New Life From a Dream

In my trip to Malaysia in March, I met many amazing people. Sometimes you unexpectedly meet someone that is just a gem, a story worth sharing everywhere. It is all about being ready and open to hear people’s stories. This wonderful, humble man’s name is Luke, and his life was changed by a dream.

Luke, a Nepali man, works as a security guard 7 days-a-week, 12 hours-a-day to support his family back in Nepal. My Malaysians friends couldn’t stop talking about what hard workers the Nepali people are. Yeah, that is quite hard working I would say. And they clarify by saying these security guards don’t fall asleep. That should go without saying, but I know some that routinely fell asleep at our apartment building in Bangkok. Luke, the dedicated guard, is also preparing to begin a Nepali church here in KL. Why? Because he has been impacted by Jesus in a real way.

He came to know Jesus nearly 30 years ago when his mother was deathly ill with TB. Luke’s family spent 9 months and the family’s life savings working to find help. After all of that time in the hospital and money spent, his mom was sicker than ever. At this point, she began to prepare for Luke and his siblings to be taken care of by other people after she left. Luke’s mom began having dreams that caused her to think death was coming to get her. She saw a man in white reaching out to grab her. To her, this certainly meant her time was short.

Luke did not know what to do. When Luke told his teacher, the only Christian in the village, what was happening, the teacher asked more about this dream. Luke’s mom said the man was reaching out to take her hand and calling her to come with. The man in white said, “Come with me and you will never die”.

The teacher immediately knew the man in the dream was Jesus. The teacher explained to Luke that Jesus wanted her to live. The teacher went to find her pastor and an elder in the church from another village away. The three of them went with Luke to visit his mom. When they talked to Luke’s mom, she said she wanted Jesus. And more than that, Jesus fulfilled the message in that dream as he healed Luke’s mom completely.  . The TB was gone with no side effects. She is still living today in her 80s. I love these stories where God shows himself real. In a place like Nepal where the Buddhism has prevented people from knowing Jesus, he is still reaching down and intersecting their world.

I am reminded of the More Than Dreams series and love that God speaks to people in dreams, including people in the Buddhist world.

What dreams have you had that you know came from or maybe wonder if they came from God?

My Father is Bigger than Your Father

If any of us did anything as children, we believed that our dad was a superhero with super powers. My dad could beat up your dad.

Now, as an adult, I am comforted to know my father in heaven can beat up anybody. I don’t have to cower in fear before evil spirits, overwhelming circumstances, or difficult situations. My God is a great Father, and I love being his child.

The Bible draws several word pictures of what the church is, or rather who the church is. The church is the bride of Christ, the church is the body of Christ, Again, Peter tells us how the church is living stones, Paul teaches Timothy, and the church is the household or family of God. Businesses, a common ministry model for church today, are not great at producing disciples. They produce products pretty well, but families, bodies, living stones, intimate connections with Jesus produce real disciples.

More importantly, family creates an identity of who we are. When we know who we are as the children of God, and that we belong to the house of God, we know what we can become. I love how Ephesians 2:19 puts it. We are no longer strangers, or aliens as Paul pulls on the former verses that say how we formerly were far from God. Jesus changed everything when he came to bring peace to us. We belong to the family of God not because of anything we do or how the family feels about it, but because of what Jesus did. I love belonging to God’s family. I know he will take care of me, watch over me, and lead me in his path.

We have the ultimate Godfather.

How does knowing your identity shape your behavior?

Spiritual Warfare and Encounters of a Third Kind

Living in a country full of spirit worship, appeasement and mystical practices, we are not surprised by new experiences in the spiritual realm. As Pentecostals, we expect spiritual encounters, or encounters of a third kind. Last month, we a story that has yet to escape me as I still think about what we experienced, and more than that…one of the children from the slum community that we minister to.

The church went to a youth camp in the north of Thailand. This young teenager lives in one of the slum communities that the church reaches out to. She knows we are Christian and love her and her family with the love of Jesus as we are telling his story in the process of helping her with school, health care and sanitation. Yet she still claims allegiance to Buddhism as her family is Buddhist. However, as the young people prayed, she met God in a powerful way, falling to her back. As the worship music continued to play, she remained on her back, overwhelmed by the presence of God. She laid in the back of the room for some time as we prayed for her again. When she finally sat up, tranquility washed over her face and body. The church came around her wanting to explain this experience she had knowing she wasn’t sure what happened. Stunned and taken back by this experience with God caused a curiosity in her to grow, and she kept pressing in to know this God that she encountered.

God broke through the strongholds, barriers and darkness that had previously prevented this girl from knowing him…now, it is up to her, the same as it is to anyone when they encounter Jesus. Will she follow him, or reject him…we keep giving her chances to be near him, so she can learn to follow him more and more. But the decision remains hers.

What happens when you encounter God? What strongholds, walls or barriers does he have to breakthrough to meet you? Or did he have to come through to meet you? Share your experience, or thoughts regarding the spiritual realm.

Spiritual Warfare

I hear some refer to spiritual warfare as spiritual conflict, but I am not sure what to think after some of the experiences I have in a world of spirit worship. “Conflict might be too understated for the reality of what the demonic realm wants to claim. We are now in rebellion against the rebellion,” Ed Stetzer.

One can be buoyed by prayers, intentional prayers for protection.

Recently, I heard a story of some of our council members and their families gathering to pray. As they prayed, one of them saw a vision of their pastor dressed in armor, the spiritual armor of God. Quickly as I heard the story retold, my mind ran to a certain group of special humans who gave a great quote in their movie, Avengers. “Let’s Suit up!” Makes you think, huh…

Well, back to the story. Their pastor was in full armor, but one of the flaming arrows of Satan was about to strike his breastplate. The arrow made it past his shield of faith, which is designed to snuff these darts of fire out. Here it comes in their vision, about to strike their pastor. They rallied their fervor and prayed for him as the head of the church. They even got the picture from Nehemiah to stand as the wall of protection around the church.
When I asked them about when this prayer took place, they told me how it was a few days earlier. Then what seemed like a nice story of people in the church praying for their pastor suddenly upped the ante. They received a clear vision from God during the time that I was super sick a couple of weeks ago. I was wiped out, but we’ll save the nasty details from this forum.

Sometimes, we overlook the spiritual realm in our prayers. Sometimes, we forget that God wants to speak to us through our prayer time, and we just come with our list, outline or structure to prayer. The spiritual realm is not left to the angels and demons, but God uses us to play a part in the fight. A fight that carries eternal stakes.

Have you seen God speak to you in such a vivid way before, how?

The Baby Jesus

I was talking to my daughter, as we like to do at the dinner table. Mind you she is only 9-months, so the conversations are pretty one-sided at this time. But sometimes she looks at me and makes sounds her baby language. Today’s conversation centered around the Christmas story. As a new dad celebrating Christmas with his daughter for the first time, I wondered what she thought about the Baby Jesus.

She is so close to walking on her own now, and determined to figure out how to get moving and on her own. She has places to go and especially people to see. I asked her when she thought Jesus took his first steps. We wondered together if Mary had a book like Ellie’s mommy has to keep track of all of Jesus’ firsts.

When did Jesus get his first tooth?

When did Jesus begin to sit up?

When did Jesus start crawling?

What was Jesus first word?

We took the conversation a bit further too as Ellie does a compromised version of Elimination Communication (or click here). We look for her cues and then take her to go poopy. I asked my daughter if she thought Jesus gave the perfect cues to Mary to let her know when he needed to go.

We were blown away just thinking about how the Son of God, the almighty who was here at the beginning of the universe playing a role in creation also sat on the floor and played like our daughter does. The king of the universe allowed himself to go through all the same processes as any other baby. Talking with my daughter about Christmas helped me get a new perspective of Jesus’ humanity.

How does thinking of Jesus as a baby change how you picture him?

The Pearl of Great Wealth

Sometimes you never know what you will stumble upon during little getaways. This week, my wife’s parents are in town. This gave us the option to get out of Bangkok for a few days and visit the beautiful south of Thailand. We headed down to Phuket to see some pristine beaches and put our feet up a little as we play with our daughter who loves water more than any 8-month-old should.

The tourist books all pointed the seashell lovers in our group toward the shell museum at the south of the island near Chalong Bay. This museum would be to museums what a hole-in-the-wall restaurant would be to restaurants. The museum sneaks up on you, and yet you have no idea what is inside. If word got out what great gems and finds this place has, the corridors would be mobbed with shell enthusiasts and even casual shell onlookers who only show up for the playoffs, like most Laker fans.

The stairway down to the basement where shells from around the world are kept incased in glass is inlaid with shell pieces leading visitors into a shell world of delight.

Yet within the little house of many shells laid a find worthy of the great museums of Paris, London or New York.

The small museum is in a basement, beneath a gift shop in the south of Phuket, and here laid an exquisite pearl. In fact, the pearl held in this case was the biggest and most symmetrical gold pearl ever found (140 karats).

I couldn’t help but think how this museum must have gone to any length possible to attain the pearl as a centerpiece to their museum. I couldn’t help but think of how the pearl must have been just like the one in the parable Jesus told in Matthew 13.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Walking the museum, I get the sense when this pearl was found; the museum went to more than great lengths to obtain the great pearl. How could they not. In fact, I see this as the same as the great merchant in the story of Jesus. It is not as though we walk through a palatial museum and happen across this pearl, but in fact, we found it in an obscure little place in a remote corner of Phuket.

When we find the kingdom of God, we will sacrifice all we have to gain the treasure that is life with Jesus. It is not as though we add Jesus to a house full of treasures or a trophy room to display all of our beliefs. Jesus becomes the one centerpiece to who we are. We forsake all others and run to Jesus with abandon.

This is the first time I stumbled upon a valuable treasure that seemed out of place. Have you ever seen a work of art or valuable find that seemed more valuable than the home that contained it?

Free Gift

Nothing sounds better to the ear than the sound of someone saying this is free, and even better than that is free food.

This week, we were talking about spiritual gifts with the church in Bangkok. These gifts could literally be called grace gifts. That is God graces us with the gifts of the Spirit (I Cor. 12). We do nothing to deserve the gifts that God bestows on us…we simply receive them as an expression of his love for his people. How awesome is it that we do nothing to get the gifts but simply have them from our loving, heavenly Father. Gifts are awesome…

Gifts usually come our way on birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas, among other events like house warming parties, weddings, baby showers and retirement. Well, that is in America…

In Thailand, the culture has even more of a foundation for giving and receiving gifts. People give gifts not at birthdays and Christmas (since Christmas doesn’t really exist in Thailand). Often gifts will be given at certain turning points in one’s life, or if a friend goes on a trip, they will bring back a small gift for their close friends. Underneath the giving and receiving of gifts lies the glue that holds Thai culture together, Grain Jai. This understanding has no good word in English. Essentially Grain jai means the feeling we have to keep things even. A person doesn’t want to impose on another person or take too much than is legitimately expected. There is a give and take, and when you receive something, you look for a way to return the favor or gift. This is one of the reasons that our Thai friends have no qualms in asking how much we pay for our condo, or a new shirt, or sandals, or anything else we buy. In Thailand, you just learn to not be offended when someone asks you how much something cost. This way everyone knows the general value of everything and can repay their friends and keep grain jai at an even level.

The beautiful thing with God is that he gives us gifts more valuable than we know, and there is nothing we ever did to deserve it. The only way we repay him is by using our gifts to the best of our ability and motivated by love (I Cor. 13).

What do you think about when you realize the gifts we get from God come without merit on our end?