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The Lord is harsh with me.

Maybe even brutal.

It’s my fault, really. I could have listened to what He said earlier. I could have heeded His nudges and convictions. But no, I had to wait for Him to literally drop an anvil on my head and crush me into noticing Him again.

Looking back, I can distinguish those small moments where God nudged me, whispered to me, that I need to change or give up something in my life. I ignored it the first time, discarded the idea the second, and refused to acknowledge the third. My chances are up, and God still wants my attention. I can count how many times he used the big guns on me. Every time he does, I learn a lesson I could just have easily learned if I had paid attention to His gentle whisper.

And [the angel of the Lord] said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:11-13

I really appreciate the deeper meaning of this passage. One would expect the “God of the Old Testament” to appear in a hurricane and lightning to speak to His prophet in a rumbling and thunderous voice. However, that was not the case; He chose to speak in “a low whisper.” Elijah paid no heed to the wind, the earthquake, and the fire. When he heard the whisper, however, he came out to meet with the Lord.

I believe that God wants to speak to His children with the tenderness a parent would to their child. He doesn’t need to utilize the forces of nature or use extreme experiences to pass instructions to His servants. They already know He exists and that He’s there. His voice can be as gentle, as soft, and delicate as a whisper. His convictions can be a small nudge to your conscience.

Too often we expect to hear from God in extraordinary ways, divine intervention, or through supernatural acts. We expect Him to slap us with revelation and call to us with brothers and sisters pressuring us to follow His word. We don’t want to quiet down and simply wait and listen. Why do we not pay heed to His nudges and whispers? I sometimes have these scary moments where something someone says sounds like they spoke directly from God, especially when it comes from a nonbelieving person or a brother or sister who usually doesn’t discuss matters of the faith. It pierces me, but it is still a painless experience compared to the trials God throws me in if I didn’t pay attention.

It’s not that hard to know when God is whispering… it may be your Bible lying near you, a song on the radio, or a comment by a friend. When you notice, take care to listen to Him. Take heed to what He says, because truly, you can save yourself a lot of pain by simply listening the first time He whispers to you.

As believers, I’m sure most of us have been taught that we should preach the gospel to unbelievers, especially those close to us. Some of us have learned that preaching the Gospel to ourselves is an extremely helpful and healthy habit. However, what about our believing friends? Don’t they need the Gospel too?

Here is one of my favorite quotes of all time.

Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.

We usually interact with our friends on a regular basis, especially those of us in high school… It’s every day! We’re comfortable around each other. So comfortable, in fact, that we would act in certain ways that we may not with other people.

I’m an introvert. As such, I’ve spent quite a lot of time quietly observing people interact with each other. It saddens me when I see people act so comfortably, they use language they wouldn’t say and do things they wouldn’t do in, say, a professional setting. Sometimes the language my believing friends use or the things they do sadden me; they don’t know how their actions can so easily become a stumbling block to other believers. The images their dirty language conjures and the innuendo in their actions can fill their brothers and sisters’ minds with material that shouldn’t be there.

This is where the quote comes in. It is important for believers to fill their minds with the things of God and to act as such. Rehearsing the Gospel daily and having it reflected in our actions will speak to our fellow believers. It reminds us that we are fallen sinners who were bought by the blood of our Father’s only Son through the Father’s mercy and love, and that we are no longer our own but indebted to serve Him in holiness and purity. If actions truly speak louder than words, then how we act has much more influence then constantly pestering them with Bible verses and a list of does and dont’s. It also gives us more credibility while hindering hypocrisy.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:14-26

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

All believers need the Gospel every day. We need to remind ourselves each day of God’s love and desire for us to be His sanctified priests and future Bride. Without Him, we are nothing, but in Him, we have everything. Our actions reflect what we know, believe, and is in our hearts. We just need to make sure that we are reflecting Christ and the Gospel.

Alone

In the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with a number of issues in my life. They concern, however, topics that I rarely discuss with people. These issues bombard my mind, and I find myself almost driven to tears over them.

A result of this struggle is constant loneliness. Sure, I feel good when I’m talking to friends and hanging out with people. I don’t feel lonely during those times. However, when I find myself in situations where I slip easily into the matrix of my thoughts, I become desperately lost. I can’t fathom how I will deal with these issues alone. I need to talk to someone, but I don’t know who. I feel like no one can understand how I feel, cliche as it may sound. I keep pushing the issues away. I’ll deal with them later. They haunt me. In a clash of my Christian faith and what the world says is ok, I’m afraid that I might just give up and give in completely to the world’s values (or lack thereof).

Honestly, I have no idea what’s keeping me going. Maybe it’s hope. Maybe it’s faith (though I personally don’t think I have that strong a faith). Maybe it’s the Lord’s mercy. Maybe it’s love. Maybe it’s fear.

I am given the constant reminder, however, of the fact that I can talk to God about my problems. I can choose to rest in His promises and power. I find it so difficult. It is almost like He is the last person I want to talk to about these issues. So I push Him away. I’ll go back when I solve all these problems.

To a certain degree, I hate myself for being such a good actor. I am not doing well at all inside. I’ve become insecure, scared, and inconsistent. On the outside though, I still look like the quiet “innocent kid” who is prone to excitement, laughter, and practical jokes. It shocks me sometimes how easy it is to fool the world of a person’s true emotional and mental state. The only good that resulted from this shocking revelation is the fact that maybe in the future, or even now, I should start asking people how they’re really doing. Give them a should to cry on, advice when they don’t know what to do, guide them when they become lost, minister to them when they feel broken, reconcile them with their anger, and calm them when they feel upset.

I just wish someone would do that for me.

I know I should talk to God, but I just can’t. I don’t know why this is happening; if this is a trial I’m supposed to go through. All I know is that these issues are driving me to tears, and I need to talk. If I don’t let everything out, I fear I may explode. Some verses and hymns give me limited condolence, as does being with fellow believers. But they aren’t enough.

These trials from God are very much real. I’m just wondering if everything will work out in the end…

The Christian faith demands a lot from believers. From moral uprightness to sharing the gospel, there is always something we can improve on or an area we can grow in. It seems, however, that the list is never-ending. For some, there is a “limit” to how upright they are or how many people they have evangelized. It is sort of like saying, “I’ve reached my goal. Now it’s finished. I’m done.”

The concern that I have, however, is this: Christ has called us to give all of ourselves up to Him, for only then will we reap the benefits of a relationship with Him.

And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels…”

– Luke 9:23-26

You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.

– Jeremiah 29:13

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

– Matthew 5:48

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

– Revelation 3:15-16

When I say “concern”, it does mean that I have a problem with it; the problem being the high standard. In my sinful nature, I cannot fully give myself completely to the Lord and submit to His will. I am still called, however, to live in holiness and obedience. In my interpretation, this means that regardless of my capabilities, I must continue to strive for perfection in Christ. Never stopping, never ending, for the rest of my life. In all this striving, I become more and more Christ-like, ultimately drawing closer to the heart of God.

If I stop striving and become lukewarm, I miss out on all the lessons God could have taught me if I remained in the faith. I also miss out on lessons that can be learned from prolonged persistence in my walk with Him.

In being lukewarm, which in my definition is still calling myself a saved believer, yet living like someone who’s unsaved, I set a bad example for younger believers, discourage peer and older believers, and misrepresent Christ and the Church. I should pretty much give up any claim on the title of a Christian, lest my actions become a stumbling block to others.

Hot or cold… which one will I choose to be? Will I give all of myself, or nothing at all?

In the eyes of the world, it may be two extremes; a black or white; however in the eyes of God, it’s simply a commitment I must keep.

The end of my junior year in high school is rapidly approaching. During my search for potential colleges, I came across Biola University’s application form. The personal statement prompt is as follows:

At Biola University our common foundation is our faith in Christ and becoming transformed into His likeness. In light of this fact, please describe: a) the circumstances surrounding your decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ, using various Bible passages as the framework for your salvation and eternal life in Christ, and b) using specific examples, describe your process of spiritual growth over the past three years.

This prompt is probably one of the most difficult I’ve seen. It forces me to reflect back on my years as a believer, and determine where I have grown since being saved. Though slightly intimidating, I believe that working on this prompt (provided it isn’t changed with the next year’s application), will prove beneficial in mapping my spiritual growth.

A few thoughts that I’ve had concerning this process:

  1. I am reminded of the situation I was in before and after I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. It humbles me to remember that without the grace of God, I would never have experienced the relationship with Him that I have now.
  2. I am encouraged to reflect on how I’ve grown spiritually in the past few years. As a believer, my salvation should spark some fruit in my life that are evidence of my transformed life in Christ. It also makes me ask myself: If I’m not growing, why? How can I seek out areas to mature in, and actually address them?
  3. It forces me to look to the future, in that I am constantly striving to produce fruit through prayer, intercession, devotions, Bible studies, and/or any other methods of drawing closer to the heart of God, with the grace of God.

Only with God’s strength can I produce any evidence of His work in my life, but I also have a responsibility of my own to constantly submit to His will, so that I may live a transformed life.

One Voice

Listening to and singing the song One Voice, I’m constantly convicted and moved by the powerful truth behind its words.

In my life, my parents have exposed me to a variety of churches throughout the years. I’ve met strong baptists, Amish-like people, house churches, local churches, conservative churches, charismatic churches, etc. it was not until I came to my school and came into contact with the Lord’s Recovery (a nondenominational ‘church’ network known for their slightly unorthodox methods of worship and Bible study) that I really began to ponder how much variety is in the Body.

I was also struck by the realization of how large the Body of Christ is. If every one of my schoolmates were a genuine believer, which they all claim to be, that’s already over 100 fellow brothers and sisters going to school with me every day.

Add that to your church, and throw in all the conferences you’ve been to. Multiply that by the many ministries, organizations, and churches across the nation and all over the world.

It’s huge.

The other day I was talking with an older brother, and we somehow ended up on the topic of the church; more specifically, how our church functions, how the Evangelical Formosan Churches (EFC’s) (my church’s fellowship affiliation) function, and how different church chains have different requirements for affiliation. We also discussed our roles in the church, how every single person has something to contribute. We need to work together as a youth group in order that our church can function, the EFCs work, and the worldwide Body grow. It all starts by how each individual works for the Body.

This thought brought me to ponder something: if every person counts, and only through cooperation will the church grow… Just how important is the way we treat each other?

Looking at my youth group, it is true (and a bit shameful) that we’ve formed cliques. There are (informal yet exclusive) events that occur where only some people are invited, such as certain outings. There are activities that are exclusive. Also, whenever we socialize, groups tend to form where everyone is crowded around intent on a conversation.

In observing my classmates, who have grown up together since junior high, I’ve been a bit appalled at the way they interact. Some of the stuff they say can be really damaging, but they’re oblivious to it because they think the offended knows that the offender is just teasing. Looking at my youth group from this perspective, I can see that we have the same problem as well. Perhaps not as extreme, but definitely still existing.

As Christians we really need to watch how we interact. Be determined to build each other up, and observe boundaries when we’re making jokes. We also have to be wary of becoming exclusive, because really, people will get or feel hurt. If the church depended on the interaction between its members, we need to be bearing each other’s burdens, pray for and counsel each other, expressing love, humility, and a servant’s spirit. We are not to belittle each other, make inappropriate jokes, or discuss topics that may hinder or stunt younger believers, but move towards being a family in Christ.

I like the illustration someone I know used before, which states that if God is the Father, then the Church is the Mother. You, every individual believer, are THE church, since the church consists of individuals. Therefore, we should nourish and care for each other. Change will only happen if each person is wary and convicted of monitoring the way they interact with other believers.

Here’s the song One Voice:

‎”And if you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you, who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

1 Peter 1:17-21

I read this passage a few days ago for my devotions, and was a bit jarred by its bluntness. However, it’s the raw truth.

Too often I find myself calling God my Father and Friend. The problem is that by habitually calling and thinking of Him as such, I begin losing reverence for Him. I begin losing sight of the gruesome pain that Jesus endured in order to atone for my sins. I ask God for forgiveness when I’ve done wrong, asking to “claim the blood of Christ” to purify me. But I forget one important fact.

It’s blood.

Strangely enough, I refuse to watch films with blood in them, and absolutely hate anything to do with the depiction or description of that substance. Why? Because quite frankly (laying aside the irony of knowing blood sustains me and I have about six liters of it flowing through me all the time), it scares me. It also disgusts me to a certain extent. I’m pretty sure that is the case with many people as well.

Why don’t I always remember that I’ve been purchased by blood; the life force of a human being? Why is it that I assume that Christ’s sacrifice was such an almost insignificant process, that I would continue to dare to say ok to temptation instead of striving to live a life of freedom that was bought for me through the shedding of His blood?

I appreciate the number of verses that continually to note that it was the “precious blood of Christ”. Blood is likely the most important possession of a human being (or any living creature, for that matter). It is not something one gives away freely. To give up one’s life for others is the most noble of sacrifices.

It’s the preciousness of the blood of Christ that needs to continue to remind us that we are not to keep calling Jesus our friend, but also our Savior, the person who was sacrificed to redeem us. On this note, calling God our Father is an extremely intimate privilege. After all, God is also the Creator and the Judge of humanity. We have been given the right to call Him by more personal names, but we should not forget that such a right was given through the ultimate sacrifice.

As such, I should not take the terms Father and friend for granted, but constantly remind myself of why I can even use them in the first place.

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