the slippery slide to easy
Lately I’ve been having trouble enjoying my devotion times. You think with an abundance of time, it’d be the opposite. With time comes unlimited choices of when I want to read the Bible, how much time I can spend praying, or where I can focus on contemplating and reflecting on the majesty of God and His work in my life.
Yet today as I hopped off my bed after reading a few chapters of John, I felt uneasy as if something wrong was stirring beneath my subconscious. As I was g-chatting with my friend Tyson today, the beginning of a revelation crept its way to my mind. I was half complaining to him about having nothing interesting to read. I looked around my desk and bookshelf and found C.S. Lewis’ Miracles that I tried reading twice and got maybe 20 pages in. I saw Bonhoeffer’s biography that sat a quarter-read on my desk. I desperately wanted to read something, but those were choices that I couldn’t bring myself to accept.
That’s when the revelation hit me. My devotion life consisted of doing what was the easiest, instead of what was the most beneficial to my faith. I settled on half-heartedly skimming through the gospels, believing that merely copying favorite verses on my notebook imbued me with a greater love for Christ. I prayed stale prayers that seemed almost recited, stock full of phrases such as “help me to glorify You today” and “thank You for this beautiful day”. And last but not least, I read books that I was comfortable with, because I didn’t want to go through the work and strain that tougher and denser books would bring me.
This is how our faith becomes sometimes. We slip into a routine, a routine that consists of doing things that have potential for us to grow, but we don’t actually fully engage ourselves in allowing God to grow us. We don’t want to put in the hard effort required to grow and learn beyond what we already know. So we avoid difficult situations, re-read Biblical passages we’re familiar with, spend time with people we’re comfortable and “click” with, and settle for an easy way of living.
But when we push past complacency, our eyes are opened to a myriad of greater ways God can develop our faith. We see the socially awkward person teaching us a lesson on humility. We see our minds becoming exposed to more profound truths from old theologians. We see unsafe situations as places where our trust and dependence on God becomes real.
And it is in times of wrestling through doctrine, questioning our beliefs, and struggling through dense spiritual topics, that God will grow in us a deeper appreciation & love for who He is.
I’m back (here)! I enjoyed the last 1 1/2 months or so digesting the things God showed me on the trip to Haiti and now I feel like I have nothing else to process or blog about regarding my stay there. However, all that God opened my eyes to and taught me in Haiti will always be a part of my life.
The past week has been such a blur in terms of my pending status to Western Seminary. To be honest, it’s been quite a struggle the past few weeks, my mind bombarded with emotions and thoughts of back-up plans, what if’s, and “is this really what God wants me to do?”.
I’ve been waiting for admission to Western since the end of May when I first submitted my online application. Since then, a flurry of emails have been exchanged between me, the advisor and references, and a game of phone tag played with the dean of students. After finally being able to talk to the dean about my application and goals in the heat of my car parked in a sketch LA shopping plaza, I received a congratulation email from the advisor!
Before I knew it, I was officially a seminary student with classes signed up for the fall quarter (starting in two weeks!).
It’s crazy how quickly God works sometimes. As time drew nearer and nearer to the start of the fall quarter, and farther and farther away from the time my friend Megan announced she signed up for classes, my anxieties and doubts seemed to rise above the ceiling.
Time was running short and I found myself backed up against a wall with nowhere to go. I’m reminded of a scene in one of the Indiana Jones movies where Indy, some girl, and this Asian kid are trying to escape moving walls of spikes that slowly push the room inward until they get impaled. Of course, they narrowly escape and Indy manages to have just mere seconds to pull his weathered hat out of the claws of death.
My situation wasn’t quite as dramatic or exciting, but at the same time, God seemed to wait until the very last minute to pour out His grace in this area of my life. It was like He was saying, “Are you going to trust Me even when your situation becomes more and more unlikely?”
A thought struck me recently as I was ushered into this defining title as a “seminary student”. Back when I was waiting for my admission status, I could still tell people that I was just unemployed and not really sure what I was going to do next. Now, there’s no excuse to avoid telling everyone that I’m thinking about seminary…or more precisely am in seminary.
I thought about the thousands of dollars (cringe) that would go into my schooling. I thought about the hundreds of hours I would spend breathing Scripture, in my classes, in my everyday thoughts, in my studies, while I shower, poop, and wash dishes.
And I realized something. I realized that as I go deeper and deeper in Christ, my life becomes so wrapped up in Him that that becomes my true identity. It’s just as Paul said: “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
Christ is my life. In even the most superficial sense as the entirety of my career. He’s who I’m spending thousands of dollars on, He’s who I’m devoting the next four or so years wrestling with the Bible for, He’s who’s going to be the backbone of every conversation I have with someone with the question, “So what do you do?”.
And yet He rises much greater than just an occupation, because as I grow more and more in Him, I find that He encompasses everything I am. He is the One that brings me complete joy, contentment, satisfaction, peace and love beyond all measure. And I pray that this life in Christ becomes fuller and richer as the years go by.
I am going to take a break from this blog the next few weeks and spend time digesting my thoughts and emotions from my stay in Haiti at my other blog.
If you are interested, you can follow me here: http://micahaiti.tumblr.com/
This past weekend, I was blessed to be able to go on a refreshing trip with the fam through the trees of Northern California and Oregon. Although trips like these are mostly tough for me, because of a weekend away from my friends and not being able to have time to myself, in other ways, it always provides a nice time to reflect on current things and spend time in prayer.
I had time to process how summer camp with 40+ high schooler’s went the past week. In short, it was amazing. God delivered in ways that completely demonstrated His faithfulness, despite my lack of trust.
I couldn’t tell you how anxious I was to be going on this trip, especially when I found that I was going to drive 14 of some of the loudest kids in a packed van down to Pismo, a whopping 3+ hour drive.
Would I be able to connect with the kids? What are we going to talk about for 3+ hours??
I had no idea what to say to them or how I would relate, and yet God opened channels of communication through us. I was able to have conversations getting to know the kids and their history with the church and their family background.
One of the biggest things I learned on this trip was that God’s love breaks through barriers. As I got to know the kids in my small group on a deeper level, I found out that I really didn’t have much in common with them. I mean, most of them struggled with drugs & alcohol, broken homes, abuse, sex, divorced parents & absent fathers…and the list goes on. And yet, I was able to see beyond their crude jokes and coarse language, to understand that they are longing for love and acceptance and that Christ freely offers that to them, no matter their destructive pasts.
God opened my heart to truly desire for them an understanding of the essence of the gospel. And I pray that they come to see Christ’s abundant grace and mercy at the foot of the cross.
The first day of camp was definitely the most memorable camp experience I’ve ever had. We were planning on spending the whole week on Pismo beach. 15 minutes in the bumpy car ride on the sand, we had 2 cars stuck on the beach. The next hour or so, we’d periodically shovel out sand from the tires and let some air out, push the car as hard as we could out of the ditch, and repeat every few yards. It was a grueling task and when we finally got all the cars to the campsite, we quickly realized that the cars getting stuck was definitely not the biggest difficulty.
We had to set up the tents… in the sand. Accompanied by biting wind that blew sand into our faces, our eyes and mouths, and stung our entire bodies. It took us almost 2 hours to somehow manage to erect a handful of half finished tents, with the tops billowing furiously in the wind as if they’d topple any second.
Long story short… we ended up packing up all our things and headed out of the disastrous sandstorm.
The beautiful thing about this experience is that it reminds me of God’s desire to use rough times to bring us closer to Him. I look back at this crazy event and see God bringing kids, parents, and leaders together as one community; strangers working together for a common purpose. It makes me wonder how different our camp experience would have been if that first day wasn’t there. I believe that we wouldn’t have been able to bond as quickly, that perhaps we wouldn’t have appreciated the new campsite as much, that maybe we wouldn’t have opened our hearts a little more to God’s love and come to some sort of understanding of His immense blessings in our lives.
Weeks like these bring me back to the majestic awe of God’s provision, righteousness, and deep love towards us. I am reminded and encouraged by Galatians 6:9-10 - “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So, then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Oh God, I pray that this may be true in my life, that as in Matthew 11:28, as I become weary and burdened, I seek you as the source of my rest, and like John 14:27, a peace that the world doesn’t offer.
God may You light the way as I try to be an example of Christ in these kids lives. And may all the glory go to You and You alone.
It’s crazy when the toughest dilemma you have is choosing between two great options… God is amazing!
God, may You be the fulfillment of my joy.
Lord, I pray that in times of dryness and heat, may You draw me closer to You. Help me press into Your presence, to find solace in the piercing quietness, a reassuring comfort blanketing my loneliness. God, I thank You abundantly that my faith is not based on emotion, feeling or experience. God, I thank You that You provide perfect peace. You are an ever-present help when I’m in need. I pray that You continuously humble me. I pray for strength, for courage, for passion to desire to know You more and more intimately, to find my desperate thirst quenched by Your fountain of life.
God, You alone deserve all the glory.
cat out of the bag
A few days ago, I was huddling around a circle of close high school friends after hours in front of Fantasia. We were reminiscing about the days past, the latest news of classmates we haven’t heard from in a while, enjoying the nostalgic memories and laughs that accompanied good times.
Of course the usual question that was posed throughout the circle was, “So what are you up to nowadays?” Lately I’ve been hesitant and uncertain how to answer this question. What am I supposed to say to my friends that aren’t Christian? That God has called me to pursue seminary and possibly become a pastor? That I wanted to go into physical therapy but quit a stable job that I had in that particular field? That I’m kinda just bumming around enjoying the time off and not sure what I’m going to be doing next?
As I tried to form some sort of coherent answer that might make sense to my friends, Tiffany suddenly blurts, “I heard that you’re thinking about going into ministry!”
What follows is a slew of “Wow really?”, “Dude, I’ve always wanted a pastor friend!”, and “Then you’ll be able to officiate our weddings!”
It was such a strange blur of affirmation and acceptance that I was instantly taken aback. For some reason I had expected awkwardness, a silence of not understanding or some sort of ridicule and disbelief.
On Saturday, my close non-Christian friend Daniel came back home to visit for his dad’s birthday. As we caught up in conversation, he mentioned that he heard I was going to be a pastor. An excitement kind of lit up in his face as he asked what my dad thought about it and joked about what might happen if people found out about my partying past.
Today, my other non-Christian friend Daniel asked me what I thought about hooking me up with a girl he knew at work.
“Why would you want to?” I asked.
“Because I think you guys would get along really well,” he replied.
Michael chimes in, “Is she super-religious?”
Daniel says, “Yeah, that’s why I thought her and Micah would be a good pair or at least good friends.”
As I contemplated these instances, where my friends have accepted who I am in Christ and are still treating me as a close friend, I lift my eyes and thoughts up to the loving God who blesses me with “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). It’s crazy that even in times when I don’t pursue opportunities to share how Christ has changed me, He still opens them up to me with results that declare His faithfulness.
I am so excited for this next season in life! As I begin packing boxes, taking off memories from my walls the past 7 months, and sitting on the floor of my cluttered room in the midst of a new beginning, I look forward to physically being closer to my friends. Although living with my parents is going to be a challenge, I pray and hope that God will provide me the strength to be faithful and loving to both my parents and friends that will open their eyes and (re)direct them, if just a little, to Christ.
change yet familiar
It seems like my life is going through tons of changes. The transition to working full-time to not working at all has ushered myself into a different lifestyle. Suddenly all the plans, the to-do list items, the things I wanted to accomplish for so long but never had time to, were exposed in the open for me to truly spend the time and energy to pursue them. Yet, ironically, being busy actually made me more productive while having all the time in the world made me sleepier and lazier with a dimmed sense of urgency.
Although more changes are to come soon with me finally moving back home in less than 2 weeks (still hasn’t hit me yet), leaving the CCiC-Cupertino youth group to help out with the high school group at WestGate, going to Haiti in about a month, and (hopefully) attending Western Seminary in the fall, it seems like in a way, things haven’t really changed much.
As I think about staying in San Jose for the next few years, I almost breathe a sigh of relief, because it feels like things are starting to become settled. I think about how I’m able to ease and root myself into my home church, to continue trying to minister to my high school friends and to have the chance of growing in my relationships with my parents and new friends at Awakening.
And I think about God, the unchanging One. I think about God always being perfect, good, and loving in everything He does, constantly, without fault or blemish or any chance of change.
I think about how we are always subject to change, in our emotions, feelings, and circumstances and yet God is consistently holy and righteous and always there for us. I think about our sinful tendencies and the continuous rejection and neglect of God’s love and grace in our lives, this having been magnified before we came to know Christ as our personal Savior. And the beauty that came from our ability to become changed, to be enlightened with the truth and have the scales fall from our eyes like Saul and begin to understand the depth of Christ’s love and the redemption He offers.
The more we change to become like Him, the more we have this inkling of familiarity, of home, of feeling like this was how it should’ve been. And we truly see that we were meant for an intimate, loving relationship with the Creator of the universe.
My eyes snapped open. The room was dark, with dim house lights from adjacent buildings streaming slightly through the blinds. The air was quiet except for the mere whistle of the wind.
I was instantly aware of how tired my body was, but how strangely alert my mind seemed to be. I was wrestling under the covers that were uncomfortably warm, trying to gain a restful sleeping position. My stomach was rumbling. I groaned and shifted my body to the right, grappling in the dark for my phone.
It was 4:28. AM. Bad mistake.
Now all I could think about was that I went to bed 3 hours ago, how late (or early?) it was, and how I really needed to get some sleep so that I could wake up at a normal time…but forcing myself to shut down my brain became impossible.
I sat up grudgingly, flicked on the lights, and hoped that a small handful of walnuts and a fiber one bar would curb my hunger and put me back to sleep. Unfortunately they were not enough to knock me out. So I spent the next few hours online rummaging through YouTube and RELEVANT Magazine.
As I sat with my back against a cold white wall in my room, with my laptop in my lap, I started thinking about my tired, restless state. My eyes were heavy with lack of sleep, my mouth dry, my muscles aching.
And suddenly, I started feeling really blessed. Blessed because despite my lack of energy and alertness from a regularly restful sleep, by God’s grace, I was still able to fight off temptations that creep into my life during these vulnerable moments.
It got me thinking about the depth and stability of our faith. Many times we are quick to claim Jesus as Lord of our lives. We sing songs about how we’re going to follow Him wherever He leads us and give our lives completely up to Him. And yet, when our bodily state becomes rocked with sleeplessness, anger, sickness, and hunger, our faith seems to shrink out of sight and we succumb to temptations that suddenly loom way above our heads.
I’m reminded of a pastor from Davis that shared at AACF once about his experience with medical drugs. The drugs made him feel really lighthearted and prone to freely speak whatever was on his mind, yet forget the words he spoke the next day. Because many knew him as a pastor, he was worried that he could possibly say something incriminating or damaging to his reputation. However, he was relieved the following day when the nurses laughed at the comments he made but reassured him that they were nothing to worry about.
How would we fare in this situation? Would the genuineness of our faith be sufficient to weather these circumstances?
In the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8), Jesus mentions the different scenarios of seeds being sown: those that fell along the path, were trampled and devoured by birds, those that fell on the rock and withered because there was no moisture, those that fell on thorns and were choked, and finally those on good soil that grew and multiplied.
Jesus explains this parable with the 2nd scenario as: “…the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” (Luke 8:13)
I think it’s easy for us to think that in times of testing, when we’re faced with some temptation, grief, or suffering, we’ll be in our prime spiritual condition. But unfortunately, many times, this is not the case. In times of true testing, our bodies may be fallen to a state where it’s easy for us to get impatient or frustrated and our mind may wander back to our typical sinful tendencies.
May we cling tightly to Jesus during these times of trials and tribulations. May our thoughts become once again focused on Him, His truths and His promises that give us hope against all obstacles. And may we, be like the seed on the good soil, “who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)
“ Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, still the sun would shine by day and the stars by night, for these owe nothing to the millions who benefit from their light. So, were every man on earth to become atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away. ”
A.W. Tozer - The Knowledge of the Holy