Trust: How I Go, How I Come

March 26, 2015 Leave a comment

Without exception, every time I’ve spent extended time with a long-term missionary I’ve left saying, “I want to be like them.” I see their courage, their realness, their heart, their faith…and I want it for myself. The tough part of admitting that however, is that I don’t want their life. Their life is hard. They operate at an entirely different level of stress, they face so many losses and goodbyes, they suffer physically, their children face unique challenges – the list goes on and on. I’ve only had a taste of it from my time in Singapore. Yet, multiple times I’ve wondered how I’d be able to operate under even more traumatic conditions. I don’t have a comprehensive checklist. But, I have learned that there are two essential truths about God that must be held hand-in-hand if the going is to ever be worth it. God’s worthiness, which ensures my allegiance. And His love, which compels me to trust Him.

Both truths are so essential for this kind of life. When I left for Singapore, I was very one-sided with my way of thinking: “God is God, I am man – obviously God deserves my obedience. So go!”  I’m so glad that I revere Christ like this, but it can be problematic. Jesus isn’t only my King…He is also my Brother, Friend, & Savior. You see, viewing God in this one dimension put a lot of pressure on me. It made me think that I can’t fail or disappoint God. It made me question His goodness when life in Singapore was truly miserable. Yes, it made me serve, surrender, and go – but it also brought a lopsided approach to my Christian walk. I didn’t realize this issue until April 2014 (Yes, over a year into life in Singapore).

Retreat GroundsI was at my first Silent Retreat. The theme was Romans 12:1-2 which says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Immediately, I felt bothered by our theme. I wasn’t sure why, but at least I noticed how ugly of a reaction I had to the passage. That night, I discovered the reason for my angst. I didn’t like someone telling me to be a sacrifice again. I didn’t like the idea of doing God’s “perfect will”. I’ve obeyed this passage already – many times in fact – and I couldn’t see much good come from it. That night, I sorrowfully wrote in my journal, “I don’t trust God.

The next day I was reading Psalm 84. The final verse says…

O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

I was really confused as to why the Psalmist would conclude with that statement. It didn’t seem necessary. The whole Psalm is rather happily written. It about enjoying the presence of God; about loving the place that God is at. Nothing bad seems to be happening…so why is trust so important here? Wisdom came after some meditation. You see, my walk with God had changed a lot since college days. I went from having a daily time of studying God’s word to studying it once a month. I went from praying daily to crying because I simply had no words to say to God. I went from experiencing authentic, regular fellowship to being alone (even when I was around people). It didn’t happen over night, but it all snowballed after only a couple of months into life in Singapore. I had been telling myself that I just needed a routine – that I just needed discipline and then I’d be back to normal. But, what I really needed was to believe that God was good and that God loved me.

(v2) My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord

(v4) Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise

(v10) For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere

These are just a few of the verses in Psalm 84. What a contrast to my current life. If I trusted God, then I would come to Him. Nobody longs to take refuge in a place that isn’t safe. The same is true for us and God. For the first time I saw that trust is not only required for taking steps of faith. It’s required for the simple, daily, secret times too. 

God is worthy of my life, of my sacrifices. He is especially worthy, however, of those tender moments when there is nothing to offer except my trust. One thing I am sure of is that those vulnerable, at times awkward minutes and hours of just coming before God are a powerful statement of faith.

With trust I go out for Him; with trust I come before Him til’ the end of my days. 

Singapore: The Place for Us

February 27, 2014 1 comment

As I mentioned, when leaving America many people were keen to let me know that needs existed at home, too. They were confused as to why I’d have to leave & go so far just to meet needs in the world. Oddly, when we arrived in Singapore people were (and are!) confused as to why would would come. “So, why are you here exactly?”; “But there are already many Christian ministries on the campuses…”; “But, we are a sending church…we are who is sending missionaries out…” At times these questions were asked out of curiosity & genuine interest. However, more than once I felt that we seemed unnecessary to them. In other words, people were saying, “The Christians here are doing just fine, shouldn’t you be doing what you do somewhere more needy than here?” (Again, people didn’t say this so directly, but the confusion does make you wonder “why here” again)

After plenty of reflection, I believe that Singapore is indeed the place for us to be because of theological, personal, national, and global reasons.

Marina Bay

The undergirding reasons are theological. Just as Abraham left in Genesis 12, Jesus coming as a servant, like Phillip in Acts 8, or Paul traveling place to place – when God sends it is for a purpose. The place is not insignificant, the people are not insignificant, the cause is not insignificant. After a series of events and steps of obedience we landed in Singapore. God is sovereign and God is in control of chance (Proverbs 16:33). I fully believe that if we shouldn’t be in Singapore, then we wouldn’t be.

Next, we should be here for the sake of our own personal development. Singapore is  an excellent launching country. People can easily learn many cultures & languages that could prepare them to go on to somewhere else. Plus, Christianity is already established in Singapore. In fact, there are at least 600 churches in this little country! I am so thankful for an opportunity that doesn’t just make me give, give, give. I also receive countless life lessons, focused training, and knowledge during our stay here.

Further, having many establishments doesn’t mean less needy…just different needs. This country is excellent at first impressions – upon arriving it’s hard to see any issues at all! But, reality is there are still poor, lonely, and misguided people even here. According to Joshua Project there is quite a lot of work to be done in here! Not only in terms of spiritual needs, but also emotional needs. I’ve had the privilege of befriending students that have shared with me societal pressures they face, sexual abuse, broken family history, and doubts in God. I may not be able to meet a TON of needs in Singapore, but I can love a few people and meet needs such as leadership development, life-coaching, friendship, Bible study training, and teaching english. Also, what could I possible offer a developing country??? I have zero skills in medicine, agriculture, or architecture. But..that’s another topic. Financial prosperity does not solve the hurts here – in fact, it may perpetuate them – but love and kindness goes a long way.

worldwide

And lastly, seeking the good of this country ultimately multiplies the redemption that can happen worldwide. Like I said earlier, this is an excellent country for sending people out. A huge reason for this is also because of the high number of foreigners that stay here. The nations are in Singapore! No need to look far! If the people who move here experience a wondrous change in their life, then they will one day return to their home country and promote Christ & love there too.

Although Danny and I don’t intend on spending our life in Singapore, it’s not because it wouldn’t be well worth it. Most foreigners only pass through SG, because like I said, it prepares you for the rest of Asia quite well. Plus, the locals are established in the faith and able to evangelize & love their neighbors. However, it isn’t likely that 600 churches could care for all 5 million people! God has redeemed so much in this nation, but there are many lives in need of something beyond a materialistic or moral aspiration -they’re in need of eternal security & joy in Christ.

I’m glad to be here while God has me here. (Btw, It took me MONTHS to be able to say that!) In future posts, I’ll share more about our adjustment & accalamation to this lovely little country.

 

Why Did I Move to Singapore?

January 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Why did I move to Singapore? What a loaded question! “Why” questions usually are.

Opportunity. Commandment. Calling. Passion. World Needs. Adventure. Vision.

I suppose all of these words could be used to describe the reasons behind my leaving the USA…but all of these words are so vague or broad, that really anyone could say them about nearly any mission they go on. But, why did I move to Singapore? Why specifically did God want me there? I must say, I didn’t know that answer until December 2012 (I flew off January 2013!) and I’m still unpacking it more and more each day.

226125_10150328033615490_1949481_n

Some Background:

When Danny and I got engaged and discussed this opportunity to minister to college students in Singapore (SG), I was on board. Why not, right? Single or married, I’d be on the mission field, somewhere, doing something…that’s about all I knew. Now, we had already gone on a short-term mission trip (STM) to SG a year earlier. And I didn’t leave ever expecting (or hoping) to return. I was glad to have the experience, but didn’t have any emotional high or burdened heart for the country after leaving. So, my willingness to return and live there wasn’t based on emotions so much as it was on purpose.

When you are planning to move overseas to do “good work” a common objection from family and even random strangers is “Don’t we need help here, too?!” Honestly, during our journey to leave we talked with people who were either excited or confused. I didn’t understand what was confusing until our wedding rehearsal dinner. During that dinner, many friends shared rather touching appreciations and thanksgivings about us and our life with them. That was the first time that I saw how much I had in America. I had multiple amazing friends, job opportunities, a supportive family, potential homes & land, education opportunities, & a loving husband to build a life with… honestly, my life couldn’t have gotten much better or more fulfilling. That was when I first realized that my commitment to leave all of that for a place that I knew very little about is kind of crazy.

Commitment & Surrender

So, I began to wonder…why shouldn’t we just do the same thing here…there are students who need Christ here, too…and then a deeper issue surfaced. I asked, “Is the Christian life meant to be more about our commitment to Jesus or our surrender to Him?” I really believe that our most genuine commitments to Christ are in context of our surrendering to Him. True, I can do very similar work in America, but what does it cost me to do that? There is little room to surrender anything if I had stayed.

“…count the cost…any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14)

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—” (Phil. 6)

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 16)

What is a common theme in the verses? The giving up of our life for Jesus! So, aside from having an opportunity, a biblical commandment, a calling, passion, etc… I was going to Singapore, because God was going to lay in me a foundation of surrender. My oh-so-mighty comfort idol was to be ripped up and thrown out! That’s a pretty intimidating thought to have as you board an airplane heading to Asia…“Me leaving, will be the start of releasing all that is too dear to me, in order that I may be a willing, surrendered, servant for my Lord Jesus.”

I hope to share more about this journey of becoming surrendered in future posts. All questions and comments are appreciated.

I am Guilty: No More Finger Pointing

March 26, 2013 3 comments

Until recently, I have never realized how rare it is that I say, “I messed up.”, “I am to blame.”, “I choose to do it.”, “I am guilty.”

Just like Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:11-13, I play the “Blame Game”. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, He approached each of them as individuals. He questioned Adam, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”, then Eve, “What is this that you have done?” And their response “The woman you gave me ate it!”, “The serpent deceived me! (paraphrased)” Finger Pointers.

By approaching them individually, God demonstrated that He holds one accountable for one’s own decisions (not for the circumstances or decisions of others)!

I’m sure I’ve been this prideful my whole life, but through marriage both God and Danny are exposing my eagerness to spread the blame & not take full responsibility. This shocked me at first, for I’ve always been “mature for my age” and “responsible”, etc. But, just because I try to do right in life, doesn’t mean I’m exempt from the responsibility when I do harm others or myself.

Lies I tell myself to cover-up my actions (such as fits of anger, overspending, a sharp tongue, etc):

  • You messed up first!
  • You made me do it!
  • I’m stressed – don’t expect me to act as if I’m not!
  • I have a right to be comfortable  & its not happening!
  • I tried to prevent this from happening!
  • What I did isn’t that bad!

The twisted part of in all of this, is many times my shift of blame may be true & accurate. Go back to Adam and Eve: God did give Adam the woman, she did eat the fruit, & the serpent did deceive her. They didn’t lie…per se, The fact that we can redirect attention to someone else and it be valid makes it so much easier to do so. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be the victim? The victim doesn’t have to fix something. The victim doesn’t have to repent. The victim is, well, innocent – right?

Today, I decide that it is better NOT to be the victim. It is better for me to be a guilty sinner. For, if I am at fault, forgiveness is near! Redemption is near! Glory is coming for me! The Scripture promises us in 1 John 1:9 that,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If I perceive that I’m not guilty, then I will not confess my sin. If I believe that I don’t need to confess anything, I suppose I also believe that I don’t need forgiveness from a righteous Judge…

But how foolish it would be of me to stand before the holy & just God who even clarifies in James 2:10 that,

…whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

How foolish it would be to stand before Him and say, “But, I am innocent… Oh, those times I messed up were because they were sinners, not me.”

I want to be humble. I want to be wrong when I’m wrong. I want to experience Christ’s abundant grace. I want to be the first to confess. I want to fess up even if no one else does. I want to be blamed, so that I can become blameless.

Personal Symbolic Rituals: A Way to Inspire Stewardship & Surrender

February 5, 2013 3 comments

I have been reading a book by Pastor Edmund Chan, titled Cultivating Your Inner Life: Reflections on Spiritual Formation in Discipleship Today. The most recent chapter described features of “toxic spirituality” and one example was Rituals without Reality. In it, he discussed the value of rituals such as Communion & Baptism, but also some of his personal rituals. An example of a personal ritual is when he offers up his watch to God as he prays to represent his desire to steward his time to God’s glory. timex watch

I began reflecting on ways to enjoy prayer through symbolism, too. I thought about  items I own or see on a regular basis that represent something that is of great value to me. So far, I have thought of seven items and I hope that when I see them, I’ll be reminded to keep this value surrendered to Christ’s lordship.

  1. My wrist watch: This represents my time & schedule. I hope that seeing this during the day reminds me to steward my time in a godly way (Ephesians 5:17).
  2. My cellphone: This symbolizes both my speech & my relationships. I can be short & sharp with my words so I hope that pulling my phone out helps me to pray continually that I’d be a woman who “opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (prov. 31:25). Secondly, I want to value my relationships and steward them well, but not be controlled by them by needing the approval of others (Gal. 1:10).
  3. Photo of Danny in my wallet: I see this photo throughout the day and I want to remember that my marriage is of highest importance for it is what displays the gospel to the world (Eph. 5).
  4. My tennis shoes: To me, my shoes represent Vision & Enthusiasm/Passion. I want to be a woman who has a contagious energy about her. I want to continually walk with God and move forward in mission (Isaiah 50:5-7). nike
  5. A pocket mirror: This item brings my mind to 2 values. First, to the verses that describe Character, “Strength & dignity are her clothing” & “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (prov. 31:25,30)”. Second, it reminds me that God is enthralled by my beauty (ps. 45:11) especially because when he looks on me he sees a Bride, blameless & holy (Eph. 5).
  6. My writing pen: This symbolizes my thoughts and ideas. I am far too protective & prideful of them.I want to surrender my thoughts so that I will be obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), rather than being opinionated or insightful. This also inspires me to have protected time of just thinking, reflecting, and evaluating so that my inner self is at peace, not in chaos.
  7. Cash/ Debit card: My money represents my possessions. When I see this I want to ask God to steward my purchase to His glory, not just to my comfort.

For now, I just want to practice prayer when I see these items. But, maybe in the future I will symbolically lay them before Jesus when I see my hand (heart) is holding them a bit too tightly. Maybe for you, it is a textbook for your studies, a pacifier to symbolize parenting, a house key to represent your household/home. Whatever it is that you find precious, I challenge you to practice surrender and stewardship in that area. If you lead a smal group, it may be a neat idea to ask your members to bring in an item that they are wanting to steward well for God this year. Hopefully, this is a private, active way to help your mind release to the Lord what already belongs to Him.

 

God Values the Family

January 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Over the past few weeks God has been stirring in me a new value for the Family Unit. God started to solidify this value at Campus Outreach’s Christmas Conference in Jacksonville, FL. Two speakers briefly mentioned the family in their seminars.

Sandra Hearon spoke at the Women’s Rally on the topic of feminism. Using Deuteronomy 5:16 she explained that your family is who will still be around you when you’re old. She rebuked us softly in how we relate to our parents, siblings, and relatives. College students in America can focus so much on relationships with each other that we hardly fight to honor our family. And I thought to myself that the weak family relationships may be why even strong students of the faith struggle to walk with God so much after they graduate – they’re around people who hardly know them and visa verse. So, even if they have a desire to share and show Christ to their family, they can’t because their simply isn’t a common ground between them (if not even deeper unresolved family issues).

Then, Eric Mason gave a seminar that included different models of discipleship: (1)Air-strike -or classroom style, (2) Ground – or one-on-one discipleship, (3) The family, (4) Ministry teams, (5) a Christian community. When discussing the Family model he referred to Psalm 127 and recognized that this unit is the first ever discipleship community and is also the main place that discipleship takes place.

To, me this speaks VOLUMES. Here is what these truths should form in my life (and hopefully any Christian’s life):

1. I should take an active role in protecting the family unity because it is God’s plan for bringing redemption. With 1/2 marriages ending in divorces, with most people living together instead of choosing to be married, with pornography making its way into the family’s home, with promiscuity rampant amongst young singles, with fatherless homes, with gay rights activists uprooting the family design, with radical feminism destroying the value of selflessness, with the elderly not receiving visits or care from their children, with adultery, with grandparents raising grandchildren, abortion, and so on and so on…..ALL of this is a DIRECT offense to God’s plan of redemption through the family. So, find an organization to volunteer with, adopt a child, serve in the church nursery, babysit, receive church discipline, go to marriage counseling, have family meals together, be vulnerable and honest with your small group, consider homeschooling, develop a Christian worldview on these specific issues, etc. Find where you fit to help the family (not just your family).

2. I should aim to have a large family made up of many children! Psalm 127 says, “Behold children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are children of one’s youth, Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Can you imagine being in battle with only 2 or 3 arrows? Children are meant to be sent out into the world to “make disciples of all nations.” The Muslim community knows this. Islam is the largest religion in the world right now and a huge reason for that is because they have HUGE families! Christians are too conservative…we want things too controlled…too systematic. I’m not guaranteed that each child will come to Christ and live for him – but I can pray for them, train them, and release them into the world trusting in God’s power and redemptive purpose being fulfilled through my family.

3. Following #2, if possible, we must marry young enough to have children! Obviously, we aren’t all going to be married, nor will we all be married in our 20’s. BUT if God has introduced you to your future spouse don’t postpone marriage until after you have all your junk together such as a house, financial investments, a nice car, a good career, and the ideal magazine wedding. Yes, be responsible – but live by faith and trust that two is better than one. Keep in mind that if God has called you to marry someone, you’re being disobedient by not getting married.

4. Make the most of family time. Don’t be content with being near each other (geographically) and not emotionally or relationally. Some ideas: Be thoughtful about how time is spent when family visits, cultivate family traditions (especially for holidays), have fun together, have father-daughter dates, start learning to talk on deeper levels than just business matters, be the first one to apologize and repent. I don’t know, look up some good ideas on Pinterest :).

I hope that no matter what age you are and no matter what your current relationship status says, that this post inspires you to care about the family. And thus, I hope that you ask the Lord how YOU can serve and protect not just your family, but all of God’s families.

 

 

Multiply Movement: Review of the Gathering

November 12, 2012 1 comment

WOW! Talk about being charged and strengthened. Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love, and David Platt, author of Radical, joined together over the past year to start a movement that spurs on disciple-making. This weekend they hosted their first conference or “Gathering” in Birmingham, AL and San Fransisco, CA. Danny and I had a couple people over both nights to hear about their vision with Multiply.

I want to urge everyone to scurry around their website. Their podcast will still be available for the next 30 days so sit back, listen, and and let the Spirit move you towards being a disciple-maker.

Highlights from the Seminar

I really just want to highlight some great points and quotes from the conference in hopes that it will challenge you to join in on disciple-making – no matter what phase of life you are in!

  • This movement is not anti-church or anti-small group, but if those things are not leading to making disciples; we’re missing the whole point!
  • Discipleship is not doing Bible studies with other Christians!
  • To be a disciple of Jesus and to make disciples of Jesus is a command from Jesus himself. It is a big deal to disobey a command of Jesus, for he has all authority.
  • We make disciples because Jesus has all authority and therefore He is worthy of each person’s worship & praise!
  • Problem: Pastors say it is their job to just teach their people to go share. While, the church says that it is the pastor’s job to share the gospel. We are in a cycle of disobedience and must lay excuses aside and realize that we are all responsible for the Great Commission being fulfilled!
  • We must have a mindset that we receive in order to reproduce.
  • Unity is an outcome from being on mission with other people.
  • “Why did GOD supernaturally put His Spirit into you? (Each believer literally has God’s power inside him, WHOA!) To sit in a pew? To attend a worship service?”
  • Final Challenge: Make a list of whoever is in your sphere of influence who does not know Jesus or does not have vision for disciple-making. Then, share the gospel with them all in a pursuit to make 1 disciple this year.

Personal Confessions

Dear Jesus,

The past two months I’ve been more proud of advertising discipleship than actually doing discipleship. Please, make me an authentic disciple-maker; one who pursues and loves people no matter what my context is. Yes, keep me faithful to the campus. But, lead me to my neighbors, family, and other regulars in the coffee shop! I want to be intentional, not passive; I want to be courageous, not fearful; I want to be like Jesus, not religious.  Lead me to making a constant effort by prayer, word, and deed to make disciples for Jesus all over the world.

In the Lord Jesus’ name,

Amen