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This is a continuation from Part 1.
- This is me recovering, following up on my previous comment.
April 30, 2010
“i am the person who wrote that depressing comment above. i just want to let you know i’ve recovered and i want to share this with everyone who has lost faith in the things of God. i had unknowingly allowed myself to become food for the devil. in recent years there has been a lot of outside criticism about my pastor and questioning of his gift of teaching. i was also very affected by a lot of believers attacking one another on the web (it is so depressing) and bad press in the local papers about certain churches and church figures here. it really stole my joy, confidence and hope in the things of God. 2 nights ago i heard one of the best sermons ever. God truly knows my heart and sent a word in season for me. i came out of the service feeling spotless, reborn and full of life and hope! i realize now that the body of Christ has been under attack and we must use our gift of exhortation to lift our brethren up. grace and peace to all of you, the united body of Christ!”
- This is me back in my element, writing in an email to my disciplers.
May 6, 2010
“….I noticed that as I start on this journey of seeking God and his leading, my original dilemma of not knowing my place in the world and in his kingdom just doesn’t seem so critical anymore. I have this feeling that hey, maybe this is what God wants from me right now, for this season, to just spend time seeking him and be immersed in him. It feels good, it feels right. In fact, dare I suggest that perhaps this is what our life’s purpose is – to seek Him and have communion with him. Plain and simple. Everything else… about knowing my calling and my dream etc, are but fruits of this main pursuit. They will ripen when the time comes. Just stay connected to Vine! I know you’ve probably heard it many times over (so have I) but I just can’t help getting excited all over again. I think it died off somewhere but now I am feeling that life again. Feeling like I am “back in my element” again, and with Kathy’s encouragement, I have started noticing people in a more personal way and ministering to them, just like old days. So I want to thank all of you for helping push me out of my “wallowing in the dust and self doubt” experience. May God send you his richest blessings, may his favor surrounds you and your ministry and may the light that you carry touch ever life that comes your way like it did mine.”
- Pray for your pastor and your church. When the enemy strikes the shepherd, he is not just targeting him, he is going after you and the rest of the flock.
- When you tear down another believer, you are making yourself the devil’s advocate. You are helping him accomplish his goal faster.
- Do not surround yourself with trash. Read enough to stay informed but do not feed yourself with trashy news, mindless gossips and camp around cynicism and negativity. If you do, you’ll feel dusty pretty soon.
- What to do when you find yourself dusty,
1st – stay away from trash
2nd – plunge yourself into God’s word. feed your spirit man with whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy.
3rd – keep company with people who edifies you.
- Seek God. Stay connected to the Vine. Your path will become clearer in due time.
- Step out in faith.
- Recommended resource: The Key to Holiness It teaches you how to stay dust free.
Just felt this is something I should share.
- This is me two months ago, commenting in someone’s blog.
March 23, 2010
“it’s very disheartening reading some of the comments here. honestly i am beyond tired. if these are comments from christians, i lagi more tired! i don’t want to be pretentious so i will admit that the devil has succeeded in getting people to avoid the church. at least he succeeded with me. i guess that makes me a loser. to hear the constant bashing, especially in recent years, of the church that has been my lifeline in so many ways, is very discouraging and hurtful. when i first got saved, there was this pure and innocent joy to share the good news. i remember inviting a friend of mine to church. she was deeply moved and over the next few years, one after another of her family members came to christ and found new meaning in life. a few years ago she sent me a christmas card with only these words…thank you, thank you, thank you (for bringing me to chruch and introducing me to christ). even now as i am writing this, it brings tears to my eyes. this is what makes life meaningful, to be an agent of change in people’s life. all that was before blogs existed, before i started reading comments and forums and the media. a lot has changed since then. it’s difficult not to be affected by all the criticism and judgment and the spirit behind them. yet it is difficult to avoid them if one doesn’t wish to be a christian living only in her own world. i love to read. i have gained a more balanced view of my faith through reading viewpoints and experiences of other believers. but it has also costs me. fortunately i receive a lot of positive feeding from my church every week. my faith journey might not have lasted this long if not for them. but all the poison has finally caught up with me. my relationship with christ and NCC has become a very private thing. i have no desire to invite anyone to church or mention anything about NCC, church …. or even Jesus. in the eyes of non-believers, they are all the same. with believers, i don’t mention NCC because it makes them run before i have the opportunity to speak. the prejudice is just too great. so i keep silent. i don’t need more people bashing my chruch or my faith. i am done for now. i need time to recover.
many of you ask, how has NCC changed my life? i can’t tell you without telling you how Jesus changed my life because the focus on Christ is central to NCC. yes there are flaws but Jesus is always central. you asked, how has NCC help my faith journey. it is difficult to prove to you in a tangible way. what i can say simply is that the Jesus presented by NCC is the reason why hope is alive even in my bleakest hour. there is an inner buoyancy that sustains my soul when my circumstances are an utter shipwreck. that Jesus is what motivates me to pick myself up and start again when i fail to live up to the christian ideal. when i thought i have completely lost my innocence because i have lost faith in humanity, when there is no one i can trust anymore, that Jesus encourages me to seek beauty in the midst of ugliness. i don’t know if i have personally impacted anyone by these but they sure do keep me from giving up on life.”
but right now, i am really tired. i need to withdraw into my church and behold the Jesus that I know again.
- This is me having doubts about my calling and loosing passion and direction, writing in an email to M.
April 24, 2010
“….regarding your question about interest and passion, well…I’m afraid I don’t have a definite answer right now. You see, that was the reason why I contacted Seth in the first place – because I feel like my life has lost passion and direction. I thought doing something different and following various impulses might help me see God’s leading clearer. I used to be passionate about seeing people come to see their need for Christ, accept His Grace and be transformed by His love and seeing a new purpose for life. I enjoyed reading up on comparative religion and christian apologetics and enjoyed comparing different worldviews. But all that has faded much. Perhaps I was discouraged by a lack of tangible results and a general attitude of nonchalance among the people here. Eventually I tell myself, why cast precious pearls to people who don’t care.”
coming up next…..my recovery.
(This is part of my ongoing exercise on listening prayer. At the end of Day 4, we write a love letter to God expressing our heart. This is mine.)
You are the reason
hope is alive in my bleakest hour.
You are the inner buoyancy
that sustains my soul
when my circumstances are an utter shipwreck.
You are the motivation
to pick myself up and start again
when I fail to live up to the Christian ideal.
When I thought I have lost my innocence
when I lost faith in humanity,
when there is no one I can trust,
You are the one who help me
seek beauty among ashes.
Because of You
I have a reason for hope
and an excuse for celebration.
Form everlasting to everlasting,
You are my spring of living water.
In you I find my rest.
My good shepherd,
my faithful friend,
my perfect redeemer,
my wise Lord,
my constant comfort,
my fullnes of joy,
my hope everlasting,
I love you.
I am on Day 3 of a listening prayer exercise. Through Seth and Patti, I got connected with Kathy who is disciplining me on this journey. There is a workbook that we use (a gift from Seth) and Kathy helps me process my thoughts, encourages me and act as a sounding board to what I am hearing. We communicate through email and meet online once a week. I felt impressed to share some thoughts I have about Day 3 – on being in a personal relationship with Jesus.
Day 3 – I can recall times when I felt my conversation with God was most personal. Those were times when I could speak to God freely, on anything and everything, from the heart and without reservations. Still, I could do better by learning to wait for God to speak. That would be closer to a 2-way dialogue, a give-and-take kind of relationship. At the end of Day 3, there is a part about God being transcendent. I think this is the part that makes a 2-way relationship difficult and one of the key reasons why a personal relationship with Jesus can get tricky. Like what the book says, silence in a conversation usually feels awkward and oftentimes that is the main thing we hear. I once read a book by Philip Yancey – Reaching for An Invisible God, and can truly appreciate a life lived out in faith, trying to connect with a being who is beyond time and space. It is no wonder people outside think strangely of us believers who are practicing this personal relationship. I have a friend who was in a long distance relationship with her boyfriend for a few years. They eventually got married but unfortunately still living in different continents. I could see the struggle they went through to keep that relationship going. At least they have MSN and Skype to help. In any case, they could always pick-up the phone and hear an audible voice! Our relationship with God is the ultimate long distance relationship. Yet at the same time, God says His spirit lives in us. He is so close and yet so far! I think the Christian faith is truly extraordinary in so many ways. It is like trying to bridge a gap that separates two worlds – the spiritual and the earthly. The only link we have between the two is Jesus Christ – the God-Man. One either thinks it is all rubbish, a naive and foolish endeavor. Or we drop to our knees. But you know what, as much as we think we are trying to reach for God, the Bible says grace and truth CAME through Jesus Christ. God wants to reach out to us just as much, if not more! And He says… my sheep knows my voice. That ought to encourage us. I think God understands our predicament. He knows that is not easy for us. Hey, who knows, maybe it is not easy for God either! Imagine an all-powerful and all-knowing God trying to communicate with His fallible and limited creation. This is why I think He can be patient with us and has us covered in His grace.
Since the beginning of this new year, I keep hearing of how people around me are moving on to greater things, or at least are making plans to do so. Some are taking risk and challenging themselves to try something different. Some want to retire in 10 years and are looking for ways to make that happen. Some have plans to upgrade themselves to maintain a competitive edge. Some are fired up by motivational-self-help books to get their life back on track. Suddenly I feel a certain panic. I am turning 38 in a few weeks and have accomplished nothing by society’s standards. “What about you, what are you going to do about it?” seems to scream at me just about now. I could feel a sense of rising panic and voices telling me to catch up when I heard another voice, “Guard your heart. Let not your heart be troubled”. That stopped me in my tracks. I do not want this to be a “reaction” motivated by the fear of loosing out. I certainly do not want to end up laddering on someone else’s dream. Whatever my calling is, it should not require me to compromise on what is uniquely me. The only way to make the most of this rude awakening was to invite God into the picture. And so I did, knowing that everything else that follows will be filtered through his wisdom and love.
At about the same time, Seth Barnes, whose blogs had spoken to me in the past came to mind. With his wealth of experience in discipling and his passion for helping people reach their destiny, there must be something he can offer to help me along in this journey. We got in touch and together with another lady, Patti, they got me started on my journey. I spent two days pouring through blogs Seth had written in the past about dreaming and destiny. I even found some gems in the comments others left in his blog. Noted down everything that stirred my spirit, not fully knowing what they mean for me or where they lead yet. Basically just thinking and asking questions along the way. These are what I’ve got so far. Seth are Patti are guiding me over email as we go along. If you are a friend and a believer, do pray that God will make the path clearer with each step that I make towards Him. Perhaps you find the following resonate with your spirit as well. If they do, why not start your own journey?
- God’s dreams – dreams that build God’s kingdom.
- Besides missions and ministry, what else builds God’s kingdom?
- Emily’s dream of being a Hollywood actress. How is that a kingdom dream? How do we who are already on a conventional career path make it a kingdom dream?
- Must we always give up the conventional path?
- We come alive doing what we’re created to do. What makes me alive?
- There must be God-room in every dream. If he doesn’t show up, the dream won’t happen.
- Get the dream right. HOW?
- A good idea is worth doing badly.
- Fear constricts our heart.
- What shapes our dream – world’s needs, our passion (heart), our plan (head), our skills (hand)
- Dreams become clearer as we pursuit different impulses.
- Is it ok if you don’t know what you’re called to do but feel like you’ve been called to so something? Because I am not sure, which makes me wonder if I’m answering the call.
- Do I feel like I am where I am supposed to be or do I feel like I’ve been called to do something else?
- What legacy would I leave behind? Who have I been influencing or ministering to? How have I touched lives?
- Impact and legacy starts with listening – to God, to people we serve, to people whom we are accountable.
- Greatness = dependence on God > takes risks > unpredictable
- Turn off the noise your my life and seek God whole heartedly.
- Greatness has little to do with your competence.
- Read Steven Covey’s 8th habit.
- What is Jesus asking you to do?
- To follow Jesus is to be available to do impossible things.
- He may take us to places that are deep but have some familiarity. Eg, a relationship that is familiar but feels impossible. Reaching out to them may feel like deep water to us.
- God may want to deal with your heart before he has you extend your heart to others.
- Examples of deep waters:
bad habits that eventually define who you are (eg. too critical, too negative, too withdrawn)
reaching out to people different from you
- God wants to eventually move us and trust us with greater challenges that build his kingdom.
- God gave you a heart and passion for a reason. He expects you to listen to your heart and do not dismiss your passions.
- What is the my heart’s cry? Can I trust my heart? How will I know if it’s truly free from self-interest, fear or my ego?
- We don’t just fall into our highest and best in life. We often have to meander a little at first, fight and take mad risk along the way.
- The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
- God knows the plans he has for us. When we truly open our hearts to Him, He has us covered no matter what his dream is for us.
- We need to surround ourselves with a community of people who trust in his work.
- Trust in God’s timing.
I had the wonderful privilege of listening to Pastor Ray Bevan speak last night. He is the senior pastor of Kings Church in Newport, UK. Such a funny and lovable guy that one. It turns out that prior to his ministry, he was a member of a professional pop-rock band which was managed by the same people that managed the Beatles. He is a small man but my….he is BIG on humor, life and God. I was thrown off my feet when he opened his mouth and sang (to God) a modified version of Rod Stewart’s, Have I Told You Lately. Ahh…that voice and the sincerity that came through converted me all over again. I hope he will sing it for us again when we all get to Heaven one day.
As wonderful as the opening was, the meaty part of the night was his message about a God of second chances. It continues to bewilder me how the right messages come together at a time when I need to hear them most. Here are some notes I have taken last night.
Title: Building with Burnt Stones: There is no Plan B (God only has Plan A) Plan A here refers to our destiny. We are the burnt stones. God builds his purpose and his church with people who has been burnt by life, people who has messed-up.
- Do not disqualify yourself because of your failures.
- It is what happens inside you that matters not your failures.
- God recycles failures.
- Our failure is not an issue to God. Our pride is.
- God can handle your honesty.
- Never confuse consequence with judgment.
- Consequences can be a good teacher. Accept them, learn from them but don’t be condemned by them
- When God deals with you about your failures, he always deals with you confidentially. Just you and God alone. You don’t have to worry about other people’s opinion.
- The most essential thing to know if you want to be a recycled stone is to never underestimate the power of mercy.
- God re-routes you to get you back to Plan A.
- Christianity would be very easy if it’s not for our humanity
- God knows it is awfully slippery out there. He knows our humanity.
I’ve read many responses on the catastrophe in Haiti. This one from Seth Barnes tops them all (emphasis mine). I have been frustrated with things at home lately and struggled with unanswered prayers. None of them could be labelled tragedy, yet one of the first thing that came of my mouth in my rant to God was, why. It is a natural human response. It shows our humanity. But God calls us to something better, to set our vision higher.
Too often we Americans let our rational minds spin with speculative and convoluted proof-texting. And I want to say, “Can we just stop having to explain this God of ours in ways that bring our tiny minds a shabby and evanescent peace? Can we just let his response be the one that he took four chapters to give Job* starting with, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”
God help us when we go through our similar tragedy one day, be it through cancer or a car accident. We will have a choice, to bow at the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil and ask “Why?” Or, to bow at the tree of Life and worship. Let’s choose the latter, knowing that our God weeps for his children in Haiti. – from How God Feels about Haiti
Okay, so some Muslims in Malaysia is saying nobody else can use the world “Allah” to mean God in their religious text. Now, “Allah” is the Arabic translation for the word, God. So what is an Arab Christian to do? I did a search and found in Wikipedia that it is used by Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews. It is also interesting to note that it was also used by pagan Meccans as a reference to the creator-god, the supreme deity in pre-Islamic Arabia. Now, I can understand why some Muslims are upset. They are worried it might cause confusion among it’s people and why they could be mislead. It is because the concepts associated with the term “Allah” differs among the various traditions and they do not want their concept of “Allah” to be misrepresented by another faith.
If you ask me, I’d say, teach your people well in your own tradition. Build in them a strong foundation of your concept of “Allah”. You can even warn them that there are others out there with a different view. You can’t build a hedge around them and expect them to grow in faith. If you believe your concept of God is true and beautiful, your best defense is simply to make that known to your people and live in such a way that testifies to it. That way, they will not be easily seduced by any foreign ideas. If they do, it is only because you have failed.
Christians have had to deal with competing ideas of God for centuries and have taken it in their stride. Just think about all the Christian cults out there. Perhaps this is something Muslims can learn from. It’s not about the competition. It’s about strengthening your own forte.
Jesus asked his followers to leave everything for a season so they might learn to see with spiritual eyes. They went on a destabilizing journey that forced them to depend on God. Most of you have been on a journey like that of one sort or another………But there are other kinds of journeys that throw our lives out of balance and send us in God’s direction. The journey of divorce, the journey of unemployment, the journey of an extended illness. None are welcome, but God can use all of them to force us to depend on him……..I aspire to the kind of vision Paul describes in the first chapter of Ephesians: “your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what he is calling you to do…” But most of the time, I prefer the hazy vision that comes with a comfortable lifestyle. Most of us are comfort-seekers. We need something really important to pry us out of our recliners. – Seth Barnes
These were words in season for me. Honestly, I don’t think there will ever be a time when I don’t need to hear it. The entire post (which is really not that long) is worth reading. If you’re going though a time of change, this will encourage you to stay the course and look up! cos all is not lost. In fact, you might just become an even more brilliant star. <wink>
I just came home after a night spent at my church’s ministry meeting. I almost wanted to skip this, feeling rather tired after a long day at work. I am glad I went anyway. What I received tonight from our ministry leader not only refreshed me but also brought clarity to the struggle I am facing with Linda, the women I wrote about in the preceding post.
As I made my way to the meeting venue, my mind was already heavy with thoughts about what I have written about my encounter with Linda. I was cutting through the crowded CityLink Mall with my iPod on when I felt a sudden rush of emotion, a sense of “blessedness”, like someone is loving me right there and then. I wasn’t feeling very proud of myself after what I have written about my reluctance to get further involved with Linda. Yet I was reminded of how loved I am and I thought to myself, this is what I want Linda to have – to always feel loved, even when she least expects it. In that instance, I felt the reluctance fade a little and somehow….more ready.
When Deacon Sam spoke later that night, I knew it would be a word in season for me. It refocused my heart and mind again on the heart of serving, stripping away everything that is peripheral to it. Why do I serve? Because I love God. It is an expression of my love and worship. I can never give to God more than what He has given me. Because I love my Pastor. Through him, God has impacted my life in immeasurable ways, the very reason why I have that joy and hope still living in my heart today. Pastor has kept that flame alive. Because I love my church, my lifeline. Without her, every week would be such a drag. She is great today because she has some of the best leaders and pastors. The unity among them is admirable. Because I love the people that walk through its doors. I want for them the same life giving force that changed my life.
These are not directly linked to my incident with Linda but the motivation is the same for both. What is the meaning of serving if I can only serve God in one area and not another. What more when I know that above all things, God cares for individuals the most. In the end, there is really no excuse and I knew it.
Deacon Sam so rightly puts it, the only way we can serve God freely, with joy and not out of a sense of obligation is to know that God accepts us regardless. Our service to Him is not for His sake but for our own. It grows us. It enlarges us. It enriches us. I resolve then to mirror Deacon Sam’s attitude in the context of Linda’s case. God, if this is what You intend for me, give me the grace and for it so that it is not a struggle. If not, send somebody else. I am not responsible for the results, You are. If there is a challenge, You will meet it. I am just a tool in your hands.