Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Kind Of Power Do YOU Want?

They say that knowledge is power, and for once “they” and God agree. Knowledge of God is the power of life. The question is what kind of knowledge? This is a very important question too, because all of eternity rests on the answer. The kind of knowledge we bear into the eternal results of every decision we made while our vaporous existence quickly dissipated here will weigh upon every echo there. Will they reverberate with ever increasing joy or will they resonate with gnawing regret?

The knowledge I believe that will carry with it the most visceral sting is the empty knowledge of God; the demonic awareness of His presence without any of the sustaining power of intimacy that that awareness should produce. It is the knowledge that accedes to the existence of the One from whom the heart is withheld. To be simply blinded by the irrational desires of the sinful nature will carry with it the knowledge of a folly beyond words as the items we traded for fall from our failing grasp, but this cannot compare to the folly of intentionally withholding our heart from Christ. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is death. So what kind of knowledge contains so infinite a power as to see wretches like us through to the presence of the Holy One of Israel? The knowledge that is born out of the tests and trials that inevitably come when one actually sets the soles of their will upon the unseen reality that the initial facts pointed to is endowed with such dynamism.

After the first footfall upon the Rock that is the person of our Lord Jesus Christ such joy reverberates through our being that we are drawn to take the next step and then the next, and so on ad infinitum. This wondrous journey may be punctuated by times of sinking into the roiling waves of life’s turmoil, but every step preceding it tells of the trustworthiness of the hand that is extended to lift us back into the way. The firm grip of that powerful hand has held us before. The voice calling through the din has unerringly drawn us to safety. The features of the face lit by flashes of revelation in the darkness has consumed our gaze and lit our hearts with an all-surpassing hope. The simplistic purity of the love offered has undone us. This love that is no small rock placed in a vast expanse of overwhelming adversity, but rather the eternal Rock stretching in every direction beyond these fleeting trials, has shown itself too many times to be doubted anymore. Folly may briefly take the eyes of one so captured, but the barest glance will never fail to retrieve the heart that has been truly handed over. And all the power rests not in the heart, nor the will of the one surrendered, but in the scarred hand of the One who unfailingly receives it, and unerringly preserves it unto eternity.

Yes, knowledge is power, but only when it is acted upon. Anything else will be but another volume of learning in the library of hell.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cycling Through The Seasons

Ever since moving to Hong Kong I have missed cycling to work, or taking some time during a late summer evening to grab my camera, and my bike to head out for some clicks and clicks. Cycling was always an enjoyable way for me to unwind. The cycling that I am doing now is not that kind. I’m not meaning that I am riding a bike here on Cheung Chau, which would be tantamount to suicide for the uninitiated; this is a whole different kind of cycling all together. This is a cycle of a spiritual nature.
Working at Zheng Sheng College is all about sacrifice. Sacrificing time, comfort, expectations, and even personal space is the norm here. It is good spiritual disciplining. It is also something that I thought I desired more than I am finding in reality. Of course this is not unusual because we all find this truth when we go after the truest desires of our heart. We find that there is the dream which lights our eyes and sends our hearts soaring, and then there is the very real work of obtaining that goal. One pastor told me years ago, when he took me under his wing to disciple me, that there was an NFL football coach who told his players that he was going to make them do the things they didn’t want to do so that they could become the players they wanted to be. This is very much what many Hollywood movies are about, especially the true stories. They tell of that person who overcame all those obstacles that life, society, and particularly they themselves put in the way of obtaining the dream. This is also very much like Jesus. He is constantly pushing our buttons and boundaries so that He can release the things that we dream of in the spirit. I know for myself there is a constant stream of visions within me that portray the man I desire to be. I will see myself lovingly devoting myself to my family, passionately pursuing activities to better myself, and pouring myself out for the sake of the gospel at the school. This, though, is the stream of consciousness that flows side by side with the stream which is filled with the debris of a life spent serving myself. This is the analogy I will use in place of Paul’s analogy of being tied to a corpse.
I cycle through seasons when I am able to turn to God to find the power to do those things that will bring Him glory, and also, as happens in God’s economy, fulfill my deepest desires, and seasons when I cannot seem to pry my eyes out of my own navel. These last three days were like that for me. I spent much of my time bemoaning the lack of personal time I get these days, and then becoming upset with those around me who are also in a deficient place, feeling the lack of my presence due to my work schedule. It was a tug-o-war the whole time. The rationalizations didn’t change anything either. In fact, they became like a shovel to just dig the hole deeper. Nobody wanted to hear rationalizations from a grump, but they probably would have appreciated an apology.
None of my feelings are culturally unacceptable these days. We are told all the time that if we spend time on ourselves then we will be happy and healthy. Product advertizing keys into this all the time, whether it is the spa getaway or even just the humble dish soap that will degrease your dinnerware quicker so that you will have more time to yourself, they all tell you that more for you is better for everyone. The only ads I remember that were telling me something different were actually from the Mormon Church, which is really frightening. They may be sailing on a Titanic of doctrine, but their focus on family values is spot on.
The reality of scripture faces this down in no uncertain terms. Losing our lives is the only certain way of finding them. Giving up my “me time” to make sure that my kids know they are loved and valued will always pay a dividend to my emotional stocks. Acting on my wife’s requests for me to plug into some books on homeschooling and parenting will pay off on those date nights when we can really connect about things that are a daily part of her heart. Working past the cultural, and linguistic barriers between the brothers at Zheng Sheng College and I always brings the reward of relationship and trust.
The real key to all of this is trusting God at His word. Two verses come to mind right away when I consider these things. The first one is the one about saving and losing your life, the other one is Psalm 37:4,”Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee all the desires of thine heart.” If I truly trust this then I will spend all my time to delight myself in God and trust in the surety of His reciprocity. This certainly sounds like a good thing, until I come home fried from a long shift, and then the burning smell of rubber on asphalt fills my olfactory orifice. This is where the real simple matters of trust come to bear on all my well intended platitudes spouted off about how much I trust God. Sure, I’ll take my whole family across the globe to serve Him, I’ll live and teach in some very rudimentary conditions, but will I serve the little ones at the end of the day. Will I serve my wife or wait for her to see my needs? Whom will I serve?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Well, I gotta say this guys' post has been rattling around my brain for some time now. Not that I read his post a while ago, just that I have been trying to learn Chinese and what he says about Dashan (see link in the title) is so true. Chinese is an annoyingly difficult language to learn, and seeing someone, smug smile and all, spewing it out better than most mainlanders does nothing to assuage this. Top of the list of annoyances about learning Chinese is the underlying belief of Chinese people that white folk cannot really learn their language. If you do speak something to them that they understand their face lights up like you just did a magic trick. If I did that to someone learning English in Canada I would be roundly slapped in the head with a copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms wrapped in a bow of multiculturalism, and left to bleed out my biases on the sidewalk.
Whew, glad I got that out. Anyway, now that I feel better I should get back to finding some materials for learning this Putonghua.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


Another night descends on Ha Keng, and I am left with much time on my hands and many thoughts on my mind. Today one of our staff finished his three year tenure here at the school, and we bid him a fond farewell at the pier. He was very close with many of the brothers and one young fellow was shedding tears as he headed back up the hill to the village. Watching him leave made me consider how long I will be here, and in what ways this time will change my life. Evenings like this afford me a lot of time to reflect on things of this nature.
As I was attempting to do exactly this, nature itself wandered into the office tonight with a cool distraction for a mind pigeonholed by its own logic. It was as simple as a little gecko-like lizard crawling across the walls of our portable office in search of dinner. I spotted him while I was on the phone with my wife telling her about all my mental meandering, and he meandered his way across the wall securing a brief commentary from me each time he wiggled a little further. My wife became convinced that he was indeed hunting me, and that he was perhaps related to another little fellow who, in a moment of obvious distress, hurled himself at us from the top of our shower door as we closed in to see what it was he was doing there in the first place. It seemed this was indeed probable when the gecko left the wall for the inverted environment of the ceiling. At the same time he changed his heading for a more direct line to the patch of ceiling immediately above my bald spot. We had a laugh as we considered what kind of sound this would make seeing how the distinctive smack of his bare body hitting my bare head would be mixed, I’m sure, with a scream much like that of a schoolgirl. By this time I was far too distracted by the gecko to continue to offload my other distractions upon my dear wife’s psyche and so bid her a good night.
It was not long afterwards that my greenish little buddy set up between the two fluorescent lights right above me to see if he could snag one of the winged creatures that frequent them in the evenings. His patience was soon rewarded when he spotted a good sized moth a little ways off from his position. He stealthily made his way along the ceiling tiles to a place where his lightening speed could be brought to bear upon his prey, and settled cat-like into position. Unfortunately the darting grab he performed did not pay off as a rather relieved moth fluttered out the office door. Not to be put off, my friend made his way to the other light where a moth that I had scared landed within his line of sight. I watched in amazement as he crept into the shadow that the light fixture cast to continue his approach towards the pudgy little moth. The lizard’s technique was so careful and patient that I could not help but be drawn into the unfolding drama. As he inched ever closer I found myself verbally coaching him, and hoping the moth would remain oblivious. Indeed the moth did remain still right up until his head was trapped in the gecko’s mouth. It was quite a battle as the moth furiously fluttered to wrench itself free, but all to no avail. After a few minutes the wings ceased and the swallowing began. It was a super sized meal for the little guy, but he choked it back none the less.
He is still sitting up there as I finish this, and, thankfully, my Father set my mind at ease once again as only He can.
Good night.