Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Finding my Worth - Five Loaves and Two Fish

When I saw the above picture on my Facebook timeline, I knew it was time to write this post.

Until recently, I was a slave to insecurities. At each stage of my life I was insecure about stutter, my body image, my face, my teeth, everything! I felt unlovable. If I was speaking to anyone, chances are I'd think that they didn't like me. I built a wall around myself that I seldom let people penetrate; I'd almost always treat people professionally and never initiate friendships unless I was absolutely certain, because I feared rejection. Truth is, I still do a lot of that now, but the difference is I am breaking free of what has become a part of me.

I was told I sounded like a crow. I was told I was fat. I was told I looked like a man. I was told things that I do not wish to repeat. No matter how hurt I really was, I made sure that I would not let the person in question know that I was - if I was to deal with my 'imperfections', I was not going to do it for them! That attitude seems great at first glance, but the hurt I pretended to brush off was being bottled up inside me; I didn't have the courage to deal with it.
The overload of hurt eventually strangled my confidence and fear triumphed over me. Not only did I believe I was unlovable, I now started believing that God would never be able to use me. My delusions impaired me from living out my God-given calling!

At the Open Doors Youth Advocate Training, God spoke to one of the leaders about my insecurities. The truth she prayed over me broke me to tears. She told me I was treasured, that I was loved, that I was fearfully an wonderfully made, that God is faithful and will complete what He has promised...nothing new; I knew that, but when did I forget?

I forgot it the moment I stopped bringing my cares to the Cross. I forgot it the moment I made man's opinion greater than God's.

'For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance but the LORD looks on the heart.' - 1 Samuel 16:7

For a Christian, who has tasted the goodness of God, this memory loss generally happens at the peak of our spiritual life, when we subconsciously turn the focus away from God! When God uses us, it is often a challenge to remain grounded. Who doesn't love compliments! It is wrong however to live for it. If you live to please a human being, whether it be a random stranger or your 'point of attraction', you'll sadly find that you are not only idolising them, but that you can never quite meet their mark. There's always going to be something they'd like to change about you, because we are all imperfect, every single one of us. We are imperfect people serving a perfect God, and that makes all the difference! In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul reminds us that whatever we do, we ought to 'do it all for the glory of the Lord'. The moment we shift the spotlight from Jesus to ourselves, we become vulnerable to judgement, dissatisfaction and hurt...and the cycle continues. Here's a powerful spoken word that hits the nail far better than I ever could...

If you question your usefulness to God, remember that it is often not the greatest and glamorous that God uses, but the lowliest - because it is 'in our weakness' that His 'strength is made whole'.
Samson, the strongest man of his time, won Israel a great victory, not when he was at his peak, but when he had no eyes and was chained up! It was the Spirit of God with him that made the difference.
When Jesus fed 5000 men (and their wives and children), He didn't use a banquet, but 5 loaves and 2 fish from a little boy. The boy could've considered his little packed lunch insignificant (much like we consider ourselves) and kept it to himself - the question is not whether or not God can use us (He obviously can), it is whether or not we are willing to give Him the imperfect, insufficient little that we have! His Spirit can equip us to shake the world, IF we let Him. The Bible is full of unqualified people accomplishing much for God because they stepped out in faith, in complete surrender and trust - are you ready to do the same?

My lovely reader, I want you to know that you are gorgeous. You are loved. You are treasured. You are unique, and crafted specifically for the adventures God has in store for you. There is a God who loves you immensely, He takes great pleasure in you. He died for the very imperfections that are holding you back, so that by His death you can be free from judgement and condemnation. He has 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.' He made you worthy, so stop listening to the lies of this world - does their opinion matter in light of your Creator's? I re-discovered my worth in Christ, and I invite you to do the same!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

When I heard that the poppy-filled moat at the Tower of London was soon to be dismantled, I had to abandon the coursework and rush to get a glimpse of it...and I did not regret it!
The dry moat surrounding the Tower of London, is home to 888,426 ceramic poppies, each symbolising the life of a brave serviceman killed in the First World War for Britain and Commonwealth. It is a poignant and powerful reminder of life, and in this post I am going to discuss some themes that emanated from my musings as I gazed at the vast 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red'.

Risk Taking

As I (unintentionally) eavesdropped into the conversations around me, I heard many marvel at this aspect of the display - the poppies appear to pour out of a window in a tower, to cover the moat; it almost resembled blood being poured out! It was stunning.
It reminded me of the safe haven of home and country (depicted by the tower) these brave men left, just to be exposed to the harsh conditions of the battlefield (represented here by the expanse of poppies on the moat that braved the rain, sun and snow - if it snowed!). It reminds me of the bridge in Hillsong's Oceans,

'Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You will call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
where my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Saviour'

Risk takers are history makers. Take Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King .Jr, Martin Luther and many persecuted Christians around the globe...they all take risks, some small some great, but each one vital to the legacy they left behind. Comfortable service is a non-existent concept! In our service to God, He wants us to step out in faith, because our spiritual risks, are not really 'risks' - He is on our side and in control.

Brevity of Life

This is a theme that resonates through all aspects of the display. The temporary nature of the poppies, reflects the brevity of life; regardless of whether they were exposed or remained in the safety of the tower, they can be it is with every life, it has to end. I noticed that the poppy stems varied in length, perhaps to symbolise the varied ages of the fallen, reminding me of how death does not discriminate by age.
When life is so short, it doubly matters how we spend it. As a Christian I believe I need to justify how I've used every second of my life. I can choose to step out in faith and let God do outrageous things through me, or remain in the comfort of my apathy, locking up the gifts He has given me.

'On every grave stone, between the birth and the death dates there is a dash. That dash is your life - what are you going to do with it?'

The Future Hope

Now to my favourite aspect of the display! As you walk around the moat, you see the poppies extend into the sky - I imagine this to be the souls of the fallen seeking peace at last!
The Christian life is an exciting challenge - the challenge however is not to 'earn' the favour of God, but to BEIEVE in the favour and power we have already received through the blood of Jesus. The power we have access to through His Spirit in us, is able to accomplish 'immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine'(Ephesians 3:20)
How often do we doubt, despite knowing it? How often do we let our natural get in the way of God's supernatural?
It also parallels beautifully with afterlife....but is the afterlife really going to be as rosy as we make it out to be? For a saved Christian, the answer is a resounding 'YES!' We are redeemed or made right with God, through the life and death of Jesus. A righteous, loving and just God cannot overlook our lawlessness, no matter how trivial. It was His love that moved Him to live a human life and die in our place, so that on His account, we could walk free.
Finally, this depiction reminds me that no matter how tough my Christian journey gets, with personal struggles, ridicules or opposition, God is in control, He shall be glorified and ultimately, I get to be with Him in a kingdom where 'there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain'(Revelation 21:4) Isn't that worth it all?

'So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.' - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Isn't art wonderful! It speaks to each one of us individually, in a way that the artist never intended it to!
The display has been extended till the end of November, and if you haven't already I urge you to lose yourselves in it.
Musings apart, the patriot in me was most gratified! The brave servicemen and women who have lost their lives at war for our country, and those who continue to risk theirs, deserve our respect. Lest we forget the price they paid for the freedom we enjoy!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Why we need a bit of persecution

I've become a Youth Advocate for Open Doors, an organisation that supports persecuted Christians around the globe. I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with other like-minded Christians, to make us more aware of the struggles faced, and how we can be the voice for our many silenced brothers and sisters in Christ.

The weekend challenged my prayer life for my persecuted family. For much of my Christian life, I viewed this duty as a calling 'someone out there' had, but I was convicted about my responsibility towards the persecuted church. 1 Corinthians 12 reminded me that the church is not my local Christian family with whom I commune, but the global body of believers - we are all part of one family, one body, hence 'if one part suffers, every part suffers with it.'

The conviction did not stop there! I was led to question my ardour and faithfulness in my walk with God, and the apathy I found myself in, shamed me. I know I am not alone, Western Christianity itself has been stunted by this; we are too complacent, too apathetic, too comfortable, and as a result our churches are diluted by counterfeits! This is why I believe we need a bit of persecution.

Persecution renews our appreciation for Christian fellowship

One night during the weekend, we had an opportunity to meet in a field like the secret church. What started off with excited laughs, was soon taken over by fear and sympathy. We worshiped in silence, braved the chilly temperature to read God's Word and pray together. Our discomfort seemed insignificant to the potential torture our brothers and sisters faced for just meeting together. We feared rowdy guys and insects (well I did!), an unjustifiable fear compared to that of being caught, tortured or even killed for believing in Jesus Christ - yet, my persecuted family remains fearless!

According to various surveys published, although more than 50% of the British population claims to be Christian, less than 25% identify themselves as 'churchgoers'. Sad! Fellowship is a fundamental part of Christian life, needed to encourage, instruct and support us.

Hebrews 10:25 - Let us not neglect meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.

When those who can potentially die for meeting together are able to do so, how much more should we! Too tired? Too busy? Too bad! No excuses!

Persecution refines and waters the church

Like fire is to a metal, persecution is to the church. It purifies us by burning off the contaminants to make us glow brighter than we ever could. Persecution has the power to repel the counterfeits until we are left with one passionate body.

If you take time to read the touching accounts of persecuted Christians, you see that the presence of the Holy Spirit was often most tangible during the tough times. When we are persecuted or on fire for God, we depend on Him - we are teachable and shaped by the Spirit to walk like Jesus and see the Word through His eyes. You see, metals are heated to be moulded.

We take freedom for granted, seldom remembering the price many paid for it. This attitude has damaged the church. Christianity is increasingly a cultural thing 'we do', rather than a personal thing 'we are', thus unattractive. Hea Woo, the North Korean lady imprisoned for her belief in the Lord, managed to start a revival in one of North Korea's labour camps. How? Her radical (Note: not 'radicalism' or 'fundamentalism') faith that drove her to help her fellow prisoners despite her own physical pain. Heat causes metals to expand and glow, likewise persecution exposes our passionate love for our Saviour, so passionate that it is irresistible! This is the Christianity I long to see in Britain!

There is a lot we can learn from our persecuted family. Their passionate, fearless lives must challenge us, as well us move us to uphold them in prayer and action.

Matthew 5:10 - Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Persecution is not a recent problem, since the time of the apostles Christians have been tortured, murdered and ridiculed for their faith, but as Tertullian wrote, 'the blood of martyrs' has proved to be 'the seed of the church'. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine my right to express my belief in Jesus being stripped from me. Persecution is an injustice hence I will never wish for it; what I wish for however, is the rebirth of a radical Christianity in the West - full of passionate belief, pursuing holiness and putting faith and love in action. If that is what we looked like, who would want to look away?