Posts Tagged ‘Christian lesson’

When Empathy is not enough (a missionary musing)

Before coming to Uganda with my wife as missionaries, I served in Singapore for 2 ½ years.   Singapore was the first place where I served as a long term missionary.   Given that Singapore is well developed, you would think it was easy for me to transit, right?   Unfortunately, my experience was far from smooth.   My wife had to spend many nights listening to me feeling the sense of loss of my home, friends, and family.     Though I am Chinese from descent (I was born in Hong Kong), I am more ‘Ang Mo’, a Singaporean term to describe Westerners, given that I spent more than 20 years living in Canada.  Living back in Asia was a shock to my system in various ways.

For many missionaries, homesickness, loneliness, missing friends, and family are often some of the stressors one experiences on the field.  Lately, I noticed there were a number of posts published online about the suffering a missionary goes through.  Unfortunately, for me, these posts tend to discourage rather than encourage.   They list a bunch of things a missionary suffers but do not offer solutions to them.  These posts might make me feel like someone out there understands my situation.  But for me, empathy is not enough.  I need more.

During those times on the field when I am down, my encouragement comes from reading the Bible.  Paul, as an apostle (and also a missionary),  suffered much for Christ.  Whenever I open the book of Philippians, I am inspired by Paul’s desire to follow Christ, even to discount all things as a loss (Phil 3:8).  His message to the church of Philippi is not merely to say ‘yes, things suck’.  Rather, he not only stated the trials he went through but also brought the Philippi church up and encouraged them to keep the faith.  Yes, things are not going to be good.  But it is worth it.  Paul is the right person to say this.  He wasn’t sitting in an Ivory tower and giving orders.  After all, he was

  • Five times beat with forty stripes minus one
  • Three times beat with rods
  • Stoned once
  • Three times shipwrecked
  • A night and a day in the deep
  • In perils of water, robbers, own countrymen (Jews), Gentiles, in city, in wilderness, in seas, in false brothers, in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness, in hunger and thirst, in fastings, in cold and nakedness

Source: 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 (NKJV)

If Paul, the one who suffered so much for the Gospel, can keep going, I can take that message.  This is a message that gives me hope and courage.

While we were here in Uganda, we had an experienced missionary who told us that people from back home will disappoint us.  Now, this might sound negative but this is a reality.  The reality is that no one at home will truly understand 100% what we are going through.  There was a time when I was upset at my friends and supporters for their lack of sensitivity.  But after a while, I needed to move on.  It is ok if people do not understand.  It is ok because the source of my strength is not from them.  It is by looking at Jesus that we can continue to labor in joy despite hardships.   Following Jesus is a hard thing to do.  When we talk about labor for Him, it really means to labor with sweat, toil, and heartache.   But at the end, it is worth it.  It is important to keep the end in mind.

I remembered my first Half Ironman (a very long triathlon event).  I was 10 km from the finish line.  We started in the morning and by then, it was noontime and it was hot.  Even though the triathlon is an individual race, there are times when you race together to encourage each other.   In Ecclesiastes, Solomon said that two is better than one and a cord of three strands will not break (Ecc 4:12).  It is especially true in triathlon.

I somehow ended up with two other participants.   We exchange a few words as we jogged along.   One of the participants began to complain how hard the course was and how hot she was feeling.  The more I listened to her, the more I did not want to listen.  Realizing her words were not helping me to keep going, I wished her well and ran ahead.

I did the same race a few years later.  Once again, the race was hot and muggy.  This time I hadn’t trained as much and was struggling.  At around the same part of the race, I gave up and started to walk.  Just as I was trotting along and making up every reason why I should walk, a much older gentleman passed me.  As he passed me, he turned around and waved at me to keep going.   In triathlon, it is common for them to write down your age at the back of your calf.  This person had a 60 on his calf!  I told myself, if someone twice as old as I could keep going, I could as well.   I started jogging again and caught up with him.  This man was very encouraging and we exchanged words to keep each other going to the end.

It is the same when we labor for the Lord.  The situation is difficult and it is tough.  We will feel lonely and a sense of loss.  But we need to encourage one another to keep moving and keep our eye on the eternal crown.  He is the strength and the source for us to keep going.  Life is short and we need to accomplish all the things He marked us to do.   The suffering we are going through is temporary compared to the glorious eternal prize we will achieve when He calls us, ‘good and faithful servants’.  AMEN!

 

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV)

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV)

A Lesson on Obeying Godly Authority

This week is the first week our Bible School is starting classes for 2015.  It is a joy to see some new faces and old faces (from last year’s class).

Wai Jia and I spent a considerable time this week teaching on leadership and what it means to be a good ministers.  The students attending the Bible School varies from Pastors, Apostle to young people preparing for ministry.  We even have a lady that just converted (from hearing a preaching from one of our students!).  We also incorporated the importance of excellence and asked the class to come up with values which they want to develop while they are here.

Today, I taught the importance of obeying Godly authority.  Godly authority simply means the spiritual leader whom God placed in your life.  For most of us, that will be our Pastor or Senior Pastor.

I used an Old Testament example to illustrate the point.  In Numbers 16, Korah and 250 leaders rebelled against Moses and Aaron.  The irony is that it is probably Moses who appointed them as leaders in Exodus 18.   Side note: Exodus 18 is when Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, suggested to Moses to appoint leaders to help Moses’ judge the Israelites.

This is the their accusation against Moses and Aaron:

You take too much upoon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?Numbers 16:3b (NKJV)

The first thing we learn as leaders is that when someone accuses us of wrong doings, we don’t fight back. Moses responded by bowing on the ground (v4) and told Korah and his men that the Lord will judge who is holy and who is not (v7). This is a key lesson, the Lord will fight the battle on our behalf.

Moses challenged Korah and his men that everyone of them will stand before the Lord the next day with a censers and put fire and incense (v6-7).

These men that rebelled against Moses and Aaron are not just ordinary men.  The Bible described them as renowned (v2).  Moses said that even God separated them for Him from the rest of the congregation (v9).   These men are leaders.

But they were upset with Moses.   Here are their accusations:

  • Since God is among the whole congregation and they are holy, why is there a need for Moses to be the leader (v 3)
  • Moses chose himself to be the leader over the Israelites (v 3)
  • Moses led them to the wilderness to die (v 13)
  • Moses failed to take them to the land of flowing milk and honey (v 14)

So the next day, Moses, Aaron, Korah and the 250 men stood before the tabernacle of meeting each with their censer with incense and fire (v 18-19).  The glory of the Lord came (v 19) and told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the congregation because God is going to destroy everyone including the congregation (v 20).  Moses, as always, interceded on behalf of the congregation (v 22) and the Lord spared them.  Instead, the Lord told the congregation to stay away from these wicked people even to the point of not touching any thing owned by these rebellious men (v 26).  This is another truth.   As leaders, we ought to stay away from wicked people.  

Before the judgement, Moses said that the work that he is doing as a leader is not by his own will but it is God who sent him to do the works (v 28).  Here’s another important truth.  We, sometimes, think our work is what we do.  But it is the Lord who give us work to do.  It is the Lord who give us leader to look over us.  At the same time, we cannot just go and do any type of work for the Lord just because we feel like it.  We have to able to discern that the work we are doing is the Lord who give us.

The ground opened up just as Moses said and swallowed Korah, Dathan, and Abiram as well as their household and their tents (v 31-33).  Then fire came down and consumed the 250 men (v 35).

This is a fearful lesson.  Sometimes we think we are better than our leaders or our pastors.  We look at them and think we can preach better than them or know the Bible better than them.  We don’t need these leaders to ‘lord’ over us.  We can do better without them.  This is actually pride that’s talking.  With pride comes Satan tempting and soothing our ego.  You are better than your leader.  Why are you still listening to them? You should go and do your own thing.  You will be successful.

Another possibility is that the Lord is refining us and purposely place us under the leadership of others so that we can learn humility and obedience.  Joshua, for example, spent at least 40 years with Moses before taking over the role as the leader of the Israelites and led them into the Promise Land. 40 years!  That’s a long time.  We often think we can be groom and become leader so fast, especially living in this age of instant gratification.

When I was training for Ironman, a coach said that it takes a long time for you to be good.   Most pros take 3, 4, 5 years(!) before they finally see results.  This is the same for leadership.

Another point I shared is that we all have leader we are following.  Even Pastors don’t do their own thing.  The two pastors in our class have spiritual fathers that they are accountable to.  When a leader is running his own show and there’s no accountability, that can be a recipe for disaster.

Before we came to Uganda, a pastor told us that in Africa it is common for someone in the congregation to take a group of members away and start his own church.  This is sad because it doesn’t glorify God.  We hope that today’s teaching will help counter such thoughts.

Soda Money

soda_moneySince we are serving in Uganda for one year, we decided not to hop in and out of the country just to extend our visas.  Instead, we decided to go with an agency to help obtain a work visa for Wai Jia and a dependent pass for me.  Doing things the right way is sometimes long and expensive.  It took five months here and nine months in Singapore beforehand to compile all the necessary documents.  I won’t even talk about the fee they charged us for us to volunteer here.

Yesterday I went to the agency to pick up my passport.  Here in Uganda, before you enter a mall or a plaza, it is common for guards to search you and your vehicle to make sure you don’t have a bomb or firearms.  I’ve been there so many times the security guards recognized who I was and let me in. As I pulled my car into the parking lot, one of the security guards came up to me and told me he reserved this spot for me and he would look after my car for ‘soda money’.

Soda Money.

The term ‘soda money’ is a nice way of asking for a bribe.  As Mzungus (foreigners), we are stopped frequently by the traffic police and other guards asking us to get them a soda.  We talked to the locals about these. They don’t like it as well.  Part of the reasons is that their salary is extremely low (or so we are told) thus they look for a way to make an extra buck.

For this security guard, ‘soda money’ was 3,000 Shillings.  That’s equivalent to about a dollar. In Uganda, a bottle of soda costs 1,000 Shillings. With this knowledge, I asked him why he needed so much just for a soda.  He replied, ‘you get me a big soda.’ That’s true, bigger bottles do cost more.

For Wai Jia and me, we don’t pay bribes.  Yes, life can be much easier and faster if we give ‘soda money’ to get things done.  And it is really a small amount.   A dollar is not much.  But the principle still stands.  We don’t pay bribes.

I offered I would go buy a soda for him and for me.  It was a hot day and a long drive and I wanted one as well.  I didn’t want to give him money but I could get him a soda to make his day a bit better.

He said, ‘No.  If they see me with food, they will fire me.’

Nuts.

After collecting my passport and before I left, I asked him for his name.  Emmanuel.  I explained to him it means “God is with us” and that’s the name they gave to Jesus.  He looked surprised.

As I walked back to the parking lot after taking my passport, I wondered what I should say to Emmanuel regarding his ‘soda money’.  I couldn’t tell him I have no money because that would make me a liar.  I also didn’t want to give him money.  If I gave him ‘soda money’, that would reinforce the system of corruption.

As I walked back to my car, I told Emmanuel I couldn’t give him ‘soda money’. But I told him that I came here to Uganda to serve as a minister.  Since I couldn’t give him soda money, I suggested I could pray and asked God to bless him instead.

He looked at me with a shocked look and was quiet.  He probably didn’t expect that answer.

“Emmanuel. I can only give you one soda.  But God, He can give you 10,000 sodas.”

He smiled a bit.  I asked him if he was a believer and if he would be offended if I prayed with him.   He returned my keys and said ‘I believe in God, too.’

“Great, let us pray.”

So in this busy parking lot, both Emmanuel and I bowed our heads and I said a quick prayer.  I gave thanks to God for Emmanuel’s work and prayed for God to bless him and his family so they would not lack anything.

Then I left.

As I looked back at the decisions we made in coming to Uganda, especially with regards to getting the work permit, I felt we did the right thing.  When God looks at our works, He doesn’t merely look at just the works but also considers how we do our work.  If we do it in such a way that doesn’t glorify Him, there will be consequences.  There are many times when Wai Jia and I are tempted to take the easy (and less righteous) way to get things done.  We had many talks and had to take time to discern whether we were doing things rightly in His eyes.

We always concluded: The work doesn’t justify the means.  Both the work and the means are important in His Kingdom.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

Missing Home?

The other day, Wai Jia asked me if I miss home. I replied and asked which home?

She gave me three options:

  1. Hong Kong – where I was born and lived until I was 8
  2. Canada – where I lived for more than 20 years
  3. Singapore – where I was living for 2.5 years prior coming to Uganda

I answered I don’t miss any of these places.

When I was living in Singapore serving with OMF International, there were many moments I longed to be back in Canada. I missed the snow. I missed my friends. I missed having really good Canadian food (ok technically I miss food I enjoyed when I was in Canada such as nachos, chicken wings, and poutine etc….).

Poor Wai Jia, there were many moments she had to endure of my rants during the first year of our marriage.

As missionaries serving overseas, there are moments when you have that desire to be back to norm of where you are from.

This time, in Uganda, it is different.

One of the latest revelations I had is that even if tomorrow Wai Jia and I are back in Canada (or in Singapore), I realized we won’t be content staying there. Sure, there are conveniences we will appreciate like consistent running water and electricity, fast internet or fine dining.  But we realized we won’t be following the Lord’s Will.

In Singapore, I missed my family a lot, especially my aging parents.

Within the short span of three months of being in Uganda, I had the privilege of receiving news of two nieces being born in Canada. I would love to be there in person. But I cannot. We are called to follow Jesus. Holy Spirit has opened doors and brought us to Uganda.

Today’s the Utmost devotion was very timely. It was talking whenever there are conflicting loyalties between Jesus and others, even family matters, always pick Jesus no matter what the cost.

We put our sense of loyalty to our relatives ahead of our loyalty to Jesus Christ, forcing Him to take last place. When your loyalties conflict, always obey Jesus Christ whatever the cost.The Go of Reunication – Utmost.org

Earlier in this month we went to Burundi to teach for two weeks.  Wai Jia noticed I was on fire during one of the classes. I was teaching about the suffering we endure when following Jesus. The students were seasoned pastors and evangelists and many of them had suffer personally from following Jesus. One female student was Muslim and was rejected by her family when she accepted Jesus. As I was sharing, I kept back my tears as I was recounting my own costs and realizing that many of them suffered much more than me.  I realized I need to deliver this message from the Lord to encourage them to persevere and not give up or give in.  I use Hebrews 12:2  to encourage them and myself that even Jesus had joy when he was going up the cross. There’s joy in suffering.  There is fellowship in suffering.

Now we are in Uganda, I don’t desire to go back to Canada as much as I was in Singapore. Perhaps I’ve grown spiritually. Perhaps I finally accept the fact that I have no home (even Jesus said the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head [Luke 9:58]). Perhaps my mind is being renewed with the mind of Christ and it changed all the priorities and desires of my heart.

Right now, I just want to do what the Lord wanted me to do.  Life is too short.  There ain’t a lot of time left.  I just want to be obedient to His Calling.   Wai Jai and I are in Uganda to equip and build the body of Christ so that they are mature, pure and blameless before the Lord.  And there’s much work to be done. Here in Uganda, I am slowly understand what it means to labor for His Kingdom.  The desire to follow Him is stronger than the earthly home.  I desire a better home!  A heavenly country!

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.Hebrews 11:13-16 (NKJV)

Whenever I struggle and feel discourage, whenever I have the longing to go back to Canada or Singapore, I stop and read Philippians 4:12-14:

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:12-14 (NKJV)

This is a great passage to encourage yourself to follow God, especially during hard times.

Pressing toward reminded me of the races I used to compete. It is painful and it hurts. At the moment it is hurting is the moment I need to press it and not give up. The same principle applies in our walk with the Lord.
I am thankful for passage like this. Paul knew what suffering is. He had been persecuted, stoned, beaten, jailed, and shipwrecked.

I am 34 this year. I hope that when I am 54 or 74 I still have this desire as Paul has, to reach the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

We took a picture with the students on the last day of us teaching at Bujumbura, Burundi.   We are wearing traditional Burundian wear which the students generously gave us.

We took a picture with the students on the last day of us teaching at Bujumbura, Burundi. We are wearing traditional Burundian wear which the students generously gave us.

Amen!

Parable of the Good Samaritan in Uganda

Cliff, I think there is a man lying on the road.

Wai Jia said this morning as we were driving to church.

Last month I preached on loving your neighbours using the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).  I ended off the sermon describing how I avoided someone who needed help with his car because I was rushing back to church in Canada.

It was deja vu all over again. Except this time it is in Africa.

This is Parable of the Good Samaritan in Uganda.

As I continued driving, I kept thinking it was probably nothing.  Wai Jia probably seeing things.  It wasn’t serious.

But as we drove along, I keep thinking what if this man is dying?

What should we do?
What can we do?

In order to pass my guilt, I asked Wai Jia, what should we do?
If she said no, then I am not responsible for this problem.

She said, ‘I don’t know.’
‘As in no?’ I replied.

There were other reasons to keep driving.  We planned to pick up a friend and her kids and bring them to church.  Wai Jia was preaching and surely she couldn’t be late.  There are enough valid reasons for us to keep going.

After a moment of silence, a moment where both our conscious are pressing us to act, I made a U-turn and drove back. I told Wai Jia that we need to see this man.  Maybe is something.  Maybe is nothing.  But if it is something and we do nothing, clearly I don’t walk my talk.  Then God will hold me accountable.

What will we do?  I don’t know.
What can we do? Not sure.  Let’s take a look first.
What if he is dead?  Who do we call for help? No clue.

It wasn’t too long before we reached back to this man.   He was lying along the ditch with his pants down.   I pulled the car off to the side and walked up to the man.  As I got closer, he turned his head around with his eyes closed as if he was sleeping.  It didn’t took too long to figure out he was drunk.   By now, the sun was scorching.  Glad to see he wasn’t hurt or dying, I put a bottle of water next to him in case he got dehydrated and drove away.

Had he been sick or dying, I really don’t know what we would do.  What if the police found us liable for this man?  What number do we call for police?  Will they even come?  I don’t know.  I never dealt with Ugandan police before.

We might do little.  We might not be able to do much.  But to drive away without a car is like the Priest and the Levite.

As I reflected on this parable, I immediately thought about the lawyer’s heart who started Jesus to speak this parable.   He asked the question ‘who was my neighbour’ because he wanted to justify himself.  I wonder when I asked myself the same question, am I trying to justify myself as well.

We were both glad that the man wasn’t seriously ill.  Later, we told our friend about this incident and she said that it was common for man to get drunk over the weekend.

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”Luke 10:29 (NKJV)

Real Life Parable of the Good Samaritan in Uganda

Real Life Parable of the Good Samaritan in Uganda

And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”Luke 10:37 (NKJV)

How can we have free will if God is Soverign?

If God is Soverign, how can we have free will?  If God is in control of everything, doesn’t that mean we really don’t have free will? How do we answer to that? God is Soverign and He is in control of everything.  At the same time, we all have free will and we can make our own decision whether to follow Him or not. Does it sound irrational?  Doesn’t make sense?  Or even a bit absurd? A few weeks ago, when Wai Jia and I was doing our devotions (if you’ve been following my blog posts, you will know that we are going through this book, Oswald Chambers’ So I send You & Workmen of God.) This is how Oswald tackled this question:

When we are born from above we understand what is incomprehensible to human reason – that the predestination of God and our infinitesimal lives are made one and the same by Him. From the standpoint of rationalism that is nonsense; but it is revelation fact. The connection between the election of God and human free will is confusing to our Gentile type of mind, but the connection was an essential element underlying all Hebrew thought. The predestination of God cannot be experienced by individuals of their own free choice; but when we are born again the fact that we do choose what has been predestined of God comes to us as a revelation.

The rationalist says it is absurd to imagine that the purposes of Almighty God are furthered by an individual life, but it is true. God’s predestinations are the voluntary choosing of the sanctified soul.Oswald Chambers’ So I send You & Workmen of God

God’s predestinations are the voluntary choosing of the sanctified soul. This means that when we are born again, our thoughts are the thoughts of Christ. Our decisions, in free will, will choose what God desires. We no longer have the heartbeat of ourselves. God’s heartbeat is in us! When we read that, both Wai Jia and I were in awe. To see that we have an opportunity, a chance, not just partnering up with the Lord but our spirit is so close with the Lord that His desire and our desires join together. Looking back, it is true. Everything about following Jesus. Everything about mission. This is not just the work or the mind of Cliff. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. A few years ago, when I was still in triathlon all my passion, aspiration and desire was to do more races. Train harder. Get faster. It was after laying it all down in a written contract to God that every decision I make I will seek Him first, that the thought of sharing the Gospel become a desire. It started out small. But the desire for mission grew and grew. It grew to a point where I have to make a decision between triathlon or doing mission. Have I looked back and wonder what life would be like if I stick with triathlon?  Sometimes.  But more often than not, I am amaze that by following God and doing His Will I will be in Uganda serving with a Singaporean wife.  That would never cross my mind.  AMEN :)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

How to go

This is taken from Oswald Chambers’ So I send You & Workmen of God.

How to go – Acts 1:8

There is always the danger of starting up false enthusiasm in missionary work. “Oh yes, I will go; where shall I go?” That is like making a false start in a race and having to go back to the starting point. Our Lord’s word go simply means live, and Acts 1:8 describes the going. Jesus did not say to the disciples, go to Jerusalem, go to Judea, go to Samaria, go to the end of the earth, but “You shall be witnesses to Me” in all these places. He undertakes to establish the goings. So many people are obesessed with this idea, “What are you going to do?” I hope none of us are going to do anything; I hope we are going to be what He wants us to be.

In Matthew 28:19, our Lord does not say go into all the world, but “Go therefore and make disciples.” He does the engineering. In Acts 1:8, He does not say you shall receive power, and you shall go into Jerusalem, but “You shall be witnesses to Me.” How the disciples went is described later in the Acts of the Apostles. They went at the point of the sword; persecution arose and scattered them by the providence of God. How to go refers to the personal spiritual character of the missionary, not to the feet of the missionary.Oswald Chambers’ So I send You & Workmen of God

A few questions I am asking myself:

  • what does it mean to be His Witness?
  • What does He wants me to be?

Do you agree with Oswald Chambers’ writing?  Disagree?

As Wai Jia and I read this this morning, she mentioned many asked us why Uganda and what are we going to be doing there.  Perhaps, the better question is what does Jesus wants us to be.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

Dress to Impress

I remember when I was younger, when I was still in University. As a guy, 90% the time we think about is how to impress girls. What to wear. What to say. How to act. In fact, my friend and I bought this eBook on how to get the girl of our dreams. It is all about how to act like the alpha male in the room. The book gives every detail from what to say, what to wear, what flowers to get, how to play her emotional side to win her heart. We have to dress to impress. Of course, neither of us got our dream girls (or any girls).

Our world is like that. We live to impress others. We build up our CVs or resumes to impress our next potential boss. That’s how the world looks at us. They look at your credentials. Even within the Christian circles we sometimes act like that. Which seminary he goes to and what degree he got. He didn’t have a Masters of Divinity? Clearly he cannot be a pastor.  How big is his church? How many people attending?

A few nights ago, I woke up with this thought. I realized that when God looks at us, he doesn’t look at what we accomplish. Our credentials mean nothing to Him. The world looks at our credentials and evaluate how good we are.  We look at our accomplishments and see whether we are doing good.  For God, He looks at our heart and our obedience to His calling. God looks for our closeness to Him. Union with Christ is way more important than work for Christ. In fact, work itself without union always lead to pride.

It reminds me of the Rich Young Ruler. In the disciples’ (and the world’s) eyes, he is one that God should favor. After all why not? He follows all the commandments. He kept every single one of them. He dressed to impress. But Jesus told him to give up one thing he cannot part with. His possessions.

God is looking for those who are willing to abandon all to follow Him. Like Matthew, the tax collector, when the Lord told him to come, he left and go.

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.Matthew 9:9 (NKJV)

I had a similar experiences with the Rich Young Ruler when I was in Singapore before we came to Uganda. I told Wai Jia (many times) that I will miss Singapore because everything is so efficient and comfortable.  I have to give up a lot!  In Uganda, I will have no air condition, no mobile internet, and no fast food. You would think that I learned this lesson when I left Canada to Singapore. It was a lesson I needed to re-learn. It wasn’t easy. Some people think it is. But it isn’t. But easy or difficult shouldn’t make a difference. The end of the day is whether I obey to Him or not.

So Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV)

Imagine how silly it would be if I choose not to go to Uganda, given that the Lord opened many many doors for us. Imagine how silly it would be if we told everyone, ‘well we decide to stay in Singapore because Cliff cannot miss his fast food.’ It does sound silly.

I believe that there are many in the church like the Rich Younger Ruler. There are those who are great at serving the Lord. They might volunteer in many ministries, tithe regularly and attend every prayer meeting. But their heart is far from God.  They love their things so much that they do not want to give it up. So they ‘bargain’ with God through sacrifice.

The irony is that when God has our heart, the sacrifice will come freely, gladly and with joy. Someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit and a disciple will give and help without reservation.

We are now six weeks into Uganda. What I never expected is the peace we have here. Yesterday, my friend asked me if I am lonely in Uganda. To be honest, no. I feel so joyful and peaceful. Are there challenges? Of course. But Wai Jia and I know that we are here because God sent us. We are here because we are laboring for His Kingdom.  So we labor and we sweat (much like our morning exercise!) but we do it with joy knowing that we are obedient to Him.  We know what we invest in His Kingdom no one can take it away!  Right now, it is silly to think of those apprehension feelings I had back in Singapore. Had I known how I feel in Uganda right now, I would ask God to send us here faster!

At the end of the day, it is our heart, our connection with Jesus and obeying to Him that all it matters. With that, we will flowing out with streams of living water. Everything else is just a show to soothe our ego and show a fading world our credentials.

My Experience with Prophecy

This post will make some Christians feel uncomfortable.  I like to talk about my experiences with prophecy.

To some Christians, especially Evangelicals, they believe that with the death of the Apostles, certain gifts of the Holy Spirit creased.  They are known as Cessationism.   If you are Charismatic, you will believe that the gifts ain’t cease and miracles still happen today (known as Continuationism).   If you Google these terms, you will see so many arguments for and against spiritual gifts.  Some called them a fraud.  Others testified by them.

I came from a Chinese church belonging to the denomiation Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA).  This is an Evangelical conservation denomination.  No one practices speaking in tongues or performing miracles (though the founder, A.B. Simpson, believes in divine healing).  When I went to Singapore and serve with OMF, I attended Cornerstone Community Church.  This is a charismatic church where spiritual gifts (speaking in tongues, healing, visions, prophetic) are commonly practice.  As you can imagine, I spent much time evaluate my own theology.

One experience that helped me ease into a Charismatic church was my previous pastor.  During one Bible study he challenged us that Charismatic has a very strong argument for speaking in tongue as an outward expression of Baptism of the Holy Spirit because it is Biblical (Acts 19:1-6).   That helped me open my mind to Charismatic theology.

I am sure if you are in the Christian circle, you will know or heard someone who can perform miracles and later is a fraud or someone who is a miracle worker and later got arrested for some crime.  Yes, I heard of those as well.  But this doesn’t mean that all who are performing miracles through the name of Jesus.

I picked prophecies because of the experience I journeyed while in Singapore.  I can pick other Spiritual gifts to discuss but it will be a very long post to write.

Before I get started, I am going to define what prophetic means to me. If you think about prophets in the Old Testament, they are God’s messenger or mouth piece to speak on God’s behalf.  It is usually to address an immediate situation.

The first time I received a prophetic message was while I was serving in the Telugu service in Cornerstone.  A New Zealand pastor (belongs to Assembly of God), Pastor Alex, was the guest speaker.  Before he started, he gave me a prophetic message.  He envisioned that Wai Jia and I will be travelling all around the world supporting other ministries.  We are like the beams that support a building as it is being constructed.  I never told Pastor Alex what we were doing.  He spoke to me before we got married.  I can confirm that the message was true since then we helped raise funds for Daughters of Cambodia on our wedding, we went to Smokey Mountain to deliver vitamins for kids with Empowering Lives Asia and now we are in Uganda, supporting Cornerstone Missions Africa.

So what does this mean?  Prophecy is not fortune-telling.  This is not something I take it lightly and as always interpret every message against the Bible to see if it stands.  We need to be able to discern correctly that the message is the Lord’s will and not our own.  The Lord speaks for a reason and it is always to glorify Him.  It is to build His Kingdom.  Sometimes we need to time to let the prophecy to fulfill itself.   Lastly, and more importantly, when we are laboring for His Kingdom we need His mind and His direction.   This is not Cliff and Wai Jia’s idea to do the work for Him.  Holy Spirit is in charge of this and we need to seek His guidance.

As you can see from my post, I am a Continuationaist and not a Cessationist.  Personally, in most discussions I’ve read, rarely does anyone mention about 1 Corinthians 14:1.  If Spiritual gifts died when the Apostles died, then why do Paul suggesting the Corinth church to pursue these gifts?

Holy Spirit, Spiritual gifts, how do they work?  I don’t have all the answers as I am still discerning and reading my Bible.  This topic will probably some of my posts in the future.

For now, seek the Holy Spirit.  Stay prayerful.  Be obedience.

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.1 Corinthians 14:1

The Call

I packed Oswald Chambers’ two books in one, So Send I You and Workmen of God, with us to Uganda. One of the joyful moments we have every morning is reading one chapter for devotion.

Since following his devotion’s My Utmost for His Highest, I enjoyed reading Oswald Chambers’ writings. His words bring clarity to Spiritual truths in such a profound way I don’t get from reading other authors. I am not implying the other authors are not good. But for me, Oswald Chamber’s materials are true gold. He never softens the truth when it needs to be hard. He always brings the truth to its edge where it shows where my life still needs maturity. His materials are meant for those who take following Jesus seriously or else the reader will not have the desire to follow. Interesting, at times Jesus’ words can be sharp and feels ‘discouraging’ (see Mark 10:17-22 or John 6:60-66).

Of all the missionary-preparation books I read, by far, this book is my highest recommendation for anyone who desires or contemplate to be a missionary or missionary service. Many books talk about dealing with cultural, transition, language, and worldview issues etc., and these topics are important. Sometimes in desire to do mission, we can easily left out a missionary’s main focus, God. Oswald Chambers reinforce this over and over again.

Wai Jia and I had the opportunity to speak to many youths in various churches regarding missions. One of the frequently asked questions is how do I know God is calling me to such a place?

In the first chapter of the book, entitled ‘The Call’, Oswald Chambers shared that:

These calls are heard by a few only because the call is the expression of the nature from which the call comes, and can only be heard by those who are attuned to that nature.

Am I attuning to the one who calls? Which is God, Himself. It is so important to be able to attune or to discern His voice. Oswald used Isiah as an example. In Isaiah chapter 6, Isaiah was in such a crisis which he was able to attune God.

I am going to side track a bit. Notice that the immediate response Isaiah gave when he saw God was the realization of his own sin. Not just confessing sin in a general statement. But a very specific sin which he personally know he is in condemn for, a man of unclean lips. This is the response when we are in the presence of a Holy God. We instantly see our personal individual sins lit up like blood stains on our hands. This is taken from Oswald’s devotion on Utmost.

Anyway back to the call, God didn’t tell Isaiah to do anything. God was simply talking to Himself, ‘who should we send?’ (Isaiah 6:8)

Once Isaiah is attuned to God, the call comes as nature as breathing. Isaiah realized that he can do something for the Lord. He saw the opportunity. Now redeemed, forgiven, without hesitation and without regret, he said ‘Here am I! Send me.’

This birthed a ministry for Isaiah cost him his life.  God used him mightily as the last warning before Judah is to receive judgement through being conquered by the Babylonians.

Back to the question that the youth asked, how do we know where God is calling us?

My standard answer would be ‘well pray about it, read the Bible, talk to your pastor, research on different missionary organizations.’  It seems so random and without an element of God in it.

The better answer is to have the right relationship with God. God’s call is not random or required some advance deciphering device. We just need to attune ourselves to be in the right relationship with God.

To be brought within the zone of God’s voice is to be profoundly altered.

The call of God is not a call to any particular service, although my interpretation of the call maybe; the call to service is the echo of my identification with God. My contact with the nature of God has made me realize what I can do for God. Service is the outcome of what is fitted to my nature. God’s call is fitted to His nature. When I have received His nature, then His nature and mine work together; the Son of God reveals Himself in me, and I, in my natural life, serve the Son of God in ordinary ways, out of sheer downright devotion to Him.

If our youths are interested on missions and are not sure what to do, the first and foremost we should help them attune their lives to God. Just like in Isaiah’s case, God didn’t ask or command him. The instant Isaiah is attuned with God, he instantly recognize the opportunity to serve.

..there is no call to service for God; it is my own actual “bit,” the overflow of super abounding devotion to God. God does not have to come and tell me what I must do for Him; He brings me into a relationship with Himself where in I hear His call and understand what He wants me to do, and I do it out of sheer love of Him.

In short, don’t focus on do, focus on having a right relationship with God. When our heart and ear is attuned to Him, our eyes will see how we can serve Him!  Serving is the by-product of being in the presence of the Lord.