Yesterday we buried Oom Henry Tjioe.  Most of you did not know him; I, too, did not know him too well. In fact, I only met him several times.  It was Tante Yvonne and Oom Peter who tried to introduce him to Christ by inviting him and his wife, Tante Florence, to the Orange County’s Fellowship’s New Year’s Eve’s celebration.  Before the celebration we usually had a service where we asked the Lord to bless us in the coming year.  Oom Henry came to the service but instead of sitting with the rest, he sat in the back.

However, as time went by, he began to soften his heart.  Oom Peter told me that once at his birthday dinner, he suddenly asked Oom Peter to say a prayer.  And when Tante Florence passed away, he agreed to have a Christian funeral service.  In fact, it was his idea to have a bagpiper play “Amazing Grace” at the graveside service.

A couple of months before he passed on, Oom Peter and Tante Yvonne asked me to visit Oom Henry in a nursing facility.  They felt burdened for Oom Henry’s salvation.  So, we came.  And I shared the Gospel with him, but when I asked him whether he wanted to pray and ask Jesus to come into his life, he said, “No.”  But when I asked him whether it would be OK for us to sing Christian songs, he said, “Yes.”  And when I told him that I’d like to pray for him, he let me do that.  He then quietly closed his eyes and prayed with us. 

The night before he passed, Oom Peter and Tante Yvonne, Santy and me, and Bonnie, his niece visited him.  He was weak and almost unresponsive.  Once again, I shared the Gospel with him and gave him the opportunity to ask Jesus to come into his life.  I didn’t know whether he did, but what I saw was that he, who was restless just moments before, became peaceful.  What happened then was between him and God, between him and the Amazing Grace.

Pastor Paul

For more than two decades, thousands of people have come to Harvest Crusades held in Anaheim Stadium to hear Pastor Greg Laurie’s evangelistic messages.  God has mightily used Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside to speak to all but particularly to broken souls, as he, too, was once.

Greg Laurie was raised by a single mother, a beautiful woman who looked like Marilyn Monroe, who before she turned 25, had already had four marriages and divorces.  She ended up having seven!  Most were filled with alcohol, conflicts and fighting, leaving little Greg in the care of his aunts and uncles.  But in the midst of this series of failed marriages, his mother married a man who was not only stable but also a loving man who adopted Greg Laurie to be his son and gave him his last name, Laurie.  Unfortunately, this marriage did not last, either; and once again Greg was yanked out of his home. 

Greg Laurie grew up with little proper supervision and love, bringing hurt and bitterness to adulthood but God had mercy on him.  At age 17 he came to know Christ, became a changed man, and later went into ministry.  He and his wife started a church and were blessed with two sons.  But in 2008, he lost his eldest son, age 33, in a car accident.  Pastor Greg Laurie said, out of all the hurts he had gone through since childhood, losing his son was the most painful.

His life’s story reminds me of what Paul said to the church in Corinth (1:26), “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” If I may add, not many were of loving homes and not many had happy childhoods; in fact, many were of hurts and failures, but everyone was called from grace to grace.  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved us.

Pastor Paul

Our daughters are really enjoying their motherhood.  They pour not only their time but also their hearts out to their children.  I tell them that they now know what love is.  The true and the highest form of love is one that is given to those unable to repay or do anything to earn that love.  We have loved our children since the day they were born, when they could not do or say anything, except crying and sleeping.  They are precious simply for being our children, period!

We tend to base our worth on our accomplishment—what we have done or produced.  In other words what gives us a sense of worth is none other than activities.  If they are good and meaningful, we also feel good and think that our lives are worth something. But in the eyes of God, we are good and worth something not because we have done something good and meaningful but rather because we are His children.  To God, our worth does not lie in activities but in being His children.  He has loved us since Day 1, when we could not even do or produce anything.  God so loved the world; it is not “God so loved the smart, the talented, the pretty, and the handsome.”  

The other day Santy and I visited our daughter and grandchildren.  The moment we walked in, one of our grandsons shouted, “Kung-Kung and Pho-Pho, you are my best Kung-Kung and Pho-Pho!”  I was elated beyond words and so thankful that my in-laws weren’t there.  What did we do to deserve such a high compliment?  Nothing much.  We just came bringing him his favorite noodle (yes, like me, he loves noodle).  That is love.  Not a response or a payback for something received, but for being, in this case, just for being his grandparents.

God loved us when we were babies—without hair, without teeth. And God still loves us when we are old—also without hair, without teeth.  We’re precious long before we could even spell “precious.”

Pastor Paul

Recent rain and snow have made a significant dent to our drought condition in California. Rivers and dams are filling up, and abundant snow in the mountain is promising a steady flow of water in the months to come.  This phenomenon reminds of what happened in Israel during the reign of King Ahab.  As prophesied by Elijah, there was no rain for three and a half years, causing the land to become parched. But God had prepared a hiding place for Elijah where there was water, Brook Cherith, and sent ravens to bring him bread and meat. But “it happened after a while that the brook dried up . . . .”

As we know God had already prepared another hiding place for Elijah outside of Israel, in Zarephath, Sidon, now in the country of Lebanon. Instead of ravens and a brook, this time God used a poor widow who lived with her son, who were in the brink of starvation. Through her God took care of Elijah, and through Elijah, God took care of this widow and her son before He finally sent rain to Israel.

I like the wordings of Romans 4:18, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.”  Despite his and his wife Sarah’s ages, he believed the promise God had made to him that he would have children of his own and out of him would come a great nation. In the Message, Eugene Peterson translates it, “When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said He would do.”

Abraham did not live on faith anytime he liked it; he lived a life of faith. He followed God’s direction and believed His word at any time and God blessed him all the time. By means of a brook, ravens, a widow, and rain God took care of Elijah. By little and by much, God takes care of us. The rain might stop, and the brook might dry up, but God always has other plans, not only B but all the way to Z.

Pastor Paul

We are as we are because of all the gifts we received: the gift of life from God, the gift of salvation from Jesus, the gift of power from the Holy Spirit, and the gift of love from families and friends. There is another gift that we often forget to mention—the gift of courage. We do not always have the courage to do something that we should but thanks to God and others, we muster the courage to do it.

Courage is truly a gift. The truth is that we are often afraid to make a decision or to take a step even though we know that it is good and in the will of God. We fear the repercussion, or the response people give; so, instead of doing it, we make excuses to not do it. When we are in that situation, we need to come to God and pray for the gift of courage. Through His Word and His people, He gives us courage.

I have found that one of the things in life that requires courage is to let go. When our children were small, it took a lot of courage to let them go to the mall without us. After they are grown, it requires a lot of courage to let our children make decisions on their own. We feel much safer if we can make them do what we want. But at the end of the day we must come to terms with the reality that it is not our plan and our will that are to happen in their lives but God’s plan and God’s will. No matter how good these plans are, we must let them go and allow God’s plan and will be done in their lives.

King Saul had a plan for his son, Jonathan—to be his successor. He did not want David to be king; to be his son in-law was already too good for David, who was after all a mere shepherd boy. But God had another plan for David and Jonathan; He wanted David to be king, not Jonathan; and He wanted to take Jonathan home. But Saul did not have the courage to let go; he fought God and he lost. His son Jonathan received the courage to let go; and he won.

Pastor Paul

The other day our four-year-old grandson asked his mother how to write, “I love Kung-Kung and Pho-Pho very much.” With his mom’s help, he wrote it on a piece of paper, then, proudly showed his love letter to us. We were overjoyed is an understatement. I guess it is true that love is best served spontaneously and unexpectedly.

God loves us continuously and often He shows it spontaneously and unexpectedly. Out of the blue through little and big things His love appears unannounced. And when it does, we cannot help but know that it is from Him—specifically to and for us. He does this to make sure that we know without a doubt that He truly cares for us and that He knows what is going on with us. Nothing escapes his eyes.

To appreciate God’s love, we must know how great He is. To know how great God is, we must look no farther than this vast universe. You see, earth is a part of a huge galaxy called the Milky Way, which contains 100 billion stars. For your information to this day scientists still cannot tell us how many galaxies there are in this universe but based on the current telescope they use, they estimate there are over two trillion galaxies. And if we want to know how big a galaxy is, well, try to picture this: The distance between earth and the closest star in our galaxy, namely Proxima Centauri, is 25.3 trillion miles or 4.3 light years. If there were a rocket that could take us to travel from that star to earth with the speed of 365,000 mph, it would take us 7,912 years to get to earth from Proxima Centauri.

Rightly the Bible calls us dust, “For He knows we are but dust and that our days are few and brief, like grass, like flowers, blown by the wind and gone forever” (Psalm 103:14-16). The earth is like a grain of sand in the Pacific Ocean and inside that tiny grain we live. But God finds us, and He never stops sending us His love letters

Pastor Paul

Those of you who have been following the news about the recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria know how massive the devastation is.  In the wee morning hour, the earthquake struck and took the lives of more than twenty thousand people. I am sure none among the dead would have known that that night when they went to bed, they would never wake up anymore.  The poor and the rich, the weak and the mighty, faced the same fate.  We never know when.

And, we do not know why, either.  Why did it happen?  Why did they have to die that night?  We do not have the answer. 

What we know is that the whole creation—which includes the earth—has been “groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” along with us, who “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).  Sin has made a devastating impact not only on us but also on God’s other creation.  Nothing works properly anymore, and that includes nature, not only our nature.  While we are still here waiting for the coming of Jesus, all these disasters or “groanings” will occur.

Life can be hard, so we need God’s power and life can be confusing, so we need God’s wisdom.  Without God’s power, we’d succumb to hardship and without God’s wisdom, we might lose faith in His goodness and love.  Draw from His power and seek to understand what happens through God’s wisdom found in the Scriptures; otherwise, we will be tossed to and fro by the waves of life. 

Albeit we find no satisfactory answer, catastrophes tend to wake us up and force us to think about God and His love and power, which reminds me of what C. S. Lewis poignantly says, “God whispers in our pleasures, speak in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” We hear Him loud and clear.

Pastor Paul


On Chinese New Year Santy gave ang pao to all our grandchildren.  Upon receiving the money, our four-year-old grandson told me that he would like to buy toys.  Expecting him to reply, “My money” because after all he had just received an ang pao, I asked him, “Will you use your money or my money?” He answered, “Your money.” Surprised, I then asked him, “Why?”  To which he replied, “Because I don’t want to waste my money!”  I almost had a heart attack!

We like to receive but we do not like to give, or at least, we like to receive more than to give. We can of course produce a lot of reasons why we do not give but at the end of the day, it boils down to one: We do not like to give.  We prefer receiving and keeping because we find more joy in receiving and keeping than in giving.

I think that was the reason Jesus had to promise us incentive when He commanded us to give, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put in your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38-39).  The problem is that we do not always receive “the same measure” or “running over” after we give, arithmetically. Instead of the same measure, we receive the less measure and instead of running over, we are running out.

God does not want us to live by “quid pro quo” principle—give one, get one. He wants us to live by grace—give one, get two. But to live by grace, we must first learn about generosity—give two, get one. God wants us to learn about generosity first because it, along with love, is the heartbeat of grace. There is no grace without love; there is no grace without generosity.  The test for generosity comes when it is time to give. Luke 6:38-39 is not a formula for investment; instead, it is God’s promise of grace for His generous children.  

Pastor Paul

We don’t always understand God.  What I mean by that is that we don’t always understand His plan and the way He works or carries out His plan.  I remember talking to a man who was struggling spiritually.  He was full of anger and bitterness and on the brink of giving up.  In the midst of it all he prayed and prayed earnestly asking God to reveal Himself, but God seemed silent, no response.

That reminds me of the story recorded in Matthew 8:24-25, “And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered up with waves.  But He was asleep.  Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him saying, ‘Lord, save us!  We are perishing!’“ We don’t know how long the disciples waited before they woke Jesus up but knowing that they were experienced fishermen, we can guess that it was a while.  They only woke Him up when the tempest was getting worse, and they could not navigate the boat.

We don’t know for sure what went through their minds seeing Jesus sound asleep, unperturbed by the raging storm. But if we were in their shoes, we might not be too happy.  We might wonder, “How can you sleep? Don’t you care?” Maybe that is what we think today when God is silent, not giving any responses in times of need.  “Just do something!” is perhaps the prayer that we say over and over.

What the disciples did not know then was that even though the human body of Jesus was asleep, His divine spirit was not.  He, the Son of God, the Almighty God, was watching everything and in full control.  Not only was He in control of the boat and the lives of His disciples, but He was also in control of the storm.  And He woke up not because He was awakened but rather it was time for Him to act. 

Like the good old song says, “He cares for you, He cares for you.  Through sunshine or shadows, He cares for you.”  Yes, He does.

Pastor Paul

Happy Chinese New Year.  May the Lord’s goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives.  We don’t know what awaits us, but we know what we have left behind, at least in California.  Many who worked at giant media companies like Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, and CBS lost their jobs.  And at least 120,000 tech firms’ employees were laid off last year.  And the list goes on.  We don’t know what awaits us, but we have at least seen what greets us this new year: the skyrocketed egg and natural gas prices! 

Reading about the grim economic prospect and experiencing it first-hand are two different things.  I know some of us are now in this boat of experiencing it firsthand.  As I have told you before, Santy and I were in the same boat before. We’re fortunate that we were able to get free housing at Santy’s parents’ home.  And we thanked God for sending piano students to Santy and a couple of churches that invited me to speak on several occasions.  It truly was a trying time, not knowing what awaited us, only knowing what we had left behind.  But I must say, it’s also a praying and growing time.

The other day I talked with somebody who left behind a tough year with no inkling what awaited him this new year.  He told me that the only thing that kept him strong was this verse from Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?” He believed it and clung to it.

There was a verse that caught my eye when I was having quiet time some time ago.  It’s the end of Verse 20 and the beginning of Verse 21 of Genesis 39, “And he was there in the prison.  But the Lord was with Joseph . . . .”  We do not know what awaits us, but we know who awaits us, God.  And He will be with us, even in life’s dungeon.

Pastor Paul