How to Activate Your Faith

From "Altared", Claire & Eli
From “Altared”, Claire & Eli

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17 (NIV)

It’s easy to fall into that category of not doing anything. Of spitting out that catchphrase “I’m waiting on God.” Or that category of doing something crazy and saying, “I’m not waiting on God anymore.”

Perhaps you’re in the midst of a major life circumstance. Simple ones are easy – daily routine tasks that require no more than five seconds for us to decide. But there are the big ones that leave you staring into space, baffled on your next steps. These usually concern our career (or lack of), or relationships (or lack of), or family, or health, or finances. We’re more careful with these life challenges (or we should be) as the consequences could have a lasting impact on our life.

So how do you strike that balance between waiting and doing something? Of moving along with God and not moving behind him or before him? How do you navigate your way around these circumstances, from inaction to action?

1. Wait on God and be still.

Yes, this would still be the first step. Let me clarify this as this seems like the opposite of moving into action. Waiting and being still often conjures up images of not doing anything at all. Of just sitting around and waiting for an outside force to drop something good on our lap. But we’re also reactive people with a mix of hazy emotions and easily malleable by all the noise of people, things and influences around us. All of these easily confuse us and pushes us to do things that on hindsight were already veering us on the wrong track.

Thus, we need the silence. We need to re-focus our sights on what’s important and what’s real. And it’s in the silence and calmness that we can reconnect with our Creator to know His purposes for us.

Waiting on God is not simply sitting around. It means we need to pick up our bibles and align our life with His word. The psalmist recorded, “Be still and know that I am God.” All around him were troubles, of the earth giving way, of oceans roaring and mountains trembling. That’s a pretty scary sight. I would be anxious inside too. So it starts by calming ourselves and acknowledging that we have a BIG God out there.

2. Let wisdom guide your action.

After relating to us the connection between Faith and Action, James continues in the next chapter to tell us about Two Kinds of Wisdom. Our actions will stem from our perspectives and understanding. The wrong kind of wisdom is from our natural human inclinations. It is selfish and earthly, and only makes us do crazy things that mess us up even further.

The right kind of wisdom comes from God. It is “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere”.

Ask yourself, will this new job or venture make me into a better person? Will it develop my skills and character? Will starting or continuing in this relationship be what’s best for the other person? Am I doing this to honor God, or only for myself or the money?

3. Just do something.

We may fall into the trap of not doing anything, paralyzed in fear that we may do the wrong thing. Or we may be faced with two good choices (good for you!) and we don’t know which one aligns with God. But we also need to know that God is sovereign and even at this very moment, He is leading us. So just go out and do something.

And while we may make the wrong choices (and we will make a few of them), know that He is a merciful and gracious God, who can redeem those circumstances and veer us on the right track. After all, it’s in making bad decisions that we learn how to make the right ones, don’t we?

So be still before God, seek His wisdom and just do something!

Remember, Faith always moves us into action.

“But someone may say, “You have faith, and I have actions.” Show me your faith without any actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions.” James 2:18 (ISV)

When God wants to give you MORE

http---www.pixteller.com-pdata-t-l-482973

It amazes me how God takes His time, beautifully crafting replies and reframing our perspective according to what He really means.

As I’ve been drowning out heaven with prayers for a mate FOR YEARS, I thought that what He meant with “immeasurably more” is with the partner He’ll give me. That if I’m praying for ten things I want in a future husband, then He’ll give me 15 more! Now that’s immeasurably more, right?

But I’ve come to realize that maybe that’s not what He meant. He wants me to have an abundant life (John 10:10). He doesn’t want me to just have a husband. He wants me to have a full life.

Remember the story of the woman at the well? She has had five husbands and yet she was still not satisfied with her life. She said to Jesus: “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:15, NIV) Five husbands and still thirsty!

So perhaps it’s not just one part of the equation that He wants to give us. He wants to give us so much more.

 

How to experience God’s “immeasurably more”

1. Let God define what is “more”. 

“Now to HIM who is able to do..” It starts with God. And He is the one who is able to do this. I could be wrong in what I want. But God knows me better than I know myself. So let go of what “more” looks like to you. For me, “more” is getting a better husband than what’s on my list. But God redefined that for me by giving me much more – a full life.

A husband would only be one of many relationships that I will have (albeit the most important if there is). But life covers a wide spectrum of needs – social, spiritual, emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, environmental (Seven Dimensions of Wellness). So what about the rest? And this is where God wanted to meet me first. He wants me to experience wellness – establish healthy relationships with family and friends (social), be at peace with where He has me and experience joy no matter what (emotional), enjoy work and pursue passions (occupational and intellectual), learn how to take care of my skin and body (physical), live an organic and natural lifestyle (environmental), and most importantly, build my relationship with My Creator (spiritual).

Whatever “more” looks like to you, just let it go. Let God be the one to define it for you.

2. Know God as a Loving Father

Verse 20 is preceded with Verses 18 and 19: “(that you) may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

What is a loving father like? Fathers who care deeply about their children will not withhold good things from them. He will provide for all their needs and much more – toys, chocolates, birthday parties. He will not do this reluctantly but it would be his joy to give these things to his child.

We need to know that kind of love – how wide and long and high and deep, and which surpasses knowledge. That is how much He loves us. To see Him as a stingy, reluctant, unloving Father would limit who He is and what He can do in our lives.

Your earthly father may be different. Don’t confuse the two.

3. Start living the full life

“..According to his power that is at work within us.” As children of God, His very Spirit is at work within us. That full life began the moment we received Christ into our lives. So what does a full life look like to you? Don’t just look at it from one angle. Remember the Seven Dimensions of Wellness. Consider your relationships, work, spiritual life. All these factor in how well you live your life. You have a role to play. That immeasurably more is within your grasp as you recognize that power at work within you.

I don’t just sit around waiting for God to drop a husband on my lap. I live my life the best way I know how. I work on my relationships, I meet new people, I try out new things. I continue to seek God, know more of His Love for me and tell other people about it. I enjoy life and this is immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine.

Had He given me a husband first then I may not be able to appreciate this gift – a gnawing feeling may seethe deep within me as other aspects of my life are not satisfied. But He wants to answer that prayer, even ones that I have not uttered to Him. And so He is making sure that I am whole and complete first, not lacking in anything – and that is the fullness of life.

I don’t know what you’re praying for. But when we dictate too much what we want, we limit God. He wants to give us more than what we ask for, but first, we have to let Him. Let go of any expectations you may have on how God will answer you. Only then will you be able to recognize how God is already giving you that immeasurably more in this life. Let Him.

 

 

Celebrating Your Singleness

seasons

Dear Sister-in-Waiting,

I know.

I know it’s hard. I know the days can drag on. I know about all those lonely nights.

I’ve been there.

And I wish it wouldn’t be this hard. But there are days when your heart literally hurts, especially after meeting a promising young man, only for it to turn sour and find out he’s not the one for you.

I know.

And I know you’re tired of people telling you,

“It’s going to happen soon.”

“He’s coming for you.”

“Just be patient and wait.”

So I’m not going to tell you those. Because honestly, I don’t know.

I don’t know if it is going to happen soon.

I don’t know where he is.

And I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait.

So maybe you pray even harder. Read even more. And they tell you,

“Wait on God.”

“Jesus is your Husband.”

“Prepare for your marriage.”

All good advice. But it’s been a year. Or two. Or five. And hope is not what it used to be. It’s dwindling a little.

But I will tell you this:

This season too shall pass.

That I know.

I have been where you are. I read. I prayed. I met new friends. Potentials even. I was expectant. I had high hopes.

I guarded my heart. Took captive of my thoughts. Tried to think only of what was pure, noble and right. But I couldn’t. I thought of marriage. A lot. I thought of potential husbands. A lot.

But, nothing.

And then it hurt. And hurt some more.

But you wake up one day, and you’re ok. Literally, ok.

No longer panicky, no longer anxious. I had peace.

I trusted Jesus. I trusted God. If it is His will, it will happen. He wants this to happen more than I do.

So yes, it will pass. And you will enjoy your singleness like never before. You will see with new eyes, feel with a new heart. You will crave for God just as when you met Him as your First Love. You will want to know Him more, serve Him as He has called you to.

This season is a gift from God. No husband to care for. No kids to run after. Your time is your own. You can focus on your passion for singing. Take up painting. Watch your favorite episode of Friends. Go on road trips.

This is your life. It doesn’t start after marriage. Marriage does not define you. THIS IS YOUR LIFE.

And it’s great to be alive.

So it’s ok. Just hang on to God. With every bit of your might.

Because, my dear Sister-in-Waiting, this too shall pass. And what’s around the corner is worth waiting for.

On Death. Or Brevity of Life.

You can’t help but think of it when you hear someone you know pass away. Especially if that someone was still young. And full of potential.

I hardly know him. I only met him a few times. But the outpouring of love for him is enormous. His reputation precedes him. He’s really a great guy. “Too beautiful for this earth,” someone said.

I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life. It’s usually asked: If you only had one month or one year to live, would you do anything differently? 

I pondered on that question for a moment. Would I? Honestly, I feel it’s a “no”. Now, before you think I’m leading a perfect life, let me expound on that a bit.

If I were free to dream here, that desire I want is to be married and have kids. But with only a month or a year, that’s not possible. Get married, maybe. But if I were to pass away after that, I wouldn’t want to leave behind a husband and/or a child. If I were to pass away early, I’d want to be single.

For some people, it’s to love more. For some, it’s to travel the world. Those are great. Do that. Pursue those.

As for me, I’ve realized that walking with God actually confronts me with the reality of “death” on a daily basis. You hear it in the Gospel. Christ died for me. It’s in His word – die to yourselves daily and pick up His cross. As a follower of Christ, there must be a readiness to stand up for the truth, even unto death. As a child of God, there is a readiness and eagerness to be called home any time..

I’m not meaning to be morbid. Some people would be quick to say here, “Don’t speak of such things.” But only in the face of darkness can you see the light. Or in loss can you appreciate what you have.

So this is my life. Sometimes I do feel I’m ready to leave any time.. At times, I struggle to be content, that there must be more this world can offer. And yet I know that this life can’t satisfy it: I’m longing for that sweet, tender taste of heaven. To be content yet discontent in this world. To be a stranger in a foreign land.

So let me leave you with Psalm 90:12

NIV: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

NLT: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”

May we all grow in wisdom as we learn to live the life God has graciously given us.

When (almost) ALL your friends are getting married

In the span of two months, I would have attended five weddings. Two on the same day, twice as a bridesmaid, once as a church reader, and five times wishing it were me over there. Sigh. I’ve got wedding fever! But I know my time down the aisle will come. I just need to trust. In the meantime, here are four tips for surviving and thriving in this season of waiting.

1. Learn from your married friends.

Whenever I get together with my married friends, this question never ceases to pop up: Well? Have you met anyone yet? It doesn’t get old and it doesn’t really bother me. I know they mean well. We joke about it and try to come up with strategies for me to meet someone. How I can pretend to trip or fall over and let the guy catch me. Meet-cute.

But seriously, watching my friends with their husbands and their babies is a great resource for me. I listen to their stories of how they share responsibilities, how they handle different situations, how they interact with one another. It offers me a glimpse into how my future marriage can work.

So use this time to prepare. Ask questions. Listen. Even get some practice with their kids!

2. Meet new single friends.

While hanging out with married friends are great, you can’t escape that great reminder that you’re still single. Now would be a good time to expand your horizon and meet new people! Share this season with ladies who know what you’re going through and swap stories and wisdom along the way.

3. Serve.

Now is the best time to serve in church. We are not preoccupied with things of this world, on how to please our husband (1 Corinthians 7:34). We can focus on the Lord’s work, learn hospitality and serve others. This is good training ground as well for a future wife. Someday we will serve our husbands and children, and hopefully open up our homes to those in need.

Bonus: What better place can you meet single godly men but in ministry and see him in action too!

4. Work on your relationship with God.

Our primary relationship will always be with God. Use this time to be more intimate with God and let Him guide you in this season and prepare you for marriage, if that is His will for you.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Let Him rule our hearts. Only in Christ can we be truly satisfied and not in earthly relationships. Learn to hold loose anything of this world, even romance, family and desires for marriage.

 

 

 

Taking that proverbial leap of faith

Today is my last day of the year here in the province.

I still remember that day my father talked to me. It was exactly five days before Christmas. He asked to talk to me at 4. I wondered what it could be. But I tried to think nothing of it.

By 4 I went to his unit. He was eating an orange. He gave me money. “Just a little something to buy gifts.” I was elated. I thought, hey whadyaknow, I got cash. Cool! Little did I know. And then he went on to talk about the situation of the business in the province.

Our manager quit. We need someone out there. We’ve been sending people but it hasn’t been working out. Yadda yadda yadda. Yawn.

“I want you to head our division over there.”

Huh?

“You mean I have to live there?” Anxiety was creeping in.

“Why, do you have to be here? This is business.”

Oh the curse that plagues Chinese families. Duty. Filial piety. More than that God’s word kept ringing in my head. Hupotasso – submit to your authority. Honor your father and mother – this is the first commandment with a promise. I knew that this was from God. Obedience.

The next day my ticket was booked. By the second day of the new year, I started my new role as region head of our exporting business.

I knew that God wanted me here. For reasons I may never know. Perhaps to get me alone with Him. To help me unlearn things that were hindering me in my walk with Him. To expand my borders, take me out of my comfort zone. To reach out to people here, serve in His ministry here. It could be all these or none of it. Only He knows.

But one thing for sure, He revealed a very precious truth to me here – how much He loves me.

Before I left Manila, I met up with a church friend. She asked me why I am hanging on to God. I said, because it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. For her, because she knows how much God loves her.

It was all still head knowledge for me. After walking with him for over a year, serving in church, leading a group, attending various bible studies. So I prayed, Lord, make me feel your Love.

Now I can say this. God loves me. He has been faithful to me even in the smallest of details.

A lot of times in the course of operations here, I can only say, Buti na lang (Good thing!). Good thing the Lord provided. Saved yet again! If not, it would have been a huge problem for me. He did say, do not worry (Matthew 6:25).

He provided a family for me here – my Sunday family (see previous post Windows) and my church family. He knew I needed support.

He got me to do new things – drive (driving in Manila scares me), regularly attend gym (yoga!), take voice lessons (I’ve wanted to do this for a looooong time. I love to sing!).

God knows what He is doing. I love the words of Oswald Chambers, Let Him have His way. Yes Lord, have Your way with me.

I doubt that this will be the last of “pruning” seasons that God has set for me. He wants to pour me out like wine that He may use me. All of life He prunes us ’til we reunite with Him in eternity.

This has been my 2014. I have declared it my Year of Faith.

God, can 2015 be my Year of Love?

Guardrails

The first time I heard this I was sitting in Hengshan church in Shanghai. They were announcing the new series by Andy Stanley. I never got through the series. I left Shanghai before it started and I never bothered to hear it online (you can check it out here).

But just now I was given a new guardrail – a curfew at night when driving by myself.

A part of me thought, I’m 29 years old. I’m perfectly capable of driving alone at night. Thankyouverymuch. Though a part of me knew that I needed to obey this. I live by myself in the province and no one waits up on me at night. What if I don’t come home? What if something happens to me? Maybe it’ll take days before my body is discovered in an isolated grassland somewhere south of the city.

My dad has never given us a curfew back in Manila. The rule is, as long as I come home. And there have been many times when I’ve decided to ignore this rule. Not that he waits up on us. I doubt that anyone even noticed.

But now I know better. I know I need this guardrail to protect me. Coming home late last Saturday, I was already feeling sleepy while driving and I believe my judgment was a bit compromised. I took a left turn too soon and the incoming car was speeding fast. I escaped grazing him by probably just a split second. I felt terrible afterwards. He’s probably cursing me every inch of the way til he got home. Way to go to bless someone, right?

God has placed plenty of guardrails in my life, whether I’m aware of them or not. It could be as simple as the shows I watch or as big as placing me in a city miles away from my family. It’s for my own protection. For my own good. Because He loves me.

And though I wanted to react at first, Huwaat?! 10pm?! That’s crazy early!! I paced myself for awhile. What’s so wrong with 10? I’m an introvert anyway. It’s the perfect excuse to slip out from a crowd. And besides, God would want me to obey him cheerfully.

So here we go. Any guardrails God is placing around you?

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:15