No Worries, God Has Got It Covered

Every week at the Friday night fellowship back at home in SB, there is a time to share blessings. People are able to give a shout out to God for how He has blessed them during the week. Since I’m not able to share with the SB folks in person, I figure I could post here and maybe someone will come across it. Otherwise, I hope that in reading this, you are encouraged by seeing how God actively participates in our lives. From things that we have absolutely no control over, or even the things we think we’ve got down.

One of the many things I thank God for is providing brothers and sisters up here at Cal Poly. For those of you reading who either go or have gone to CEFCSB, I think you would agree with me that the fellowship you experience there is crazy awesome. It’s definitely hard for me to explain. It’s one of the things that I knew before leaving, I would miss the most. I even thought to myself, there’s no way that I’m going to be able to find people like this at SLO. I decided that I would “settle for less” if I had to. And when I would return home, I’d realize how thankful I should be for these great friends. But how the Lord loves to prove us wrong. God definitely answered my prayer for finding brothers and sisters to fellowship with. Hanging out, I didn’t realize it at first, but it felt like I was with the people from home (not that I’m trying to replace you guys or anything haha). There is just a comfort in knowing that the people around you believe and worship the same God as you. I am so thankful for the friendships that I’ve made while at home and because of them, am able to look forward to how God will work in these new friendships here at SLO.

I really thank God for this experience so far. He has definitely blessed me with a smooth transition and I find myself enjoying it here.

“Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” Nehemiah 9:5-6

Praise God.

Trials

Being able to fellowship with other brother and sisters last Friday night at our weekly church gathering was one that impressed upon me more than usual and was quite encouraging. Studying from Romans 8 the later half of the chapter talks about what we have as to our security and more importantly our victory is Christ Jesus.  Prior to this, the first half of chapter 8 hints at the fact that as believers we are as in verse 8:18 to ‘consider that sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us’. The conclusion from this nugget is that suffering/trials/temptations will be coming our way that will bend, stretch and test our faith.  But what is one to do with this statement?  The concept that suffering is confirmed in the lives of those who follow Christ Jesus as said in 2 Timothy 3:12 ‘Indeed, all those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’. Sarcastically in my mind I am saying man…what a great study for this group.  Some of the members in our group were new believers and we had just combined with an international student group, and I was going over my mind of what possibly could be running through their minds.
But God blew my mind open and I totally was encouraged by the things spoken.
With that question posed to the group after reading through chapter 8 was again that suffering as Christians is something that is promised in the bible and is clearly seen, and what is one to do? How are we to approach these trials that are to come?
Run? Some responded with comments on the line of, ‘how this concept of persecution and trials could be beneficial in life? running doesn’t sound like a bad idea’
One brother responded that really our lives as believers when we accept Christ were given a gift, a gift of Life that Jesus gave. Our lives are His.  For us to run, we would be missing out on the amazing things God so wants us to learn of and mature in.
That got my brain moving…
For as it said earlier in Romans 5:3-5, More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’ In the face of trials we should more so ask God to give us the strength to overcome and patience to go through, rather than asking Him to take it away.  Even in the face of monumental strife and tribulation were we let our circumstances get the better of us, God is still there.  ‘If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself’ 2 Timothy 2:13.  Further comfort is found in Romans 8:28,  ‘And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose’.  When we view our lives in a microscopic point of view it may see out of control and in complete chaos, but God who sees our lives in the greater scheme of things is in complete control.
Let us not allow our circumstances to guide and sway our faith in God. Let us exercise that same faith and security we profess in our salvation in God in every aspect of our lives big or small.  For we know that God who is faithful will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but with that temptation will provide a way of escape also, so that we will be able to endure it.
2 last passages:
Romans 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword?…
Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Being able to fellowship with other brother and sisters last Friday night at our weekly church gathering was one that impressed upon me more than usual and was quite encouraging. Studying from Romans 8 the later half of the chapter talks about what we have as to our security and more importantly our victory is Christ Jesus.  Prior to this, the first half of chapter 8 hints at the fact that as believers we are as in verse 8:18 to ‘consider that sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us’. The conclusion from this nugget is that suffering/trials/temptations will be coming our way that will bend, stretch and test our faith.  But what is one to do with this statement?  The concept that suffering is confirmed in the lives of those who follow Christ Jesus as said in 2 Timothy 3:12 ‘Indeed, all those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’. Sarcastically in my mind I am saying man…what a great study for this group.  Some of the members in our group were new believers and we had just combined with an international student group, and I was going over my mind of what possibly could be running through their minds.

But God blew my mind open and I totally was encouraged by the things spoken.

With that question posed to the group after reading through chapter 8 was again that suffering as Christians is something that is promised in the bible and is clearly seen, and what is one to do? How are we to approach these trials that are to come?

Run? Some responded with comments on the line of, ‘how this concept of persecution and trials could be beneficial in life? running doesn’t sound like a bad idea’

One brother responded that really our lives as believers when we accept Christ were given a gift, a gift of Life that Jesus gave. Our lives are His.  For us to run, we would be missing out on the amazing things God so wants us to learn of and mature in.

That got my brain moving…

For as it said earlier in Romans 5:3-5, More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’ In the face of trials we should more so ask God to give us the strength to overcome and patience to go through, rather than asking Him to take it away.  Even in the face of monumental strife and tribulation were we let our circumstances get the better of us, God is still there.  ‘If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself’ 2 Timothy 2:13.  Further comfort is found in Romans 8:28,  ‘And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose’.  When we view our lives in a microscopic point of view it may see out of control and in complete chaos, but God who sees our lives in the greater scheme of things is in complete control.

Let us not allow our circumstances to guide and sway our faith in God. Let us exercise that same faith and security we profess in our salvation in God in every aspect of our lives big or small.  For we know that God who is faithful will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but with that temptation will provide a way of escape also, so that we will be able to endure it.

2 last passages:

Romans 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword?…

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

We’re All Winners

During an English teaching mission trip to China, my teammates Robin, Julie, and I taught the youngest class. They were ages twelve to fourteen. Every morning, at the beginning of class, we wrote up a daily journal topic. At the end of the first week, the topic was to write a letter to one or all of three of the teachers. One student wrote me a short but heartfelt narrative:

Dear Jane,

These days I am very happy. Because you teach us many things. I like English camp much. I remember you say Everyone Is A Winner. This make me feel very happy and appreciate, because other teachers don’t say this. I hope you like Teng Chong. Please write me!

At first, after reading this letter, I was a little confused. When did I say “Everyone is a winner?” Why would I say something so cheesy? And how could such a lame line inspire a student so much? Then I finally remembered. It was during the first few days of the English program, when we were playing a game of some kind. At the end I had casually said something like, “Don’t worry guys, everyone’s a winner!”

I was surprised that a line so trite and trivial, at least to me, could have had such an impression on a student. The student had kept an offhand comment like that so close to her memory that she wrote about it at the end of the week! From a few simple lines written in choppy English, I have learned so much about the impact of encouraging, which is to say, showing God’s love. I thought this must be one of those small miracles that God sometimes slips us to remind us of Him.  To remind us of His everlasting love that resounds through the simplest gestures, like smiling at my students. Listening when they speak. Telling them they’re winners. So let me tell you. You are a winner!

The Response of a Disciple

A few Sundays ago at CCCTO I shared about what the response of a disciple looks like when we study the example of the apostles in Acts 5:17-42. What follows is an attempt to summarize the main points.

In Acts 5, the apostles are performing many miraculous signs, which were not only bringing many to believe in the Lord, but also causing the Sadducees to become very jealous. In fact, this jealously got to the point where the apostles are arrested and thrown in jail. It is here where we begin to see some very distinct differences between how a disciple, a student or true follower of Christ, and those who simply “know of Christ” respond to the curve balls life throws at us.

The question that we have to ask ourselves, is how often is our natural inclination to say “maybe”, or “ok, but later” to things in life.  In a world that has bombarded us with jam-packed schedules and competing priorities screaming for our attention throughout our already busy days, it is so easy to say “maybe, but later”.

As we study this passage, we learn from the example of the apostles, those called by Christ, that we aren’t to be a people who respond with hesitation, but rather with confidence in what God has already done, what He continues to do, and what He has promised. Specifically looking at verses 17-42, we see the following:

The apostles had a faith that could be seen (v.18):

The fact that the apostles were arrested meant that they stood out from the masses. Growing up in Santa Barbara, I recall living a life that was wildly different depending on who I was around, or what day of the week it was. On Sundays you could always find me seated in a pew, however my heart was elsewhere. In the world that I lived in, I blended in quite nicely, whether it was putting on the Sunday act, or doing the Monday-Friday thing in high school. However, if we look to the example of the apostles, their lives were noticeably different. Nowadays, you can be noticeably different by being a nuisance, however theirs was nothing of the sort. They were being faithful with the things that God had entrusted them with, and they were not shy about it. What was the cost? In their case, it landed them in prison. Not many of us can say that we are up against those odds, however ironically enough many of us live a life that proclaims of our worldly success as opposed to one that proclaims the victory we have in Christ.

The apostles responded with immediate obedience (v.20):

We now come across the apostles’ first opportunity to change course. However, after their miraculous escape from prison they did not waste any time in obeying what they had been commanded to do. Even more, they immediately returned to the very place where they were arrested the day before. Note that the angel of the Lord freed them in the night, and by day break, they were already back in the the temple. How many of us, if placed in their shoes, would instead “lay low” until things cooled down a bit? Let’s examine our lives to see if we have been making up excuses to put God off until later when it’s more convenient, or safer for us.

This also brings to mind the importance of listening to God, and responding in action. Often we hear Him in our lives, yet our response is to add Him to our list of things to do, instead of responding in immediate obedience. Or better yet, we may pray for Him to reveal His calling our life, only to listen with selective hearing, expecting a certain answer. Let us actively listen to Him, and respond in immediate obedience.

The apostles acted in faith, remembering and knowing God’s faithfulness (v.26):

As the apostles responded in faith by returning to the temple, they came across yet another opportunity to change course when the officers came to arrest them once again. What is more interesting however, is we see that the apostles now seem to have an opportunity to turn the tables in their own favor, yet they do not. In verse 26 we observe that the officers were cautious in arresting the apostles without violence, for they were afraid of the masses that had gathered to listen, that they would stone them. It is clear at this point that the apostles had the upper hand, and could have easily staged a revolt. However, they freely submit to the authorities. What could possess someone to willingly give in? Perhaps it was an unwavering faith, knowing how God had been faithful in times past, and knowing that He would be faithful in times to come.

We also see that the the officers were witness to the amazing things being done, but blinded by their passion they looked past and missed seeing how God was working in the lives of the apostles.

How does this apply to us? I for one say that from my life experiences, especially over the past few years,  that God is indeed working and active in this world. But how often are we blinded by the notion that we may have done it under our own abilities alone, or do we try to intellectually apply reason to everything that surrounds us? Furthermore, when God delivers us from trials, we are quick to often praise Him for that, but when another trial comes our way, so quickly are we to forget how He has indeed been faithful, and we revert to our self-sufficient mode of living.

The apostles responded with assurance (v.29):

As the apostles are brought before the Council, it is interesting to note that they are not accused of escaping from the prison. We also see that the apostles have yet another chance to change course at this point, when questioned by the high priest as to why they continued to teach of Christ. However, they responded confidently that they were to serve God, and not man. In times of trouble, they found strength knowing that they were filled with the Holy Spirit (v.32), may we too cling to that assurance.

Gamaliel responded with hesitation (v.38-39):

Before Gamaliel responds, we first see that the Sadduccees desired to kill them at that very moment (v.33), however Gamaliel interjects. It is important to note who Gamaliel is. He was a Pharisee, and a teacher of the Law, and in fact was Paul’s teacher. It is clear that he was a very well educated man. What follows is a series of explanations and reasons why Gamaliel suggests that they should simply let the apostles go on their way. His main premise is that if the work they are doing is of God, then it cannot be stopped, however if it isn’t it will naturally die on its own. While this very action may have saved the lives of the apostles, we have to look at the response of Gamaliel and realize that you cannot be “half on” for God. Like a light switch toggled halfway, we must have the switch turned completely in the on position if we are going to shine a light in a dark place. It is also simply not enough to know of God, but instead to accept Him into our lives, and to allow ourselves to be changed from the inside out by Him.

At the end of the day, I highly doubt that many of us are chasing down followers of Christ, with the desire to kill them as the Sadduccees did in this example. However, how many of us, when presented with two options, play it safe and respond with hesitation in our lives to give Him our all? Sure it’s easy to give up some of the easier things, but when it comes to our careers, our futures, will we respond with the same faith and assurance we see in the apostles?

Bringing it All Together

This post is quickly becoming much longer than I had originally intended, and there’s much more I’d love to share but perhaps we can save that for a future post, or you can ask me in person.

At the end of the day, we’re very privileged to live in a time and a place where we aren’t persecuted in the same way the apostles were, however that is not an excuse for us to become complacent in our walks. Let us look to the example of the apostles during their second imprisonment and ask ourselves:

  1. Are we living lives of faith that can be seen?
  2. Do we have the same confidence in what saved us?
  3. Will we respond with immediate obedience?

Just as we’ve seen in this passage, there is more than one response. We’ve all seen what God has done and what He continues to do in our daily lives, but will we respond in faith with immediate obedience, or will we respond in hesitation, with our personal plans and goals at the forefront of our lives. Let us not put Him off any longer in our lives, let’s get of the fence and stop saying maybe. Let us live a life of faith with urgency that He has both called and equipped us for.

Intro & Mountain Illustration Elaborated…

Hello! This is my 1st post on this wonderful site, and I wanted to share a few things. My name is Helicon, and I am friends with many of the contributors on this site. After living in Santa Barbara for the past 11 years, I moved back to the Bay Area to pursue a calling into vocational ministry. I have been blessed with having my eyes opened to an ever widening view of the world and how the Christian is to live in it via what I learn through serving in Fremont/Bay Area, through my studies at Western Seminary, and from talking to many amazing people up here. Over the past 9 months, I have been learning about the amazing length and width of God’s grace, and over the past few months, I have been learning about the amazing height and depth of His grace. It is truly, truly humbling. For my first post, I am sharing a post from my own blog that I felt would be a good segue into actively posting here. May my thoughts encourage and motivate you to continue to fight the good fight, and run the race.

The mountain illustration was borne out of hearing an old Chinese proverb, and probably some random illustration about climbing mountains that either just came up during a conversation or I heard it from a random sermon. It applies to the Christian walk and about the different places a Christian may find themselves at in their journey of growing closer to God. Mind you, this is not a catch-all and does not cover the full magnitude of God’s grace in regards to the Christian walk, but somehow, it applies so well in many ways.

I liken the Christian life like a mountain and the land around that mountain. All over the area whether on the mountain or at the bottom of the mountain, people have settled down and found places to live in a city at the base of the mountain. For the majority of the people, they have found living at the base of the mountain in the fertile area to be home and never venture to climb that mountain. They are Christian, and it is totally fine to live at the base of the mountain; the utter complexity and sheer variations of things to do keeps those that are there satisfied and content.

And then, there are those that find that amidst the busyness of life and their surroundings, there is a mountain that calls out to them and beckons them to see things from a different perspective, and so curious, these people end up climbing the mountain. For those that climb, the majority become exhausted at different lower altitudes and decide to settle down. They find that where they settle, the view is amazing and that is about as high as they want to go. What they notice is that the higher they climb up this mountain, the less people there are, and the more incredible view is revealed of the world. These people find contentment to settle down and live at this altitude with less people, and the most beautiful view of the valley below as everything stretches out below. People look like ants, the nuances and physical geography of the world in the valley lays stretched out below for one to see from this higher vantage point. A whole different environment is found at this point, and requires some different habits. They are Christian, and it is fine to live at this height; the utter complexity and sheer variations here also keep these people satisfied and content.

Finally, there are those that have found that they would like to see the peak and see everything. This spark of curiosity gives them this restlessness to not stop climbing. It pushes them and though the journey up this mountain gets more difficult with the higher altitude, their insatiable hunger to get closer to the top keeps them moving. At these heights, the people they meet are fewer and far between. At this height, vegetation and animal life is sparse because at this point, nothing wants to live so exposed to the elements. The only thing that would draw a person up is that pure desire to see that peak and its incredible view. The climb is starting to consist of steep vertical climbs, and it is true that the higher you go, the higher and greater the potential of a fall. Tools, stamina, discipline are now required to ascend higher. Yet as one takes a break at these dizzying heights, they see the sheer beauty of God’s creation stretched below and reaching all the way to the horizons. They see the incredible variation of God’s Kingdom, the majesty of His creation, the way the rivers have been formed, the way the canyons have been etched into the surface of the earth, and one starts to catch a glimpse of that breadth, length, height, and depth of the fullness of God. They are Christian, and it is fine to live at this height; the utter complexity and sheer variation here keeps these people amazed and utterly speechless.

This image can not be seen with a two dimensional mentality of a mountain and its surrounding area because there are so many different sides to this mountain and there are so many different ways to climb this mountain. It is in this sheer convolutedness that I picture my personal climb with God. I have had chances to stay in the valley, and I have had many chances to stop climbing, but some insatiable hungering and thirsting after a righteousness and closeness to God keeps drawing me to take steps forward. It is as I have climbed that I have noticed this need for equipping and being more disciplined to further along the climb. It is in these moments that as I have walked with lesser and lesser friends (as they have chosen to stop) that I noticed that this climb is so hard, but that curiosity and desire to see more and more of Him and His majesty draws me further up. Every time I stop and take a look across the plains and at what stretches forth, I find that it is so incredibly beautiful and amazing. I kind of want to settle down close to some of my friends, BBQing, and just remain there chillaxing, but then a voice in me asks… have you seen Me from up there? Have you seen everything you have to see yet? I can’t say no, and so I climb further. Along the way, I have started to shed the random equipment that is unnecessary for the climb. It is only the tools and physical supplies that I need… and as I climb, a few friends I have met up at this point, and for some that have climbed with me together for awhile… recently, as our lives have started to separate due to distance and different callings and seminaries to go to, I sadly part ways with one of my closest and best friends, as he chooses to ascend the mountain from a different point. Memories of laughter, of sharing prayers, and struggles and our hopes and dreams… I am sure that there will be a time when we will see each other higher up, but it is always the hardest to say good bye.

It is up at these heights that recently, I have felt the utter loneliness of this climb. I have Him always, but He is not physically tangible though I know He is with me because everything I see, I catch glimpses of His handiwork, and He has blessed me with this appetite for Him that I just can not seem to sate. Yet, it is in this climb that I notice that when I stop, I long and crave for someone to be beside me to experience the view and the climb. At this point, I believe that having someone to climb with is important because what if I fall, or get hurt? There is so much fun in this climb and adventure which also consists of a lot of work, but there will be times where when one stops, I want to be able to turn around and say to the person beside me… look at this amazing view… isn’t it wonderful? To strive and to fight and to climb together… to have someone to encourage you when it is hard, and to have someone you may encourage or help … is that not a wonderful feeling? The climb offers no security besides the security that God offers. He is our Sole Provider, and He sustains us. Who knows what tomorrow brings? Who knows where the next step is? But I tell you, the view is incredible, and it will daily be an adventure. It will be fraught with dangers and it will be hard, but He will always be beside us and He will never let us go. Will you climb with me?

Shalom,

Helicon.