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

The Sufficiency of God’s Amazing Grace

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Quite often, we don’t understand God’s grace because we choose to live out our own agenda in our personal lives. However, God is in the midst of our everyday problems. When life hangs in the balance, or we go through a season where we experience multiple emotions that we often struggle to process – we often find ourselves derailed from our focus on our Heavenly Father.

God’s Amazing Grace

Admittedly, I think I am beginning to fully grasp the intimate nature of God’s amazing grace. In the past 30 days, two fellow brothers in Christ shared with me that “money is nothing.” At the time of listening, I couldn’t help but smile cheekily with a grin, because these two brothers in Christ have lived a good life – both of whom are happily married with beautiful children and either holding onto a job, or adjusting to a retired life.

For me, on the other hand, I am unable to share or remotely relate in the golden years of a lived life. I can however, empathise the journey they both shared with me.

Nonetheless, my two friends both share a biblical principal – money is indeed nothing! For someone trying to secure a “common job” through paid work, it’s an interesting predicament.

Unfortunately, many of us will actively waste our time in achieving the worldly goals in securing a fancy house, or a super-fast car, or the worldly accolades and titles that some so desire in life.

For the rest of us plebs (myself included) – WHO CARES!

When I was younger, I did aspire to secure a high-paid job, purely out of a desire to support my parents financially. The tables turn, when I am being supported by my parents for which I am completely in awe of their patience and understanding.

Even more so, I am in awe of God who values me for who I am. God has the ability to call my number as such, but He chooses to give me the oxygen to breathe and live another day. I may not be raking in a reliable source of income, but the LORD does pour His grace through entitlement benefits that allow me to grow in my education with the hope of securing paid work. The more I apply for far-reaching jobs in the creative industry and that of regular IT jobs, the more I recognise I am NOT interested in slaving myself in sweatshop conditions as an IT monkey.

God’s Bigger Picture

I do believe that God is tugging (or in Facebook terms, “poking”) my heart to possible avenues that are completely out of my comfort zone. I believe the avenues are linked to God, because I have seen a glimpse of God’s bigger picture with regards to building for the Kingdom of God and reaching out to the lost – outside the walls of a local church, and outside the secular workplace. And as a person who is renowned for (over)analysing everything, I also believe it can hinder my faith to completely trust in the LORD of such a unique opportunity.

Perhaps I am afraid of falling in failure territory again, and yet it’s funny, because the past year or so, I have specifically asked the LORD in my everyday prayer to help me grow thick-skinned in overcoming failure and to grow more in faith in the LORD. After +70 “Dear John” applications from jobs applied – I get that God is indeed answering my prayer. A friend often reminded me, during my time at seminary, “Be careful what you pray for Rich, it may well come true!”

To Mission or Not to Mission

I also have a thing for overseas mission. However, I don’t want to experience it purely to visit an orphanage in Africa, or to gain experience to “prove” to a university institution to enroll myself in a medical undergraduate degree programme. But simply because people’s hearts overseas are softer than the secularisation of the West. However, we as a family often remember folk who are serving in global mission. We may not know their names and the circumstances (and dangers) they face, but we appreciate that God knows them better than anyone – and that we are agreeing through intercessory prayer as a family.

I still have a craving for East Asia, but I don’t fully have a burning call as yet. I’m still more concerned for the poor, here in the UK. And as previously mentioned, my primary expenditure when pursuing work or overseas mission would be to secure an international medical insurance. I even turned down of a missional opportunity to be based in Hong Kong recently for a key reason, as I didn’t see or hear any confirmation from the LORD to pursue the opportunity, despite being a prime candidate to pass through multiple interviews.

Conclusion

I am deeply thankful for the intercessory prayers of friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ locally and across the pond – some of whom, I have never met in my life. I am in particularly thankful for those who are able to read in-between the lines of things that I have chosen to share and reflect upon in recent months.

Despite the lack of activity with regards to securing paid work, I am growing in faith to recognise that God may well indeed be prepping something better behind the scenes. I trust that my Heavenly Father knows what He is doing, and I look forward in the weeks and days to come.

If there’s one thing that is keeping me sane and at peace – despite the chaos, it’s all because of God’s amazing grace.

~Richard

TL;DR

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As we are moving into the seasonal holidays with Thanksgiving and Christmas, depending on where you live and what you value more, the Church has recently seen two popular leaders step down from Christian leadership. Both Mark Driscoll and Bob Coy led aspiring congregations and pioneering ministries, both of whom I have previously read materials and listened to podcast channels online. Curiously, I don’t own physical books from either former pastor.

Without going into the ramification on personal details, I am sad to see that even here in the UK, where appointed leaders are easily consumed in distracting themselves from God’s divine authority. And as a result, I am in ways thankful that God has halted the inner call to pastoral ministry due to unforeseen circumstances that is beyond my control and understanding.

My unsurpassable stumbling block is that I cannot secure a reference letter from a very specific individual. No real reason other than he wants to safeguard his earthly reputation. Let’s just say he also engages in some high-powered handshakes underneath the tables. Yet ironically, the same heart also allowed another minister from the Presbyterian quarters, who struggles with his sexuality to preach at our church earlier this year. Go figure. Why stay, when you can’t grow?

Above all, and even in my recent vocational studies, there hasn’t been a bad word with regards to how I conducted myself in preaching, other than I come across as gentle-spirited and soft spoken. I never knew that a loud-mouth spokesperson was a requirement.

With regards to the rejection to grow in some kind of junior role in pastoral ministry, it’s frustrating that I am unable to learn in a mentoring role, and it troubles me that churches will happily (and legally) advertise publicly, yet predestine and groom a person internally. To an extent, I can understand why, but I see it way too often. And at the same time, I believe it also shows a lack of faith and wise counsel from God’s leading of the Holy Spirit. And yet, this recruitment strategy never occurs in the great mission field among missionaries, so why should local churches be any different? Anyhow, who am I to say. May God have mercy and conviction on such leaders who cling to worldly credentials and orchestrate internal affairs like a corporate boardroom.

Spiritually speaking, I am annoyed in one sense, because I still see great spiritual poverty in people relying on God’s Word, and I rarely get to hear the powerful message of God’s Word preached in its entirety, without the tickling of ears through light-hearted entertainment. If I want to hear jokes, I have YouTube. Why must I listen to podcasts and read of articles from expository preachers and Christian leaders from across the pond, simply to hear God’s Word being preached? Does Britain even care for the Good News?

Humanly speaking, in another sense, I am somewhat relieved, as I can now re-focus and re-align life “AS IS” which in my linear understanding is securing a stable job, grow in a career, continue to serve at a local church, await God’s provision for a godly wife, settle down with a family, etc. Perhaps not in a very uniformed and systematic manner as we all hope and wish for, but preferably in that order, especially the latter part as I value sexual purity. Sad and old-fashioned I may be, but I fear the LORD, not the trends of the world.

Like other singletons, I still believe the LORD will provide an opportunity that will allow me to serve and grow in a unique way, especially while I am still presently single. Either that, or the LORD simply wants me to use my single time to dwell in His presence and His Spirit – all of which is equally fine too. And I’m not afraid to ask God, why create companionship between man and woman and yet, not be able to experience that companionship in the form of marriage here on earth.

I don’t know about you, but I do find being single a humbling opportunity to learn how to love, by first loving our Saviour through the LORD Jesus Christ. And I admit that I am still learning how to love outside my parents and select circle of friends, most of whom are mature Christians around the age of parents.

Mind you, I’d rather be trained-in-waiting to be the best husband that I can be to my godly wife. And I also want to be the best dad that I can be to my kids, whom I want to raise with biblical and Christian values with my wife. Of course, and God-willing in a husbandly position, I would like the opportunity to embrace sexual intimacy in a relationship with a dear friend who would be my wife and companion. And I’m not embarrassed to reflect upon what it would be like to finally share your first kiss with your spouse on the joyous day of your wedding.

I feel for those in a similar position as myself who are rapidly approaching the milestone of 30 years of age. I am aware that some folk will simply want to tie the knot with any random person and simply make it happen, purely because of God’s natural ageing process. Some will find success. Others will not.

Yes, our reproductive organs that allows us to shoot sperms and create eggs to orchestrate a new creation is all very fascinating. Some people choose to grow comfortable in a career first before settling down, whilst some think a young age is the best way to prepare and start a family before securing any form of finances. My parents did the latter in the circumstances that was revealed to them, and by God’s grace, I dropped out into the world as a healthy kid. Finances was a struggle, but the LORD provided through the hard work and labour, not just from Dad’s working week (and weekends), but also my Mum’s motherly attention for me, while Dad was working.

Without jumping too far ahead. I look forward to the day that I will receive a phone call regarding a permanent job offer. If it’s not meant to be, I wonder if it’s two other possibilities, starting a unique business or pursuing overseas mission on a long-term basis. Due to wanting to maintain a good standing in my health, I can’t see overseas mission as a viable option, especially when I don’t feel called at this moment in time. So yeah, options are running thin and time keeps ticking forward.

Only time will tell. Other than that, I am still living in hope – still living in faith.

~Richard

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