It’s been quite thrilling, actually, reading Mme. Guyon’s book, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.” Thrilling and challenging because it just speaks directly to my soul who thirsts for more of Jesus and seems to enjoy challenges.

She writes, “…God has a magnetic attracting quality! Your God is like a magnet! The Lord naturally draws you more and more toward Himself…As you move toward the center, the Lord also purifies you of all the things that are not of Him.”

I began to meditate on those words and the illustration she used in the following paragraph. Observe the ocean and the water that begins to evaporate. Think of how the vapor begins moving toward the sun. As the vapor ascends, it becomes more refined and purified. Mme. Guyon writes, “The purifying took place as the vapor was drawn up into the heavens!” As I do a lot reading her book, I thought, “Okay…I can picture that, I guess. Sounds reasonable. Now what?” And as often happens as I read her book, the Holy Spirit takes over. I suddenly recalled an encouraging word I read earlier in the day and Ezekiel 36:25-27.

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

The Holy Spirit and my new BFF, Jeanne Guyon, are an awesome combination! I got it! God was getting through to not only my heart of stone, but my head of stone. I began to picture myself being drawn to my loving God, who loves me enough to draw me to Himself like a magnet. Then I could see something that absolutely thrilled me, I could picture that as was drawn close to my God, He was purifying me! Filthiness being vaporized. Idolatry left behind. A hard heart (and God willing, a hard head) replaced with a soft heart (and head. Soft head? Hmmm, that doesn’t sound right. But you know what I mean.). Filthiness replaced by His Spirit, giving me the strength to walk in obedience to God and His ways. Amazing!

How different that is from the magnet of sin that keeps pulling me toward things and thoughts and actions and words and behavior and the filth that keeps me separated from the God who like a magnet, yearns to draw me to Himself.

Father, thank you for your amazing love that keeps drawing me to You like a magnet, Your love that purifies my filth and softens my heart, and my head. Thank you!

Thank you, Father!

and thanks again, Jeanne!

another step!



Two or Three

silhouette of dancing people inside club

Photo by Wendy Wei on
“Bigger is better.”
“Size matters.” (I’m referring to church size, okay?
“The bigger the better!”

When I think about those sayings, I immediately try to dismiss them with quaint sayings that seem more humble and inspiring.

Like Mark Twain-“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” I love that one!

From Mom Teresa-“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

The truth is, as much as I want to believe those inspiring sayings, there’s a part of me that believes bigger is better. Or bigger means being more successful. That as a pastor, my success is measured by how the attendance at our worship services. I know, I know, that’s so wrong but that’s something that still gnaws at me! And this has been a real tension in my spirit. It’s so easy to feel unsuccessful or discouraged. Honestly, it’s been a battle for me as a pastor. But, God is amazing! As I sat in His presence this morning, I just rested in Him. As a son. With my Dad. I wasn’t even thinking about this at all. Until…

A couple of passages from the Bible snuck into my mind:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:18-20

I opened my Bible and began to just allow the words from these verses sink into my heart. As time went on, it was as though the Holy Spirit was saying, “Mark, two or three. Just two or three.” The amazing thing is that it did begin to sink into my heart! I began to see the real truth in these passages. There is much strength in just two or three. If just two people agree about anything they ask for, God will get it done for them. When just two or three are gathered, God is there. I was beginning to see, I mean really see,  that just two or three can make a huge impact!

I began thinking about a very profound and prophetic book by Ed Silvoso, entitled, “Ekklesia.” Ed has written a very a biblical and paradigm shifting book. He writes about something very new to me, the Conventus, “According to Sir William Ramsay, when a group of Roman citizens as small as two or three gathered anywhere in the world, it constituted the convents as a local expression of Rome.” Ed then masterfully relates this to Matthew 18. Something clicked in my spirit. Then my heart stirred when I read these words, “Jesus’ Ekklesia was not meant to be a sterile, sanitized holding tank into which His disciples were to store in isolation converts fished out of a turbulent and doomed sea, to await the arrival of a refrigerator ship for transfer to a heavenly port for final processing. Instead, His Ekklesia, whether in the embryonic expression of the conventus or in a more expansive version, was designed as the vehicle to inject the leaven of the Kingdom of God into the dough of society so that first people, and then cities and eventually nations, would be discipled.” Click!

Then, the other day, my very good friend and brother, Cal, stopped by my office, excited to share events and things he was working on. It really was exciting. But something he said still rings in my ears. “Mark, the Ekklesia is unstoppable!” He had shared a couple of stories about how two or three Christ followers took the Bible at its word and the inspiration of Ed Silvoso and his book, “Ekklesia,” and were making a huge impact in the world around them. Regular people, like me, making a major impact! Yes, size does matter! Two or three and God with them is unstoppable. Click!

God began to work His truth into my heart, gently blowing away the lies and false beliefs I was holding on to. “Mark, don’t worry about bigger is better. Don’t worry about the bigger you are, the more successful you are. Focus in on twos and threes. When you do, when you are leading, teaching, equipping and encouraging people that two or three is all you need, like Cal said, the church becomes unstoppable!” 

Two or three. We all can do that. I can do that. A married couple. A couple of siblings. A family. Two or three friends. Two or three co-workers. Two or three classmates. Two or three teammates. Two or three anybody. God can use, God does use two or three. I pray that would be my passion and my focus. Holy Spirit, I need your help. I need you to lead me, correct me, and empower me. Two or three. Click!

Thanks, Cal!

Thanks, Ed!

Most of all, thanks Father!

another important step!





sun forest rays sunbeam
Photo by Pixabay on

The start of a new year always comes with a sense of excitement and anticipation for me. It’s like I get to have a fresh start in some ways. My mind wonders what God will bring in the coming year. There’s always a sense of wonder with a new year.

This year, I have begun to read a book that is unlike most books I tend to read. One day while meeting with someone, this book came to mind and I decided to read it. Madame Guyon, who some would describe as a French mystic, lived from 1648-1717, wrote a book entitled, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.” The title page says that it was formerly entitled, “Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer; which all can practice with the greatest facility, and arrive in a short time, by its means, at a high degree of perfection.”

Now with a title like that, who wouldn’t want to dive right in. And I dive right in I did! So far, it has been a wonderful adventure of drawing closer to God. Short and very easy? Not so much, at least for me. One of the ways she suggests coming to the Lord is “praying the Scripture.” Here’s what Madame Guyon suggests: “Turn to the Scripture; choose some passage that is simple and fairly practical. Next, come to the Lord. Come quietly and humbly. There, before Him, read a small portion of the passage of Scripture you have opened to. Be careful as you read. Take in fully, gently and carefully what you are reading. Taste it and digest it as you read.”

“Turn to the Scripture; choose some passage that is simple and fairly practical. Next, come to the Lord. Come quietly and humbly. There, before Him, read a small portion of the passage of Scripture you have opened to. Be careful as you read. Take in fully, gently and carefully what you are reading. Taste it and digest it as you read.”  Madame Guyon

I felt God’s leading to read Ps. 19. I started to read and landed on verse 4-5. This is what I took in fully, gently, and carefully, tasting and digesting as I read: God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.” And here’s what my first sense was: “What the heck?” I was wondering what God could possibly want to tell me in these verses. But I quieted my heart, rested in God’s presence, and waited. And waited. And waited. As impatient as I usually am, I began to sense a real peace, just being in the presence of God. It was nice. And then it happened.

God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding

As I rested in the Lord’s presence, this thought came to mind. “Were you a radiant bridegroom? Do you remember how joyful were you that day you got married? Do you remember how thrilled you were becoming one with My gift to you in Jo?” I began to remember! Remembering how happy I was. How thankful to God I was. I remembered not being hungry at all at the reception because I was so excited. I remembered the first dance with my bride, which is a miracle because I don’t like to dance. I remembered how happy I was on that day. It was wonderful remembering, over 36 years later, that amazing and special day.

Then I sensed God’s voice. “Remember. Appreciate. Think of that day. Think of Jo. Think of Me. And whenever you see or feel the warmth of the sun, let it be a reminder to you of that wonderful day and how radiant you felt.” I stopped to think of how kind God is. How He loved me enough to give such a wonderful bride, wife, and partner to go through all the ups and downs of life with. How good God is! And to have the sun as a constant reminder of how good God is and how much He loves me is so amazing.

I remember thanking God and getting up from my desk thinking, Jeanne (Madame Guyon’s first name. We are on first name basis now!), you are on to something! Thank you. I look forward every day now, to experience more of the depths of Jesus Christ. I look forward to looking outside my window every morning, seeing and feeling the warmth of the sun, reminding me of that special day when I was a radiant bridegroom. And that God is there. He’s always been there.

Thanks, Jeanne! Another step!





“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Phil. 1:21

I don’t know how many times I have read that verse. In full disclosure, this hasn’t been one of my favorite verses. It sounds so heroic, and it really is. It sounds so passionate, and it really is. It sounds so unlike something I would say, and that would be a true statement. I read it, studied it even, but I honestly couldn’t relate to it. I could sort of get the “to live is Christ” part. That’s something to shoot for.  But to die is gain? Really?

“If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

Recently, I have begun to understand these verses a lot better. I can totally feel the tension in Paul’s words here. There’s so much still to be done here. So much I feel I need to do before graduating to heaven. So many people who need to hear the good news of Jesus.

But there are times when the grind just gets to me. Times when the stress, the heartaches, the disappointments, the sadness and pain of sin becomes overwhelming. There are times when life sucks. And thinking of going home to heaven sounds, well, heavenly. It doesn’t take much thought to imagine how wonderful it would be to be at home with Jesus. I can imagine that in heaven, the 49ers win the Super Bowl every year. Yes, I feel that tension and I want to tell the Apostle Paul, “I totally get you, bro!” 

Whenever I think about how great home in heaven would be, there’s always a tug. A tug that pulls me back to my present reality. Back to where I need to be, for now. Yes, there is much heartache at times. Yes, there are conflicts that eat at me, gnawing at a restless and exhausted soul at 3:00 am. Yes, there are all those “why” questions that never seems to get answered, at least to my satisfaction. “Why is this happening, God?” “Why didn’t this work out, Father?” “Why didn’t this prayer get answered?” Why, why, why? (On a side note, aren’t “why” questions really exhausting?) And yes, there’s that continual battle with sin. For me, that’s all true. Life is tough! But I know it isn’t time to go home yet. I know there are things God has called me to do. And going home right now would be selfish. It would be awesome, but selfish.

In the end, I thank God for where I am, even in the midst of very challenging times. There was a time, not too long ago, when going to heaven was the last place I wanted to go. There was too much for me to experience here on earth. There was a time when this was home to me. This life of mine, here on earth was all there was. I think I would have changed the verse in Phil. 1:21 to, “For me to live is ME and to die is a bummer.” I thank God for His love and care for me. Even in the midst of much stress, heartache, and trouble, He is working something good in my life. Yes, He is! He’s giving me a perspective that is true and right. He’s showing me what my life on earth is all about–for me to live is Christ. He showing me that this isn’t my home. That Jesus has been preparing my home and it’s there awaiting my arrival. My home is in heaven and it’s not going anywhere. Until then, there’s things He has called me to do. Great things. Important things. And He is here to guide me and give me the strength to do everything I need to do and go through everything I will need to go through.

Even in times of discouragement and much anguish, He promises to be there. Like this morning, getting up with a heavy heart, feeling the burden of conflict and stress, that made me wish for home. But God met me right where I was. He was there.  I opened my Bible and God was there in Ps. 31, especially verses 7-8.

I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
You have not handed me over to my enemies
but have set me in a safe place.

Until it’s time for me to take that flight home, God will be with me. In times of much trouble and anguish, He sets me in a safe place. It’s not home, but it’s safe. I’ll take it!

thank you, Father!


Voices. Throughout the day I encounter so many voices. The voices of strangers, voices of acquaintances, voices of friends, voices of family. And there are voices I hear on the level of my soul. Voices reminding me of all the busyness of my life. Voices competing for my attention and time. Then there are those condemning and accusing voices reminding me of my imperfections and sinfulness. Those voices of guilt. Damning voices. There’s the voice of my heart, often overwhelmed by all the voices, trying to discern which voices to heed, voices to ignore or dismiss.

And if I stopped to listen, really listen, there is a Voice that calls out to me. Not yelling or shouting, but a quiet and gentle voice. A Voice that puts everything in perspective. A Voice that is trustworthy and true.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

I am so grateful for the Voice of my Good Shepherd. In the midst of all the competing voices, His Voice is there. In the midst of all the noise, His Voice is there. I just need to focus in to hear that Voice. One of my favorite Christmas songs reminds me to listen to that voice. Do you hear what I hear?

Said the little lamb to the Shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky Shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song
High above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

Oh how I need to stop and listen for that Voice. That Voice that is as big as the sea yet quiet as a whisper.

As you sing over me
Draw me close to rest in Your peace
Sing over me
Oh, sing

Sing of Your unending faithfulness
That knows no doubt or fear
In the face of all that I don’t know yet
Remind me of who You are

That gentle and wonderful Voice that constantly reminds me of who He is. That I’m in His hand and I’m His. And He’s there. He is always there. His Voice that sings over me. Drawing me close to rest in His peace.

Father, even in the midst of my busyness and all those competing voices, you sing over me. You whisper words of life and truth. Thank you for you incomprehensible love that reaches down to speak to me. How crazy is that!

Thanks, God!

it’s time for me to start playing ball

Recently, I began to think about one of my all time favorite movies, “Hoosiers,” It’s a movie about the small town of Hickory who makes it to the finals of the Indiana State High School Basketball Tournament. It was historic because no school of that size had ever made it to the finals before. A huge turning point in their basketball season was the return of Jimmy Chitwood. He had made a decision not to play basketball that year. In the course of the season, first year coach, Norman Dale came under fire and at a special meeting was voted out. But in walks Jimmy, who asked to address the gathered townspeople. He looks out and says, “I don’t know if it’ll make any change but I figured it’s time for me to start playing ball.” The townspeople roar in approval. But then He says that he would play only if Coach Dale coached. They took another vote, Coach Dale was reinstated and the rest is Indiana basketball history.


This morning, as I spent time with God, a clear thought entered my mind. “It’s time to start writing again.” I wondered about that. Why now? I haven’t written a word for over a year. I had thoughts about starting up again but things kept coming up. I even revisited my weekly schedule and made time to write. But…

As I pondered whether God was leading me to start up again, a familiar passage entered my mind. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

I continue to learn that abiding in Christ is resting in God’s perfect timing. There are times when I can’t see the perfection of His timing. There are so many times when I want to just charge ahead. There are times when the urgency of something pulls me away from trusting in God’s timing. And then there are times when, out of the blue, He leads me to do something. Oh how I long to hear clearly the voice of God and fully rest in His timing.

So, like my friend, Jimmy Chitwood, I figure it’s time for me to start writing again, trusting that this is God’s perfect timing.

another step….

in Jesus’ Name!

Reading Andrew Murray’s “With Christ in the School of Prayer,” has been such a great companion on my sabbatical. The book is organized conveniently into 31 chapters so I can read a chapter a day. This is my second month of doing so and it has been transformational!

“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”  John 14:13-14

Murray writes, “He (Jesus) wanted to teach them and us that His name is our only, but also our completely sufficient, plea. The power of prayer and its answer depend on the right use of the name.” I read that and thought about all the times I prayed, “In Jesus’ name.” I thought about why I did so. Well, Jesus did say so here in John 14 as well as in John 16. But being totally honest, so often, I say those words automatically, in a very rote, end-of-a-prayer kind of way. I even rush through those words, especially when I’m hungry!

But Murray reminded me and challenged me that it is far more than a way to end a prayer. Far more! He writes,

“What does it mean to do a thing in the name of another? It is to come with his power and authority, as his representative and substitute…What does it mean when Jesus gives us power over His name–the free use of it–with the assurance that whatever we ask in it will be given to us? Jesus solemnly gives to all His disciples a general and unlimited power to use His name at all times for everything they desire. He could not do this if He did not know that He could trust us with His interests and that His honor would be safe in our hands.”

Wow! Closing my eyes, I thought about the truth of what Murray was writing. Suddenly, a relatively recent event came to mind. Last December, Jo and I were blessed with a trip to Arizona to join up with very close family friends to watch their son play in a football game. We have known this family for years, watching our kids grow up into adults. I can’t tell you what I thrill it was to finally get to see him play in person. We prayed consistently all through college and now as he plays in the NFL. As we walked with our friends to the stadium, I get a text from their son. He tells me to go to the will call window to pick up some passes for after the game. There were passes for the families to greet players following the game before they headed out. I showed the text to my friend and said, “Isn’t this just for the families of the players? Am I now His asian uncle?” He laughed and said, “Yup, that’s what you are. You are family.” So I said okay and went to pick up the passes.


Our instructions were to go down after the game, show the pass and give the security the name of the player we were family with. For some silly reason, I was a bit nervous going down after the game. After all, I was not aware of any Asians on that team. But we followed along, got to the area, gave his name, and lo and behold, they let us in! I guess I am his Asian uncle!

Anyway, as I meditated on the truth of praying in the name of Jesus, I thought, “If giving a name of a professional football player could get me access where the general public was not allowed, that is nothing compared to the power of the name of Jesus! It’s not even close. It’s not even in the same universe!” And if I was so thrilled to give a name of a person, to say, “Yes, I know that player. He’s family,” how much more thrilled should I be to give the name of Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lords! Really, that should be the thrill of all thrills!

The profundity of that truth and personalizing it, brought me to my knees. This was no small thing. This was far more than an end-of-a-prayer thing I say.  This is something powerful. This is something to be held with much reverence, awe, honor and respect at the power of God and His trust in us. It was also another breathtaking example of God’s great love for me. That God would entrust me with His name! To think that He loves me enough to trust me with His interests and that His honor would be safe in my hand. This was God saying, “You are family!” 

That truth leads me and draws me closer to Him. I want to be worthy of that trust and honor. It doesn’t lead me to be flippant but to more passionately seek to bring glory to Him in all that I do. It motivates me to seek Him in greater ways so that I would be in totally alignment with His will.  And from out of that alignment, I can pray with confidence, asking in the name of Jesus. What an amazing thing! May I never again just say those precious and powerful words, “In Jesus’ name!”

another step…



One of the real blessings of this sabbatical is being able to read more books. I love books. In fact, I would tell the kids, when they were younger, that books are our friends. I’m glad they still think so.


Over the past few days, I have been reading, “Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation” by Robert J. Morgan. It has been good to reclaim and be reminded of the value of biblical meditation.

This past few weeks have been wonderful and also faith-stretching for me. God has been drawing me to Him and away from my fears. In the midst of this time of stretching, I read this in Morgan’s book. “One of the best biblical illustrations of using meditation to gain insight into God’s Word comes from Asaph, the author of Psalms 77 and 78. We find him in Psalm 77 terribly anxious, so distraught that he couldn’t sleep.” He goes on to write words that are right where I live too often.

“How often does fear steal our sleep? Fear is like a skeletal hand that reaches into our chests, squeezing our hearts. This bony hand has many sharp fingers–anxiety, worry, anger, depression, obsession, compulsion, discouragement, jealousy, foreboding, phobia, timidity, mistrust, and that nagging sense of unease.” Robert Morgan, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation

“Truer words were never spoken (or written).” So I began to meditate and ponder the Asaph’s words in Psalm 77. I read and reread the psalm over and over. I listened to it while eating, while showering, while … never mind. Let’s just say I asked God to speak to me through His Word in Psalm 77.

Then I began to write some of my thoughts. What was the trouble that Asaph was going through that caused him to cry out to God? How long was he going through his challenge? What do you do when fear overwhelms you so much that you declare, “My soul refuses to be comforted.”

Maybe my situation wasn’t exactly the same as with Asaph, but I could relate to his feelings and thoughts. I continued to ponder this Psalm. I wrote it out and rewrote it. I circled words. I underlined phrases. I continued to ask the Holy Spirit to illumine the Word.

Slowly I began to see. I began to see a clear, yet not easy, way through the fog of fear I so easily get stuck in. Yes, I can and need to cry out to God, especially in the day of my trouble, because He will hear me. It’s so clear that when I am overwhelmed by fear, I look inward. I focus on my fear, my trouble, and on myself. I begin, like Asaph, to look back at better days. “Oh why can’t things be like how they were? How good things were back then. Why does my life have to be so complicated now?” But I am meditating on the wrong thing, me, which leads to questions Asaph records in verses 7-9: “Will the Lord spurn forever and never be favorable again?” “Has His steadfast love forever cease?” “Are Hi promises at an end for all time?” “Has God forgot to be gracious?” “Has He in anger shut up His compassions?”

Then at the end of verse 9, Asaph writes a word, “selah.” It’s a word that many scholars far smarter than me are unsure of its exact meaning. But one of the things it can mean seems to make sense here in Psalm 77. It could mean “pause, or take time to consider.” I think that is what Asaph does here. He pauses. He ponders. He considers. For the rest of the Psalm, he chooses to remember, ponder and meditate on the goodness and faithfulness of God.

In times of fear and uncertainty, I need to be like my new buddy, Asaph. Yes, I will have trouble and fear and all kinds of challenges. Yes, I need to cry out to God. Yes, I will be tempted to focus on my troubles and wallow in my fear. But yes, I need to remember “selah” and pause. I need to pause long enough to remember, ponder, and meditate on the goodness and faithfulness of God. Because when I do, I will see that throughout my life, God has been there and His love has never failed. It makes a lot more sense to me now when John writes in 1 John 4:18:

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

Yes, indeed, God’s perfect love expels all fear. May I learn where to focus in times of fear and trouble. May I remember, not I will remember, by God’s grace:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. Ps. 77:11-14

Thanks, Asaph!

another step…

yes, Jesus loves me

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”  Romans 5:5

I struggled with the truth that God loved me for a long time. Questions like, “How could God love a person like me?” “Why would God love a person like me?” had no answers. Even as a child, there was a false belief that the one true God, the God of the Bible, loved white kids, black kids, but not Asian kids like me. Why believe such a crazy thing? But as silly as this sounds, every picture, every book, everywhere I saw a picture of Jesus surrounded by children, none of the them looked like me. That’s crazy, I know. But as a little guy, I just made that nutty assumption.

Then later when I placed my faith in Jesus, I knew in my mind that Jesus loved me. It said so in black and white in the Scriptures. I mentally believed that. I had to. But within my heart, there was more hope than faith. I hoped He loved me. I hoped He accepted me and died for me. I hoped, but I didn’t necessarily believe that in my heart.

In fact, I felt I needed to earn God’s love. I had to show Him that I was worthy of His love. I had to repay God for all He had done for me. Alas, it’s a debt that is impossible to repay, but for years I tried. I tried really hard.

Then on a fateful day in 1984, my father suffered a massive heart attack. Upon hearing the news, we rushed over to the hospital, praying the entire time. Praying for healing. Praying for mercy. And for 5 minutes. 5 minutes. I asked God that even if this was time for my dad, I wanted just 5 minutes to tell him how much I loved and appreciated him. Just 5 minutes. We arrived at the ER and was told that despite all their efforts, my dad didn’t pull through. All I felt was numbness. Numbness and the reinforced false belief that God didn’t truly love me. I couldn’t even get 5 minutes so I needed to do more.

Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-4, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” And God is true to His Word! Even in the toughest situations in our lives, God is doing something. He is strengthening the hope we have in Jesus. He’s doing so whether I believe it or not, whether I feel it or not. But the best part, the game changer for me is what Paul writes in verse 5. In light of all that I go through, all the lies I believed, the hurts, the pain, the confusion, anything and everything, He’s been at work in my life. The truth is, God has always been there. God has always loved me. Yes, God does love even Asian kids! 

On a very, very special day, the Holy Spirit filled my heart with His love. On that unforgettable day, God made it very clear to me that despite my crazy ideas, He indeed did love me. and began to fill my heart with His love. Despite the confusion I felt when my dad passed away. Despite all the times I felt God wasn’t there or all the times I felt my prayers didn’t make His ears. It was 27 years ago today God showed me clearly how much He really did love me.

You see, since high school, my biggest dream was not being rich or famous or successful. It wasn’t even to have a comfortable life. My biggest dream was having a wonderful family. That was it. A wonderful, close knit family. A loving wife and children to love. And I wanted a daughter, at least one. I did want sons. Every dad wants sons. But for some reason, I always wanted my firstborn to be a girl. Well, 27 years ago today, God, the Holy Spirit, filled my heart with His love. It was 27 years ago today, August 18, 1990, that we welcomed our firstborn,  our precious daughter, Michelle, into our family! With all the lies in my mind, I just couldn’t believe that she was real. I couldn’t believe that God would love me enough to make my dream come true. I remember just staring at her, with wonder and a love I had never experienced before, the love of a father! I remember carrying her from the birthing room to the nursery. Never in my life did I carry something so precious in my arms.

That was the beginning of God filling my heart with His love and dusting away all the lies I had believed. It was the beginning of truly experiencing God’s love in my heart and not just my head. It was the beginning of experiencing the amazing love of my Father, who loved me for who I was and not what I did. It has been a process. I am still under construction. But that was the beginning. Happy Birthday, dear daughter. Thank you for being a living reminder of God’s love to me. Thank you for being you. May the Holy Spirit fill you to overflow, God’s love for you. Happy Birthday!

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a look back, and another step…