Friday, September 28, 2012

where does my help come from?

"I lift my eyes up to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121, NIV)

Several years ago when I was at a time in life filled with confusion, loneliness, and deep sadness, a dear friend of mine told me to read this Psalm. Even though this particular Psalm only has eight verses, those eight verses had a powerful meaning behind them then and still do today. These verses help illustrate a picture of God’s constant presence wherever we are in life. It is a reminder that we are never alone when we are in the presence of God.

Psalm 121, among the rest of Psalms 120-134, is named “A Song of Ascent.” It is noted that these songs were sung by pilgrims as they made their journey to Jerusalem. Their journeys weren’t always easy; with dangerous paths and remote regions, it was easy to lose sight of what was ahead, trying to find help in themselves than bringing it up to God. By singing this song, it was a declaration of God’s sovereignty of all things. These were also sung to prepare themselves as they arrived at the Temple; they were preparing to be in the presence of God. We need this right attitude of meditation when we come into the presence of God as well.

The first two verses say it straight and clear: Our help comes from God. The same God who created everything in the beginning until now is the same God who can give us answers if we are willing to stand in the posture of obedience. How often do we seek help from Him? In our lives, we encounter obstacles, challenges, and dead ends that challenge our faith, and it is often during those times that we believe that our own strength and willpower will enable us to conquer these trials. But here's the thing: We can't do this alone, and we can't do this without God. How often we find try to find our answers in people or in worldly things without consulting the one who created us from the very beginning? When we lift our eyes up, up beyond anything tangible here in this world, we acknowledge who God is and believe that He will help us.

The remaining verses show us ways where God makes His presence known in our lives. They can be best summarized by the following statements:

  • God will keep our spiritual character in check.
  • When we are asleep, God is awake – we don't have to worry about anything.
  • God's protection is 24/7 – doesn't cease at night or day.
  • God will shield us from evil – "Do not be afraid those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)
  • Because God loves and cares for us so much, we are able to face daily issues with confidence knowing that God is watching us.

Doesn't that sound amazing? GOD IS WITH US ALL THE TIME. So why do we worry so much about the stresses of life?

We live in a society where we are fixated on finding answers from worldly things, not realizing that they are distracting us from fostering an intimate relationship with God. We engorge ourselves with materialistic finds, because we believe it will cure us from our sadness; we seek advice from psychics or horoscopes, because we want to see what lies ahead in our future; and we seek approval from people, because we need to feel good about ourselves. As a community of believers, we are not made to live this way. God's presence is always with us – He's always available and working all the time. But that doesn't mean He will answer us right away, or in terms that we expect Him to. When God doesn't respond to us or "show up," we tend to grow weary, frustrated, and angry. But it's during those delays in life that God is waiting patiently for our hearts, minds, and souls to mold into the right posture and with the right mindset to faithfully Him in our journeys; we need to trust God.

So I challenge you to ask yourself this question: Where does your help come from?

Friday, September 21, 2012


I have a hard to time asking for things.

I blame it on how I grew up. My family and I didn't have a lot when I was younger. While families ate out at nice restaurants and kids came to school wearing the lastest trends, we were forced to be content with what we had. Our idea of a "fancy" restaurant was Sizzlers, we had the same clothes for years until we out-grew them (or received hand-me-downs from family, but they were outdated for our tastes), and we only got toys when it was Christmas and Easter. So when it came to asking my parents for Roxy-related clothes, money to hang out with friends, or even for a Tamagotchi (some of you may be too young to remember this), the answer was always "No." That was for the first 15 years of my life. I learned quickly that whenever I asked for something that required spending money, the answer was "No."

That transitioned into the way I socialized with people (and even now at times). Whenever I needed something or needed a question answered, I was too afraid to ask because I didn't want to be an annoyance to anyone.

It also transitioned to how I view God. I was too afraid to ask Him for anything. I didn't want to ask God for "petty" things (especially if He had bigger problems to answer). I also was too afraid to ask Him, knowing that I wouldn't be happy to hear what He had to say.

I think that's why I've been stuck. I've been in the same place for the past couple of years. My relationship with God has been stale for a while. And what do I do about it? Nothing. I expect Him to show up; I expect Him to change me; I expect Him to do all the hard work and then I receive the reward at the end of it.

What I'm learning on a day-to-day basis is that following God requires a lot of faith. I can easily get caught up with my routines at work, home, and everything else. I can breeze through life every day without realizing God working in my life. There have been days that I've been frustrated, annoyed, alone, and even numb. And there have also been days where I don't think about God at all (yikes). It's faith that pushes me to rely on God , that forces me to break down walls I've created, and that requires patience and courage on my end.

Where is my faith? The same faith that got me through college? The same faith that led me to and from Mozambique safely? The same faith that brought me out of a place of darkness and loneliness? The same faith that led me to where I am at now?

I tell you, I haven't been living a life faithfully following God. I've been caught up with this world's desires and materialism...they're immediate fillers to the emptiness in my life. It's an unhealthy cycle I've created in my life; whenever I feel empty, I find the nearest and easiest tangible thing, instead of being filled up by God. Whenever a problem arises, I try to solve it myself instead of giving it to God. Whenever I get angry and irritated, I keep it to myself instead of talking it out with God. Whenever I needed an answer, I look to the place that is the farthest away from God.

See the pattern?

I tend to ignore God...a lot. And it's usually during a breaking point or out of guilt that I realize what I've been missing.

When I went to Third Wednesday this past week, I wasn't expecting anything to happen. If anything, it was just a time during the week for me to take my mind off of work, be in fellowship with my life group and church members, and to worship. But God showed up, and He called me out. This verse was repeated that night: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matt. 7:7). I realized my life is worthless and meaningless if I don't allow God's guidance in my life. I wasn't being honest to Him or myself. That night, I let my guard down, I allowed the tears to roll down my cheeks, and I told God I was sorry and asked Him, "Where do you want me to be?"

For the first time in a long time, I prayed an honest prayer to God. None of that frou frou stuff or "God, I know you know what's best for me...blah." I've prayed those kind of prayers before, and to be quite honest, my heart wasn't in it. I would pray just to pray, because I knew that I was suppose to do that, to say something to God. But as I was I praying that night, I just told God the truth: "I don't know what I'm doing." And from there on, I just had an honest conversation with Him. Told Him my lost I was...questions about the disappointments (in Him and in myself).

I don't know where God wants me to be. Clearly, He wants me to be here...but I have no idea where next. And I don't need to know....and I need to OK with that. He'll open the opportunities when it's His timing. I just need to live in the "Now." Now is where He has me; Now is where he wants me to be with people; Now is where I need to pursue an intimate relationship with Him. Because if I miss out on the Now,I'm missing the point

A perfect illustration of this was told to me by someone who prayed for me that night. We often compare God to a light switch; we expect Him to show us everything that is in sight. Instead, God is like a lamp at our feet; He'll only show us what we need to see.

Monday, September 10, 2012

i am ...

Who am I?

I’ve struggled with identity pretty much my entire life. I’ve always questioned my purpose here on earth. I’ve seen and heard friends who simply knew where they’re supposed to be because God told them or God placed that desire in their hearts. It seemed like they knew who they were because God revealed Himself to them.
I’ve had a few moments in my life where God showed up and at that moment, I knew what I was supposed to do. But lately, I’ve been stuck in a dry season where I’ve lost sight of God’s guidance in my life. In some ways, I feel as if God has been absent…for a very, very long time. Sometimes I feel alone, and other times I feel distant from God. I tend to ask God “Where were you when I desperately needed you?” Martha struggled with the same questions in book of John when her brother, Lazarus, died.
When Martha questioned Jesus’ intentions, He said this to her:
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” [John 11: 25-26, NIV]
If I believe that Jesus is who He said He is, than my identity must be grounded in Him. Jesus knew fully who He was —He was God and He lived in community. We’re also called to that same community. I can only be fully who God intended me to be if I am in community with Him. For so long, I’ve been so distant with God that I forgot how to live out my life centered on this thought. If we don’t identify ourselves in this truth, we are wandering beings lost on this earth never knowing our true purposes in this life.
So how do I need to respond to this?
“I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” [John 11: 27, NIV]
Martha’s words are words that I need to live by…to believe in. How hard it must’ve been for her to utter these words when pain, confusion, and abandonment filled her thoughts. When I read these words, I have to remind myself that God’s plans are bigger and the ultimate reward is still yet to come. Do I believe in Jesus? Yes…then I need to live out my life that way. My life needs to be centered on Christ. I need to let go of my own expectations of Jesus and simply let Him lead me.
I love what Jesus says here. Not only is it a powerful statement, but it’s a confirmation of how faithful Jesus is:
“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” [John 11: 40, NIV]
Faith is an essential aspect in Christianity. It’s not something I can really ignore; I must live it. It’s part of our nature as Christians, and it is something that is stressed throughout the Gospels. Jesus performed these miracles to not only bring glory to God but to inspire belief and faith in His followers…to inspire belief and faith inside of me. Jesus knows me too well.  In this story, Jesus brought a man back to life…how crazy is that? If I believe wholeheartedly in Jesus, than I know that God will be glorified in ALL situations. Jesus is faithful and gracious to us when He provides words and actions that reinforce the truth of who He is. As we were reminded this weekend, if we believe this truth, why doesn’t it shock us today?
So who are we as ROCKHARBOR? What role do we play in this community we’ve built? When we identify ourselves in Jesus, we are called to believe that God’s glory will be revealed in His timing, in His way. And we need to live in that. We all have our own individual roles to play. Let’s step into this new season together laying down our own selfish identity in order to become more Christ-like.