Seeking God

At our Encounter Team meeting last night, Ps Ted shared a message with us about seeking God’s presence and that the whole focus of what we do on and off the stage (and in the other days of the week) is to bring His presence wherever we go. For His presence heals (all the times Jesus healed in the gospels), restores (Jer 29:12-14), protects (Ex 13:21), brings life (Amos 5:4) and gives us identity (Col 3:1-4).

Was having a conversation with a friend, who brought up the truth that we carry God’s presence wherever we go, being the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that our life is lived constantly in His presence whether we are at work or in church. While none of this is disputed, it did bring to mind how we use the term ‘seek His presence’ and why we say this.

Why the call to seek His presence?

  1. From a Christian perspective:

On a personal level, it is of course true that I am not constantly aware of His presence, and that I lose sight of Him occasionally in life. However does that mean that I am any less effective as salt and light? I believe that God is able to work His will through us despite ourselves. However, I also believe that when the focus is on Him fully, that there is a greater openness and readiness to both give and receive from Him. And this is evident, in that when I am focussed on myself and my problems, I am less inclined to hear from God and my actions and words reflect what is going on inside me, which at times is pretty ungodly!

This also applies to a corporate sense I believe, in that when we worship / do life together as a congregation/lifegroup, we can do so without acknowledging and indeed, elevating God via song/word/prayer (but yet still carrying His presence with us in our role as temples). If this is the case, 2 things occur: firstly, we are just another club or gathering. And secondly, we miss the opportunity to grasp the significance of God’s presence when we are gathered together. Heb 11:24-25 is an exhortation for us to gather, but Matt 18:20 acknowledges the presence of God in a gathering. Col 3:16 encourages us to pray, teach and even admonish each other as we sing His praises.

2. What about those outside the faith?

The Bible talks of people being blind, a veil over their eyes and that we live in a fallen world where we walk as representations and conduits by which God’s eternal kingdom is displayed to those around us. Mark 6:4-5 describes Jesus not being received with honour in his hometown, where He was not able to do many miracles. Clearly, a lack of faith is key here (Heb 11:6), although there are many instances where Jesus displayed His power despite everyone not believing (feeding the thousands, healing the sick). But this does not mean those outside the faith cannot experience the person of Jesus; in fact that’s what we are called to be!

 

So…..

At the end, I believe that while we carry the presence of God wherever we go, there is also a conscious decision we make to acknowledge it, and to tune our ears to hear Him. James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James wrote this in the midst of such verses as “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (4:7) and “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” (4:1). It is too easy to get distracted in this life. And while we should be constantly aware of His presence in us, we should also consciously turn our ears and eyes and focus our attention to Him at every opportunity, partly because that’s the polite thing to do in a relationship of any kind (!) and mostly because God always answers when we speak to Him; something we do when we acknowledge His presence.

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Endure

Stay

Continue

Endure

Remain

Sojourn, tarry
To persevere

If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be My disciples. John 15:8

As my Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love. John 15:9

 

The above were some of the last words of Jesus to his disciples before he was arrested. Perhaps uttered on the way to Gethsamane, this is arguably the most intimate conversation Jesus had with his followers. Earlier, he had washed their feet. Judas Iscariot had already left by now. Jesus had spoken of who He was and what He was about to do and had promised His Spirit to them. And in this somewhat pressured situation, I am left with the overwhelming sense of love that Jesus had for them; and for wanting them to know and to be prepared for what was to come, not just the physicality of the crucifixion but for the entirety of their lives to come.

And so we are to abide in Him (for Jesus is the living Word made flesh), and to do so is to abide in His love. The words carry a message of rest, and restoration (sojourn, tarry), but also undertones of steadfastness and perseverance (endure, continue) as well as permanence (remain, stay).

Hi 2018!

In the midst of the post-Christmas rush, I’ve been winding down watching Netflix’s The Crown (a much more sombre affair than Season 1) and decided to write out some reflections of the year gone by and what I’m looking forward to in the year to come.

2017

  • was the year I finished my FRACP Nephrology training
  • was the year I started a clinical PhD on donor kidney organ allocation
  • was the year I had to change my PhD topic from organ allocation, to transplant risk scoring systems, to eligibility criteria for kidney transplants, and finally settle on improving the kidney-pancreas transplant scene in Australia/New Zealand from an organ allocation point of view
  • was the year I moved in with Calvin again – this time in Ringwood!
  • was the year I started doing private nephrology work
  • was the year I felt more involved in teaching in LG (still needing to learn how to do pastoral care!)
  • was the year I took a back step in missions
  • was the year I took a step forward in exercise – with running and weekend sports (my first 10km and 15km were highlights, as were the run-catchups with Sam)
  • was the first year in a long while that I’d been back to Malaysia twice in the same year!
  • I attended my first destination wedding (In Bali! Thanks John and Diana for the invite!)
  • was the year I felt I was more intentional in a few areas: meeting and getting to know the young adults in church more, being involved in Healing Rooms and teaching in LG, keeping up the weekend sports
  • and also felt I could’ve done more with: keeping up to date with the nephrology news, doing more research as opposed to clinic work, being more missions-focused, being more pastoral in LG
  • was the year I stepped out of one relationship, and after some time, into another (Thanks Kat!)

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matt 6:19-20

The Lamp of the Body

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” v22-23

You Cannot Serve God and Riches

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” v24

Do Not Worry

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”v25-34

 

I’m looking forward to a few things in 2018, some of which are big, others less so. Often I am prone to worry, even as I go about my day -to-day. What I need to watch, then, is where my eyes are fixed on. If I’m fixing my eyes on unwholesome things, or time-wasters, it will affect the rest of me. Often, I will have to check myself and ask, ‘Who am I doing this for?’ And finally, in and out of uncertain times, I need to

Seek: zeteo – to investigate, to reach a terminal resolution “getting to the bottom of the matter”

Kingdom: basileia – the realm in which a king sovereignly rules, especially refers to the rule of Christ in believers’ hearts

Righteousness: dikaiosune – the divine approval of God, what is deemed right by the Lord, what is approved in His eyes

 

I need to look for Christ in me, and others, and look for what He approves as the standard by which excellence in my life is judged.

 

And so, in 2018:

  • Work
    • I will finish 2 chapters of my PhD
    • I will publish 3 papers
    • I will present at 2 conferences
    • I will give back to the unit at MMC
  • Play
    • I will run a half-marathon
    • I will lose my tummy
    • I will restart ultimate frisbee
    • I will welcome new people to the sports group
  • Church
    • I will develop pastoral skills
    • I will lead a missions team, not just on a trip, but on a journey which God will use to increase the depth of our love, faith and deepen our bond with Him
    • I will train 2 new musos
    • I will train 1 new LG leader
  • Personal
    • I will learn how to read the Bible
    • I will actually take time to worship and pray
    • I will finally get to grips with Ableton
    • Learn a new language!
    • I will get hold of my finances
    • I will take time to write
    • I will get a RRVisa
    • I will be more open about my faith at work
    • I will buy a house
    • I will have my family over to stay in that house
    • I will meet up more often with my cousins
    • I will talk more often with family back home
    • I will journey along, and fight, if necessary for the right to progress to the next stage of relationships!

 

Come on 2018!

 

 

 

Stretching out and being filled

‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures.

makes me to lie down = rabats (Hebrew) = stretch oneself out, lie stretched out

Brings to mind the extreme and luxurious state of rest when one is able to stretch and yawn, in the dream-like state between sleep and awakefulness, knowing there is no need to rush because there is nothing planned

‘He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul.’

restores = shub (Hebrew) = returns, brings back, recompensed, recovered,

soul = nephesh (Hebrew) = a living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion

God returns to us our desires, passion and literally brings us back to life.

Leadership P1

‘Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among hte villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm.’ Neh 6:1-2

‘So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” But the sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.’ Neh 6:3-5

When we embark on a project, there may be attempts to derail it by well-sounding intentions. Sometimes very persistent intentions.

‘In it was written: It is reported among he nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king.’ Neh 6:6

‘Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.” Neh 6:8

Occasionally false rumours about us will be nosed about, with the intention of slowing us down and weakening our resolve. However we have the liberty to call them out for what they are and move on.

‘For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.” Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. Neh 6:9

We constantly remind ourselves who is in control, and seek refuge and sustenance from Him. We draw our approval from Him, not necessarily from man.

‘Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetable, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.” Neh 6:10

And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!”Neh 6:11

At yet other times, we may be called to compromise on God’s standards for seemingly reasonable reasons. We need to see them for what they truly are, and stand our ground. God grants us insight into these situations so it’s not really taking a risk (though it may seem so at the time).

‘Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.’ Neh 6:12

When we persist despite these challenges, there will be talk of a different sort. And no wonder – who ever heard of a wall being built in 52 days! (most houses take way longer to even renovate!)

‘So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.’ Neh 6:15-16

Through no formal preaching of intention, others will see past our worldly efforts, and acknowledge the presence of a higher purpose and being in what we do.

 

We are certain of our calling

We seek God and gain insight from Him when others seek to waylay our efforts

We call things out for what they are

We do not compromise on God’s standards and truth

Others will see God working through us

Jesus’ ministry of bringing honour

“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water.” John 5:1-4

“Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” John 5:5-6

Jesus always offers a choice, even when to us, the choice sounds ridiculous (who wouldn’t want to be healed?) – but to this man, the question was particularly meaningful, as he had been unable, or not willing, to be the first into the pool for 38 years.

Desire” – thelo in Greek – wanting what is best because someone is willing and ready to act, often used of the Lord extending his best offer to the believer – wanting to birth His persuasion (faith) in them which empowers

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bend and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. John 5:8-9

Jesus could’ve brought him to the pool to be healed in that way. However I think Jesus demonstrated here that He has the power to heal outside of existing agencies and methods. And that He encourages us with showing us all the ways people can be healed, and not follow past methods, specifically that it is He who heals, not the Method who heals.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” John 5:14

Notice that Jesus didn’t mention the sin (of which he was fully aware) present in the man’s life at any point during the actual healing process. The healing was in and of itself an action conveying love, and also (being an action depending on the man’s choices), an act of decision-making and an expression of faith by the man (a deeper version of “Will you trust Me?”)

But that Jesus returned to him in order to make it clear to him the reason why he was sick for such a long time, and to encourage his future direction. This echoes Zachaeus’s story, where Jesus showed him honour by lunching at his house, with the result that Zach declared his response being to give back to those he had robbed.

“The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.” John 5:15

True transformation and faith impartation leads to a witnessing of that faith to others

 

So sin has far-reaching consequences

Sometimes we don’t want to be saved from an obvious fate

Jesus offers us the choice – do we desire, not just to be made physically well, but to grasp His persuasion of who He has created us to be?

We continue to walk with Him, showing Him honour, who honoured us first

And this becomes a natural outflow of witnessing to others.

An ongoing look at the fruit of the Spirit (and gifts)

18/9/17

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.

Eph 5:8-10

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

Eph 5:11

Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Eph 5:14

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Eph 5:15-17

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph 5:18-20

In which I infer that:

  • all the fruit of the Spirit is seen in the outworking of:
    • goodness (agathosune in Greek – intrinsic goodness especially as a personal quality with stress on the kindly rather than the righteous)
    • righteousness (dikaiosune – justness, of which God is the source, a divine righteousness)
    • truth (aletheia – not just spoken truth, but truth of idea, reality, sincerity and in the moral sphere, divine truth revealed to man)
  • that we should expose the darkness (skotous – either in physical or moral form)
  • that the fruit of the Spirit is not self-generated but given by God
  • that wisdom (sophoi – wise in an expert, skilled, learned, cultivated and clever sense) is a fruit
  • and we are to utilise said wisdom in redeeming the times (eksagorazo – take full advantage of, making the most of the present and recognizing its future gain, to ransom or rescue from loss)

A Word for our time

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Gal 5:1

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. Gal 5:6

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Gal 5:13-16

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Gal 5:18

Now the words of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 5:19-21

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Gal 5:22

Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Gal 5:26

 

In an age where opposing idealogies drive people to commit mass murder, when countries bandy threats of nuclear war, when a nation stands divided on a question of marriage and when rape, human trafficking and youth crime and violence are rampant, God’s word through Paul remains a true beacon.

 

Jesus, thank You for my freedom and for ushering in all the fruit that Your Spirit brings. Help me to live a life in a way that radiates Your love to those around me, by Your Spirit in me.

God-breathed

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:19-21

When I prepare a bible study, or a word to share, it often seems to be from a place of wanting to help others, or to accomplish a specific purpose which I feel God has birthed. There is always the tendency to insert a personal agenda into the message, however. This tendency seems to be stronger when the word has profoundly made me think, or has (I hesitate to use the term) impacted my life in some way. Coming from that position, I usually subconsciously (or consciously) feel that it SHOULD impact others as well, and craft a message along those lines.

2 Peter seems to draw out these thoughts, first of all noting that no ‘prophecy of scripture’ is of any private interpretation.

Prophecy: prophetieia in Greek: the gift of communicating and enforcing revealed truth

Private: idios in Greek: peculiar to the individual (stronger than the simple possessive pronoun ‘own’

Meaning, (as I take it), that while Scripture CAN be peculiar to the individual, and CAN have a personal impact upon one’s life, the revealing of truth within scripture top others should never be fully based on one’s private (or idios) revelation for oneself. Where then?

Moved: phero in Greek: to carry along, being brought

By: hupo in Greek: under, often meaning ‘under authority’ of someone working directly as a subordinate

This revelation of truth from the Scripture, then, is being carried along by the Spirit, and is from, and of God. This of course can be personal, and it may indeed be that a personal truth revealed to an individual may be similar to a truth that is for a group of people, but the distinction is clear: not to bring a personally-revealed truth and directly apply it to others without confirming if indeed that was God’s truth for them

Welcome to my crib!

Come and see.

The invite to the greatest relationship, and adventure of our lives. The ticket to Everest, or the Marianas Trench, or exploring Mars (but way better, and safer!) was being figuratively waved.

Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?”

They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are you staying?”

He said to them, “Come and see.”

They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).

John 1:35-39

One of the first invitations Jesus gave during his ministry was in response to a question about where He was staying. And he responded by giving them a house tour! But notice Jesus preceded the question by asking one of his own: “What do you seek?”

We often think we know what people should be looking for, or want, or seek. And we then come up with nice answers and solutions to these perceived questions. And maybe get offended when we find ourselves the recipient of a polite refusal. Maybe we should be asking that simple question first. “What are you looking for?”

The next day, Philip was called by Jesus, and he had heard first-hand about Jesus via Simon Peter and Andrew. Philip got so excited he got another friend Nathanael to tell him about this Jesus character (and about how cool his house was, presumably). Interestingly, Philip also used the phrase, “Come and see.”

See‘ or horao in Greek: perceive, attend to, to see with the mind

So not just an invite to meet Jesus, but to experience the person of Jesus.

What am I doing in my spheres to extend that invitation to others?