Between 2000 and 2003, a couple times a year I wrote a short daily “Thought of The Day” message for a whole week for the ProMinistry website organized by Elder Y.M. Chu (屈越銘長老). This website catered to people who worked in the Silicon Valley. It is a real pity that the website was closed after 2003.
Below are some of the thoughts I wrote.
These days one can easily sense the Christmas holiday spirit is in the air. Multicolor decorative lights outside homes. Holiday displays in shop windows. Christmas jingles on the radio. Company parties. Everything around us says: Christmas is near.
What is all this fuss about Christmas? Who is this Jesus that his birth the whole world commemorates and celebrates? If we don’t know who he is, it is like going to a big party without knowing who the Guest of Honor is!
“…a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). The reason for the season is Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind. He is the Guest of Honor.
One of the most amazing things about Jesus’ birth was that the event was clearly predicted in writing thousands of years ago. God promised the Jewish nation that a Savior will come. The predictions were so precise that they included the birth place, the manner of birth, the family lineage, etc. Jesus’ birth fulfilled every single one of these predictions.
There is no explanation other than that it was a miraculous birth.
Christmas reminds us that there is an Almighty God who is in control. The birth of Christ is but one part of His salvation plan not just for the Jews but for all mankind. Christmas is a good time to find out who this Jesus is, and the kind of personal relationship that he and you could have.
It is not easy to buy Christmas gifts for others. As more and more of people in the Silicon Valley are sharing the economic boom, the job gets even tougher. What do you get people who seemingly already have every material possession?
As a result, newspapers and magazines are writing about special “chic" gifts for the affluent. For men, suggestions include: Palm Pilot, portable DVD player, and Rolex. For women, suggested gifts are: health-club memberships, exercise bike, pashmina (no idea what it is!). For kids, they include: Playstation 2, snowboard, Dungeons and Dragons. For Girls, suggestions are: Barney merchandise, Care Bears, Tickle-Me Elmo, Tamgutchi and Digimon (again, no idea what these are). .
Jesus’ birth itself is the greatest gift God gives to mankind. It is God’s way of showing his love for us. Christmas is a good time to find out more about God’s plans for mankind, and for you.
The best way that God can reveal Himself to mankind is to become one of us. That’s why Jesus Christ came to this earth two thousand years ago. His deeds and words are clearly recorded in the four gospels. Another name for Jesus is “Emmanuel" which means “God is with us".
I visited Israel 18 months ago and we went to the birth place of Jesus in the little city of Bethlehem. It was a humble manger, which was used to keep the animals. The creator of the universe humbled himself and became an ordinary man! Christmas commemorates God the Creator reaching out (and reaching down) to the created, bringing us salvation and eternal life.
Christmas sales is very important for the retail industry. This year, it is particularly crucial for the many on-line retailers. For many, Christmas is time for spending and indulging. It remains to be seen with the slowing economy and falling stock prices whether people will spend like the last few years.
While the whole world sees Christmas as one big commercial opportunity, you can have the most meaningful Christmas ever if you find out for yourself the true meaning of Christmas. It is not about buying or enjoying or spending. It is about giving – God giving us His love.
Our society celebrates Christmas much more so than Easter (which is this coming Sunday). Yet Jesus’ death and resurrection received wider coverage in the bible than His miraculous birth. In fact, His death and resurrection are central to Christianity. If Jesus had not died, there would be no Christianity. And if He just died but had not come back to life, Christianity is the biggest hoax the world has ever seen!
Long before Jesus’ birth, his death and resurrection had been predicted in writing. From the dawn of human history, God had revealed a plan in which a “sacrificial lamb" would one day bear the sins of the entire human race. As history unfolds, we see that the lamb turned out to be His own son, who came into the world to die for our sins. In doing so, Jesus had established the way to reconcile sinful man with the Holy God.
Friends, the upcoming “Good Friday" (the Friday before Easter Sunday) commemorates Jesus’ death. Even if you are not a Christian, please allow me to invite you during the next few days to consider some issues concerning Jesus’ death and resurrection .
Of all the major religions in the world, only Christianity claims the death and resurrection of its central character. Buddha died but never came back to life. Mohammed died in Medina on June 8, 632 A.D. at age 61, but was not resurrected. Confucius, the great teacher, died and never returned to life. In fact, not one single human being in history, except Jesus, had left behind an empty tomb.
The historical event of Jesus’ resurrection, therefore, forces us to consider Jesus’ claims about his deity. If the resurrection had never happened like the bible and the other history records said it had, then the whole Christian belief is a blatant fraud, and must be discarded and discredited.
Some scholars and historians had tried to prove this humanly impossible event had never happened. But they all failed miserably. A lawyer named Josh McDowell once set out to do just that, but ended up writing the book “Evidence that Demands A Verdict‥. He devoted an entire chapter on “Support of Deity: The Resurrection- Hoax or History‥. I invite any inquisitive person to order his book and read it carefully.
Often times we hear about things, but we don’t really believe them. This was true even when the greatest teacher in history was talking. Jesus had been telling his disciples that he will die and be resurrected in three days. These words fell on unbelieving ears. But at a later time, they suddenly saw the truth and believed. For John, that moment of truth came when he entered the empty tomb and saw what Jesus left behind.
The gospel of John recorded this event in vivid details. It described what Peter and John saw, which caused John to “immediately believe‥: they saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen‥. What they saw was that the burial cloth of Jesus was still wrapped in a human shape, so Jesus had resurrected (sort of “evaporated‥) right out of the wrapped cloth without disturbing it.
How could this happen except through a miraculous resurrection? For John, that did it. For other disciples, Jesus proved his resurrection to them in other ways as he lived among them for another 40 days, before ascending to heaven on the Mount of Olives right before their eyes. The disciples’ lives were forever changed as they came face-to-face with a resurrected savior.
I hope you, too, will meet our resurrected savior face-to-face.
Jesus’ resurrection is critical to Christianity, but what is its significance to you and me?
His resurrection confirms the validity of his claim to have come from God. Likewise, Jesus’ other assertion that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life cannot be ignored. And His prediction that He will someday return must also be taken seriously. Josh McDowell wrote: “Jesus deserves an Oscar if he wasn’t God‥. Actually, he deserves to be the greatest con man in human history if even one of his claims is proven untrue.
Jesus’ resurrection gives us mortals the hope and the assurance of immortality. The chain of death is broken. His promise that we will have eternal life becomes credible. Death is no longer the end of life, but the beginning of an eternal companionship with our Creator.
Will you take some time to consider the significance of Jesus’ resurrection to you?
If Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection are facts, what do they have to do with me? How am I to respond? Why do I even need to respond at all?
Jesus’ death and resurrection mean nothing to me if I have not been presented with the facts and historical records. But once I know about these facts, I must somehow respond. In not responding, I have not only made a decision to ignore Him, but to reject Him. A risen Jesus, therefore, forces me to take a stand, and to make a decision to either accept or reject Him.
There are ample historical evidences, both inside and outside the bible, to prove His death and resurrection. Again, I would urge you to get Josh McDowell’s excellent book “The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict‥. But more than just knowing the historical facts, we must consider God’s great sacrificial love and grace that Jesus’ death has demonstrated. By accepting Him into your heart, you too will share in the great hope of eternal life that His resurrection has brought.
Will you make this Good Friday a time to encounter and accept the living Jesus as your personal savior?
In investing, one strategy is to locate “value” before the investing public sees it. These gems could come from budding companies with promising products, or troubled companies on the verge of being turned around. Those who find these gems will be able to unlock the hidden value and reap tremendous profits. That’s why investors constantly hope to find another Microsoft in the early stages.
Do you spend the same kind of efforts looking for true value in life? In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus compared the Kingdom of heaven to “treasure hidden in a field” and “fine pearls”. In another gospel Jesus said :”a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15) True value in life can only be found in things that have eternal value, things that do not perish or rust. (SW)
Investing requires sacrifices – giving up things in the hope of getting things that are more valuable. A saver sacrifices present consumption to earn interest. A diligent student sacrifices entertainment to earn high grades. An executive sacrifices personal free time to complete an important assignment. Everyday we are engaging in the act of “trading up”.
When Jesus spoke of the supreme value of His Kingdom, he asked for sacrifices. When a man finds the treasure hidden in a field, he “sold all he had and bought that field”. When a merchant found fine pearls, he “sold everything he had and bought it”. Both are convinced that they have wisely “traded up”. When you find value, are you willing to make the sacrifices to trade up? (SW)
Investing seldom gives sure results, only saving does. When you save at a bank or lend money to the government, the return is agreed upon so normally there will be no surprises. But the return is low due to such certainty. Investing carries risks, but there is the potential for higher returns.
Investing oneself in the Kingdom of God requires some sacrifices, but the outcome is certain and the reward is high. The promises of God are clearly laid out, and His track record of delivering on His promises is impeccable. He promised that those who put their faith in Him will receive eternal life, and this is a promise that we can bank on. While we are still living on earth we are promised an abundant life, one that is characterized by true peace and joy. But we look forward to an even greater reward, once we are united with our loving Father in Heaven. (SW)
Before an investor makes a decision, he first needs to gather and analyze all relevant facts. We need not look further than what is around us – “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse”. (Roman 1:20) For those with inquisitive minds, they can examine all the historical facts inside and outside the bible.
The beginning point to search for God is a humble and searching heart. Then it is not a difficult task, because our God loves humans so much that he is eager to reveal Himself to us. When Billy Graham heard that a Russian astronaut boldly declared that God does not exist because he could not see Him when he was in space, Mr. Graham compared it to a little worm that crawled out of earth. When it did not see any human beings, it proudly declared that there is no human race. Let’s not let arrogance blind our hearts. (SW)
Once all the facts are gathered and analyzed, an investor must make a decision either to invest or not to invest. In both cases, he has to take a leap of faith since he cannot clearly see the ultimate results of his actions. Because this investor is armed with facts, his faith is not blind faith.
Even though we can see God from His creation and from historical facts, at some point it still requires a leap of faith on our part. All the facts in the world would not help if one does not have faith. “ For we also have had the gospel preached to us … but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. “(Hebrew 4:2)
Are you willing to put your faith in Jesus Christ?
The first issue of Fortune Magazine this year asks this question on the cover: “Who’s afraid of middle age?” Before you can answer, the cover gives the solution: “How you can get the best out of modern medicine”. Inside it devotes many pages to ways to improve middle age executives’ health, dealing with such issues from a fading libido to colon-cancer, gum disease, menopause, hair loss, wrinkles, etc.
Many Americans are obsessed with physical health. A visit to the local gym will show you how people are dedicated to work-outs. Indeed modern medicine has been a great help in our quest to live longer and stay healthier. But no matter how well we take care of ourselves, physically we are all slowly and irreversibly deteriorating every day.
Apostle Paul once wrote confidently and triumphantly that “though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” He is talking about the renewing of our hearts and our minds. Only God can truly bring us this renewal because “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation”.
I have been reading the Enron/Arthur Andersen saga with great interest and sadness. It is particularly shocking to see how Arthur Andersen, a venerable auditing firm, could fall from grace in such a spectacular fashion. Last week I was reading about how its major clients (even including Enron) are leaving in droves every day. Then I read about the efforts to sell itself to competitors, and about the pending indictments by the Justice Department. Then the partners defiantly refused to plea guilty to settle the case, but had instead chosen to fight. Finally, the Justice Department announced its criminal indictment last Thursday. It remains to be seen whether Arthur Andersen will survive these catastrophic crises.
In life some damages and wounds are permanent and irreversible. Once trust is broken, it is difficult to mend. Often times we find that our lives get out of control – market crash, layoff, business failure, broken relationships, etc. But only our loving and Almighty God can take the brokenness in our lives and relationships, and put it back together. “…if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!”
Recently I read about the story of Fred Abramson, a 53-year old former engineer at Rambus who committed suicide in early February. His stock options were worth $5 million two years ago. He exercised the options and retired. Although he owed millions of dollars in alternative minimum taxes, he decided to hold onto the Rambus shares as he expected the share price to move even higher. When Rambus share price tumbled, he could not even pay his taxes.
It appears financial despair was not his only problem. He loved flying so much that he wanted to retire so he could spend time to fly. He was depressed when he had to return to work once again. He also had to sell his beloved plane. Finally he lost all hope of pursuing his goals. He ended up committing suicide in the plane hanger.
It is difficult to live on when one has lost all hope. But our ultimate hope does not come from things of this world, because one day all things (including our lives) must pass. Our ultimate hope comes from our trust in Jesus Christ, who “in his great mercy has given us new birth into a living hope”.
Yesterday I wrote about Fred Abramson who committed suicide earlier this year after he was financially ruined in the stock market meltdown. It brought to mind a Christian friend of mine, who had a lot of stock options when the company he worked for was bought out by a larger company. This was about four years ago. The stock options he had were suddenly worth millions. When I met him a few years ago, he wanted to know how he could donate some of his new-found wealth to Christian work. He wanted to do this immediately, lest wealth hardens his heart. A few months later, the share price of his company plummeted to nearly nothing.
Recently he told me how felt about this whole thing. He wrote: “Frankly speaking, it was really painful watching the share price became worthless, especially since my shares were exercised at fairly high prices. However, I thank God for what I have sold. I also thank God for what I have not sold, for He leads me not into the temptation of being arrogant. I also thank God that I was able to give to His work before the share price took a tumble”.
Christians know that everything comes from God, and we are only His stewards. A biblical character, Job, said after he suffered devastating losses: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised”.
Recently I was watching the sentencing of Andrea Yates, the mother in Texas who drowned her five kids. On that same day, a family of 6 was found dead in their home in Oregon. Apparently three weeks ago the father shot his four children and wife to death, then used the rifle to kill himself. The children, ages 8 to 15, were last at school on February 22. This family moved to Oregon last summer from Sacramento.
In recent years, these types of family killings have increased significantly. It is difficult to understand how one could be cruel enough to murder one’s own family. A lot has been written about why Andrea Yates killed her own lovely children. Some blame it on postpartum psychosis or some other form of mental illness.
Because of our sinful nature, each one of us is capable of committing small or grave sins. The bible tells us that the human heart is “deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”
We are all sinners in need God’s forgiveness and salvation. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. “
The thought today is on “SUCCESS”.
America is a culture that values and worships success. Yet success can be so short-lived. Watching former executives of WorldCom and Arthur Anderson testifying in Congress recently, I can’t help but think of how successful these individuals were just a short while ago. Then things turned sour, and fortunes (as well as reputation) are lost.
While there is nothing wrong with being successful in life, basing our entire life on it is like building a house on shifting sands. The “Rock of Ages” is our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can give meaning to our lives. Knowing Him and putting our faith in Him is the key to a successful life, both on this earth and in eternity.
The thought today is on “Prosperity”.
Mankind pursues prosperity and is willing to sacrifice a lot to exchange for wealth. We all want to work towards building a better future. For many, that is the key reason why we are in America. Yet, the overwhelming desire to seek prosperity brings with it many evils, strife and restlessness.
True peace of mind and happiness do not come from being materially rich. In fact, the more prosperous society is, the more mental and physical problems its citizens tend to have. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that sleeping pill is a $140 billion-a-year business. Psalm 127 says, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for He grants sleep to those He loves”.
The thought today is on “Trying Harder”.
We are brought up to believe that the harder you work, the more rewards you will reap. Yet Psalm 127 says,” Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain”. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps”.
True success in life does not depend on how hard we work, but whether we are heading in the right direction. Finding God and committing your life to Him will give your life the right direction.
The thought today is on “Despair”.
Have you been so discouraged that there is no longer any meaning to life at all? Do you feel so depressed that you think there is no more hope for the future? Are you so burdened that you don’t think you will ever be able to get up on your feet again?
Life is full of problems: academic, career, financial, marital, health, etc. Like Bill Wither’s song which says “we all need someone to lean on”. But be sure you are leaning on someone who is stronger than you. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened. and I will give you rest”. (Matthew 11:28)
During the last supper, Jesus told his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Is you heart troubled right now because of the economic downturn? Your job situation? The War? Marital problems? Health problems? Certainly there are many things in life that can cause our heart to be troubled.
Jesus offered the disciples two antidotes to overcome a troubled heart. The first antidote is “Trust in God; trust also in me (Jesus).”(John 14:1) We can put our faith and trust in Jesus because he is both able and dependable. He is the creator of the universe, and he has promised that “I will not leave you or forsake you.“
The second antidote to cure a troubled heart is by having an eternal perspective. Here in John 14:2 Jesus reminded the disciples that “In my father’s house there are many rooms”. He also told them that he was going there to prepare a place for them. He promised that he will come back to take them to be with him. He wanted the disciples to see beyond their current difficulties.
The certainty of Jesus’ return gives us hope in the face of troubles. The New Testament constantly refers to Jesus’ return. By putting your faith and trust in Jesus, you too can spend eternity with Jesus.
Even though Jesus told his disciples that he was going to the Heavenly Father to prepare a place for the disciples, and would return to take them, the disciples had little idea what Jesus was talking about. One of them, Thomas, asked; “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5)
The disciples were utterly lost. One would think that after being taught from the Master Teacher for over three years, they would understand what Jesus was telling them. But that was not the case.
Human wisdom cannot make us understand spiritual matters. Only God can open our hearts and our minds so we can truly understand these matters. Would you humbly pray and ask God to help you?
In response to Thomas’ question, Jesus made one of the boldest claim men had ever made. He said,” I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Notice Jesus did not say he can show us the way or the truth or the life. Or he is one of the ways or truths. He said he is the way, the truth and the life. And he said he is the only intermediary between men and God.
Such claim cannot be ignored – we can only either accept it or dismiss it. We can dismiss it only if his claim is false. If his claim is false, then Jesus is either self-deluded or plain crazy.
Jesus told the disciples that “No one comes to the Father except through me”. Why can man not come to God directly, but must come through Jesus Christ?
The problem is sin. Sinful men cannot approach Holy God directly. Sin has separated every one of us from God. Yet God loves us and wants to reach and save us. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Roman 5:8). Through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, we can be reconciled to God.
Would you open your heart and accept Christ as your personal Savior?