Consistent prayer is a challenge for me. Here are more quotes from A Praying Life by Paul Miller.

You don’t create intimacy; you make room for it…In short, you can’t get to know God on the fly. (p. 47)

Time in prayer makes you even more dependent on God because you don’t have as much time to get things done. Every minute spent in prayer is one less minute where you can be doing something “productive.” So the act of praying means that you have to rely more on God. (p. 49)

If we think we can do life on our own, we will not take prayer seriously. Our failure to pray will always feel like something else – a lack of discipline or too many obligations. But when something is important to us, we make room for it. Prayer is simply not important to many Christians because Jesus is already an add-on. (p. 59)

I’ve been reading this book on and off, and have pretty much read the whole book. But I’m reading it again from the beginning because it encourages me so much and I’ve forgotten so much. As I reread it, I will jot down some good points that I want to remember. This will be an ongoing post.

Our natural desire to pray comes from Creation. We are made in the image of God. Our inability to pray comes from the Fall. Evil has marred the image. We want to talk to God but can’t.The friction of our desire to pray, combined with a badly damaged prayer antennae, leads to constant frustration. (p 15)

One of the subtlest hindrances to prayer is probably the most pervasive. In the broader culture and in our churches, we prize intellect, competency, and wealth. Because we can do life without God, praying seems nice but unnecessary. Money can do what prayer does, and it is quicker and less time-consuming. Our trust in ourselves and our talents makes us structurally independent of God. (p 16)

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God…Consequently, prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center. (p 20)

Since a praying life is interconnected with every part of our lives, learning to pray is almost identical to maturing over a lifetime. What does it feel like to grow up? It is a thousand feelings on a thousand different days. That is what learning to pray feels like.

So don’t hunt for a feeling in prayer. Deep in our psyches we want an experience with God or an experience in prayer. Once that we make that our quest, we lose God. You don’t experience God; you get to know him. You submit to him. You enjoy him. He is, after all, a person. (p 21)

Jesus lived today, his cell phone would be ringing constantly…Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart. In the midst of outer busyness we can develop an inner quiet. (23)

 

 

 

Read another mystery, but after this I will go back to nonfiction.

The motivation for the murder was not very believable. Side stories were also a bit on the ridiculous side.

No more of Ruth Rendell for me, at least for now unless I get desperate.

I don’t watch TV (except HGTV on Netflix) and I don’t like movies (except Disney Pixar and other clean movies). The book is always better.

In this book by Patricia Wentworth, the build up and character development was pretty good, I was quite drawn in. But the mystery was solved in the last few pages by one person’s testimony who happened to overhear a conversation. That was too easy and definitely not creative. I think the author got tired of weaving the story and just want to end it quickly. For that reason, I give it 2.5 stars.

I needed to take a break from serious reading and do some mindless entertainment. An old-fashion whodunnit mystery novel is always my first choice of fun reading.

When I googled “authors like Agatha Christie”, Charlotte MacLeod came up. I checked out this Professor Peter Shandy murder mystery. The murder and resolution was somewhat satisfying, sort of a 2.5 stars. The characters were not developed deeply enough to make the murderer plausible. The motive for the murders was rather weak as well.

So again, no one is like Agatha Christie!

 

 

29
Mar

The Old Testament is full of rules and rituals that the Israelites are to follow. It seems like a religion of works but it really isn’t.

As finite beings, how can we know an infinite God? God makes himself known by giving us these means or “tools” to know him. The end goal of all that is to know God, and if we know Him, we will love Him. And when we love him, we will do what he wants and it turns out that what he wants is the best thing for us.

This clarifies it for me.

When all is said and done, our hope is not to be a skilled Bible-reader, practiced pray-er, faithful churchman, or visibly mature Christian, but to be the one who “understands and knows me, that I am the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24).

I can be a very good “faithful churchman” and “visibly mature Christian” quite easily. But that’s not “spiritual growth.” That isn’t the abundant life nor salvation that God offers. Knowing and loving God is the end.

So even though the Christian life is often seen as a list of do’s and don’t’s but it really isn’t like that. Those are only ways through which a sinful, finite person can even hope to know a great and loving God, even just a little.

 

Pastor H said in his sermon on Sunday that people shouldn’t be surprised when they find out you go to church. It’s not a good thing if they say, “Oh, I couldn’t tell you’re a Christian!”

I like what Aaron says here about having a consistent lifestyle as a church leader. Actually all who call themselves Christians should live in a way that reflects Christ, in a manner worthy of the calling (Ephesians 4). My church life as a leader is not separate from my life at home, or when I’m on vacation, or when I’m at the market, or when I’m driving alone.

I am usually impatient in line, especially if the cashier is inefficient and particularly slow. My facial expressions reflect my disgust. One time at the market when I was in a big hurry and the cashier [it seemed to me] extremely slow, my daughter rebuked me and told me I shouldn’t be angry. She reminded me that it’s part of life and it’s not a big deal to wait. She was right of course! A 2 minute longer wait in line is not a life and death situation and it is not worthy of my life in Christ to be angry.

From Ephesians 4, I am to live with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…

I was given this book from my church (chosen by Aaron Lee) to align ourselves in proper worship of God. The beginning few chapters are foundations which were necessary but a bit redundant for me. But my interested peaked at Chapter 6 on. Here are a few points I found insightful.

Some Christians have been taught to repress their emotions as they sing. They have been told to fear feeling anything too strongly, and that maturity means holding back. But what we want to avoid is emotionalism, not emotions. Emotionalism pursues feelings as an end in themselves. It’s wanting to feel something with no regard for how that feeling is produced or its ultimate purpose. In contrast, the emotions that singing is meant to express are a response to who God is and what he’s done. Vibrant singing enables us to combine truth about God seamlessly with passion for God. Doctrine and devotion. Mind and heart. Suppressing or ignoring your feelings when you sing contradicts what singing is designed to do. Passionless singing is an oxymoron. (p.108)

The story on Page 114-115. Sorry it’s too long to type it all out. The bottom line is -

I tell you that story to knowledge that congregational singing isn’t always easy. If it were, I wouldn’t need to spend two chapters on it. We’d just do it. But the reality is, many Christians have a less-than-stellar experience every Sunday. The reasons are many. It could be poor leadership, weak doctrine, inexperienced musicians, emotionalism, and more. But in every circumstance, a true worshiper worships God. That’s the priority. (p.115)

This quote reminds me that worship is every moment of our lives in how we choose to live -

If we fully understand what’s at stake when we talk about worship, we’ll have a hard time treating it casually. We are given only two choices in life – to worship God or idols. There are no other options. And to worship anything but God is rebellion against his rule and a rejection of his sovereign love. Life on earth is not meaningless. Our decisions reflect our worship. Every person is constantly making choices for God or against him. (p.152)

This is a small book that can be read through fair quickly. But I am a slow reader because I like to think through each concept. I wish I can read faster because there are so many books I want to read.

This little book is packed with important principles for the role of parents based on Scripture. It’s easy to read, it’s clear, it’s practical, it convicts, it’s inexpensive. It presents concisely what it means to disciple your own children at home.

Every parent should read this. And when you need to be reminded of why God gave you a family, read it again. Or when you lose sight of the big picture as a parent as you deal with the headaches of the day-to-day, read it again.

Day 9 Matthew 2:3

I can be a child of God, be a follower of Jesus for years, and yet some days I can live as if he’s not there.

“Let this Christmas be the time when you consider the Messiah and ponder what it is to worship him.”

Day 5-8

Day 5 Luke 2:6-7

This is my favorite advent devotional so far. Jesus did not take any detours to Calvary. “For your sake he became poor.” (2 Cor 8:9)

“Now if you would think that if God so rules the world…, he surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn…The Calvary road begins with a ‘No Vacancy’ sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.”

Day 6 Luke 2:12-14

When I do not pray and trust God, I cannot experience the peace of God.

“The people who enjoy the peace of God that surpasses all understanding are those who in everything by prayer and supplication let their requests be made to known to God.”

Day 7 Matthew 2:1-2

I take it for granted that as a Gentile I can be saved. If Jesus did not come, salvation would only come to me if I adopt Jewish customs. That may be fun, but very inconvenient at the least.

“So Matthew adds proof to the messiahship of Jesus and shows that he is Messiah – the king and Promise-Fulfiller – for all the nations, not just Israel.

Day 8 Matthew 2:2

We should allow ourselves to have things that we will never understand. This keeps us humble and in awe of God who does know everything.

“Over and over the Bible baffles our curiosity about just how certain things happened. How did this ‘star’ get the magi from the east to Jerusalem?”

Day 4

 

Day 4 Luke 2:1-5

God moves world affairs in order to fulfill his plan in the lives of two unknown ordinary people. He can both macro manage the world and micro manage my life.

“For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without them even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God’s little people – the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem. God wields an empire to bless his children.”

Days 1-3 

04
Dec

I started on December 1 to meditate on a daily advent devotional, following John Piper’s plan.

Here are some of my thoughts.

Day 1 Luke 1:16-17

Focusing on Jesus is not as easy as it seems. I am too familiar with the Christmas account that it has lost some of the grandeur and awe for me. Let’s prepare our hearts to receive Jesus afresh.

“Gather ’round that fire this Advent season. It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights.”

Day 2 Luke 1:46-55

God manifests himself to the ordinary. Look for him among the least of these. Be one of the lowly.

“The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary – people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.”

Day 3 Luke 1:68-71

Jesus came to save his people, but not in the way the Jews expected. Am I also so short-sighted to expect him to only save me from my circumstances?

“These are the days of great expectation. Now the long awaited visitation of God was about to happen – indeed, he was about to come in a way no one expected.”

Day 4 

My son recommended the book, and then took me to see the movie (3D, with reclining sofa seats!)

As always the book is much better than the movie. A movie made it look easy to survive alone on Mars for over a year. The book was pretty exciting, capturing all the hurdles he went over using science, and the amusing personality of Mark Watney.

I read a review that said something like: don’t ever get stranded on Mars, and if you do, you better be really smart.

The book, though not based on true events or anything, made me appreciate how smart astronauts have to be.

03
Oct

You would think Jesus only got angry at evil guys, so I was pretty scared when I read this in Mark 3:5 -

“And [Jesus] looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…”

He was angry at the Pharisees for caring more about the Sabbath laws than about a man’s life. They weren’t murderers or rapists. They were upright citizens who followed the law.

While the name Pharisees has a well-deserved bad connotation, I sympathize with them. The Sabbath laws were instituted to keep the Jews holy. In OT history, they disregarded God’s laws and went their own evil ways, reaping the consequences of God’s judgment. The strict laws of the Pharisees were to insure that Israel will not sin against God.

Maintaining the laws became an obsession and lost it’s original intent of fellowship with God. It lost basic common sense.

I sympathize because to be honest, I’ve seen myself caring more about maintaining a nice neat structure than the people it is suppose to serves. You don’t mean to serve the structure, but it subtly creeps up on you.

Especially in working with children, we want the children to “fall in line, get with the program, be obedient”. We end up managing outward behavior to fit the mold than ministering to their needs. This is something I am constantly aware of. Children ministry is not managing behavior. It’s reaching their hearts.

I guess that’s why I like changes. I like to start things over so we can all remember what and why we do what we do. We focus back on people, and then form the structure to serve their needs.

 

 

10
Sep

A reminder to myself – another way of saying “It’s not how long you life, but how well you live.”

“You never know when your time is going to expire, so remember: as you add years to your life, it is more important to add life to your years.”  Barbara Johnson

 

12
Aug

I heard this on the radio today that I want to remember:

“Salvation is not just a decision for Christ; it’s continual dependency on Christ.”

Everything about our Christian life is about Jesus.

In the America culture where we value independence, we often live the Christian life by doing things for Jesus. I need to remember to focus on Jesus, not on what I do for him.

 

 

Came across this article from Aaron’s blog.

“Slow traffic, a sick child, or a costly home repair may not seem like important tools in our sanctification, but they are. We often overlook these interruptions and inconveniences and instead expect God to work in our lives through huge life-changing circumstances. But the reality is, we won’t often have major events in our life that cause us to trust God and obey him in some deeply profound way. We won’t be called to build an ark or take an only child up Mt. Moriah. Rather, it’s in these small frustrations and interruptions, the little things in our life, where we are given opportunities to rely on God, to obey him, and bring him glory.” 

The rest of the article is worth reading.

Picked up this book from the library from the Juvenile section for a quick read about Amy Tan, the author of The Joy Luck Club.

I thought Amy Tan was a great story teller, making up the complicated lives for her characters in The Joy Luck Club. Now I find out those are based of true events in her family, particularly her mother’s life. I have a greater appreciation for her after knowing her difficult crazy family background.

Her second book The Kitchen God’s Wife is based on her mother’s life. I didn’t want to read it before, but now maybe I will.

 

Heard these today that struck me -

You start off walking with Jesus and end up working for Jesus.

Ephesians 3:1 Paul is a prisoner of Christ, not prisoner of Nero. Christ put him in prison for His purposes.

How do you appropriate Christ into your life? How do you lean on Him?