A Love Letter to My Boys

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

   his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

   great is your faithfulness.” — Lamentations 3:22-23

Dear E. & I.,

I am so delighted to call you both my sons! What a privilege to be your mom! No matter what happens in the future, I wanted to make sure you know Baba(爸爸 means “daddy”in Chinese) and I love you so very much! We do what can to prepare for the worst but have total peace to know God is trustworthy and His plans are far better and sovereign.

I am not sure whether or when you will actually read this letter, but simply pausing to think about what I most want to share with you helps me gain perspective on life. How I choose to live today matters to God’s eternal plan. Knowing God’s desire gives me great pprov1717assion and caution in my walk with the Lord. His mercy is new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). As you both can testify, I made a lot of mistakes and didn’t do everything right. If you fail or are in a difficult situation, don’t allow the enemy to trick you into believing lies. Resist the temptations by the power of the Spirit through reading and applying God’s Word! Allow His Word and the trials to exam your hearts as He has done to mine numerous times. He is ALWAYS faithful! We pray that you two are there for each other for good and bad times! It’s always fun to watch you two play together happily or reconcile peacefully.

Initially, Baba and I set up this blog out of a desire to give you a spiritual legacy when we are gone, or at least help to get our mindset fixed on the Kingdom above as we raise you. But you might even be gone before us if it is the Lord’s will. This legacy is not from us and not just for you! “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17) What a perfect Father we have! Our heart and mind are so empowered by the Heavenly legacy from our Father above, to all nations, all families! We definitely pray for God’s protection over you physically and spiritually. It saddens and scares me tremendously to think about losing you, both or either, for whatever reason. However, it grieves me even more when thinking about any chance of not seeing you, or my relatives and friends in Heaven. Continue reading

Homiletics Post 3 of 3: Examples, Tweaks & Additions

Previous related posts: Part 1 of 3: “My story”, Part 2 of 3: “What is Homiletics?”

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…
Colossians 3:16a

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica;
they received the word with all eagerness,
examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Acts 17:11

In the previous posts, I shared my story and when and how I started learning homiletics. Like me, you may tweak this design or add to it as you get more into God’s Word and see what helps you to draw near to him. As I have done my own homiletics and read more about homiletics, I also have added sections to my homiletics, but still use the above mentioned plan as my base.

I gained a lot from “Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages“ by Haddon Robinson, which was recommended by my pastor as a main book used in seminaries. From reading this book, I added a section to my homiletics which further broke down each Division into a Subject, Compliment, Idea, Application and Principles. I further broke down the Application sections into “What does this teach about God?” and “How does this impact my life?”.This also gives mom and I areas for deeper spiritual discussions and applications as we both love God’s Word.

When I was learning, I know that examples were as, if not more, helpful than explanation. My homiletics for John 2 make for a fairly clear and complete example. More examples, as well as glimpses into what God was teaching me at the time, are available here: Revelation, John. You can also copy my template, which I update as I think of new areas that would be helpful. (Again, mine are not the best homiletics, and I have grown over time. Don’t let mine limit or intimidate you.)


A word of caution & insight

Develop your own style, don’t just copy mine – I encourage you to develop your own style. Part of the growing for me has been in tweaking my homiletics sheet as I learn more about God and His Word and see ways that would help me to focus to know him even more. It’s all about the process!

Viewing others homiletics – I am hesitant to include the links to my homiletics other than one example for John 2. I don’t want them to be something you look at first, but as you are doing homiletics yourself, sometimes it is fun to discuss yours and see others. I also want to have them available for if I am gone, so you can see a glimpse into your dad’s journey before you. I would enjoy seeing your homiletics as well, and to see how the Lord is speaking to you!


Remember, the goal is to draw near to God through His word, not to simply have an academic understanding of the Bible. Pray that God would open your eyes to see Him and His truths and applications in His Word.

May the Word of God dwell in you richly!

Dad

Note to Others: In keeping with the purpose of our site, this is a letter to our kids and grandkids to leave as a legacy if something should happen to us. If you find any benefit, praise God!

Homiletics Post 2 of 3: What is homiletics?

Previous related post: Part 1 of 3: “My story”

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…
Colossians 3:16a

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica;
they received the word with all eagerness,
examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Acts 17:11

So, what is homiletics?

Homiletics is taking you, God’s Word and the Holy Spirit and wrestling through and hashing out what God is saying in a systematic way. Commentaries, while they have their place, are not invited to the party at this time. (As an aside, if you read a Bible Outline, it is basically someone sharing their homiletics. If you listen to an expository sermon, it is likely based on the framework of the pastor’s homiletics.)

There are variations on how to do homiletics. I have no opinion on which is best other than whatever draws you closer to Christ. What I will share below is my story, how I started, that worked for me. I will then briefly mention some changes I have made as I saw what may be useful for me and read about other ideas for homiletics.IMG_20160725_172435040_HDR

Think of homiletics like an hourglass. The whole passage goes into the wide top of the hourglass. It then gets shrunk down until it can come through the hole in the middle, then it expands again.

Part One: Preparation

  • Pray for God to open your eyes to see Him and His truths and applications in His Word.
  • Read the passage several times to just let it sink in and the Holy Spirit to speak through His Word.
  • Have only your Bible, paper and pencil (I do mine on the computer, but have to be careful to shut out other distractions.). NO commentaries, etc.

Part Two: Content

  • Summarize the entire passage in 10 to 20 lines. Give the reference for each line. You are basically taking notes on the passage.
  • This should only have facts, not your interpretation.
  • It does not have to be full sentences.
  • If you are doing a chapter of 20-40 verses, this isn’t too hard. If you are doing multiple chapters, you are really needing to summarize.

Part Three: Divisions

  • Divide the whole passage into two to four divisions. Give the reference for each division.
  • Have a complete sentence summarizing each division.

Part Four: Subject Sentence

  • Write a sentence that uniquely describes the passage. If someone knows the Bible and reads your subject sentence, they should know what passage you are studying.
  • The sentence should be 10 words or less. (Forcing you to really get down to the core.)
  • Have facts, not interpretation.

Part Five: Aim

  • Write one main truth that the Lord is teaching you and that you want to pass along to others.
  • ONE main truth, not several smaller truths.
  • Start with “Cause audience to learn….” or even “Cause myself to learn…”
  • This is starting to deal with application, not just facts.

Part Six: Application

  • These should be in the form of a question. The questions should cause thinking and change, convict and/or encourage and change the heart over behavior.
  • Write at least one application question for each division.

A Word of Caution and Insight

Caution

Homiletics, as with anything, can also become “computerized”, something you do without really processing, or thinking about the words and missing the meaning. The key has always been and will always be, prayerfully coming before the Lord and experiencing the Holy Spirit bring the Word to life. Homiletics is simply a tool in helping to dig deeper into the Word. It may also appeal more to some personalities than others.

Insight

While I love homiletics, my homiletics are not very “good”. As I hear others share from their homiletics, I delight in hearing the ways they make the divisions flow, or the Subject Sentence catch the meaning almost poetically, etc. While I love hearing theirs (and I really do), I love mine more! (sound vain?) The fact is, mine is mine, it is what God spoke to me. The result may not be as beautiful, but it is through the process of thinking through the Word in communion with the Spirit, that real impact is made. It’s the process, not the result that really matters. I hope I am growing in my results as well, but it is growth in the process of becoming absorbed in God’s Word through His Spirit that really matters.

Don’t let comparison keep you from experiencing the depths of God through His Word!!!


To be continued… Part 3 of 3: “Examples, Tweaks & Additions”

Called to go, Willing to stay: A Blessing Counting Journal (13)


10. Cultural blessing (a)


But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8

What is culture

I am so excited today I get to start my final section of this blessing counting journey which I started last October in 2015. If I had to choose one area I am most passionate about, this is it! Cambridge English Dictionary defines “Culture” as “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”. In other words, it is practising what we believe in our daily living. This “particular group of people” and “time” vary in our lifetime. My life has been enriched tremendously as we often adjust from one culture to the other. However, without some overachieving life principles, I often experienced anxiety, distress, fear or other negative feelings when the initial excitement from the new culture fades. That was when the 3rd Culture Living mindset occurred to us.


When cultures clash, by default we tend to resort to where our flesh feels most comfortable and natural. We redefine our terms of “culture” as life unfolds, as different cultures come our way through different groups of people. Our beliefs are questioned or shaken during those clashes. A lot of times, we choose to walk away from those differences to avoid conflicts. People naturally connect with others who are like them. Then a “culture” forms. This explains why even in an immigrant country like America, we can easily locate areas for different ethnic groups, China town, Ukrainian village, German street, Little Italy, etc.. This also explains why, as inclusive or open as social media claims to be, people still flock into their own particular groups. We are made to have connections with each other.  Life is to be shared. Sharing is good!

IMG_20160103_152219744.jpg

Snapshot in China: People gathered around to watch the man practicing calligraphy.

Continue reading

Homiletics Post 1 of 3: My Story

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…
Colossians 3:16a

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica;
they received the word with all eagerness,
examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Acts 17:11

Hi Elijah & Isaiah,

This is for my “buddy buddies” :o) who are now five and two.  I love you guys. Hopefully, I will be around to teach and model this for years to come, but just in case… I want to share with you this joy… and look forward to seeing you in the twinkling of an eye. ~ Dad

(In keeping with the purpose of our site, this is a letter to our kids and grandkids to leave as a legacy if something should happen to us. If others find any benefit, praise God!)

God has given us a letter. It is a letter of love. It is a letter of sacrifice. It is a letter of guidance. It is a letter of encouragement. It is a letter of correction. It is all these things, and much, much more. Most of all, it is a letter of God revealing himself to us!!!IMG_20160725_172507316

Do you read God’s letter? (If not, I’ll keep praying for you till I go Home to be with Jesus.)

Assuming you do, you may be like I was for years even after going to a strong Bible teaching church, Christian college and being involved in participating and leading Bible studies. I really didn’t know how to study the Bible (though I didn’t fully realize it). I would read the Bible, which was good. I would see what it would say, which was good. If I saw application, I would try to apply it, which was good. I may have a Bible Study guide, which was good (but can pull away from actually reading the Bible). I sometimes looked at commentaries for ideas, which was good (but again can be a distraction).

But I still didn’t really feel like I knew how to study the Bible. I thought about my pastor and others who teach the Bible. How do they study the Bible? Is it just reading, reading some commentaries and getting practice and putting a message together… or is there a way to really study the Bible that I am missing. (I sure felt like I was missing something.)

Then I joined Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), which was amazing. The BSF format is four fold: 1. Study on your own with some guiding questions, but no other resources. Just me, the Holy Spirit and the Bible. 2. Discuss our week’s study with other men (or women for mom) to hear other’s insights (still no commentaries, just prayerfully allowing the Holy Spirit to open His Word to us). 3. A lecture from what we had already been studying on our own. 4. Reading notes/commentaries to gain additional insights (after we already put the first focus on God’s Word). I love it! It spoke to my heart and brought the Bible to life. I love it!

But… then I became a BSF group leader and was introduced to a whole new world of Bible study… the joyous introduction to homiletics. (Mom mentioned and I agree that this is the 5th fold of the BSF study method, the other “folds” in our minds being in the area of prayer and fellowship with strong believers and their insights into God’s Word.) The Holy Spirit used Homiletics to bring the Word to life in my life and sharpen its sword to pierce my heart, give limitless hope, reveal God and show me what His Word says about living life.

I love homiletics and have seen it impact my life, family and walk with God!  

To be continued…
Part 2 of 3: “What is Homiletics?”
Part 3 of 3: “Examples, Tweaks & Additions”

 

Called to go, Willing to stay: A Blessing Counting Journal (12)

  1. Parental blessing (b)

Let the Little Children Come! (Matthew 19:14)

Okay, back to the times of house repair. I am grateful God has allowed me to see more of His preparations from years ago for the heart work for His eternal glory. The trip to China confirmed His unchanging love and perfect timing in everything and every season in our life. Since I didn’t have a set time or place to study God’s Word during the house construction, I did my Bible study whenever I could, in front of the kids. It was not my favorite way of studying the Bible. But the Lord not only knows my season in life but orchestrates it. He always provided what I needed to hear and met me where I was. It could be just one verse, one hymn or a radio program, which was sufficient for my day.

My four year old then could see my genuine need to spend time with the Lord. Not only did he learn to have some quiet time together with me, but he also wanted to read his own children’s Bible and took notes like I did. Whenever I think about this, my heart is warmed by God’s grace. Our kids don’t need us to put them first but they do need to see Who (the Ultimate higher authority) we are under and worshipping. God used my children to challenge me to worship Him at all times and see life as an adventure with my Lord.

IMG_20150118_185135820_HDR.jpg

It takes creativity and open mind to grow life in the midst of house repair. 🙂

Continue reading

Called to go, Willing to stay: A Blessing Counting Journal (11)

  1. Parental blessing (a)

    For the Lord is good;    
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:5 

Thank you, Father!

In October, 2015, I started this blessing counting journal around the one year house-owning anniversary. The Lord put ten specific areas of blessings on my heart to record. By the time I am meditating on #9, the “parental blessing”, we are already back from our one-month trip to China over the Christmas break! Once again, I am grateful for the beautiful timing. I am reminded that no matter how much our hearts are stirred due to our current circumstances (good or bad), it all shall pass. It seems like ages ago when we were rebuilding the house, now that life has much more settled down. However, the heart lessons are still as fresh as yesterday. Interestingly, time in China in many ways resembled our time with all the construction going on around the house: lots of new things everyday, no set schedule, no set place for everything, great need for flexibility and wisdom in parenting, more time with our parents (or grandparents for the boys).


When we are pushed out of our comfort zone in parenting, we are more likely to fall back to our flesh, and idolize circumstances we used to live in. We need to be more reliant on our Heavenly Father in choice-making, attitude-setting, and following His teaching from His Word and leading in the Spirit. As a mom of two active boys, I fail so many times and feel inadequate, but I am even more blessed to grow along with them by the grace of my Father above.

IMG_20150113_131033894.jpg

Yeah, we had the floor done before the baby started crawling!

Continue reading