The-Day-I-Compared-My-Mum-to-a-Crow

The Day I Compared My Mum to a Crow

“My mother is like a watchful crow” began the poem I had written as a gift for my mom. I was convinced it would bring her tears of joy—amazed by the exquisite talent of her 7-year old daughter.

In reality, my mom impressively stifled a laugh, then sputtered her appreciation for my little “sonnet”. Somehow, she managed to look past being compared to a crow and focus on the gratitude I was attempting to show for her dependable presence.

In the same way, God looks directly at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7), and receives the little gifts we offer Him as tokens of infinite worth. While we can’t earn God’s love, no act of service that overflows from a grateful heart will slip by unnoticed.

In this coming year, let’s prayerfully strive to replicate God’s attitude in how we accept others’ presents.

Perhaps you’re getting ready to tackle your list of “thank you” notes, and wondering how you can sincerely express gratitude to Aunt Betty for the hand-croqueted, picture-frame she stitched. I don’t think you can convincingly will your heart to overflow with gratefulness. If you aren’t seeing the appeal of a fuzzy picture-frame, taking on a tone of appreciation probably won’t convince anyone. And, you can be sure of one thing: you aren’t fooling the “Big Man Upstairs”.

So, pray for a change of heart—from one that is focused just on the present, to one freed to see past the temporary items. Shift the focus from the gift to the person who gave it to you. Tell the giver exactly how their presence has impacted you. It doesn’t need to be a dramatic story about how they convinced you to leave the circus and go back to school.

Just be honest, such as: “I love the example you provide me of prioritizing people over activities. You inspire me to do the same, so I’ve really valued the opportunity of getting to know you better this year!” And, in your effort to describe the blessings others bring to your life, take my advice: don’t compare them to a crow.

My mother is like a watchful crow,
She sees your every move.
She knows when you are good or bad,
Or when you are just you.

She’s always there,
Whether you do or don’t need her.
But when it comes time for bed,
You know you’ll always see her.

“Poem” by Laura, age 7

Why-I-Almost-Didnt-Get-Baptized

Why I Almost Didn’t Get Baptized

After five years of knowing, believing and growing in my Lord and Savior, I finally got baptized on Christmas Day last year.

It still feels somewhat surreal as I recall the day I declared my faith and was baptized at sea, with my friends and family watching on.

Yet it almost didn’t happen.

If you’d asked me a month or even two weeks prior to Christmas, I’d have shaken my head hesitantly and said, “Maybe next round . . .”

Even though I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior in early 2012, proudly called myself His follower, and prayed and read His Word daily, somehow I still didn’t feel ready to take the step into the waters.

 

Excuses, excuses

Maybe it was the fact that I was no longer riding on the spiritual high that came with first falling in love with Him.

Instead, as the daily grind of life soon took over, I ended up giving new excuses with the arrival of each Easter and Christmas: I was too stressed out by my studies and didn’t have the brain-space to join my church’s baptism class, I was bogged down by my thesis and struggling with depression . . .

Two weeks before Christmas—the last day on which we had to inform our church whether we wanted to be baptized—I bumped into an older sister-in-Christ from church.

“Are you getting baptized this Christmas?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Maybe next time.”

“Why?”

“Well . . . I don’t feel ready.”

She looked me in the eye and said, “But you’ll never feel prepared enough for baptism—no one ever does.”

Her words rang in my ears, and that night I sought the Lord in prayer, confessing my reluctance. As I did so, He revealed to me that my excuse of not being ready enough for baptism actually disguised a deep-rooted and flawed conception of myself, and what I thought I needed to do—or had failed to do—as His follower.

Beneath all my excuses and at the heart of my hesitance, was a whisper that I wasn’t worthy enough. And this belief ignored the very crux of Jesus’ redemptive act on the cross:

[B]ecause of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9, emphasis mine)

By grace, not works

On our own merit, we will never be good enough, or ready enough.

But we have been called to be baptized by Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:19-20), because it is a symbolic act of identification with Christ (Romans 6:4). Once I understood this truth, I went to my church leader and told her I wanted to be baptized. I wanted to publicly testify of how God had saved and sanctified me over the last five years of my life.

Baptism is a sign of the beginning of your journey with God, rather than a sign of having arrived.

If you’re like me and haven’t yet been baptized for some reason or another, I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord to reveal if there are any lies or misbeliefs that may be holding you back.

After all, baptism is a sacrament instituted by Jesus and a reflection of God’s glory, grace and goodness—not a benchmark of our own worthiness or deservingness.

 

To learn more about baptism and the Lord’s Supper, check out this Discovery Series: https://discoveryseries.org/discovery-series/baptism-the-lords-supper/

5-Reasons-Why-Repentance-is-a-Wonderful-Gift

5 Reasons You Should Repent – Again and Again

Photo By Ben White

What is repentance? Do Christians need to repent? When was the last time you repented?

As believers, we know that Jesus calls people who have yet to believe in Him (Matthew 4:17) and Christians to repent when they have fallen away from Him (Revelation 2:5; 2:16; 2:21; 3:3; 3:19).

And yet, repentance seems like a rather unpleasant thing that we have to coerce ourselves to do. It’s like taking bitter medicine when we are sick. We don’t want to take it but force it down our throats anyway, because we know it’s supposed to be good for us.

I used to think of repentance in this way, until I realized what repentance really is. In a nutshell, it involves these three things: Recognition of our sin, renunciation of our sin and returning to God.

The more I came to understand what repentance really is, the more I realized that it is, in fact, a wonderful gift by God to us. Here are some reasons why.

 

1. Repentance lets God restore, forgive and purify us

I used to feel unworthy of God’s forgiveness when I fell into sin. I’d think, “I’m already a Christian and yet I’m still disappointing and failing God in this way. How can I still expect Him to forgive me?”

Thankfully, God assured me by reminding me of this truth: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Since then, I’ve made it a point to confess my sins before God no matter how “unworthy” or “unclean” I might feel, knowing that He will forgive me my sins and purify me, so that I will be righteous before Him again.

Just as God reached out to us before we came to know Him, He is still reaching out to us and calling us to return to Him today if we’ve fallen in sin: “Return to Me, and I will return to you” (Zechariah 1:3, Malachi 3:7). God promises to restore us when we repent of our sins (Jeremiah 15:19).

 

2. Repentance helps us to be humble

I find that when I have trouble repenting, it’s often because I have pride issues in my life. Pride is spiritual blindness that causes us to think our standards are better than God’s standards.

The opposite of pride is humility, and one definition of it, which I really like, says, “Humility means agreeing with the truth.” Perhaps that is why Paul says that repentance leads us to know the truth so that we can come to our senses (2 Timothy 2:25-26). When I repent and learn to agree with the truth of God’s standards of righteousness and sin, I am growing in humility.

God values humility; He shows favor to those who are humble, but He opposes and mocks those who are proud (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). So let’s be quick to repent, so that we may grow in humility and receive and enjoy God’s favor.

 

3. Repentance drives the devil away from us

During the times when I was willfully disobeying God, I found it so much harder to believe God’s truths. Instead, the voices of guilt, doubt, fear and condemnation would ring a lot louder in my heart. Thoughts like, “God doesn’t love you anymore,” “You’ve really blown it this time. God won’t give you a second chance,” and “God has given up on you now” would keep harassing me, giving me no peace.

But when I repented and returned to God, these deceptive whispers of the enemy would start to fade and I’d be more able to perceive and receive the truths of God again.

The Bible tells us, “Submit yourselves . . . to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). In this verse, submission to God means washing our hands and purifying our hearts from sin and double-mindedness (James 4:8).

When we sin, we’re actually giving the devil permission to draw near to us, for “[t]he one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). The enemy is close to those who does what he does (John 8:44). And when he is near us, he “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

When we submit to God by repenting, we’re proclaiming that we belong to God and we can fight against the devil and his evil influences in our lives.

 

4. Repentance frees us from the torment of sin

I’ve found this to be true in my life. When I insisted on my own sinful ways, the one who suffered the most was me. Although sin may feel good, it ultimately hurts more than it seems to promise.

And when I wasn’t willing to confess my sins to God and others due to pride and shame, I found myself continuing in my sins because the devil had gained a foothold in my life to ensnare me in the darkness. It’s only when I brought these sins into the light by confessing them to people I trusted, that those sins started to lose their power to further deceive and hurt me.

I’m thankful that God gives us confession and repentance as the means by which we can receive His mercy. Because Jesus is our great high priest who is always interceding for us before God (Hebrews 4:14; 7:25), we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

The Bible gives us this promise: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). If we do not repent, we will not be able to receive help and relief from the torment of sin.

 

5. Repentance leads us to fullness of life with Jesus

Sin will lead to spiritual death. God’s Word tells us plainly that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and Jesus said, “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). On the contrary, repentance leads to life (Acts 11:18) and salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Ultimately, when we repent, we are inviting Jesus to have fellowship with us. After urging Christians to “be earnest and repent,” Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me” (Revelation 3:19-20).

The immeasurable joy of having intimate fellowship with God is what Jesus won for us through His death and resurrection, so that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). It certainly beats the deceptive and fleeting “joy” of any kind of sin by any measure!

Eternity doesn’t start when we go to heaven. It starts right now with having fullness of life with God, and repentance allows us to have that.

 

Would you repent and draw near to God today?

I-Didnt-Choose-to-be-Gay

I Didn’t Choose to be Gay

I did not choose to be attracted to people of the same sex.

I had an ordinary childhood in an ordinary home. My father and mother, along with my grandmother, loved me and did their best to provide and care for me. I have a younger brother, but had always wanted an older brother when I was growing up. In upper primary, I looked up to an older boy in my class as a big-brother figure.

I first realized I had these feelings when I was going through puberty in secondary school and found myself having a crush on a guy in my class. In junior college, I was similarly infatuated with a male schoolmate. That was also when I identified myself as “gay.”

There wasn’t anyone I could talk to about this area of my life—not my family nor my friends—so I looked online for local communities of people who were gay, and I found some. I distinctly remember the first time I chatted online with another gay person; I was very nervous and excited.

Initially, curiosity led me to these communities. Over time, however, it was loneliness that drove me to seek out others like me. As I began to struggle more with loneliness, I started to desire a romantic relationship.

Because I hadn’t gone to church since I became a Christian in primary school and wasn’t discipled in God’s truths on sexuality, I mistakenly concluded that it was okay with God for me to pursue my gay desires. And I did so, for the next 10 years. I tried many ways to look for a gay relationship and, regrettably, also fell into sexual sin with other guys many times.

A few years ago, the Lord convicted my heart that it was not part of His will for me to act on my same-sex desires. Since then, He has led me on a journey of deeper healing and pursuit of holiness.

Though I no longer identify myself as “gay,” I still experience attraction to men. There isn’t a day I’m not aware of it. I know in my mind that it is not to be acted upon, and I choose with my will to obey God. But the attraction still feels “natural” and instinctive to me.

If I had a choice, I would make these desires disappear once and for all. That would make my life so much easier. I don’t know if I will find complete healing on this side of eternity or I will receive full restoration, along with my transformed resurrected body, only when I see the Lord.

To borrow the words of Wesley Hill, a same-sex attracted Christian writer who has chosen to remain celibate, I now live in a state that is “washed and waiting.” As a Christian, I’m “washed. . . sanctified [and] justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11), but I’m also “wait[ing] eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23-25).

Meanwhile, I know that while I have no choice in my sexuality, there are choices I can make that would please the Lord. I believe that experiencing same-sex attraction is not itself a sin; surely a just God would not take me to account for what I cannot choose. But how I respond to it makes the difference: it can either be a doorway to sin, or an opportunity for worship and deeper healing.

I hope that what I share here can also help you to make choices for God’s glory and your good when you find yourself in situations not of your choosing.

I can choose to trust God’s heart for me

There was a time I was angry with God for allowing me to have same-sex attraction, yet forbidding me from pursuing it. It felt cruel, and I blamed Him for putting me in what felt like an impossible situation.

Over the years, however, as I began to understand who God really is—how good and extravagantly loving the Father is, how self-sacrificial a Friend and Savior Jesus is, and how trustworthy a Comforter and Teacher the Holy Spirit is—my anger was slowly replaced with awe, gratitude, and deeper love for the Lord.

I still don’t exactly know why God allowed me to have same-sex attraction. I may know only when I see Him face to face. But until then, I choose to take God at His word that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). I know that His heart is for me and He is personally committed to walking this journey with me for my good.

I can choose to depend more on God

Each time my eye or heart is drawn inappropriately to a guy I find physically attractive or whom I might desire romantically, I have to remind myself to turn away from that and toward God. During a period of time when I found it especially hard to battle the lust of my eyes, I asked the Lord why I was struggling this way. I heard Him say, “Your eyes are wandering because your heart is not anchored on Me.”

Indeed, whenever I intentionally made more time to spend with God—to worship Him in song, to meet Him in His Word and prayer, and to be in fellowship with other Christians—I was much more able to turn away from acting on my same-sex desires. Through this, I understood why the Bible tells us to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh” (Galatians 5:16-17).

I remind myself that “[w]hoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8). Whenever I’m struggling, I can make the choice to walk by the Spirit, sowing to please Him, so as to reap eternal life.

I have also learned to consciously bring my pain and my need to God. The Lord led me to understand that beneath my same-sex attraction lies a relational brokenness that seeks the male identity, attention, and affection which I should have received in healthy ways when I was growing up. (I know this may not necessarily be the case for others.)

So whenever I feel the draw of same-sex desires, I choose to bring this longing before God, asking Him to help and comfort me, and to bring healing to my wounds. I remind myself that I am defined by God’s standard of masculinity as revealed in His Word, and not as taught by our culture. And I ask Him to show me how I can seek and receive male attention and affection in healthy, platonic ways.

In these ways, my same-sex attraction has given me rich opportunities to depend more on God. I choose to draw closer to Him and receive more healing from Him by preferring His higher ways above my broken ones.

I can choose to use this for His purposes

Recently, the Lord led me to see how I can choose to use my struggle with same-sex attraction for His kingdom’s purposes.

God has been putting in my path several Christians who also experience same-sex attraction and are seeking understanding and help. I’m very much burdened to reach out to them, and I’m aware that my personal experience was what drew them to open up to me in the first place.

On the one hand, my own experience of same-sex attraction helps me to identify with them. As someone who knows the pain and longing of same-sex desires, I can understand how they feel. That empathy builds a bridge of connection between us, and allows me to share with them what God has taught me in my journey. On the other hand, I have to be conscious of the need to draw healthy physical and emotional boundaries, so that neither of us would be at risk of falling into sin.

As I learn how to balance these two considerations with wisdom, it enables me to use my struggle with same-sex attraction to help others and point them to God, for His glory and their good.

I can choose to hold on to what God says

Many in our culture today would think that I’m not being true to who I am and that I should be free to be myself. They believe that freedom means having the ability to express my sexuality by acting on what I feel.

But as American theologian Erik Thoennes says, “There’s this idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy; but that’s a wrong definition of hypocrisy. To live out of conformity to what I believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what I believe, in spite of what I feel, isn’t hypocrisy; it’s integrity.”

God has taught me that who I am is not what I feel, but who He says I am in His Word. I choose to live with integrity when I hold on to that truth, regardless of how I feel. This is how I choose to be true to myself. “In the Christian tradition,” says writer Richard John Neuhaus, “being true to yourself means being true to the self that you are called to be.”

God has the ultimate authority and final say over my life. And I can trust Him because He who knows best loves me deeply and is able to shape me to become the best self He has called me to be.

I can choose to love God with all I have

I often didn’t feel like I had much to offer God. I wondered how much more easily I could obey Him and how much more effectively I could serve others if I didn’t struggle with same-sex attraction. However, I now believe that God actually cares much more about my heart of giving than how much I can give Him.

There are two stories in the Bible I hold dearly. One is the story of the widow’s offering (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4), and the other is the one where Jesus was anointed by a woman with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9). Jesus commended the widow even though she donated just two small coins, because “she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44). Of the other woman, He said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6). Jesus valued the poor widow’s offering just as much as He cherished the woman’s lavish act.

These two stories tell me that God is pleased whenever I give Him all that I have, no matter the quantity, and He finds this to be a beautiful thing. All He requires of me is to trust and love Him wholeheartedly and to offer all of my life—my strengths and my struggles—to Him.

In this journey of trusting the Lord with all my heart and submitting to Him in all my ways, I know that He will direct my paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). Although I have no choice when it comes to my sexuality, I can make choices to obey and love Him. As I do that, I know my choices will bring delight to God, lead me into deeper worship of Him, enable me to receive more healing, and allow me to help others with the same struggles.

I await with much longing the day when I can finally see the One I love face to face. And I want to live a life of godly choices so that when the Lord looks at me, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! (Matthew 25:23) You gave everything you had (Mark 12:44). You have done a beautiful thing to Me (Mark 14:6).”

It would all have been worth it for the One who is worthy of all praise and honor.