When God Answers Prayer

One of my goals this summer holiday was to write a blog post / life update – not just for all the people out there that care about what’s happening to me – but as a form of thanksgiving to God.

Today I felt the urge to write after I read the featured article on Desiring God.com. Definitely a nice reminder – a recommended reading: “When God Messes With Your Life Plan” (click to read here)

Life plans and I have always had an awkward relationship. 

I enjoy running. Mostly on my elliptical. But on some days when I’m feeling adventurous, I like to run out on the tarmac alongside many of Ma Wan’s running community (and at night, there are MANY). Only, whenever I choose to do so I am reminded of how incredibly awkward it is to see the same familiar faces “waving” at me as they pass by. I always have this “yes-no-maybe” reaction to whether I should wave back or not. Weird. Awkward.

I’ve never had a “life plan” per se. Not for lack of wanting. By nature, I am a fixated person. I tend to focus on details, one thing at a time (which means: multi-tasking is NOT my forte). The longest “life plan” I have is for the next couple of months. Why? Because. 

When I was 13, my youth pastor told us to pray for God to show us his plan for our lives. We closed our eyes and began to pray. I prayed in earnest that day. There was nothing I wanted more – nothing that appealed to my personality more – than to KNOW what God wanted for my life. So I prayed and I cried and I cried and I prayed.

After that meeting, everyone was talking about visions they had seen – and years after the fact, some of those people DID actually see those visions come to pass. But on that day, I was surprisingly quiet. Because. God showed me nothing. 

Not to say that God never shows me anything. God does speak to me.

When I was 16, I was desperate for God to “speak” to me. I even went so far as to go to a prophetic conference. That day, I stayed at the back – I closed my eyes and waited if there would be a word for me. And it came…

At that moment, the “words” didn’t matter so much  (note: I still have it on cassette tape – if only, I could find a cassette player on which to play it HAHAHA). It didn’t matter because God had answered my prayer for affirmation — he touched me.

Some of you remember a little over five years ago, when I decided for my 25th birthday to change from being called “Agatha” (my first name) to “Xaris” my second name. What you may not know is that this came about because of a dream I got. In it, God impressed on me that I should go by “Xaris”. I had to learn to live by grace, to know what it means to truly be good (Agatha). So yeah, that wasn’t my idea. He incepted me (LOL).

A little over a year ago, I found myself on a weird pilgrimage to Israel.

I came, because I could – I had the means, I had the availability. But mostly because I was in need. I was turning 30 and I had no idea what to do with my life. I went to Israel hoping that God would speak to me. A sycamore tree attempt, if you will.

So anyways, there were only two things I knew I wanted to do there. One, I was going to get baptized at Jordan River and two, I was going to pray at the Wailing Wall/Western Wall.

When we got to the Wall, I prayed. I told God, “I’m turning thirty this year. I have finished most of the things I wanted for myself in the past decade. I finished and paid for my education. I have a job that I love and enjoy. I am active and serving at church. Now what? I’m ready for what’s next. Even Jesus began his ministry at 30, please tell me that something new is coming in my life as well. You have to do something. Please…”

And just as when I was 13, I cried as I prayed in desperation – and God said nothing. 

A pigeon did end up pooping on me though. The Jews around me told me that this was a sign of good luck. That God had answered my prayer. I was… unimpressed.

Today is Day 8 of my Annual Cleanse and today I realised:

God did answer my prayer.

Shortly after coming back from Israel, I signed up for my first theology course – studying under my own father as a professor. There, I affirmed that I was my father’s daughter in more ways than one. I took to theological study like fish. After that, I signed up for and passed the Exhorter’s exam. Now, people call me P.X. – short for Pastor Xaris (because the title “Pastor” still makes me cringe). I’ve begun to regularly preach at the pulpit of my Church – something that I still struggle with every time. What can a woman say to a church of 98% women? Surprisingly a lot. But that’s another blogpost for another day.  And OH, my parents are finally moving on from Hong Kong which means that by the end of 2016, I will live all by myself for the first time in my entire life.

If that isn’t complete life change, I don’t know what is.

God answers prayer. It’s not a question of if but when.

Sometimes the answer is definite – he speaks, he shows, he reveals. Other times, it is subtle – he beckons, he whispers, he touches. But most of the time, at least for me, he is silent. But even then, he is working.

Because we know God will always answer, all the more we must respond in faith and hope.

Faith looks to God not only for affirmation that what we’re doing is right but looks to him in supplication for every single aspect of life. And no, it isn’t coincidence that supplication shares a root-word with “supply”. We put our faith in him because he is our supply, our source.

Hope. Isn’t that why people have “life plans?” People make plans because they hope their plans will get them where they want. They hope that by building up the resolve to accomplish something, it will happen – maybe? hopefully?

But a Christian hopes because he/she is built on the assurance of God’s sovereignty. We put our hope in his plan, his providence and his power. We may not see it, we may not understand the hows, whys or whens, but we grow to learn that nothing stands in his way.

Perhaps, life plans are overrated. Especially, if those life plans are built on yourself. But In Christ, we have the Ultimate Life-Coach who not only has a plan, but the power to make all those plans work. That’s what it means to live in Christ everyday.

Thank you for reading this far in. If you have, please keep me in your thoughts and prayers. This year is only the beginning. And while I am scared, I am also excited to see what’s next. This is what I prayed for AND MORE. God has answered in a way that is beyond what I could ever imagine for myself.

I pray with all sincerity that God does the same for you.

Let us continue to expect great things from God and continue to attempt great things as well – for the glory of His name.

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Reflections: End of the Detox 2014

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“…things always get worse before they get better…”

That’s the quote that best describes what happens during my detoxes.

Oh, most “detox survivors” (hehe) will happily tell you the euphoric experience that is THE END of the detox. The end almost makes up for the shizznit that they just subjected themselves to. Almost. 

By day three, I find myself asking, “Why do I do this to myself? Why?!” Still, I press on – reminding myself of what I know is waiting for me — in the end. But this year, it didn’t get better after Day 3 – “THE worst day” supposedly. No, it most definitely got worse.

Abstinence from food gives you time. Time that gives you sensitivity to the other things that clog and clutter up your life. This year, I threw out a lot of things, arranged a few more, bought some (okay, a lot more) and brainstorming ideas for storage. Its even carried on to the rest of the house. Such fun!

After so many days spent on the porcelain throne (brown gunk coming out of you), you begin to think on other things in your life that might as well be categorised as faecal (i.e. sh*t).

Trite as it may sound, things started getting better once I heard the sermon at Church on “Knowing God” and decided to renew my commitment to spending quality time with God. So, one morning, I found myself soaking in meditation, reading His Word. I was especially invigorated when I found that the devotional was hooking up with the text that I had been fixated on (since Sunday) — Philippians 3 — “to know Him and the power of His resurrection”

That morning, I was surprised by the depths of my hunger – spiritual hunger that is. People often ask me how I am able to sleep on an empty stomach during the cleanse. I tell them, after three days, your stomach goes “dormant” – hunger is forgotten. When you start breaking the fast, your body starts to remember and hunger is “rediscovered”.

Well, that morning, my spirit rediscovering hunger – how long its been starving? I hate to imagine.

God speaks and I usually take to weeping.Tears came and it felt like so much crap was coming out of me. As I poured out my heart to God, he began to fill me…

What’s the difference when a non-Christian goes on a cleanse/detox and when a true believer goes on a fast?

A cleanse/detox/fast all have an element of abstinence. A non-Christian will feel “loss” – loss of food, loss of weight… but only a true Believer will feel full… of God’s love, his sufficiency.

There’s nothing as truly fulfilling as receiving a Word you know was meant for you. The Words were just so rich and full – though I was still fasting from food, I was feasting in the Spirit.

This morning, Day 10 of the detox – I went to weigh myself and had to quell myself from feeling disappointed. I hadn’t reached my goal of losing at least 10 pounds within 10 days. Shy one pound. (sigh)

Still, hadn’t I decided that this was not about weight loss?

Disappointed, I began to confess my petty feelings to God. I confessed to Him that feeling “thin” made me feel beautiful because people kept telling me, I “looked great” even when I knew that it was superficial. Then, the harder admission: I confessed to Him that it was easier for me to be dedicated to my body than it was to be dedicated to my spirit – to my relationship with Him.

After that initial confession, I began to pray in earnest that I would not just be physically lean but spiritually “lean”… Just like in Hebrews 12 (MSG)

1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honour, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

I was harbouring parasitic sins and had spiritual “fat” that needed shedding – these were hindering my spiritual running!

So many things had to go but I didn’t have the strength – so I prayed the text of my devotional in Psalm 25:11, “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.”

So here I am in the aftermath of Detox 2014 feeling refreshed and renewed. I have no doubts that I will probably gain back most of the weight I lost but I plan to get back to my workout routine (was able to start again yesterday!)

But this year, I also feel redeemed and reinvigorated to run this race well. To be physically and especially spiritually fit.

I pray that in the future, I will look back at this blog post feeling happy – not regretful. This is not a resolution – this is a covenant where the Holy Spirit himself is the Coach, the running partner and ultimately the one who will carry me to the finish line. I am reminded that we are all training in grace – training every aspect of ourselves to be obedient to the Spirit. I cannot lose – so long as I am dependent on grace.

“It is the pleasure of God’s people to contemplate the graciousness of this covenant. They see that the law was made void because it was a covenant of works and depended upon merit, but this they perceive to be enduring because grace is the basis, grace the condition, grace the strain, grace the bulwark, grace the foundation, grace the topstone.” { C.H. Spurgeon }

In the words of Christ, “it is finished!”

Detox 2014 Update

Today being the fourth day on this detox, things are looking up. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

The first two days of the detox went about as normal with no major hiccups. I was fortunate that on Tuesday (the day I started), I didn’t have to come to work. On Wednesday, I had to attend a general meeting at the school where I work – a painful three-hour meeting where I sat right next to my colleague and her steaming cup of coffee.

The third day (yesterday) was the worst. It usually is but this year, more so. This, I owed to the fact that instead of waking up at 7:00ish to drink my first lemonade of the day, I got up too late – the hunger pangs had set in. I had nausea and poop episodes all day. I also felt very weak and was very susceptible to sights and smells of food. Hence, I had to lay off instagram and facebook for a while.

Today I woke up feeling a whole lot better than yesterday. I’m going to do the errands that I was supposed to do YESTERDAY but never got to.

Weight wise, I’ve lost around (5) pounds ( a little slow – a little disappointing). But I had to remind myself that first, I was doing this to cleanse my body not to lose weight and second, I have already lost (10) pounds since a shocking weigh-in last February that alerted me to my urgent need to lose weight.

I did it in the old-fashioned way, by doing cardio at least four times a week (and more). I exercised even while on my vacation in the U.S.

I didn’t really go on a “diet” but I was conscious of what I chose to eat, how much and when I ate.I didn’t deprive myself – but stuck to these principles:

  1. I had to decide how much I was going to eat before eating. Also, I consciously loaded up on the healthier options (if they were available).
  2. Eating time was exclusively eating time – no “multi-tasking” while eating – i.e. no facebook, no texting, no work.
  3. I eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.
  4. At the end of a portion, I’d re-evaluate whether I was satisfied (Note: I never ate until I was full. Full means too much)

I challenged myself – to earn my detox by losing 10 pounds before my holiday. And I did! On the last leg of my vacation, I gained four pounds more. But within a week of being back home to my routine, I lost it all again.

This is part of the reason why I felt like I didn’t need to do a 14-day fast this year. Instead, I’m doing a 10-day fast. I will drink my lemonade for (7) days and start breaking the fast on the 8th day (i.e. drink orange juice). By the 10th day, I will be drinking soup and water-based foods – no solid foods yet.

One final reminder (to myself and to anybody else that’s reading this) is that the master cleanse detox is not a shortcut. There are no shortcuts in fitness. In the end, we must pay careful attention to the motivations of our heart and to the things we hold dear.

In Hong Kong there is strong pressure to be “thin”. They don’t care if you have NO muscle tone or that you actually weigh LESS than you ought to be. You must be slim or diet trying. But I don’t want to be slim, I want to be fit. I want to be strong. For what reason?

My body is God’s temple and I am a part of His royal priesthood. My first priority above all else is to be able to glorify Him in every aspect of life – including my health – so that I may be used mightily for His Kingdom – whether I am singing, teaching or doing anything else.

Are We Free?

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On this, our Day of Independence, we must ask ourselves the all important question: { Are We Free? } or make it even more personal { Am I Truly Free? }

In reflection this morning, two things permeated my thoughts:

  1. It seems we only trade one master for another – one shackle for another. Whatever freedom is, it is not earned through human struggle.
  2. Those who fought for our freedom did win (and praise God for that!) But eventually, they died – succumbing to the ultimate tyrant.

As I walked to work, the Lord began to reassure me by reminding me passages in His Word – I would encourage you to go through them with me. I feel strongly that these words are intended not only to encourage me but others as well.

He reminded me of { Galatians 5 }.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

He led me to 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

And finally, fire seems alight in my blood as I read Romans 8 (Please go and read it in its entirety! Here I am including the parts that really spoke to me)

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

He has set me free to live in true freedom – freedom through the finished work of Christ and through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (NOT through my own effort.) Freedom does not come from struggle. We are not merely called to “abstain” from the flesh but to abide in Christ. He is our only hope for salvation.

And from these readings I feel a mighty roar from within me to say these words:

I am no slave. Sin and death have no claim over me. By His blood and resurrection, the chains were broken and I was reborn into freedom. 

I am no orphan. I am a Child of God – daughter of the Most High – CO-heir with Christ. By His Spirit, I call the God of the Universe “Abba” and of this I am sure, He will answer me.

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It is sobering and a little strange to be reminded that although our forefathers won the battle against “foreign invaders”, that freedom was short-lived for they all eventually died anyway.

Furthermore, as we look at our people, can we really say that we have been freed from slavery? In our corruption and greed, we have bound ourselves to an even worse master.

But CHRIST fought our Ultimate Enemy { Death } and defeated him. He died but on the Third Day, rose again in victory – and now, in Him, we live!

On this, our Day of Independence, we must ask ourselves the all important question: { Am I Truly Free? } — and if you are in Christ today, let me tell you the resounding answer:

Whom the Son sets free is FREE indeed!

John 8:36

Spirit Speaks by All Sons & Daughters

Shackles by Mary Mary

Break Every Chain by WorshipMob

Forever by Kari Jobe

Wanted: A Real Man

Today was one of those days when everything seemed orchestrated.

After almost two days since the unfortunate crash and burn of this year’s detox (a blog post for another day), I decided that even though I had no one to hang out with and technically nowhere to go – I was gonna go out and have fun… by myself – if need be.

So I put my pretty dress on and I carefully put on my makeup (coz I didn’t want to carry it in my bag – as per usual), prepped my bag for a nice splurge. I even packed my diary and a nice book with me – just in case I ended up loitering in a cafe somewhere (that was another great option).

The sun was in its last blaze of glory and so I put on my shades. There was a skip to my step – it was like this day just couldn’t get any better. Not so. I flipped open my phone to find a missed call from a friend of mine. I call her – she answers right ahead and asks me if I’m free to hang out. Ah, bliss.

This friend of mine – so near and dear to my heart – was (is) undergoing a painful end to a once celebrated union. In a world where 50% of all marriages end in divorce, this should not have come as a surprise. Still, it did not make things right.

Call me old fashioned but I still dream of princes who slay dragons and free the princesses from endless sleep and in champions who fight for the honour of their fair maiden. But if I were to open my eyes and face the stinky bean curd, the real world tells me, the princes are dragons that enslave their princesses and the champions fight for nothing else but their own honour.

That is not to say that I think women ought to spend their entire lives wasting away in towers waiting for prince charming to save them. I am not saying that we are incapable of fighting our own battles and defending our own honour.

Gender roles (especially in marriages, family units, society) are a touchy subject and are often subjective. But thankfully, the Bible gives us guidelines that can help us:

Ephesians 5: Instructions for Christian Households

 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

No one is exempt from submission.

In the Bible’s model of a household, everyone submits. The women submit to the men (who are placed as “heads of the family” by God) and the men (and therefore, the women in their care) are ultimately accountable to and submit to God. Without a firm understanding of this simple truth, abuse and inequality would ruin a household.

This means that women – we ought to submit to our husbands but more importantly, we must submit to God. If our husbands (or men in our lives) tell us to do something that is not in line with God’s commands – there is no reason for us to “submit”. True submission to our husbands is to obey God.

And if you are like me and you are single – it helps to remember that until we find ourselves a husband we are placed, by God, under the care and “head”ship of our earthly Fathers (as to whether or not they are good heads is another discussion).

Also, this means that men do not have “ultimate say”. Having them as heads does not give them the right to dictate the lives of women as if it was “his way or the high way”. God holds women in high regard and have placed them under your protection. Men have, therefore, no right to abuse their power because these women are not “their property” but “in their care”.

Both men and women must ultimately submit to the authority of Christ. Women, in the way that they serve and Men, in the way that they lead.

While we are all equally loved by God (Male or Female), we are assigned different roles and responsibilities:

[1] Husbands are the head of the family.

[2] Women should submit to their husbands.

During my very short study in psychology (on the topic of marriage), I learned that marriages are not built on equality but equity.

If we were to strive for equality in a relationship – it would be unfair for both parties because the same demands will be made of everybody regardless of individual differences in capacity. And regardless of the outcome, everybody gets the same piece of the pie. This is COMMUNISM.

Equity is a better thing to strive for in marriage because by its very definition – equity is justice. There is consideration given for diversity (the inherent differences in the physical/emotional makeup of men and women), there is equal opportunity given for each to participate and to gain from the relationship.

Now, before a feminist cries out in righteous indignation. Let me explain the underlying stipulations which will allow a marriage to reach that state of equity:

[1] Husbands are the head of the family

  • This is a God-given privilege and responsibility (you are not the head because it is your right as a man – you are head because God says you are)
  • They are instructed to follow the example of Jesus (you cannot just do as you please, however you please)
  • They should love their wives as Christ LOVES the Church (He gave His life for her – for her cleansing and restoration!) and as they love their own bodies.

[2] Wives should submit to their husbands

  • This is a God-given privilege (i.e. you are protected) and with it comes a responsibility (i.e. you must submit in everything)
  • They are instructed to submit in the same way they submit to the Lordship of Christ (in essence, your submission to your husband is a reflection of your submission to Christ)
  • Your submission must be done with willingness and respect.

The ultimate goal of marriage is not to please Men (or Women) but to glorify God.

This system of submission is not only for our sake but ultimately for the sake of the glory of God. If we should ask the question, “Why should we do it this way and not in our own way?” the answer is this:

We should submit — to each other — NOT BECAUSE of culture, not because of gender, not because of age, not because of social norms, not because “YOU WILL BE DAMNED IN HELL IF YOU DON”T”.

We submit because it pleases God.

So, we lead as CHRIST does, we serve as if it were CHRIST we serve.

We submit to please God.

The Fallen Reality

I was waiting for the ferry when I came upon a most heartbreaking scene.

A man and a woman were fighting – they seemed to be a young couple (boyfriend-girlfriend).

The man was exponentially raising his voice, his body was towering over this woman in a stance that showed me that he was physically trying to make this woman SUBMIT.

The woman was cowering in fear, her cries were mixed with terror and anger. There was little she could do but repeatedly say “Let me go!”.

At some point, the scene turns even more alarming when the man resorts to emotional harassment – using violent actions (like throwing a glass bottle onto the side with force and moving “as if” to hit her).

Finally, the girl cries out for help…

So many looked on. But no one came.

At that moment, I wished I were a man. Because I wanted so desperately to stand up for this woman. To defend her honour. To be her champion. But unfortunately, I was frozen in fear.

Finally, I got on the ferry. I called my dad – just to hear his voice – because unknowingly, I must have been trying to remind myself – though there are many posers out there, though they are a rarity in these days – real men do exist. And hopefully, there is one out there – for me.

Right now, I turn to my dad for strength and protection. He is my champion. He is my “head”. Its not too farfetched to think that – despite all his obvious faults – he represents my ideal. Will I have to leave my Father’s ‘covering’ for another? Someday. Maybe.

But, I have decided that I will not submit just to anyone. In fact, I can’t.

I want to marry a REAL MAN – a man totally submitted to God.

These Paths

I did originally plan to name this shot “God Bless The Broken Road” just coz the moment I saw it on my photo reel that was the song that sprung up in my mind ( Note: This is the usual way that my photos get named. )

But in the end, inspiration steered me elsewhere. Besides,  I thought the name didn’t really quite express my intention in the photo. In any case, here is a lengthy and (others might say) hopeless drawn out treatise on what went through my head while I was processing this photo and long after…

We all have places we want to go. That is, we have goals, ambitions, dreams that we pursue. Whether or not they are worthwhile pursuits – is another blog entry. But often times, we find that it takes quite a while to get there.

The images that come to your mind may vary from Israel’s long 40-year-stint in the desert (check) to the journey of the Fellowship of the Ring in Lord of the Rings (check).

Instead of going straight to where we intend, we usually end up going round in circles, meeting with all manner of hindrances in our way, ending up in ditches and dead ends, even finding ourselves walking in totally different directions…

The sad part is that often times, we never realize that we have steered so far away from original course – well, until its too late.

After a particularly difficult bit down the road, we look back and only then can we see what we have just come through: may it be thicket of thorns, a dark tunnel or narrow cracks in some wall that just appeared out of nowhere… All in all, we often stop to wonder to ourselves, “did I really have to go through that?”

I like to think that God and I have a very close relationship – we’re on talking terms. Not the “hi.hello facebook friends” status. We’re “face to face, spit on your face” type of friends. I like to believe that we are well above talking round in circles. Which is why it always frustrates me when I don’t get answers to some of my “important questions”.

My personal (written) journal is littered with ramblings and rants dedicated to one single cry, “why?”

Why me? Why NOT me?

Why then? Why now?

Why here? Why there?

Why him/her? Why not? 

Why…? Why..!? W H Y?!

Thankfully, God doesn’t charge us for our outright gall in questioning the ways he does things. As a much younger Follower, I found it difficult to trust God to lead in certain areas of my life. Years later, I’ve grown in my ability to trust in Him but sometimes, my trust is lacking.

When you’re in the middle of especially hard paths, you will find yourself going from a brave “There is a point to this!”, to a consoling “There MUST be a point to this!”, to a more doubting “Is there a point to this?” and finally to an adamant, “What’s the (bleep) point?!”

But contrary to popular belief, God doesn’t gamble with our lives. He doesn’t make us go through hoops and whatnots just for his divine amusement. I am convinced: Everything. Every little thing – is a piece of a grand plan. We just can’t see it because we’re in the middle of it all.

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  (Acts 17:26)

Our location in place and time – they are all marked out by God. Whereever we are, no matter how “lost” and “overwhelmed” we feel – we are ultimately under God’s watchful eye, our lives under his watchful hand.

You have heard it said that God would never let you have a burden/struggle that you cannot bear. My dad tells me, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes, he leads us to places just to remind us, how much we need him.

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

Whenever things are hard and we cannot see our paths so clearly, we move our question from WHY to WHERE?

Where are you? Where are you, God?

But its not like God “hides” for the purpose of hiding. Its more so that we might pursue with ardor and expectation. He hides in “plain sight”. He builds the tempo up to a climactic FINDING.

The expression that God leads us to walk down the “straight and narrow” is easily misunderstood if we do not consider that God’s perfect plan for our lives is not always the way we decide to walk. Following Christ (who is our True North) will ever lead us straight to God but following our will will lead us to death. The combination of both ensures that the “straight and narrow” feels like a rollercoaster.

I often pray that God would spare some of the younger generation the arduous paths I had to take, the lessons I had to learn the good old fashion “long and hard’ way but part of me knows – that is not my decision to make AND this is the way that life threshes the wheat from the chaff.

So, as I look back at all that I have gone through, I cannot help but think. “Wow God. What a ride. I really wouldn’t like to do THAT again but thank You. For helping me through. For showing me the way. For not letting me go…”

I thank God – sincerely – for these paths He has let me walk on. They help me to appreciate life’s true treasures. They help me edit the way I feel, the way I think, the way I live…

I’m not saying that “all paths lead to God” – by no means! But I do believe, as an old youth pastor had exhorted,

If you obey Him, You will never “lose your way”. You will always find yourself in the centre of His will.

Even if, you are not sure where you “ought” to go. I think the Lord grants us leave to take a step of faith and “fill in the blanks” – to go until he says to stop. Seeking His will, trying to find “the path” he has laid out for me – is no longer an “idle” activity. I find myself walking while waiting. Doing the things that he has already mandated me to do – waiting for further instructions.

If I seek Him, I will find Him. If I follow Him – in the way that He has set out – I will eventually find myself in the Halls of the House he has prepared for me.

I am thankful. Sincerely grateful for the fact that the Lord never decided to make things all drawn out. That He, in his infinite wisdom decided that I was to embark on an adventure rather than a static and boring “non-stop flight”.

Because the reward is not just reaching your destination, but in the sheer joy of having travailed the distance, having passed through the fire of struggle, having fought through the battles, having learned hard lessons, having lived the “full” life that He promised.

My only prayer is this:

That my steps my hold onto your paths… that my feet may not stumble away from them… (Psalm 17:5)

The Seven-Fifteen

Lately, our church was visited by Drs. (yes, plural) Hong Yang and his wife, Esther.

He’s a funny, ON FIRE, truly pentecostal preacher – barely attached to the floor when he’s preaching. He’s like a firecracker bursting at the sides to proclaim the Gospel. It is truly inspiring to see. One of his many talents is using word play to convey the deepest truths in the simplest ways… One thing he said which really struck me was:

“… at the heart of every issue … is an issue of the heart…”

I had to write that down in my notebook very quickly (coz this guy speaks a million miles a minute) but I just knew that I would have to revisit that thought at the very first chance.

On my last post, I had mentioned that just over a year ago, I was living a life of sin…  but since coming back to God, its been a long and hard process of learning and unlearning things that I had always thought to be true about myself, about my small world, about the world-at-large, about life, about the church, about God himself.

And no, I’m not talking about some kind of shifty DIY ‘psych yourself out’ process. Part of what was different about “this” coming back to God – was my going back to the light of his Truth – of his Word.

The Bible says, the truth will set us free. We say it often in the church but most of us don’t really know how that can be true. I’ve heard many a sermon on the importance of reading the Word but never had I placed so much faith in its power, never have I relied on it and NEVER have I been more convinced that:

No one can hope for true redemption, for transformation, for TRUE LIVING without God’s word…

Without the Word – you won’t know WHO you are – you won’t know WHOSE you are – you won’t realize WHERE you are (reference to God’s first question to Adam — making him realize he was NOT in God’s presence anymore)…. These three questions make up the basics of human identity.

We were created by God for his glory and his pleasure and without Him we are left incomplete for the “creation can never be satisfied without communion with the Creator”.

Without intimacy with God, without identity – no wonder we have no inkling of the WHYs, the HOWs, the WHAT FORs of living. No wonder we have no sense of direction and purpose in life – no wonder we end up living for the lesser things – no wonder we end up being mastered by our most natural desires…

Sin caused us to lose our intimacy with God, which resulted in the loss of our identity – which led to the loss of control.

It always confused me – why I would do the things that I knew were not good for me – why would I continue doing the very things that were screwing my life up. It was masochistic. Its counter-intuitive… Its as Paul had said

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15

And yes, that is THE SEVEN-FIFTEEN that this blog is named after.

Masochistic, counter-intuitive it may be — but it is the human condition…

Most of us, who secretly struggle with sinful habits — have tried countless times to STOP — without realizing that the reason we cannot stop is because we haven’t gotten to the root of the problem.

The heart of the human issue – is not the ISSUES – its our HEARTS.

We all need an intensive renovation of the heart. We need to stop running away from the Truth – hiding away in the shadows, in the darkness. If you want to be free — if you want to live — you need to die…

We need to start moving things OUT and invite Jesus in. We need to check ourselves into the Hospital (the Church) — to reconnect with the Father, through his Son and re-establishing that connection through the guidance and the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

Only then, can we live in freedom. Only then, can we truly live.