In Psalm 50:9-12, it says, “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” Our God is the richest father in the world. He owns everything, and he does not need our property, or our sacrifices. Later in verses 13-15 says, “Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." He wants our hearts to love him, to thank him, to call upon him. That’s his will.
Looking back to Job’s story might be helpful for us to understand the relationship between God, us and what we have. Job said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21). It is challenging, but it confirms what kind of God we believe in. In our hearts, is he really the creator of the world? Is he merciful and faithful? Does he really love us and care about us? We will know the answer to these questions from how we love him.
I know we can’t achieve this goal without God’s help. We don’t even have the strength to make up our mind to give EVERYTHING we have to love God.
True love brings change of actions.
In John 14, Jesus said about those who love him,
- John 14:15 If you love me, you will obey what I command.
- John 14:21a Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.
- John 14:23a If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.
How many commandments and teachings did Jesus give us? Many! How much can we obey? Little, on our own. Does it mean that we should give up? Well, it depends. My answer is that we should give up trying to achieve the commandments in our own strength, but we should try our best to obey his teaching and commandments as much as we can. Yes, human are weak and limited, and we know that we can’t keep the law by the flesh. As Paul says in Romans 7:19, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.” We know this verse clearly. Yet, there must be something that we CAN do to obey Jesus’ teaching but we don’t want to. Maybe, to reserve some time with God daily? Or to watch fewer TV shows? Or to give a phone call to someone? I believe, there must be something we CAN do, today, this week, to obey Jesus’ teaching.
Many times, we even don’t have the strength to change this “I don’t want” mindset to obey the Lord. I know it is hard, really. In such case, still we can come to God and ask for his strength and power to change our mind to obey him. Love the Lord with all our strength, obey his commandments with our strength, and it is He who will take care of the rest. Thus, he gains our love for him with all our strength.
Now you may wonder how is my left hand looks like now. Here is the picture for your reference.
Thanks to God that during the pandemic lock down, I lost my excuse of the lack of time to practice guitar, and I did feel that God called me to pick up some instrument for his sake. So, I play guitar sometimes, and even lead worship in some online small group meetings. As I surrender and am willing to offer myself to God, I find deep joy and satisfaction in God, and in playing Guitar.
Now, question time, let’s think about the following questions individually:
- What is the very thing that I have reserved (conditions) in my heart that I don’t want to give (sacrifice) to God?
- What image of God do I have deep in my heart? (Do I believe that he is the creator and the host of the world, that he is merciful and faithful, that he loves me and cares about me, etc.?
- What is the very thing I can do to love Jesus with all my strength today and in this week?
May the Lord himself give us the power to love him with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. Let us pray:
Jesus, we thank you for your sacrificial and unconditional love to us. Please help us learn how to love you. Change us with your mighty power that we will love you more and more, and reserve less and less for ourselves. Also teach us how to love others as ourselves that we will live out your love in our daily life. In your holy name we pray. Amen!
Jesus Calling - July 26
RELAX AND LET ME LEAD YOU through this day. I have everything under control: My control.
You tend to peer anxiously into the day that is before you, trying to figure out what to do, and when. Meanwhile, the phone or the doorbell rings, and you have to reshuffle your plans. All that planning ties you up in knots and distracts you from Me. Attentiveness to Me is not only for your quiet time, but for all your time. As you look to Me, I show you what to do now and next.
Vast quantities of time and energy are wasted in obsessive planning. When you let Me direct your steps, you are set free to enjoy Me and to find what I have prepared for you this day.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
PSALM 32 : 8
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
PSALM 119 : 35
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
PSALM 143 : 8
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever.