Outside Looking In

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I never did follow the crowd. In fact, I never really followed a crowd. It’s been like this since I was in elementary school. Perhaps it’s a good thing. Perhaps I was given a spiritual gifting at a very young age, without fully understanding it.

Reflecting back, I feel I am nudged to be a rebel. Not the rebel kind that we often associate negative connotations with like a rebel fighter or a person involved in anti-social behaviour. For me, a rebel is someone who goes against the upside standards of this fallen world, whose feet remain firm in the biblical truth that is the LORD Jesus Christ.

Personally, I want to slip through the net into obscurity. I have attempted to become what the world would see as “normal” but it seems like at every worldly opportunity God is preventing, if not, protecting me and encouraging me to be myself, for what He created me to live and be, as a child of God.

Only one viable option remains, and I am earnestly discerning if this faith-based path is where God wants me to walk to build and serve for His Kingdom. I also want to know if this path will only serve to help with someone else’s hopes, dreams and ambitions, or whether I have the best imagination in the universe and that all this time my brain has literally gone AWOL in Alice in Wonderland.

The one thing that keeps me sane into believing that God is indeed laying a path for me to walk on is the value and reward of ploughing the fields as a Christian believer, whilst pursuing God’s own heart, which remains my utmost priority in life, despite feeling emotionally fragile. The one thing that attracts me to this faith-based path is that I genuinely see great potential to reap a bountiful harvest, all for the glory of God. Yes, a bountiful harvest!

I have also noticed that God has placed people, mostly older brothers and sisters in Christ, which seem to wedge open doors of opportunity and ways to collaborate and build and serve for the Kingdom of God. I am excited of the potential, and I am indeed fearful of the life-changing potential. I carefully use the word potential, because there is no such thing as fairy dust, especially when working on the fields, where there is much demand for manual labour. We often pray for a miracle, but sometimes God will want to use us to be part of that miracle (and live out as members of the Body of Christ), so that we can recognise His amazing work and anointing of the Holy Spirit within us, as we play our role. We simply cannot expect God to click His fingers and voila – our prayer has been answered, and we ourselves have sat on our backsides.

The really encouraging factor about responding to this faith-based path that is currently available to me is that I have nothing to lose. And I still believe this is NOT of my making, nor would I throw myself in the hope to gain something. I am likely to grow deeper in my faith and relationship with the LORD, but nothing material that our deceiving hearts would lust over and worship. I know hands-down that this is indeed a Christ-centred thing to do, and it’s very relevant for today’s society in the 21st century.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to build my own kingdom. I am also aware of the potential success factor that such project / venture would garner, and I know that in such circumstances, suddenly people will think they are your best friends.

My parents struggle with the long-term path that is currently available to me, as they would prefer me to live a “normal” life. I empathise with the underlying hurt of my parents who feel for my constant rejections both worldly and Christian, and I can only begin to understand the spiritual confusion they sleep through every night wishing and praying for me to return back to normality. I remind them again and again that I still have my faith in the LORD Jesus Christ, and I trust that the LORD will provide, and that there are enough blessings to outweigh the negatives.

Above all, if I forget to remind myself and live out the promises of Scripture that my Heavenly Father loves, cares and provides for me, then I will indeed fall. At the moment, I have a limited timeframe to respond and I know the LORD wants me to step out of the boat and cast my net. Once I find my Speedos, I shall be ready to respond…

~Richard

Choosing to be Faithful in Christ

Reflection

As I shared with familiar faces last week, it is a daily fight for joy in Christ.

On the surface, I am still coping – still enduring. I am able to find plentiful of things to give thanks for and count my blessings each and everyday, than rant about things that I could easily moan about. At the time of writing, I am still waiting for multiple answers on various issues regarding the immediate future.

Hot on Health

Health has strangely resolved itself after a month-long spell of head colds and unusual viral infections. The odd sneeze and the clearing of throat, but nothing head-scratching.

Sleeping is a bit of a mixed bag. Again, time-wise, for a month now, I’ve been having lucid dreams during the night. It is easing in the past week or two, though there has been some evenings that I felt uncomfortable to sleep. According to medical journals and articles related to neuroscience, my lack of solid sleep is related to stress… no doubt, because life is hanging in limbo. Whatever the case, I am strangely not interested in retaining my dream state or environment. What’s wrong with counting sheep jumping over the green meadows of a nearby farm? Wait?! Am I in a dream right now?…

Bible Reading

I am encouraged in my new-form of devotional reading. I am focusing solely on God’s Word and simply reading the Scriptures for all its worth, without consulting to commentaries, pastoral reflections or even using traditional devotionals like Our Daily Bread. I am trying to grow more disciplined in leaning on God’s Word and His Word alone, and I admit, I find it super challenging.

So far, I am using the Bible from Tecarta. I wanted the ability to own a digital copy of two translations that I can read offline, but use across multiple devices. Basically pay one price – use on multiple devices.

The two Bible translations that I find much encouragement is the NLT (New Living Translation) and the NASB (New American Standard Bible). I find they both share the Greek translation, which I favour compared with the ESV, which I also know leans more towards a Calvinistic slant, especially when you dive into the historically rich, yet Calvinistic material from the ESV Study Bible. I also find the ESV a snobby version to the NIV, which share a similar language, but with the NIV 2011 update, I haven’t sat down to study the theological changes that have been making the waves in evangelical camps several years back. For a deeper and balanced Bible study, I use all four bible translations.

I also love how the Tecarta Bible app is fluid in capturing notes and I really dig the highlighted options. I now use a 4-colour annotation convention, when I digitally vandalise the Scriptures. I find it better to organise than the YouVersion Bible from LifeChurch, which although receives the most attention and technical support, appears to be more of a social-based app. Unfortunately, there is no ability to purchase a digital copy of a specific translation. Otherwise, I would use YouVersion, because it is the most popular Bible app on the market.

That is all I wish to reflect for now. There are other things I would like to share, but I will wait when the time is right. So yeah, one day at a time.

~Richard

Ambitions for 2015

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I refuse to make traditional New Year resolutions, since I fail to pursue them to the very end. I will, however, make some revolutionary ambitions, some of which are beyond my human capability and understanding, as I feel there are some things that are Spirit-led that are brewing within my Spirit, but I wish to test and see if it’s from the LORD. More importantly, I want to discern if it’s God’s will and timing to pursue such plan of action.

Yes, I am choosing to be ambitious with some projects, some of which I will be playing close to my chest. Other things are merely milestones in the hope of learning something new, but nothing ridiculous like playing the national anthem through my nostrils.

Vocation

One such ambition is job related. Like other young adults like me, it is only natural to pursue a steady-income job, whether it’s manual labour or professional work in an office or corporate environment. Well, I’m going to go against the grains of common sense, as I wish to pursue a line of work, where my role and responsibility will focus on serving others. *If* the LORD is *still* “training” me for pastoral ministry, then I wish to lose any prideful attitudes and earn a humble living by faithfully serving others outside the walls of a church and witness among the needy.

I’ve recently seen some vocational posts advertising for leadership experience and qualities including being part of a leadership / eldership team in some shape and form, but I’m amused that such vocational “adverts” overlook Scriptural characteristics, and unfortunately, it seems to be the norm that godly character is replaced with human ability.

The servant leadership that Jesus Himself lived out in biblical practice is a good example that we should be following, as noted in Matthew 20:25-28 (ESV).

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Passion

The servant leadership model is something that links with a bigger ambition that is closer to my heart (well, it’s not exactly mine, I believe that God has placed this ambition on my heart a few years back and it’s been slowly growing since). I still don’t know how to pursue this ambition, and yet I was encouraged to (accidentally) stumble upon a similar working model that is currently in operation across two cities in Scotland. That is all I can share for now.

Geekiness

Outside the realms of real people and superficial salaries, I am keen to acquire new skills including learning the WHOLE of Adobe’s Creative Suite, and learn how to program like a geek since programming is more logical than life itself. Seriously! I am not a mathematical genius, and academically my English is better than my Maths, but since programming is where the money is at in today’s prime jobs in the ICT industry, I’m going to force myself to learn something beneficial, as a side project – with a focus on web programming and mobile development.

I am also interested in learning copywriting and internet security, and it would be fascinating to learn more of the complex operating systems that govern the world wide web. Making a website is all very nice, but learning the tedious backbone mechanics can really help to understand the boundaries of internet security, especially with multi-national government agencies who are making significant investment in recruiting such abled people – something that I am keen to avoid, but nonetheless interested to learn since this is how we are living the future, where services and files are stored in “the Cloud” and hacking is more commonplace than a bloke winning the national lottery.

Godliness

Above all, I am going to make it a priority to read the whole of the Bible in a year, alongside a steady stream of Christian books (and possibly some Christian biographies of Christian missionaries – the classics are the best, no money-spinning internal politics or back-patting dealings, but sincere hearts to serve). I don’t know how I will achieve this goal, as I seem to fail at “reading-the-whole-Bible-in-a-Year” target every time, but I will improvise new ways to make it happen. I want to be in a solid position in my relationship with my Heavenly Father that I can fully discern with complete confidence and recognise His voice amongst the everyday distractions of life. I am absolutely determined to lose old habits and create healthy habits that I am able to maintain come rain or shine.

Maybe, if I have time above everything else, then maybe… just maybe, I will learn how to play the national anthem through my nostrils.

In the meantime, I am going to start the day (and year) with an earnest prayer for godly wisdom, knowledge and guidance because all of the above is simply ad-lib.

~Richard

Highlights of 2014 – Friendships

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I promised myself to not dwell on past issues regarding the past year, and yet, here I am penning my final entry before the dawn of 2015.

In ways, I find it therapeutic to quickly glance over the shoulder, and take some time to observe with thanksgiving in my heart. And, as a result, I will be looking back on one final thing, as I long to move forward with my heart and mind.

One of the major highlights for me has got to be friendships. I feel joyous in my Spirit knowing that I have had the privilege to grow in my current circle of friendships (those close to home and even long distant). I am thankful to have extended new friendships with other brother and sisters in Christ as newfound friends.

I have also adopted another set of parents, which I seem to do every now and again. Not sure why either. I guess I like the idea of being adopted into God’s family, especially when one grows up living an only child. There’s something wonderful in connecting with others, especially in Spirit in the wider body of Christ.

I am thankful for my close-knit circle of friends, especially for seeing me for who I am – someone who is imperfect, a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness and outpouring love and grace.

I am still learning with regards to friends and friendships as a whole. I am learning to share more time, and to give to others in whatever way that seems appropriate in a given situation. Crucially, I am also learning to receive rebuke from friends, which I see as a healthy way to grow in discernment and be drawn closer to God with regards to how I should pursue certain things in life.

I have learned to share in the joyful moments and even in the challenging seasons with friends, especially those I am unable to see in-person, and it breaks my heart to see them go through much hurt, but we share the same underlying faith in Christ, knowing that everyday brings fresh hope, as we all journey and take one day at a time.

I am strangely discovering that true friends don’t need to communicate with social networking sites, aside from making the odd comment on a funny joke or in shared family photos. There is something human when you engage with another human being with composed words in an e-mail or handwritten letter, or in the vulnerable surroundings of seeing each other in-person.

I just thank the LORD for either leading (and/or providing) me with the opportunity and privilege to befriend others, and to cross paths in whatever journey we are currently facing in our personal lives.

Remembering Older Friends

I have also lost two older brothers in Christ (both of whom are called Jim) and an older sister in Christ (named Margaret), who sadly passed away during the summer months within weeks of each other. It was also an odd experience to attend 3 consecutive funeral services. It also felt odd visiting the two Jim’s at their bedside in hospital, knowing that God was calling them both home.

I will never forget the day, when I visited Jim McC at his bedside, and after sharing words of encouragement and spending some time in prayer, there came that heartbreaking time when I had to return home.

Jim McC clutched my hand in a very firm way that a weak person could grasp in his last days. I don’t know why, but the last words that came to my mouth was quite simply “I’ll see you soon.” I didn’t give a time or date to when I longed to visit again. In a way, I know I’ll be seeing Jim McC soon, as I know he is with the LORD and at peace.

I also remember seeing Jim McD (the other Jim) in his last days. The time I visited, it was seemingly his better day, before his health rapidly declined thereafter. I will never forget Jim McD’s zeal for the LORD. He was passionate for God’s Word, and I had the awesome privilege to join his bible study group at his flat on several occasions.

Both Jim McD and Jim McC stood in differing theological views. One was a Calvinist. One was an Arminian. Both offered godly wisdom. Both shared a love for the Scriptures, and both were devoted in their bible study groups. It encouraged me that even to the ends of your days, the only sustaining thing that will keep us going, until we finish this earthly race is the ever-growing desire to grow deeper in God’s Word. Everything else in life is temporary, but God’s Word is eternal.

~Richard

Child of God

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Coping is a masking term that we use to describe ourselves when we face pressure in a given situation, or when facing the emotional realities of profound burdens, where you feel like carrying a pile of bricks upon your shoulders. Coping is a word that I am growing more accustomed to in makeshift conversation.

And yet, it’s weird that we, as born-again Christians tend to avoid real words to describe our human struggles in life, or even when going through seasons of spiritual warfare. We often want to be associated with such heavenly blessings, charismatic gifts and God’s indescribable love and forgiveness – all of which is revealed through the grace of God, and the anointing works of the Holy Spirit.

And here I am, penning a reflection as we clock past midnight, because I can’t sleep gracefully that I know I am capable of doing without much thought and effort.

There is no shame in accepting and recognising the emotional struggles in our everyday life. For some, it is considered a healthy process. We fall down, and then we are standing firm on solid two feet. We might have the odd bruise here and there, or sometimes a cut that leaves a scar, or something deeper like a thorn in the flesh. There is however, a danger of denying ourselves that we need help – and quite often, we need supernatural help in areas in our lives that is beyond human capability (and understanding), but in the divine power in the LORD Himself.

I pray that my faith in Christ (whatever measurement that God sees within me) is faithful enough to remain faithful no matter what season I have to face in life. Endurance is painful. We passively read about the Christian’s endurance without second thought. However, endurance is incredible exhausting (think of your sporting heroes and world-class athletes). Endurance not only affects the physical body, but also in the human mind. It is through endurance (whether it’s physical, spiritual or mental) that we ought to secure our faith, hope and strength in Christ. Only He can pull us from the pits that sink our feet from our trapped surroundings.

Faithful endurance is when you don’t give up persevering through the pain and suffering. Yes, it’s easy to pull the plug. It really is! Let’s be utterly honest with ourselves about that absolute and sensitive truth. I also believe in an underlying consequence, when we choose to be disobedient in that essence of endurance that obviously God allows to exist on earth. I am sure that as a result of the cosmic chaos that is sin, endurance is the spiritual training that helps believers to grow in Christ, no matter how tough it labours our hearts and minds.

Yes, we can take a moment, and be cynical towards life and think that life is a game, but I cannot help but believe (not feel), but believe that there is some righteous reward when we appear before the LORD as a good and faithful servant.

I am Richard. I am a child of God, and I am coping.

~Richard

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