Fruitless works

Doulos_fruit_blog

This weekend has been a very emotional one for me. It all started last night when the JF kids put together an amazing Praise Night. It was phenomenal. The Spirit of God was hovering, and I could just feel His presence. I know He was there. He told me that through it all (in the storms), His eyes are on me, not the other way around. It was also beautiful that in a praise night organized solely by the kids, God spoke to me in a way I haven’t had a chance to hear for a while. God truly uses all that is offered up to Him and I could sense God being pleased with this worship offering by the kids. Sure it wasn’t perfect but they gave Him their all. And I was so proud of the kids, and overwhelmed by the realization that this is our next generation! It also made me see how God blesses His people throughout generations. These are kids of aunties and uncles who have been faithfully serving in the church for decades.

However what really impacted me were the 4 sharings by the kids. They shared about their struggles and their walk with God and it was the struggles that really hit me. I cried during their sharing and I felt so sad as I listened to what they had gone through because I had no idea that that was happening. And then I felt a heavy sense of guilt and shame for not being there for the kids, for not being the one who got them out of it, for not being the one who said that one profound line that changed their life, for not even being the one that they felt that they could confide in. I have been noticing particularly this year that the kids don’t confide in me and are not as close as some were in previous years. Sometimes they would mention certain things when I probe but not often. And so it makes me feel like I should no longer be serving in this ministry as I’m not effective. Sure there’s the painful feeling of rejection but it’s not only that. It’s the realization that perhaps I’m not a fit there and that I don’t have the gift for this age group. That other people would be much better suited for it especially if the kids like them better. The issue isn’t just that there isn’t visible fruit in what I was doing, because if that’s it then I need to know that God is the one in charge of bearing the fruit. He kept reminding me of this verse as I struggled:

1Corinthians  3:5-8

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe-as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.

And also in Oswald Chamber’s wise words…

If you become a necessity to someone else’s life, you are out of God’s will. As a servant, your primary responsibility is to be a “friend of the bridegroom” (3:29). When you see a person who is close to grasping the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been used in the right direction. And when you begin to see that person in the middle of a difficult and painful struggle, don’t try to prevent it, but pray that his difficulty will grow even ten times stronger, until no power on earth or hell could hold him away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we try to be amateur providences in someone’s life. We are indeed amateurs, coming in and actually preventing God’s will and saying, “This person should not have to experience this difficulty.” Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, our sympathy gets in the way. One day that person will say to us, “You are a thief; you stole my desire to follow Jesus, and because of you I lost sight of Him.”

John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

(My utmost for His highest)

So it is not up to me and I need to stop thinking that it is by my works.

But this incident made me ponder upon why I needed to feel needed and confided in. This need to make an impact. Why is it that I want to be the one to help these kids out of their slumps and be that profound saviour in their lives? Is it because of pride? Since I know that it’s not me who is doing that work but that it is God, perhaps I’m afraid that I have not been letting myself to be used by God. Or that God isn’t using me and so I’m afraid.

If I felt that God wasn’t using me in this ministry, the guilt really stemmed from the feeling that I wasn’t doing enough, and that I wasn’t trying hard enough with the kids. Am I not or am I just not fitted for this role? I feel like thinking that I’m just not fitted for this role and so leaving the ministry is easy to do whereas the other is much more painful. It looks deep into this guilt, and that is hard but necessary because it is going to turn up again, especially because my job is of a similar nature. So perhaps I’m afraid that my works will get tossed in the fire because I didn’t do them well and that I really haven’t been trying hard enough. I was burnt out for a good first half of the year, and while I feel like I did what I could, sometimes I took the easy road out, especially when I’m tired. And so perhaps I am still looking to my works for God to be pleased with me. Perhaps I’m still trying to earn my way into heaven. But what happens when what you do has no impact? I guess I’m worried that God will not be pleased with me and what I do because it’s not good enough.

As I try to navigate where I stand in JF as well as my career as an advisor, I need to penetrate deep down into my own motivations and desires. I want to be that friend who opens up the roof to bring my friend to Jesus. But at the same time, why do I want that? Is that so I can feel good about myself? Or is it truly because I want to bring my friends/students/kids to the feet of Jesus and say, look to Him, Jesus is all you need, not me. And so when I am not doing enough, because this guilt is warranted by the fact that I know I have not been doing enough, and that I will never do enough, how does the grace of Christ set me free? My works should not be done out of guilt, but out of deep gratitude towards Jesus and what He has already done for me.

And perhaps that’s truly what I’ve been struggling with.

Unfulfilled longings

This spoke to me in a very timely manner. Here’s an excerpt:

Yet here, perhaps, we confuse suppression and sanctification. Unbridled, our longings can destroy us, but if we destroy them, we also destroy a part of the image of God affirmed in creation. Is there a better way?

Lean into your longing and reclaim desire as a gift, but let it drive you toward action, connection, and service—not desperation or despair. – Captari, 2016

http://www.boundless.org/faith/2016/living-well-with-unsatisfied-longings

Marching through the dark.

image.jpeg

See the suns gone we can’t see where we are, are we fools for marching through the dark?
And though the light’s gone, we can’t be very far-yes, the fools are marching through the dark

The wise man said give up your fight
That hope is for fools and he’s right
But I won’t give up, no I won’t give up

If we hold on, and though we carry scars, God is with us marching through the dark
Turn the light on, and hope will bring us far-yes the fools are marching through the dark

So turn the light on, cuz home is not too far. God is with us marching through the dark.

Fools marching – Tim be told.

Stories


imageToday I shared a bit of my testimony in front of the English congregation and it was terrifying. At the same time, I was very excited and felt tremendously blessed to be able to share. Whenever we are pushed outside of our comfort zones, and into something that is frightening, God takes that experience and allows us to get to know Him better through it. Today’s experience was just that. I was scared and my voice shook involuntarily, but I am changed yet again. And I am blessed to be able to add another experience with God to my memory and repertoire.

Everyone has a story, and it is through the sharing of these stories that you get to understand a person better. A testimony is a type of story; it is a person’s faith story. Through the lens of their faith, we get to understand the person…and yet at the same time, the sharing of a faith story should also help you understand God better. I think that’s often the difficulty when it comes to sharing my faith story: how can I make this story not about me, even though the events themselves are centered around me? At any rate, it was my attempt to do just that, and to share with others the God that I have come to know:

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with gaining acceptance and approval from other people. I think most people can relate to this to some degree, but there’s a reason for calling mine an obsession. I think it started when I was just a kid. I have a younger sister and she was super cute, and people would keep telling her how she was so cute and gave her lots of attention, and as the older sister, I would always feel unwanted. I didn’t like those feelings-I wanted people to like me too, and I craved their attention. When I got slightly older, I realized quickly that I was able to make people like me by being nice, and I loved the feeling of having people like me. So I became obsessed with what people thought about me and what I can do to be accepted.

This worked for a long time, I had lots of friends and I felt pretty good about myself. Until I moved to Canada when I was in Grade 11. Suddenly my world was shattered because I lost all my friends. I had a really hard time adjusting when I first came here: making friends in Canada is pretty different from where I grew up, I didn’t know how to make people like me, my accent was different, and I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. School was painful and I literally didn’t have a single friend for almost a year. However, it was during this painful period that God taught me that I was looking for acceptance in the wrong places. I had to rely on Him and He became more real to me. I had known God from before, I had gone to church since I was a baby and I had decided that I believed in Him when I was 13. But I was always too busy with school and friends, and I didn’t really have time to get to know Him personally. Until I moved to Canada. Because I didn’t have anyone else to talk to, God became my constant and only companion. Even though sometimes I felt like I was just talking to myself, I held on to the trust that He heard me. I remember vividly one day I was walking to school and I was feeling super depressed and just so lonely. I was crying out to God saying, “God, I’m always alone, no one cares! Do You even care?” By the time I walked to school, I was emotionally drained because I cried so much. I opened my locker and saw an encouragement card that I had stuck there when I got my locker, and the first thing I read was “You are never alone”. From that moment on, I would always recall this instance every time I wondered if God was real and if He truly loved me.

Fast forward a couple of years. I started making some friends in Canada and getting to know some people. You know what happens. I get what I want and God gets put on the back burner once again. I continued to be obsessed with getting people to like me and making friends, instead of being content with His presence alone. Whenever I was lonely, I would turn to Him, but my heart would still be set on how not to be lonely and I would keep asking God for help. Then when I had friends, I would forget God. I still went to church, but He was never number one in my life. Getting people to like me was still number one. But God would remind me over and over again that acceptance from others was only temporary, that my self-worth was built on very shaky ground. He is the only one who can satisfy my craving in a perfect manner. Because He will never disappoint, He will never change, and He has already given up His son in order for me to belong to Him! I needed to stop looking to other people for what God has already given me.

It took many instances and years after for me to actually realize that. When I look back in my life, I see that God was constantly chasing after my heart to give me life. Whenever I was far away from Him, He would send people to speak truth back into my life. And slowly, I desired to know Him. Instead of caring so much about what others thought about me, I realized that maybe my life should not be centered around me. I started to put my focus on learning more about the God who has never given up on me. In time I learnt that He is a God who is truly in control and in all things He works for the good of those who love Him, even things that were painful. After I graduated, through another series of God-led events, I got a job working as an international student specialist at The King’s University. Now I counsel international students and help them as they adapt to Canada. And because it’s a Christian university, I can openly pray with them through their loneliness, and I get to tell them about the God who got me through something very similar.

And even now, God is still molding my heart to be one that is after His. I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the loss of my first love for Him. Because I’ve been chasing after knowledge and wisdom, I have lost sight of what it means to love God and to love others. This chance to share my testimony came as a surprise as I didn’t feel like I had an experience significant enough to share. Yet it gave me the opportunity to recall my journey with God and what He has done for me in the past. It’s a very God-like thing for Him to do, to use this as a way to reignite my love for Him. And I am so thankful that He isn’t done with me yet.

Grand earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And through it all, through it all
It is well
And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And it is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

Bethel Music – It Is Well Lyrics | MetroLyrics

When those who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight. The energy intended to be used outside is used inside, the result is explosive. Instead of casting nets, we cast stones. Instead of extending helping hands, we point accusing fingers. Instead of being fishers of the lost, we become critics of the saved. Rather than helping the hurting, we hurt the helpers. (Max Lucado)

We are saved to be fishers of men. Are we fishing or fighting?