Posts Tagged ‘Following Jesus’

Joy in Obedience

It has been a while since I blog.  In fact, our times in Uganda and now back in Singapore have been quiet on the blog front.  On my desktop there are many word docs saved.  Each doc is a blog post which I started but never finished.

I am now 36 and moving quickly into 40s.  I am now in a period of my life where I often reflect my past.

It has been more than ten years since I became a Christian.  Looking back, a lot has changed.   I was in Canada back then. I was participated in triathlon and endurance sports.

Now I am in Singapore for this season and married to Wai Jia for almost four years.  I am now working at church.

Last night I was teaching at church on Short Term Missions.  After sharing our stories and experiences in Uganda, I whatsapped her later the night that we had a lot of good experiences following the Lord.

Following the Lord.  This is what it means to be a Christian.  Where Jesus calls, we go.  It is simple and difficult.  It sounds almost too easy and almost impossible.

Deep in my heart, I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

A while ago I preached that following Jesus will cost everything we have.  When we think about that, the first thought tends to be sorrow.  I am going to miss that and I am going to give up that.  But, if the Holy Spirit is in us, there is also an abundance joy of doing so.  So it is both.  It is sorrow and joy.  Joy and sorrow.

But at the end of the day, it is all about obedience.

And this is what it really matters at the end.

Wai Jia and I are once again in this crossroad.  Where we might have to give up everything and follow the Lord.  Where He goes, we follow.  There will be sorrow but I realized there are much joy when we obey.

Selling everything in Canada to move to Singapore is fill with sorrow but it is overshadow by the joy of obedience to Jesus.

Before we went to Uganda, we did the same thing.  We never thought we would be back in Singapore so soon (at least not after one year).

One thing I keep praying to the Lord and for each of us is that we never lose this desire to seek Jesus when we get old.

There’s no point in being burning hot for Christ in the beginning and end up cold and harden at the end.  When you race, you want to finish the race strong.

So we continue to pray and seek the Lord.

And we know He is a good God.  He is more than proven by the experiences we had of following Him in the past few years.

: )

Speaking at Q Commons on Resilience and Faith

Last night I had the privilege of speaking at Q Commons (Singapore).  Q Commons is an event bringing like-minded Christians and non-Christians to discuss how to advance the common good in our community.

My topic was Finding resilience through my faith in Christ.

I haven’t spoke on my own journey for a long time.  It was a refreshing time for the audience and also for me as I recalled how the Lord rescued me from cancer, gave me a second chance and took me to places where I never thought possible.  cliff-speaking-q-commons

 


25 yrs ago I should have been six feet underground. I can only imagine what went through my parent’s mind when they told them their son had cancer. There was a massive growth in the liver and there is no way I could live without a transplant. The doctors gave me 6 months to live and the waiting list is much longer than that.
At that time, I couldn’t process all this meant to me and my family. All I know was that because of my family’s decision to migrate to Canada, it was through a routine check that the doctor found out something wrong with me.little-cliff-bike

This sequence of events proved to me that I am standing here today, alive and well, is not random nor by accident. Looking back, I knew God wanted me to live. After my liver transplant, He gave me a second chance. A second chance to live with purpose.

cliff-riding 

At the age of 27, I completed an Ironman event.  An Ironman event consists 4 km of swimming, 180 km of cycling and a marathon all in one day. It didn’t started off like this, of course. Like all things in life, it started off small. I started running. Picked up cycling again and later learn to swim. After finishing a small triathlon, I thought maybe, just maybe I could do an Ironman. It is just a little longer right?

Doing an Ironman is like wrestling with a Gorilla. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the Gorilla is tired.

Cliff Tam running in the Ironman USA 2007I completed the course in 14 hours of grueling heat, strong prevailing wind and pain in places I never thought possible.  At the end of the Ironman, I started to cry. I almost felt like I was hallucinating. I felt God is telling me to give up my life to follow Him. I knew that I was alive not by accident but because of His love and care for me.

After doing the Ironman, I believe that there are no limits to what we can achieve when we choose to rely on Him and fulfill His purpose in our lives. Of all the things I’ve done, finishing the Ironman was probably the greatest achievement. But that wasn’t the most important thing in my life. I realize the purpose of my life is not for my sake but for His.

Years later, through a ‘divine’ accident, I got married to the most beautiful woman in the world. Living half way across the world, 10,000 miles apart. It was impossible to start a relationship. It was not even rational or logical.

cliff-wjYet, I knew God has a purpose for both of our lives, given the same heartbeat we have for the poor and the needy. When I decided to lay down the love of triathlon, I know God is taking me to a whole new adventure.

Sure, I can continue to compete in triathlon, winning medals and giving glory back to Him. It would be the sensible thing to do. It would be an inspiring story. But I knew that wouldn’t be obedient to Him. God has a different purpose. It was only after I surrender triathlon, God brought me to Singapore and made this relationship possible.

wj-kids

Through this woman, God changed my life once again.  Three months ago, my wife and I returned from a one year stint serving in Uganda.

When we started this journey to Africa, everyone thought we were crazy. Being a medical doctor, my wife, more than anybody else knows the risks that it poses to my health to be in Africa. Having a liver transplant means that I am on immuno-suppressant drug everyday. It means I am easier to catch disease and could not take the yellow fever vaccination which is compulsory for entry into Uganda. But once again, when we thought there’s no other way, instead of giving up as many suggested, we made a stand to pray and seek God. He, as always, is faithful and we were off to Uganda.

cliff-wj-kidsDuring our one year stint, as we obey God’s calling to serve the poor, my wife and I saw Him open doors and performed miracles neither of us dare to imagine. I believe that life, whether in Africa or in Singapore, always have an element of risk.  But, it is when we made a choice to allow God to take over and obey His calling, there is nowhere safer on this earth than in the palms of our father’s hands.

Today, my challenge to you is this. How are you living your life?

Resilience is not inborne. I was not born with it but I believe the circumstances in my life, God taught me obedience. And through that obedience, trust. Through trusting, He grew resilience inside of me which then allowed me to live my faith as it is today.

Resilience is available for everyone but only when we allow Him to develop it inside of us. It is not develop by our own strength or will. It is available when we are willing to lay down our lives and surrender what we wanted for God’s highest calling.

Resilience is a choice and a way of life IF we allowed God to bend and mold us as He pleases. He is trust-worthy because He is our creator and the author and the perfector of our faith.

To end off, I would encourage you to choose a life of total surrendering and obedience. For only then, can God work out true resilience in us to live for His highest Glory.

Thank you.

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)

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!

Worship in Spirit and truth

A few people asked us why Uganda given that Uganda is Christianized. Since the 1800s, Christian missionaries have been to Uganda to share the gospel. If you asked most of the locals their religion, they will call themselves Christians. So why we are here if most of Uganda is already reached?

On our recce trip to Uganda back in February, I stumbled upon the local news that in Northern Uganda there is a cult that uses both the Bible and Quran. This article made me realized that in Uganda the Truth is not being proclaimed. I immediately remembered what Jesus said when he spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. He said that one day people will worship in Truth and in Spirit.

This is the purpose of us coming to Uganda. We desire Ugandans to worship in Spirit and truth.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.John 4:21-24 (NKJV)

For the past two months we’ve been teaching in the Bible school.  The school is nothing more than a big house with a tiny light bulb dangling in the center of one room. There’s no hot water and they cooked with charcoal. Power outage is common and our computer class is often cancelled because of that.

Despite the simple utilities, the students have a hunger to learn. They desire to learn the Bible and learn how to use computer. This is very motivating for Wai Jia and me. God brought us here from Singapore. We sacrificed to come. Others supported us with their hard earn money. The opportunity is here and we need to take advantage of it. We need to invest and invest fully.

Our job is to impart and to build them up so that they can go to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi and beyond to teach others how to worship Jesus in truth and in Spirit. This is our desire and our hope. We are investing in the Kingdom of God and as Paul said, so that every man (and woman) will be mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28 ESV).

Speaking to a number of missionaries in Uganda, they told us when it comes to working the Muslims are more trustworthy than Christians. They also said even though many called themselves Christians, but those who truly are following Jesus will called themselves born again.

I believe that those who are truly transformed by Jesus through the Holy Spirit will never be the same. I believe that those who are sons and daughters of the Kingdom will work with integrity and honesty. I believe that Uganda and other nations need Jesus Christ.

Even self proclaimed atheist, Matthew Parris, an columnist for The Times, recognized the redeeming power of Jesus Christ in Africa. He wrote an article, As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God, on The Times a few years ago.  In order to access the source,  you need a subscription.  However, I found someone pasted the article and posted on The Richard Dawkins Foundation site.

Writing to your MP (Member of Parliament)

Bible Society published an article on how you can help the Christians getting persecuted in Iraq.

One of the ways to help is to write to your MP (Member of Parliament).  I never written to my MP before.  Sometimes I get stuck with the idea that writing one letter will not make a difference in light of what’s going on.  However, I decided this time I needed to do my part and voice out for the voiceless.

In Canada, you can find who your MP by entering your postal code.

Here’s some tip on how to write to your MP.

This is the letter I sent to my MP.  If you are concerned about the Christians (and also the Yazidis) in Iraq and you are a Canadian, I encourage you to write to your MP as well.


 

Dear _______,

My name is Cliff Tam and I am a Canadian living in your constituent in Mississauga.

I am writing because of the situation regarding the persecution of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq.  I am deeply saddened to see the escalation of violence in Iraq especially after years of fighting.  It is saddening to hear that people are forced to either convert to Islam, pay tax or be killed.  I would like to know if Canada is involved in the humanitarian work of bringing relief and protecting these people from further persecution.

I understand the complexity of operating in the Middle East given the current situation.  At the same time, I also see Canada as one of the leaders in standing up for human rights and freedom of expression- this is what we are known for and this is one of the Canadian values I am proud of.  I hope Canada will be able to participate in some way to bring relief just as our peacekeepers had done in Bosnia and in Rwanda.  

I understand that you have a busy schedule and have many priorities to consider. However, I hope this letter will express my sentiments sufficiently.  

I thank you for your hard work as an MP to represent the Canadians living in Mississauga.  I hope you have a great day and may you find fulfilment in your work to build a better nation for all of us.

Thank you,

Cliff Tam


 

Side note:  We also thought of starting an online petition.  But it turns out that currently in Canada the Parliament only accepts written petition.  Kennedy Stewart is setting a motion for ePetitions.  If you are interested, go to Kennedy’s site and find out more about Motion 428.

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)

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.