God's Working Wonders: Pastor Ek's Story of Sita

    One time I was asked the question: "Why is it that the churches in Asia are growing fruitfully?" My answer is simply because Jesus is very real to Asian people. He lives in their daily lives. He meets all their human needs. Jesus brings healing, restoration of broken relationships, answers to financial problems, and fulfillment in their spiritual longings. To illustrate this reality among our Asian brothers and sisters, I am sharing here a story that was shared to me by one of our pastors. (Also, I have shared this in our Clemente Newsletter, June 2021.) Here is the story "God's Working Wonders" I have copied for your reading below:

    When she saw the bloody face, she felt an inner peace, a sense that, starting today, everything is going to get better. This was the story of Sita (not her real name), and her encounter with Jesus and the healing that came as a result of this encounter. This story was shared to me (David) by one of our pastors from South Asia,  Pastor Ek, early this year.

    One day in January 2021, Pastor Ek got a call from from one of his relatives whose mother, Sita, was sick and in need of healing. Pastor Ek prayed over her and, by God’s grace, she got healed. He shared the gospel story of Jesus and Sita accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation.

    At this point, Sita shared her story to Pastor Ek. She had been sick with some unknown ailment the last 12 years. On this particular January day, the sickness was so severe that eventually she was taken to the hospital. But the hospital’s medical examination indicated that she was okay. So she returned home and decided to rest at her house. After a few minutes of being home, her symptoms got worse. She fell down on the floor and was hyperventilating and gasping for air. Being a devout Buddhist, she asked someone to call her Buddhist priests for a time of prayer and incantation. They came and said their prayers. On previous visits, her priests and Buddha Master would pray and she would feel some kind of relief. On that day, however, they could not do anything. Instead of helping her, they also fell down on the floor and could not get up on their own. It was during this position of helplessness that a vision of a bloody face appeared to her by her left side. She was confused because she knew that the Buddha usually appears in yellow color or the “35 colors as taught by the Buddhist masters.” She started to doubt her religion. In her dilemma, she begun to ask: “So, whose face does this bloody face belong to?”

    In the middle of this quandary, Sita received a deep sense of peace and calmness in her being. From within her thoughts, she heard the bloody face speak to her, telling her to ask Pastor Ek to come and visit with her. And this was the day when Pastor Ek came and shared the gospel to her, and God’s healing came over Sita in a miraculous way. 

    A few days later, Sita sat with Pastor Ek for a time of fellowship with some other brothers and sisters. The group was watching the movie The Passion of Christ. Sita told everyone that the bloody face in her vision was the same as the bloody face of Jesus in the movie.

God's Breath of New Life

Good morning. Today, I will share about the new life that the Spirit of God gives to us. This Sunday’s talk is a focus on the work and person of the Holy Spirit. This is most appropriate as we celebrate the Pentecost Week and today’s Trinity Sunday. Our scripture texts are found in Romans 8 and Psalm 29. Let us read:

Romans 8:15-16. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

Psalm 29:9-11. “The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!”

Let me start with a personal story. 1993 was the year when I first came to the US for my time of study at Asbury Seminary. The following year, I experienced a terrible case of culture shock. I was missing home and was overcome with loneliness. I started to doubt God’s call in my life. I said to myself: “How can I serve God as a missionary in the future when right here right now I cannot even deal with my loneliness and depression.” Many people encouraged me and the counsel of my friends were very helpful. And yet, I still felt the need to hear God’s voice in a new way; to receive a “breath of new life” from our God.

One time my friends and I were hiking at Red River Gorge enjoying the Autumn colors and soaking in the beauty of God’s creation. We were taking a break from school work and went out for a long weekend to the forest of central Kentucky. All my friends were going in groups to different places. I felt the need to be alone with my God. So I asked my leave from the group and went out by myself to the edge of a cliff overlooking a valley of the Red River Gorge. And there on top of the cliff, God spoke to me. I don’t know how, but my heart felt warmed and I sensed God’s presence. He gave me strength in a very personal way. I went back to our school with a refreshed spirit and a “breath of new life” that encouraged me to keep on serving our God.

Our Lord, the God of the heavens, desires to visit with us and to leave His mark on our lives, that is, the mark of new life. God wants to bring new life in our being and as a result, we receive God’s intimacy and we experience renewal in our lives.

Our readings from Psalm 29 speaks of God’s glory as thundering voice. And yet, as we see in verse 9, it is also described as helping a deer give birth. God’s glory is displayed in splendor and also received in tender ways. Many of the Psalm speaks of the high and low revelation. Psalm 8:2 describes God’s strength is established out of the mouths of infants. This is low revelation indicating intimacy and everyday experiences. The glory of the moon and the stars are presented in majesty and splendor. This is high revelation showing grandeur and glory from spectacular events. Both reveal new life from God’s Spirit. Both can bring a person to an intimate encounter with God and to an experience of renewal that is deep and refreshing. In the end we are able to call Him our Father.

Let me share with you the story of Premika Tamang, a lady leader of one of our Free Methodist communities in the mountains of Country-NP. She is a farmer by trade, but she has responded to God’s call for her to be a prayer coordinator for their local church. This call came with trials and suffering, in the form of the death of her second son. It was at this point in her grief that she started doubting God’s call. But God came to her in a very intimate and personal manner. She heard God say: “Daughter, why are you so worried? Why are you crying? I have your son. You will meet him later. Don't worry too much.” She was encouraged and renewed with these words revealed to her.

Some Christians have similar encounters of God’s visit. These are very intimate and results in enriching renewal. It is almost like the first breath of life at the Garden of Eden. Remember the story? We find this in Genesis 2:7. God reaches down from heaven and breathe life into the first human. The wind from God becomes the air they are breathing. God wants to bring new life in our being and to mark us with His presence.

There are two things resulting from this “Wind of God” visiting our lives and inner being. One is that this new life results in receiving the gift of intimacy from God. Two is that this new life results in an experience of renewal. Let me share some more from each of these results.

One result is that we receive the gift of God’s intimacy. Paul speaks of the encounter of adoption. In Romans 8:15-16, the Spirit enables us to call God the Father our very own Abba Father. This is a very intimate way of calling God, describing our personal relationship with our Creator. Most of the times, this reception of God’s intimacy happens at particular times and places. 

A month ago, sometime in April, I was a bit discouraged in my work. Maybe it was brought about by this Covid. Perhaps it was because I could not travel to Asia to see my friends. I was feeling down and wanted to see the results of our church work in Country-NP. God rebuked me in this time of discouragement. He lifted me up and used a moment when I was out in the woods walking and hiking. At that particular time, I hiked to the top of a hill and read my devotional readings for the day. God impressed in my heart that I will not see the fruit of my labor in Asia Just like the prophets in the Old Testament who never saw the promised salvation in Jesus, I will also not see these results in the Asia work. I needed to be content with what God is giving me now and stay focused in serving our loving God.

God wants to meet with us. He appoints special places for this meeting. He wants us to receive His gift of intimacy. These are places when we say to our God, “Abba Father!” Remember our reading from Romans 8:15? In the life of Isaiah, God gave His gift of intimacy when he was in the temple worshipping. We see this in Isaiah 6:1-8. In the case of Elijah, God met with him in a most personal way when he was by the side of a mountain. We see this in 1 Kings 19:9-18. Remember that story? God revealed himself, gave His gift of intimacy to Elijah, not through the mighty storm, nor the powerful earthquake, nor the consuming fire. God met him through the gentle sound of a whisper by the side of a mountain. Tell your friend or seat mate, “I am going to meet God.”

Of course, we know that intimacy is more than just a place. Intimacy is an encounter of the heart. And this brings us to the second point, the renewal of our inner being. God wants to bring new life in our being and as a result we experience renewal in our lives.

Result number two is that we experience the renewal of our spirit that comes from God. It is an encounter that is deep within our soul. In Romans 8:23, Paul speaks of the groaning of our hearts as we wait for the final results of our adoption. At times, this groaning experience or deep prayer of the our soul is not expressed in words. It is simply a breathing, an expression that comes out from our inner being.

I told you the story of Premika Tamang from Country-NP. What she would do is gather some women from her local church and they would hike for a day or two to another village and stay there for four days, and sometimes as long as a week. They would gather in a friend’s house and do nothing but pray. When the local people come and ask questions, then they share the gospel. When the sick come for prayer, then they ask God for healing. Their focus is on God. They wait for God to move first and then they follow.

Premika was tested in her obedience to God. In the same year of his son’s death, her mother in-law became ill and eventually died.  It was in one of these prayer ministry that she received word that her mother in-law passed away. She had to cut short her ministry time so she can go back home to her village. In her grief and weakness, she started questioning God’s calling in her life. But God comforted her. She said: “In my sorrow, the Holy Spirit came to me saying that only by struggling with God in this situation can I be rescued. At the same time, this is the way I may be able to encourage my sisters.” Until now, she continues to serve God in that small village in the mountains of South Asia.

Most of us have similar experiences where we are confronted with our weaknesses. In Romans 8:26-27, Paul speaks of the Spirit helping us in our weaknesses and interceding on our behalf, so that we are renewed and we meet with our God and call Him Abba Father. God wants to bring new life in our being and in the end, we receive God’s intimacy and we experience renewal in our lives. Tell your friend or seat mate, “This week, I am going to meet God.”

Let me end this sharing time with a personal story. I mentioned earlier my spiritual encouragement that came when I was out hiking in the hills of Kentucky in 1994. God lifted me up from my time of brokenness. It was there at the edge of the cliff that God met with me. I was watching the valley below and enjoying the Fall colors. It was a particularly calm morning, with no wind at all. All the trees stood still. To my right was a small tree. And I noticed a leaf falling off that tree and slowly “parachuting” down to the valley below. I followed that falling leaf as it swayed back and forth to the valley below until it was out of my sight. And at that moment, I heard God speak to me in the quietness of my heart. He said: “David, before the creation of the world, I thought about forming this Red River Gorge valley so that we can meet up here. And here, at the edge of the cliff, I planted this tree so that someday, you will come and hear my voice. I appointed this time for the leaf to fall because I know that you will gaze at it when it falls down to the valley below. I want you to feel me reach out to you in a very special way. I love you my child. Do not be discouraged. Trust in me, and I will take care of the rest.” I came down from that hill encouraged and marked with a new life from our God. 

Our Lord, the God of the heavens, desires to visit with us and to leave His mark on our lives, that is, the mark of new life. God wants to bring new life in our being and as a result, we receive God’s intimacy and we experience renewal in our lives. Will you say with me? “I am ready to invite God’s Spirit in my life today.” Amen!!!

Say with me: “I am ready to meet our God and receive the breath of new life from our God.”

(This is a sermon I shared for Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2021, here in Illinois, USA.)

Psalm 8 (God's Sweet Visit)

One of my missionary friend told me of his experience with God’s visit. He saw God’s miracles and power in the missionary field. But, he experiences the intimate visit of God when he is out scuba diving and going under the waters watching creatures from the ocean. Another missionary friend told me that he experiences God’s sweet presence when he is taking a break and doing carpentry in his shop or work room. He imagines Jesus working with him doing wood work. Both of these friends are seeing the majesty of the Spirit of God in an intimate and renewing way.

Psalm chapter eight speaks of the majesty of God in three ways. One is that we see God’s strength from children and helpless babies. Two is that we see God’s glory from the stars and beautiful sceneries. Three is that we see God’s beauty through human efforts and people’s art work. In all these, we respond to God saying: “Oh Lord, how majestic You are!” We experience the sweet visit of the Spirit of God.

Mother's Day 2021

This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad that He has given me a wife and life-partner who is a wonderful mother and a great person to be with. I am honored to walk life with her. I am sure my own mother from heaven is smiling and looking down on us with so much delight and admiration.

Happy Mother's Day to Sarah!. Happy Mother's Day to all the women, the sisters, the significant others, whom we can honor and we all love. We rejoice that God has made you and allowed us to grow with you.

Choose Jesus

What if there is a “red pill” you can take that would unplugged you from anything undesirable that you are attached to? Remember the movie where machines ruled and humans were treated like batteries? The red pill represents the choice to move forward.
What if every Christian is given a choice to be fruitful? Would you make that choice? Read again the lectionary readings from the Gospels for this Sunday, May 2nd, from John 15:1-8. Jesus offers to us a life of “abiding in his love.” Go ahead and make that choice. Take the red pill and disengaged from your lukewarm faith, your unfruitful Christianity, your religiosity devoid of God’s love and mercy, and connect with God through Jesus Christ. Move forward, plug in to God and download the love of Jesus in your life. Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Choose Jesus today and bear fruit for him. Stay rooted in his love.

Love In Word And Deed

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

(So, I wrote a short reflection on my social media posting. And one of my friends shared her response. I gave some more thought about the challenges of practicing love and forgiveness in our lives. Please read below.)

Today’s reflection comes from our lectionary readings from the New Testament, 1 John 3:16-24. Verse 16 says: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers [and sisters].” This is such a great challenge for each of us. One area we can practice this unselfish love is in the area of forgiveness. Jesus taught the prayer “to forgive those who offended us” (Matthew 6:12). Paul said to forgive others as Christ forgave each of us (Ephesians 4:32). Adele A. Calhoun puts it this way: “A person who forgives joins one’s heart to Jesus’ heart for sinners, and risks that love can lead a wrongdoer to repentance and into the arms of God.” (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. 2015:213). The practice of forgiveness brings us closer to the presence of Christ Himself. May you find God’s love real and present in your life today.

My friend shares: "Yes! I’m saddened by loved ones who are holding grudges and ruining their lives. Any suggestions how to help them?"

My thoughts: "Crystal [not her real name], there is no easy answer here. We need lots of prayer seasoned with compassion, and simple acts of love and kindness filled with Christ's humility. In addition, I would suggest they get connected to a community of trusted and encouraging friends. May the Lord help us all."

Declare His Glory

“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:3)

We are to declare God’s glory among the nations. This is the essence of missions work. In all of Scriptures, it is clear that God is already declaring His glory. Even in places where there are no missionaries, God is already there and revealing Himself to the people of the land. Our part is to participate in this declaration. Are we participating?

We participate in many ways. Praying for missionaries, giving to missionary work, sponsoring a child, and going to places for missions activities. These are all good. But do these things help? 

Helping in missions is like playing basketball or some other kind of team sports. You do not have to be the highest scorer or even have the ball in your hand all the time. You can help your team by focusing on other things such as assisting the play makers, posting for defense, saying words of encouragement to your team mates, or moving around to create space for the ball handlers. Just like playing in a team sports, we help the missions work by participating. Are we helping?

Maybe, we should change the question to give us a better picture. We should ask: “Who is receiving our declaration of God’s glory?” If it is the people from the places we go to, then we will always experience failure in this work of missions. If it is ourselves, then we will be a depressing bunch of selfish workers. The answer really is God himself. We do missions so that God will be delighted with us.

We help in missions work so that God will be pleased. The end result is God himself receiving all our gifts, sponsorship, prayers, and missions trip, with joy in His heart. If our gifts and sponsorships are acknowledged, our prayers are answered, and our going to missions trips are meaningful, then we thank our God. But these things should never be our focus. Our focus and main goal is to know God better and deeper, and to bring joy to God through these missions activities.

We participate in missions knowing that God himself is watching us, all of us, as we play this game of missions work.  We, all of us, are the players, coaches, referees, statisticians, trainers, and other support staff. God receives all our efforts with joy in His heart. So the question really is: “Are we giving joy to our Father in heaven?”

My daughter Carmen is very active in sports all her life. She played with passion and was a great encouragement to her teammates. I was a very proud father watching from the sidelines. I cheered her and her team. I clapped the loudest every time she made a basket. In so many ways, my daughter Carmen gave me so much joy. I appreciate her so much.

We are to declare God’s glory among the nations. Are you participating? Are you helping? Are you giving joy to our Father who is in heaven?

Resurrection Sunday's Reflection

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). — (John 20:15-16)

      How do we practice being alone with God? How do we start? Actually, these questions are not the right questions. They are important, but not the correct ones to begin practicing the discipline of solitude. Rather, the question should be: Where do we start? This question is not about a location or a physical place, but rather, the condition of a person’s heart and an inner self that one brings to his or her meeting place with God. We are not saying human conditions dictate the nature of our meeting with God. On the contrary, every outcome of this meeting is borne out of the grace of God. We respond to God because he first reaches out to us. Jesus longs to reveal himself to us. He loves to talk to us and share his resurrected life with every Christian. Thus, we respond by practicing the discipline of solitude.

       So, when we ask the question, Where do we start?, we really are opening our hearts to God. We simply are responding in faith and love to our resurrected Lord. Just like with Mary Magdalene, there are conditions for the practice of solitude and these conditions will prepare us to meet God and to hear his intimate voice calling out our name.  What then, are the conditions for this discipline? I am suggesting the conditions of surrender and silence.

       One is surrender. The condition of surrender is a person’s total abandon to God’s guidance and leading. One of the ways surrender shows up is in the area of our thought life. This is a moment when we can think of nothing else except being in the presence of God. Mary and the other disciples were certainly caught up in the aftermath of the death of Jesus. All they could think of is when they can see the body of Jesus. All their thoughts were for their friend, their Teacher, their Lord Jesus. It is in this state of abandon that Jesus reveals himself to them.

      Two is silence. The condition of silence is a person’s acceptance of the ways of God. There is quietness and stillness, maybe, not all the time. Sometimes, there is an exchange of words or gesture. Here, the stance of the person is an attitude of trust. The main thing is that the person is not distracted by one’s emotions or any outside circumstances. Silence gives focus to the person’s solitude. Mary’s silence brought her to a conversation with the two angels, and finally to the “gardener,” who turns out to be Jesus. Her heart was silent before God. When Jesus called her name, her solitude allowed her to listen in and from the depths of her inner soul.  It is here when Jesus reveals his resurrected self to Mary.

      Mary Magdalene’s silence and her surrender bring her to a time and place of solitude. In turn, this solitude opens her heart to hear Jesus’ call and receive the gift of the presence of God. In our present time, Jesus is searching for people who have silence and surrender in their walk with God. Jesus desires from us to enter into solitude, to be alone with him. When you are in prayer, meditating in God’s word, or spending time in fellowship with your brothers and sisters, take time to be alone with Jesus. He loves you so much. He wants to reveal Himself to you. Find a place to be in solitude with Jesus. 

Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday, 2021 !!!

John's Belief

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:1-2 ESV).

     In that first Easter Sunday, the disciples had a hard time believing the resurrection of Jesus. Earlier, they saw signs that Jesus has risen from the dead. The women believed. We see this in Luke 24:10 and Matthew 28:8. In John 20:7, we see that John believed. But in verse 8, we know that Peter had a hard time understanding and believing. (Also, see Luke 24:11-12.) What exactly did John see that made him believe? What were the signs of Jesus resurrection that helped John’s belief?

      The text says that John saw the cloth folded neatly. John 20:7 states “… and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.” We do not know exactly what John was thinking. Perhaps, being the brother of Jesus, growing up with him, he knew what the sign of the folded face cloth meant. Those of you who grew up with siblings, sharing a room with them, seeing them everyday, you know your brother or sister better than anyone. I think John here saw a sign of his brother (Jesus) showing him that he is alive. Maybe, the folded cloth told him that it was his brother who did this. He believed.

      The Bible says that the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that is working in us. (See, Ephesians 1:19-20.) Do you believe this? It is easy to say “I believe” when things are doing well in your life. However, when one is experiencing a crisis in his or her life, then this question above becomes challenging. Do you believe in the resurrection power even if you are going through the experience of having a dying family member in your life? What about financial problems that seem to be impossible to solve? Can you still say, “I believe the resurrection power will bring a solution to my problems.” It is hard when these things are happening, or when your marriage is failing, or relationships are broken. It almost looks impossible when past failures come back or depressing memories haunt you. How can we say with Paul “As God raised the Lord from the dead, he will also raise me up from my situation.” (See, 1 Corinthians 6:14).

      Jesus knew this is going to be difficult. That is why, he came and visited with Mary Magdalene, to remind her that his resurrection power is also for everyone. He came to see each disciple. He reminded Thomas, who was struggling with doubt. He asked his disciples to remind each other of his resurrection power. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday this 2021 !!!

Emerging Out of Silence

“Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.” (Matthew 27:61). These women were silent, perhaps sad, but importantly expectant of a coming miracle. They were the first ones to visit the tomb—the first ones to see our Resurrected Lord. At this juncture, however, they are simply quiet and silent. In the midst of their silence God’s victorious announcement of the Lord’s resurrection comes to them. It all started with them being silent before our God.

Henri Nouwen explains to us the value of words in the context of silence. He says: “Words can only create communion and thus new life when they embody the silence from which they emerge. As soon as we begin to take hold of each other by our words, and use words to defend ourselves or offend others, the words no longer speaks of silence. But when the word calls forth the healing and restoring stillness of its own silence, few words are needed: much can be said without much being spoken.” (The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. 1981:57). 

On this Good Friday, let God speak as we all become silent before Him. “Silence offers a way of paying attention to the Spirit of God and what He brings to the surface of our souls.” (Adele A. Calhoun. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. 2015:122). And when the time comes that we feel the need to speak, may our words emerge out of our silence. Let us all sit in front of the tomb and be silent before our God. Silence “can form your life even if it doesn’t solve your life” (Calhoun 2015:123). Receive God’s grace for you today.