#WVW: Reconciliation

“Reconciliation is always worth it”

Like a bitter pill that I didn’t want to swallow, I hated hearing this phrase. How can reconciliation always be worth it. Maybe it’ll be worth it if the other person knew what they did wrong. If the other person changed their personality. If the other person apologised first. Some relationships are better off left to die than to struggle everyday to keep it barely alive. Some people are just too different from me, they just don’t understand.

There are so many reasons as to why it’s better off to not reconcile.

But there is one defining reason why we should.

Because Jesus came to reconcile us with God. While we were still enemies, Christ died for us. There were so many reasons for Jesus to not die for us. We literally have no merit to deserve to be reconciled with God. We chose to live in rebellion against Him. It’s not like we said sorry first, or showed that we changed or even knew what we did wrong. We did nothing to deserve His love and forgiveness. Yet, Jesus died to restore the broken relationship between God and us.

That’s why we need to fight for reconciliation – as ironic as that may sound. Fighting against our own pride, against the advice of those who just want the ‘better’ for us, against even the people who don’t want to reconcile with us. Because even though the world may tell us that “they’re not worth it”, they most definitely are. Just as Christ thought it was worth it to die for us on the cross.

Of course you can’t force someone to reconcile with you. It will take time, even years, for trust to be restored. It will most probably take a lot of love, humility, courage, forgiveness and even sacrifice. There are probably things that you need to address yourself to God, to surrender all your built-up baggage, before you take on the long and arduous road to piece together what was once broken. You have to be ready to apologise and accept apologies, and know that things may not be the ‘same’ as before. As easy it is to forget, to let go, to run away – we must fight for reconciliation.

Because it will always be worth it.


 

Check out more Word Vomit in the posts below.

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#WVW: Integrity

Won’t be long this week, but I briefly wanted to talk about integrity. I don’t think I ever really understood what this quality implied until I went to GLDI – a Christian global leadership camp in LA. The founder – Dr Kim – shared about his vision in being a man of integrity (amongst many other things), which then made me realise that upholding integrity is one of the hardest things to ever do in life. It’s literally upholding your moral standards even if everybody in the world says not to. Even if nobody in the world will know, or care, that you’re taking a little short-cut to make your journey a bit easier for you, you actively choose not to for the sake of integrity. And in Dr Kim’s case, his integrity for God. I’ve mentioned this before that character is who you are when no one is looking – and I guess having integrity is foundational for a godly character.

 

A good friend shared a devotional today, where the prayer said the following:

Lord, the sins of my tongue are so many! Forgive me for talking too much (because of pride), for talking too little (because of fear), for not telling the truth (because of pride and fear), for words that are harsh and cutting, for hurting others’ reputation through gossip. Purify my words with your Word.

Amen.

I’ve realised that your words should hold depth. Your yes’s being yes, and no’s being no. In a time where small talk is the non-avoidable aspect of networking, it’s so easy to completely dismiss the fact that we should be responsible for the words that come out of our mouths. Half-hearted flattery, empty promises that you know you won’t commit to, condescending passive-aggressive comments masked as ‘jokes’…it’s no wonder sometimes we find it so hard to share what we’re really feeling or thinking. Or even accept compliments wholeheartedly, because we know how easy it is for people to just throw their words to make you feel good – even if they really meant it.

Which is why this year, I hope that my words will hold depth. I’ve always had the biggest struggle in 1) confronting people and 2) saying no to things I know I can’t commit to wholeheartedly. I think this all comes down to fear of people and pride of self. Hopefully that’ll turn around to a fear of God with humility.

I’ll end this very short post with a quote that struck me this week regarding friendship and honesty.

I’ve learned that if someone asks you for advice and you tell them the hard truth and they fight you in response, they weren’t really asking for advice — but self-affirmation to keep doing the wrong thing. That’s asking for less love, not more. And I can’t do that to you.

Love means I have to tell you everything, even if my voice trembles and my hands shake and my eyes burn with weeping. Love means I will throw my body in front of you when you’re heading towards the cliff. It will cost my comfort with you. It’s a cost I’m willing to pay.
— J.S. (www.facebook.com/pastorjspark)


 

For more real talk, check out the posts below.

Brian// Taylor// Xing// Josh// Jenine//Justin// Hnou// Esther//

#WVW: Adversity

Happy 2016! So I took a mini break from these word vomits partly because I didn’t have the mental capacity to process any thoughts, but also because I realised that I easily fall into the trap of looking out for the ‘likes’ and being increasingly self-aware of what people would think of me as a result of reading my posts. But after having a good break and properly ‘resting’, I think I’m ready to get back into it (but probably will still be self-aware lolol).

It was around this time 4 years ago when I was sitting at Gloria Jeans in Strathfield with a few of my other friends who I met at a youth summer camp. I had just graduated high school and spent the first month of my freedom lugging 16kg wine boxes from one cart to another, having memorised all the postcodes within NSW. For the remainder of January, I flipped a coin with my friend to determine what we would do for January  – to attend the youth camp or to work at a local McDonalds. The coin told us to work at maccas, so we decided to go to camp instead. Which ended up being the right choice in the grander scheme of things.

Fast-forward past the camp to Gloria Jeans, my newly-formed friends started sharing their life stories. These guys, who literally just trolled me with stupid jokes throughout the whole camp, held a different composure as they shared about their loss, their heartbreak, their pain through some of their life experiences. Never in my life have I heard these kind of stories from people so close to me, and the most striking thing was that they were at peace, and even speaking with joy. Because through each of their situations, at the lowest and darkest points of their lives, Christ reached out to them and changed their lives. As they finished sharing, one of my friends then turned to me and asked “what’s your testimony”, to which I replied “I don’t have a testimony”. To this he replied with a cheesy smile “everyone has a testimony”.

When hearing about these stories, I thought to myself that it would be so great if God reached out to me like that, if He was able to make Himself so known so that I would know that He is there. But I didn’t realise then what that wish would actually entail. Because to hear God’s voice when we live in a world full of distractions means that those distractions should be taken away from us, ideally by our own discipline and choice, but often it is through adversities and loss. This process of refining and chipping away the dead weight that distracts us from God can be painful, but these adversities shape and mould our character and sometimes we have to lose things that we love. And that’s heartbreakingly difficult when your sense of value and worth is tied with it.

Following this conversation at Gloria Jeans, and really for the next 4 years up till this point where I’m splurging on this post, there were several times when I hated going through such adversities. Especially when something that I loved slowly and suffocatingly fell apart. And even though I saw it coming, when things did fall apart, it felt like crashing into a huge brick wall after running at full speed and just being completely at a loss as to why that wall appeared. Who made that wall? Who could I blame? When did that wall start forming? How could this have been avoided so that I could keep running? And when am I ready to let go of my pride and bitterness, to turn around and walk back to where I started, and run again on a different path?

But then as I look back, I see why that wall was there, I see why I had to experience those things in that time, for me to be in the place I am today. I see how God is sovereign through these downfalls to ultimately open another opportunity to let me draw in closer to Him.

And I can say with confidence that one of the most rewarding things for me to do is to be able to listen to someone about their struggles, and to let them know that I can relate – that I can empathise – because I actually know what it feels like to fail, to lose, to hate, to cry and to just not know what will happen in life next. Although there are scars and regrets, these all belong to my story in how God continually pursues after me with love and grace despite how often I fail.

Adversities build character, and adversities forms your testimony.

 


Check out the awesome posts full of vulnerability and honesty from the others who also partake in Word Vomits!

Brian// Taylor// Xing// Josh// Jenine//Justin// Hnou// Esther//

 

#WVW: Waving the White Flag

I remember watching a movie about the Korean War when I was in primary school about 10 years ago, which was the first violently graphic film I watched. I was never good with graphic images as it had the tendency to stick within my mind. Going to sleep after a scary movie was the worst, because there was nothing to distract me from those images, and my only way to ensure it wouldn’t resurface in my dreams was to sleep with my covers over my head, where I managed to convince myself that it acted as a fortress from nightmares. Anyway, a particular scene I remember even to this day was when a South Korean officer was fighting with some North Korean civilians. They had an intense shoot-off, but eventually the North Korean lost his gun. When realising he was helpless, his faced changed from hate to desperate plea, as he bended on his knees and begged hysterically for mercy. The South Korean officer stared at him and without warning, fired continually, relentlessly, even well after the poor man was dead.

A thought that has been on my mind over the past few days was the notion of “surrender”. When usually considering it, you would imagine having fought a long and arduous fight, and only when you know for sure that there is no more hope left, that there is no point in fighting anymore, would you then come out from your hiding place, hands held up, knees bent and head down in utter and total defeat. Surrendering is for the losers, the failures and the hopeless. Like the North Korean man in the movie, who didn’t have a name or a story but was merely a token of the many people who were defeated, killed and maybe even forgotten during that war.

However, recently I started feeling like a hopeless loser and a failure when it occurred to me that I really did not have much to offer as a videographer. I think having experienced a lot of amazing things this year, I started inflating myself and my sense of worth in how much I could do and achieve. But reality struck a chord when I realised that I am literally a “videographer” with minimal equipment, money, skills and connections haha. I had all these high hopes in changing the world, but it seemed so silly when considering what I could actually do.

While feeling defeated at my inadequacies, God reminded me again of a sermon I heard at RICE Chapel, where the pastor shared how there are times when you feel like you only have breadcrumbs to offer, but you see thousands of people to feed. In such a time you would feel so confused and even helpless. Yet with a mere 5 loaves of bread and 2 pieces of fish, Jesus fed thousands of people. The pastor shared how we should stop looking at how little or worthless we may feel when we stare at our breadcrumbs, but look up to the One who can multiply the little we have to feed the multitude in need.

But before we do that, we need to surrender our breadcrumbs to Him first.

I realised that I’ve been holding onto the very little I have and refusing to let it go to give to God. However, it was only when I had the shocking rebuke that really the “skills” that I had were mere breadcrumbs, was when I realised that I couldn’t, by a long shot, do anything by my own strength in regards to impacting Sydney through media. But if God wants to use me in whatever capacity, He can definitely make it happen regardless of the very little that I can offer. It’s just a matter of me surrendering and acknowledging that I can’t do anything without Him.

And this is something I need to be reminded every single day, because it doesn’t just stop at “career”. Every single day I’m plagued by selfishness, and I have a choice of appeasing to what I want or surrendering to what God wants. I can either fight for what I think is good for me, or let go to what God knows is good for me. I have doubts, worries and insecurities and I either can choose to dwell on these things, or trust God knowing that He’s still in control. Too often do I choose to hold onto my pride in how I view and treat people, when I know that I need to let go of my pride for the sake of others. These are things I encounter every day, and things that I often fight for. But I need to be reminded that there is no point in fighting against God anymore. Instead, I need to know that with my hands held high, my knees bent and my face looking up to the One who has won the battle, that I am continually surrendering to Victory.

 “the greatness of a man’s power is the measure of surrender.” – William Booth


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Brian// Taylor// Xing// Josh// Jenine//Justin// Hnou// Esther//

#WVW: well…that’s awkward

The rain was pouring as my friends and I hurried to the local cafe so that I could indulge in my daily dose of hot chocolatey goodness. Epping seemed like a second home for us as we spent our days preparing for the HSC, where we would go to Intuition everyday to finish (or copy) our maths homework. The weather was especially out of control that day, and we only had one umbrella amongst the three of us. Hot chocolate in one hand, and an umbrella in the other, I waited alongside my friends for the street lights to turn on so that we could sprint our way to tutoring. Shivering as the cold winds blasted around with the rain attacking our eyes, to the point where you wouldn’t be able to differentiate between your tears or the rain, we all were poised and ready to run for our lives. The lights finally turned green and I was ready to run. However, as I took my first step, I was met with a big gush of wind that threw my tartan school uniform skirt into a crazed and uncontrollable dance. With an umbrella in one hand, a steaming hot chocolate in another, and my eyes half-blinded from rain-soaked winds, I crouched down tried to control the flailing piece of fabric with my elbows, but it just didn’t want to be tamed. By this time my friends were on the other side, and realising that I was left behind in this chaos, they yelled for me to run. But I was paralysed in helplessness. I finally managed to control my skirt (with the umbrella and hot chocolate still in hand as I didn’t think about putting it on the ground), but the back part of my skirt which I was sheltering against the wall decided to have a show of its own. As my body squirmed to try and hold it back down whilst battling the winds and balancing the umbrella and hot chocolate, to my horror, I was greeted by a voice shouting “SLUUUUUUUUUT”, which turned out to be a random high school boy from across the street. This is now known as the infamous #hotchocolatestory.

 

Yes. I’ve realised over the mere 22 years of my existence that I am very prone to unfortunate, embarrassing and awkward situations. Whether it be because I have bad hearing which leads me to ask people to repeat what they say, and if I still don’t understand by the third time, I just laugh it off and say “yeah…” hoping that it fits in the conversation.  Or it might be my tendency to completely blank out when someone tells me their name when I first meet them, and then when I do have to talk to them again, I avoid using their names and replace it with “hey” or “ummm”. Or it might be my inability to foresee the consequences of my actions, or my stubbornness to think my way will work out if I keep trying, like the time I ended up having a coat hanger stuck in a toilet bowl full of bubbles. Or it’s just simply an unfortunate series of circumstances, like the time when I muted myself in a three-way conversation and talked with nobody listening for a solid 10 minutes, or the time I had a leech on my head, or when I wore mis-matching shoes to uni twice in a row and let’s not forget the time when the sickliest pigeon plopped a dirty green diarrhoea of a poo on my head and my dear friend had to clean it out for me on the train (I love you Maddy).

Honestly you can probably tell that this comes down to mostly carelessness and some misfortune, but I’m sure we can all share our own experiences of embarrassment and awkwardness. Which is interesting, to consider how awkwardness is such a common shared experience across us humans. We can most likely empathise to the person who was left hanging during a high five, or when they wave to someone but that person wasn’t looking. We feel for the poor souls who accidentally liked a photo of someone they were stalking on Facebook, or for those who have something stuck in their teeth, but they’re so engrossed in a conversation that it feels like it’s even more awkward to bring it up.

However, obviously, feeling “awkward” is more prone to some than others. And I think this comes down to how self-conscious you are, or maybe even how much you don’t want to look flawed. When I asked this question to a group of church friends, some just answered “I don’t really remember a time when I felt awkward”, which seemed so strange and bizarre to me because I thought everyone went through awkward situations. But I guess it’s how you take it in life’s experiences. According to vSauce, those who are more prone to feeling awkward may have what they call “protagonist disease”, where you think that you’re a complex mess whilst everyone else in the world is more one-dimensional. And to counter this, you should consider that everyone has complex lives, which is described really well by the dictionary of obscure sorrows as SONDER:

sonder

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

According to vSauce, acknowledging this makes your awkwardness look small, as with your life and role in this world. Although I agree with this premise, I also see life as a result of a myriad of connections (my first strength for strength finders is “connectedness”). So even in the most awkward of situations, I tend to think that it happens for a reason. As a result, even these embarrassing moments or awkward situations are valuable as we grow in life, so that we can look back and laugh at the times we were reckless, the times we made mistakes and the times which may have even made a dent into the formation of the character that we are today.

So all in all, being awkward isn’t THAT bad, right? Right…..?

 

bye.


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Brian// Taylor// Xing// Josh// Jenine//Justin// Hnou// Esther//

#WVW: Cravings

Hello and yes I’m cheating a bit this week. I actually wrote the majority of this post two days ago but didn’t end up finishing it. It’s still chaotic like a Word Vomit though so don’t you worry! But honestly speaking, I’m not the best reliable source of information in regards to addressing theological concepts, and I’ve realised I usually end up talking about my faith in these WVWs, because it lies in the core of the struggles and joys that I experience. So if you’ve been following the posts before, I hope you can read it with grace haha or let me know what you think! Or better yet, just read the other WVW hahaha

Brian// Taylor// Xing// Josh// Jenine//Justin// Hnou// Esther//


Cravings. I’m horrible with controlling them. As many people may know, I have an insatiable love for chocolate. There are times when I just crave it so much that I can’t think of anything else beyond it. Luckily it goes away when it’s not in my ‘system’, but consuming anything sweet, even something simple like a bunch of Korean snacks from a church meeting, will usually be followed by a relentless craving to eat chocolate. I even dreamed about buying chocolate in my dream last night. Which is probably why I’m here at Oliver Brown as I attempt to study haha. Usually I may have the self-control to deny myself, because I know that this craving really doesn’t do any good to me, but in times of stress, in times when I feel so exhausted, I feel that I’m justified to do whatever I want, which means I let go of any concept of discipline and splurge on indulging myself with chocolates. And then I would regret it a few days later and try to go back to ‘clean eating’ until the next splurge.

So why do my cravings exist? Beyond the science of it, I think it’s a desire to have something that I don’t have at that moment, and my mind and soul is consumed with the thought of how much I “need” it. I once did a bible study that covered the topic of ‘discipline’, which defined it as a means of “forgoing immediate gratification and pleasure in favour of some greater gain, even when it requires time and effort”. I find often I’m at the crossroads between satisfying my cravings and practicing discipline knowing that when I win over my cravings, it will benefit me so much down the track…but sometimes immediate satisfaction is all too tempting.

Obviously, chocolate cravings aren’t the only things that consume my thoughts and actions. Another “craving” that often enslaves me is my inherent pursuit to be accepted, respected and understood by others. However, I feel like I’m living in a paradox. I crave for acceptance but uphold double standards, I crave for respect on an image that isn’t truly reflective of who I am, I crave for understanding but run away from intimacy. Which gets me to ponder about “loneliness” (yeah there’s no structure at all to this post, #sorrynotsorry).

What is at the crux of loneliness? I think it’s a desire or craving to fill in an empty void. Or maybe it’s a desire to feel understood and to truly feel “connected”. Maybe it’s falling for the idealization of relationships and marriage in our heavily media-saturated culture, where you aren’t really “complete” until you find “the one”. Or maybe it’s a deep longing in the soul to draw back near to God after times of running away.

I think it could be a mix of any reason, and I think often many of us may be struggling with this concept of loneliness, and due to its definition, you’re dealing with this alone. Maybe some people may think that loneliness is a sign of weakness, and that it shouldn’t even be considered as a real problem. Maybe others think it’s a result of our actions and how we didn’t invest into relationships. Perhaps you think that if you’re feeling lonely, it’s a result of a lack of faith. And honestly, all those reasons may be true, as it probably is the case for me, and sadly, probably for many other people. I guess what I want to ask is, what are we really craving for? Understanding? Love? Community? Respect? And the next question is, can it truly fill in the void or emptiness within you?

An analogy I love to refer to that reminds me of this cycle is when you’re dying of thirst but you’re stuffing yourself with everything but water. Your body craves for water, but you’re trying to satisfy it with useless things that make your craving even worse. I guess then you have to recognize what is something that you need to live. What is something that can truly satisfy your thirst, or fill up your emptiness?

There are times when I’m super stressed when I really crave chocolate, but honestly the thing I need the most is some rest and proper sleep haha.

So let me ask you, what are you trying to fill yourself up with?

Word Vomit of the Week: Unconditional Love

Pretty much, I don’t really have a set day so I’m just going to call it my Word Vomit of the Week. For those who don’t know, my friends at Jubilee Project Fellowship started this initiative where we literally word vomit on a topic given to us. Check out their awesome posts below 😀

Brian// Taylor// Xing// Justin// Hnou// Jenine// Esther// Josh

Catherine, my awesome, positive, super cute friend from GLDI gave me this topic this week!


Now before I start, I need to address and define this phrase that’s used so heavily in the Christian context. I think we have to be aware of what “unconditional love” really entails, because it sounds so amazing to fathom how someone can love us without any condition, that no matter what we do, our salvation isn’t based upon our merit or good deeds, but solely on God’s goodness and grace alone.

But you see what I did there? I just moved from God’s love to God’s salvation for us. And it’s important to know that there’s a differentiation between the two.

Let’s say that you had a chance of saving someone else’s life by sacrificing your own. Maybe…just maybe we would do it for our family, maybe even our close friends. It would depend on how much I love them though, to do something as extreme as to sacrifice my own life. It will be based upon conditions. Would I die for a stranger? Most probably not, unless I was feeling really heroic maybe…Would I die for someone that hated me? Who did all they could to make my life miserable? Or what about the typical bad guys in all the films who we’re all waiting for to get killed by the protagonists so we would feel that justice is served by the end of the movie? Would I die for them? No, most probably not. These are all conditions that I impose. 

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Yet God so loved, that He sent his Son to die so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life….WHOEVER. No matter what you’ve done, or who you are…if you believe then you will have eternal life. This is how I see God’s love seeming “unconditional”. However, before we get carried away with John 3:16, we must also consider the verses following it:

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

We cannot neglect the fact that those who do not believe in Jesus will be condemned. There are clearly conditions to being saved, which is that we need to believe in Him, or else you shall “perish”.

Here are some points from John Piper regarding Unconditional Love:

  • It isn’t a saving love for everybody, or else everyone will be saved because there are no conditions
  • It isn’t a justifying love, as we are justified by faith alone (which is a condition)
  • It isn’t a love that works together for our good, as that is conditioned to those who “love God” (Romans 8:28)

So is God’s love really ‘unconditional’?  As stated really well in this article from Christianity Today, the condition for God’s love to reach us was the Cross. Without Jesus’ death on the cross, we cannot have reconciliation with God – we cannot experience God’s love without Jesus. And as a result, the condition to God’s love is to believe in Jesus so that we may have eternal life. Having experienced this love will result in us responding with a heart of repentance and gratitude.

Without repentance, faith, and discipleship, a woman or man cannot know God’s love in its redemptive and transforming power. Without such a response, what a person is conscious of is something less than God’s love. It may be relief, psychological peace, or even a (false) sense of security. But it is not God’s transforming love, and therefore not salvation.

But on this topic, I know when people talk about God’s “unconditional love”, they generally mean how much God loves us regardless of how “good (or bad)” we are. Even when we fail Him, even when we rebel again and again, God’s love for us isn’t a condition that goes away when we sin, it’s not based upon how faithful we are but how faithful God is. And because God is a faithful God who never breaks His promises, we can have full assurance and hope that God will never “un-love” those He has elected and saved, no matter how far we have fallen.

This is something that gives me hope, because I fall, I disappoint myself, I feel like I end up running in circles when I thought that I was moving on. I am so unreliable and I am so broken. I have issues with pride, with jealousy, with laziness, with selfishness that’s all masked behind this act that makes it seem like I’ve gotten things all under control (well probably not even that). In my relationships with family and friends, I am the worst communicator, I cannot keep my promises, I struggle to truly and genuinely love and care for others. In my relationship with God, I always end up idolising other things before Him, I rarely dedicate a time of true devotion and attention, I’m running around like Martha getting frustrated at the Mary’s of this world, who are at so much peace and contentment sitting at the feet of Jesus.

I’m a mess.

Yet, despite all this. Despite that I’ve failed Him, knowing that I will fail Him again. Despite being like the son who demanded his father’s money and lost it all through wild living, despite being like the wife of Hosea who continually betrayed his trust in their marriage, despite being like the Israelites who would again and again and again rebel and complain against God…God still loves me. It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t even fair…

My life is honestly a testament of God’s grace, as I reflect on how broken I am but seeing how God continually showers me with His love by showing me again and again how He is in control. Even in the past couple of months when I’ve just been so undisciplined, so unmotivated and been neglecting spending time with God, somehow He still managed to encourage me through people, rebuke me through greatly timed sermons and drive the passion within me to live boldly for Him within Sydney. Even though I doubt, I fear and I fail…I am reminded again and again that’s it not about me…but about God and His love for His people.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:6-8

Links:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/is-gods-love-unconditional

http://www.bibleanswerstand.org/unconditional.htm

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1995/july17/5t8030.html

http://solidjoys.desiringgod.org/en/devotionals/is-god-s-love-conditional

https://carm.org/does-god-hate-anyone

https://carm.org/bible-difficulties/job-song-solomon/does-god-hate-people-or-love-them

#TTT: Ministry

Yes, and welcome back to another Mind Fart Monday/Truth Toots Tuesday/Word Vomit Wednesday post! For those who aren’t familiar with this, my friends Brian and Taylor started this initiative to write about a random topic a few hours before midnight in the form of Word Vomit haha. A lot of people joined, including myself, so you should definitely check them out cause they’re awesome 😀

BrianTaylorXingJustinHnou, JenineEstherJosh

Unlike last week, I’ve asked my good friend Avery to give me a random topic for me to talk about, and the first thing she said was “ministry”. My initial response to her was “I don’t know if I’m ready to be honest about that”, and I asked her to give me other topics but after considering it all, I think it’s only fair to actually write on this topic. I guess that’s the whole point of this initiative. To be honest and vulnerable about how you really feel knowing that you aren’t perfect, and being willing to stop putting up an act of proving to the world that I’m a “good” Christian.

So here we go. For all of my university life, I’ve been serving at many ministries. From primary school ministry, high school ministry, university ministry, young adults ministry, overseas missions (which I guess can be considered as serving at a particular ministry), mercy ministries….oh man you name it. For a good 3 years of my life, I spent more time doing things for the church than in my studies. I’ve been at church for the whole of my life, but it wasn’t until the beginning of my university year when my eyes were truly opened to the extent of my sinfulness, to who Christ was, and to the sheer beauty of God’s grace. From then I was fired up to go tell the world, to talk to strangers about Christ, to foster “fellowship” amongst my friends, to watch Francis Chan sermons all night long and to add to my pile of books to read from Koorong. And of course, to serve at all these ministries, ready to use my gifts and skills to help out in whatever way I can.

But I guess the hard-hitting question I have to ask myself is, did I really do that out of pure reverence for God and because I truly had a heart for it? Or was it out of obligation, wanting to be accepted, not wanting to be left out, wanting to be praised or even just out of spite to prove to others that I could do it?

To be honest, I feel that although my intentions may have been good at first, there were more often times when serving became about me. Which is extremely hypocritical, given the definition of “serving” which is denying yourself to help others. And the scariest thing is that even though everyone around me may not know the true condition of my heart, God knows. This brings me to remember a hermeneutics talk we had at GLDI (which was a 40-day Christian Leadership camp in LA). This wasn’t even a sermon, but more of a discussion or exercise on how to read the text considering all these different factors that gives us greater meaning behind the context and meaning of the text. The pastor used Cain and Abel as an example, and we were supposed to identify the different characteristics between the two. For the longest time, I honestly never understood why God preferred Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s, and I just deemed it as something He sovereignly chose. However, the pastor described Cain as a “careless worshipper” which really struck a chord with me. Cain gave a “careless” offering, whilst Abel gave his best offering, “the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions”. On the outside, it doesn’t seem to make sense that God will choose Abel’s and deny Cain’s offering, but God can see the condition of their hearts, the true intentions behind their actions. And we see that in Cain’s response as he murders Abel out of anger and jealousy. Cain’s heart behind his offering was ultimately self-seeking, or else he wouldn’t have become so bitter from the circumstances. God even gave him a second chance by challenging him to do better, but instead Cain chose to appease the desires of his sinfulness.

There were so many times when I became bitter as a result of serving in ministries. People told me that relationships were one of the hardest things to ministry, and that’s so true. Serving together for the sake of the gospel is so hard because it literally is a gathering of broken sinners who all have to deny their sinful, self-seeking desires to serve for a greater cause beyond themselves, to serve for God’s glory. And really, if you lose focus of why you’re serving, it’s so so SO easy to make it about yourself. Thinking up questions like “why are they expecting me to do so much”? “why are we doing this, what’s the point of it?”, “why aren’t they caring for my needs?”…it can go on. So, how different am I to Cain in regards to the state of our hearts?

This isn’t something to be ashamed of, because honestly it’s just the state of our fallen condition. We are inherently selfish, we naturally want to do things that glorify ourselves, we do things that will bring immediate pleasure to ourselves and idolise anything and everything before God. This is the reality of the brokenness of humanity. And really this would be a depressing fate for all of us. But we must remind ourselves again and again of the hope that we have in Christ, who became sin who knew no sin, that we might become his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). So really, when we realise these things about ourselves, as tempting as it is to think “yep, that’s why I shouldn’t serve at any ministry next year”, I think it’s more of a rebuke and challenge to reflect on the true condition of our hearts, and to re-centre our vision back to Christ, and away from us.

Which brings me to my second point, which is that I feel that so many people become burnt out. It’s almost a shame to see my friends who were so excited and passionate to do all these things for God, but by the end of the year they just want it all to be over so that they can pass it onto the next set of leaders. I really struggled with burning out as well, which is clear because (if you haven’t read my last post), I usually end up committing to more things than I can handle. I remember this time last year all I could think was “man, next year I’m going to stop doing everything and have a year of rest for myself to recuperate.” However, I met up with a friend recently who has great visions for how God can really use Sydney as a platform of evangelism to people from all around the world. His passion was so real, and although his vision for Sydney will take years, and maybe even his whole life, I could feel that sense of assurance knowing that this guy probably won’t end up telling himself next year “man, I need to take a break from this, I think I deserve it after serving for a year”. So what is the difference? Why are some people feeling absolutely burnt out after serving for a couple of months, whilst other people can keep at it (although obviously with their own times of struggles and hardships) for years on end?

Ever since I’ve been back from my trip in America, I’ve been so so SO busy just getting all excited to apply all the things I’ve learnt. And by God’s grace I’ve been connected to so many different people and given all these really amazing opportunities to network with other Christian creatives and developing my skills as a film-maker. I’ve been so excited to do all these things, that most days I would end up being exhausted just having to think about all the things I had to do for the next couple of weeks. And as a result, my time alone with God (TAWG to all my GLDI friends haha) became lower and lower on my priority list. I started becoming liberal in my thoughts, thinking that because I was doing all these projects for different ministries, that it was okay that I wasn’t spending any time for QT or prayer. But as months went by (I came back from America around mid-August), this sense of anxiousness wouldn’t leave me. After a full week of a busy schedule, sometimes I would spend the whole day literally not doing anything, but I would still feel so exhausted and never really at peace. Throughout this whole time, at the back of my mind I knew what I was missing, I knew that I’ve been neglecting God, despite on the outside looking like I’m doing so many things for Him. Even though all my actions on the outside looked so good to others, God knew the condition of my heart. On Sunday, this was re-emphasised even more through my pastor’s talk on Philippians 3, when he asked, “when was the last time you were hungry for God?”. Wow. When was the last time? I feel that instead of being hungry for God, I’ve just suffocating of thirst because I’ve been denying myself of what I needed, and stuffing myself with what I wanted.

These series of rebukes led me to finally do my QT properly on Monday morning. I sluggishly got out of bed, avoided looking at my phone and opened up my ESV study bible. There I found the bookmark my mum made for me, and it was on 1 Samuel 13. This led me to smirk, because sometime earlier in the year I wanted to read the whole bible once through, and that’s where I left it before I left for America. I began reading, which was about Saul being appointed as king, but he continually does things by his own accord which eventually leads to God leaving him and choosing David, who was someone who was “after God’s own heart”. The phrase that really got to me was the line “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (from 1 Samuel 15:22). I felt like I’ve heard this phrase before, and it really just stood out to me. Fast forward a few hours later, a friend messages about a talk I gave him from GLDI by the director Brian Ivie, who made the Drop Box movie. I decided to have a listen to the talk, and this is what he said halfway through the talk after he shared his testimony. “I’m going to make three points. First is character over career. Second is why over what. Third is obedience is better than sacrifice.” I did a double-take when I heard him say that, and realised straight away that’s where I heard that phrase before, but I completely forgot what he actually said about it. Eventually he shares about 1 Samuel 15, about how Saul didn’t obey God, but thought he could be forgiven by sacrificing, to which Samuel said “to obey is better than sacrifice”. Brian than made some great points regarding how sometimes we might feel the pressure to become missionaries, to go to Africa and to serve full time. But God calls us to obey, not to impress others by sacrificing our time. Whether it be a call to go to Africa, or to be a student here in Sydney and serving at a university ministry, obedience is greater than sacrifice.

This I realised is something I really needed to hear, because for the past couple of months I’ve been sacrificing my energy, my time, my efforts to do all these things for God, but my life severely lacked obedience to what I really needed to do. Which was to simply dedicate some time for the Word and for prayer, which I feel is the rest and source of peace that I needed. And by God’s grace, He’s made this message so direct that He made me hear it twice in one day hahaha.

Anyway, I know it’s hard to be honest about how we truly feel about serving at ministries sometimes, especially when our hearts aren’t at the right place. But I hope we can be more honest and real with the issue of bitterness and burn-outs from ministry. Ultimately, it’s probably a result of something deeper in our lives, and it’s so important to keep accountable and transparent about these things. Once you let people know, that’s when they can keep you accountable to the things you are struggling with.

This is a super long post….thank you if you’ve made it this far. To end, here’s a song I always end up listening to every time I feel like I’m back to where I started.

#MFM / #WVW: “Character” – who you are when no one is looking

Read other fellow’s #WVW!

BrianTaylorXingHnouJustin


Word Vomit Wednesdays (and now Mind Fart Mondays thanks to J9 :D) is an initiative made by my friends from the Jubilee Project Fellowship where you are given a random topic to splurge about a few hours before midnight. Unfiltered expression is so beautiful, and it’s honestly something I haven’t done for a long time. My writing isn’t the best, I often make grammatical mistakes, it’s not a Monday or Wednesday and I haven’t been given a topic, but I know that if I use these things as an excuse to not write this week, it’s just going to end up on my list of things I said I’d do but never ended up committing to.

Which leads me to the topic of today, which is character – who  you are when no one is looking. 

There are two things that has always been a weakness of mine in regards to my character (amongst many things, but two things I’ll focus on).

Someone once told me my biggest flaw was that I never end up finishing what I start, which is the first weakness I want to address. I found this to be even more pressing when my friend in America mentioned it to me as well. I was at a 40-day Christian leadership camp of which a lot of our time was dedicated to our “family group” (love you 202). We had a session of “tough love” where, through genuine love and care, we told each other the weaknesses in our character that we picked up whilst living together and the things we should be aware of in order to grow. A very close friend of mine told me frankly (but very lovingly) that she noticed that I would never put into action the things I said I’d do. Now this was a complete shock to me, because I had no idea how she figured that out only by living with me for about a month. But it was completely true. As I’ve stated in my little bio on the homepage, I am a dreamer. I love thinking up things to do but execution was never my strong point. But I realised that regardless of whether I had good intentions to start these things, even when I felt that circumstances around me didn’t let me to push through, if I commit to doing something, then I should try my very best to actually be true to my word. Being reliable and trustworthy are such valuable traits, and I realise the more I let my promises become flexible, my convictions remain as convictions and my dreams as glimpses of hope faced with the disappointments of reality, the more it affects my character and who I will continue to be as I grow older.

The second weakness is that I try to validate my worth through the things I do and accomplish, and not finding value in who I am as a person. This seems slightly paradoxical with the first point, but it makes sense. I guess I don’t end up finishing a lot of the things I said I’d do because it’s actually difficult for me to follow through with what I say, because I have such idealistic expectations of what I want to achieve in life and in who I want to be. My “reputation” is something I always loved to cultivate, ever since I was little. Whether it be leadership positions, extra curricular activities or random hobbies, I was usually busy doing or learning things – which really isn’t different to me right now. Especially coming out of an amazing eye-opening experience from my 2 month journey in America (even thinking about it now, it still feels unreal I went through all that) I can definitely see how I’ve been pressed onto doing and joining so many things to ensure that my first problem doesn’t happen. Although it’s been so exciting to suddenly have all these new opportunities to network, to be mentored and to venture out into new projects, I have to admit that I’m well aware of how easy it is for me to bite off more than I can chew. This is where I really have to question why I’m doing the things I’m doing and to discern whether my motives of doing it is either for the glory of myself, or for the glory of God (which honestly is always heavily blurred).

This is also reflected in my innate desire to be accepted, loved and praised through the things I do and accomplish. And for the longest time, I felt so trapped under this act of trying to please everybody but feeling so vulnerable at people’s judgements about me. Even now, at times I find that it’s hard for me to break out of this mould I’ve created, where sometimes I’d just get so frustrated when I can clearly see that there is a significant difference with how I feel on the inside and how I portray myself on the outside. Everything seems so calculated, and it gets to a point where I would cherish the times when I would go back home after a long day of being with people and think “wow, I totally felt at ease and comfortable with myself around others today.” And as I reflect on it, I feel this is an issue because I am so aware of people looking. I am so aware of people’s potential judgements and assumptions regarding who I am and how I act, that it ends up affecting and controlling “who I am” and “how I act”. Although this has gotten significantly better over recent years, it’s still a problem I continue to wrestle with.

An image that comes up into my mind as I reflect on all this is a house that has all these added extras to enhance its appearance and value. Its added a second story, a satellite and slide that connects the bedroom to the kitchen (anyone else wanted that as a kid living in a 2nd story house?). But inside the structures of the house, its central framework that holds the house together is weak as it wasn’t established properly, and its foundation are poor even though it has to hold the house steady. Due to its added luxuries, the house would constantly be buckling under the weight of its own pride, but refuses to let go of its prized possessions. For this house to be safe to live in without collapsing, it would have to go through a process where someone picked off the unnecessary additions in order to repair the framework that bent out of shape or even broke. We would need to restore the house to a firm foundation so that it will be immoveable in times where winds would get heavy and seasons would get rough. And after this process of repair and restoration, once these things are settled, then it can have the luxury to add on the second story, the satellite and even the slide. But hopefully by this time, the house’s value won’t be dependent on its extras, but by how reliable and safe the house is to live in, because that’s what ultimately makes houses valuable.

Likewise, although it has been a cyclical process of letting go of things, of restoring and being reminded again and again that my value is not in what I do, but who I am in Christ, I hope that I would be able to have a character that doesn’t differ too much from when I’m around others and when I’m alone. To be someone who is reliable and trustworthy, as someone who is true to their word. To be someone who relishes in the freedom of knowing that even if the world hates me, it’s fine as long as I know Christ is with me. To be someone who relies solely on God as my sole rock and foundation, so that my faith may be immoveable in times of trials and trouble.


For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1


If you made it this far…thank you…I realise this post was very long and ranty…

Will update soon with the blogposts of my other friends who also partake in #MFM/#WVW 🙂

Daily Reflections – #1: To stop calculating, to start expressing.

“Why aren’t you eating?”

“I’m full…I’ve been eating thoughts all day.”


I went to my “usual” hair-dresser today for the first time in about a year. It’s been a year because the hairdresser, as affectionate as he is to me and my family, always feels the need to change my style to one that is more “girly”, which I don’t like at all. And because I don’t have the guts to tell him to his face, (which is stupid, I know), I’ve avoided him for a year till today. And without fail, I’m sitting here writing this post with luscious curls at the end of what was supposed to be a simple straight perm.

During the arduous 3 hours of sitting down, getting my hair yanked around and pretending to agree with all the compliments that my hairdresser would make as he styled my hair, I couldn’t help but notice and watch the new employee of the shop. A Korean guy perhaps in his late-20’s with blonde hair who seemed to have moved to Sydney very recently, just judging from his hip-hop-but-not clothing. I watched as he sat around on his phone, only to move when my hair-dresser would tell him to do things. When folding the towels, he would take his sweet time and go back onto his phone when no one was looking. He had this dreary heaviness to every step he took, this aura of laziness permeated his movement to the point where I started getting annoyed. I internally noted to myself that this was the type of behaviour I did not want to reflect when I would start working again.

My hairdresser assigned him the task to wash my hair, which was now soaked in chemicals and rolled up in neon curlers. I closed my eyes as I laid my head down onto the washing basin, avoiding any possibility of small-talk. Another woman hairdresser was eating spicy rice cakes nearby.

“Did you eat?” she asked.

“No, I don’t feel like eating” he replied.

“You know that’s borderline anorexia! Why aren’t you eating?”

“I’m full…I’ve been eating thoughts all day”.

I internally smirked at the seemingly corniness of his reply as I pretended to not listen to this conversation that was happening right next to me…”Eating thoughts all day?” Who even says that?

He paused as the woman hairdresser continued to eat, indifferent to what he had just said.

“I just found out I lost all my savings”.

The  woman hairdresser continued to eat indifferently.

“Well, not really lost. But my parents called last night and they want to start a new business…so they borrowed my savings and now I don’t have money for university next year.”

My eyes were closed at this point so I didn’t know what the woman was doing, but there was a long enough pause for me to think that she was still eating her spicy rice cakes.

“Oh well that’s a good investment!”

She eventually replied with a seemingly superficial sense of positivity, probably too tired to be sympathetic, or too busy eating her food.

He then went on to explain how his sister would start university next year, and that he wouldn’t want to ask his parents to pay him back when it would already be hard for them. He mentioned how he wanted to study merchandising, instead of design, and how he would have to work more. But the woman seemed to have lost interest at this point, so there was no point in sharing further.

At this point, I was still acting like I wasn’t listening to the whole conversation, but my heart was breaking for this guy who I judged straight away to be a lazy worker. My convictions couldn’t overpower my actions though,  as I helplessly sat there getting chemicals washed out of my hair, wanting to encourage this stranger pouring out what was on his mind the whole day, but not being able to have the courage to say anything.

“I told myself that I’d stop thinking like I did when I was back in Korea, but I feel like I’m doing it again here.”

He managed to mutter to no one in particular.

By this point, the rebuke was piercing me as I reflected on all the judgements I made against this guy. He finished the wash and I timidly said thank you without looking at him in the eyes, and walked back to my chair acting indifferent and oblivious, but feeling so torn and conflicted on the inside.

I wish I could have encouraged him. I wish I could’ve made his day a bit better by being a better customer. I wish I didn’t make all those judgements before. I wish I would’ve stopped calculating my actions around him, to be able to truly express what I honestly and genuinely felt. I hope things work out for him…

Eugh. Lesson learnt.

JSA