THE WORSHIP FOUND IN THE PROCESS

ImageAs a worship leader, I’ve had many different internal experiences while leading worship. I’ve had nights where I feel like I failed afterwards, and nights where I’m on the verge of tears because of the love I felt in the room, pouring out to God. And I’ve reflected on all of this. I’ve reflected on what happened during the day when I have a bad worship experience, as well as a good, and I’ve recognized something that, like worship itself, is bigger than singing. I have found that whenever I’m able to lead a worship session – whether it’s with 100 people or ten people, the worship is always easier when I’ve been living truthfully that day. It’s always easier when I’m living as a human, rather than trying to live as God himself. It’s always easier when I’ve spent the day worshiping God for continually renewing me and refining me, and it’s always more difficult on days spent focused on being a ‘good Christian.’

 I think as Christians, far too often we worry so much about being seen as good people that we forget to live like actual good people, and instead end up living a life focused on ourselves, and worried about where our evil desires are going to lead us next. This is an ironic problem to have, because when we worry about looking like a ‘good Christian,’ we end up worrying about ourselves. And being a Christian is the exact opposite of that. Being a Christian is living a life where you are never focused on yourself, and always thinking about everyone else. When we have to think about being a “good Christian,” we usually end up being a bad one, because we end up living a life focused on the person Christ has transformed us from rather than the person Christ has transformed us into. We end up living a life where we’re so aware of ourselves, and how many times we’ve failed to be good, and how many temptations the devil is putting in front of us each moment, that we ignore the world around us, and the good people in it. We fail to recognize that these people around us every day are people who are equally as good as us, and equally as loved as us, and there is a God who longs to rescue them just as He rescued us. We fail to recognize that Christ lives in us and through us, and in turn we fail to take confidence in this fact. Instead, we live as if the devil has control of us, and we have to constantly look out for the next sin he’ll force us into.

Let me ask you this: Have you ever worried about sinning when you’re thinking about someone other than yourself? I’m not talking about when you’re thinking about what someone else can give you. I mean actually, truly thinking about them with God’s interests in mind. Have you ever sinned while taking a genuine interest in other people?

Have you ever sinned when you’ve thought about not sinning?

What are you doing to keep realizing you are already someone Christ has made good?

One of the best prayers we can pray is to ask God to continually refine us and match our mind with His, because as we pray this, we can take confidence that God is doing it. We can begin to live outwardly instead of live focused on the turmoil within, because we can take confidence in the fact that God has done what He has said He’s done: made us a new creation.

Pray for constant oneness with God. Pray for His mind, and as you grow more and more in Him, you may find you also grow more and more interested in others, and less worried about yourself and your next failure. And as we take the notice off of our own imperfections and brokenness, we may find ourselves more able to help people in theirs.

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SNAKES, CLIFFS, AND BEARS: THE UNCERTAIN TERROR OF FOLLOWING CHRIST

The fear of Christianity is a peculiar thing.

Lately I’ve been in an incredible state of recognition – recognizing the odd nature of God’s requests in my life. I’ve recognized that, quite obviously, He has continuously, without fail, called me to do the things that have always terrified me. My original goal was to tithe regularly. Now I’m asking people to support me so I can help college students realize the potential in Christ which I took so long to realize myself.

If you haven’t experienced it, asking people for financial support is a terrifying endeavor.

Yet God has changed me through the years.

The things I once feared are now the things I couldn’t imagine being torn away from. The things I once vowed never to do in my life (i.e. preach) are now the things I see in my future. The things I always wanted to do, and had planned as my stability in life (i.e. architecture) has become an afterthought, and frightening in its own right.

So maybe God will call me to do that eventually. Once it becomes a more terrifying thought.

I guess the point is, God has completely changed my motivations. Architecture, in my life, represents the path on the safe side of the river – the path towards self-glory. It represents the path towards worldly success and recognition. It represents the path I chose for myself when I was seven years old.

Yet God has brought me to the other side of the river. And it is terrifyingly wonderful.

Ministry, and serving the world for the sake of the Gospel and Christ’s love which must be felt by everyone on this rotating sphere we inhabit, is the path of complete self-denial – the path full of snakes, and 100 foot drops, limited visibility, and bears. What’s more terrifying than bears, right? Yet it is the path towards the greater reward. It is the path of unexpectedness. It is the path that keeps me wondering what will come next. It is the path with an always moving and adapting storyline. It isn’t the path of least resistance, but it is the path of most interest.

It is the path that seeks to expose my potential. And that can only be found by fighting off a bear in the fog every once in a while.

Looking back, it’s kind of funny that I just used a bear analogy. In high school, whenever me and my friends would go camping, I was known as a sort of bear whisperer. I’d make up stories of times where a bear would come up to me, and instead of attacking me, I’d just talk to it like it was a human. I’d just talk to it as if we’d been friends for years, asking him about how his family was and that sort of thing.manbear1

Of course this was just for laughs. I’ve never come across an actual bear, despite living in Wyoming, and I’ve certainly never had a friendly chat with one. Yet in my current stage of life, and the stages yet to come, I must respond to the bears along the path in the same manner as I joked in high school. I must treat them as old friends, pushing me to embrace that which terrifies me. Because if there’s one thing God has taught me other than that He is full of grace and love, it is that the sooner we embrace the terrifying task He has put before us, the sooner we will see the good that comes from it. The sooner we talk to the bear as an old friend, the sooner we won’t be able to imagine our lives without that bear.

What is the bear standing in your path that you must face? Have you embraced the fear and confronted it as an old friend? Or have you decided to avoid it and cut back across to your old path from before Christ changed your course?

If you’ve cut back across, there’s good news: His path is always just across the river. All you need is a bridge – and God has provided us with a carpenter.

THE LAST TWO DAYS: BEYOND THE HUMAN PLAN

As I start to write this journal, I realize that the focus is completely off my situation – it’s just a small record of God’s overarching plan – and it’s amazing.

As I sit in the lecture I watch Patrick speaking to a lecturer. The girl sitting next to me leans over and tells me how Patrick is so strange. I stare at her, unfazed as she tries to justify that comment. I disagree whenever she stops, and smile at her as I say Patrick’s a good guy. No one has any right to belittle another under God’s love. Patrick, there is no compromise to love – it knows no conditions. Love is our highest calling.

At lunch Patrick sits with us and seems to think deeply and suggests tiredness could be an internal problem. I’m glad he sees through the face to the deep.

Though that is all that happened today, I know what was spoken that day touched hearts and the rest of the day God calls me as a witness to His overarching plan for the world and this city.

I am a witness to the work God does in Jonathan that day. Last night we prayed for a lost sheep to be drawn back into the Father’s arms. Low and behold, he meets with Jonathan which we all see as no mistake.

As I get home I am immensely weary and I go to lie down.

I wake to my mum telling me I have a missed call from Jonathan. I call him up and listen to the excitement and life in his voice as he tells me how he wandered around Adelaide city praying for God to use him. He came across an Aboriginal couple – one in a wheelchair that beckoned him over. Within 10 minutes he had prayed for healing upon this man, god the ward number of the hospital he stays at and got asked to take him to a church.

We’re going to visit him tomorrow Patrick, and the saints are breaking into this man’s life and loving as their own. Somehow, someway, in the beautiful symphony of life God has drawn me into the story of Bradley and Michelle’s life and I obey the calling.

The plans of God are truly majestic and perfect. As you read this journal, know that it is only part of a beautiful and glorious story – one that intertwines and crosses borders to present the fullness of glory to God.

The LORD is raising up a brotherhood in Adelaide, restoring the title of ‘brother’ to its original position. We are raising an army capable of destroying strongholds doing everything out of love, dying to self and living for Christ.

The city of Adelaide will be helpless as the Kingdom of Heaven forcefully advances while forceful men take hold of it. We will set this town on fire with the glory of God. We restore the title of this city, ‘The city of churches,’ to its rightful place.

Praise to God for he will be pleased to do so!

DAY 12

DAY 12

While waiting for the Aboriginal couple at the hospital, I get a call from Patrick. He doesn’t want to come out tomorrow. This is alarming, as my plan was to share all with Patrick tomorrow. I call him up with urgency, wanting to talk.

As I arrive, I begin to share all that’s been happening the last 12 days. He agrees with parts of it, yet other parts just do not relate at all. As we talk more and more, I seem to be caught up in my original epic plans, and he stares at me unfazed as I soon realize that Gods plan these last 12 days have been far more epic than I ever imagined.

Some of the things I wrote down these past 12 days may have been bold, out of context, rash at times, but in all I did I wrote my mind, and spoke my mind for that matter.

What I realize now is this journal is a testimony of God’s work. It never had any focus on me, Patrick, or anyone. It was always going to end up about God. Let’s recap what occurred in 12 days of my life.

I originally think I was meant to ‘show the love of Christ’ to an unknown man. I take it as showing the gospel. Turns out, this man is a pretty serious catholic who prays often and reads God’s word.

What actually occurred is a different story:

–          My heart is moved to love a man unconditionally as Christ would

–          My brothers and sisters are moved with me in prayer

–          I am taught an invaluable lesson in obedience, realizing that I must adjust to God’s plan, realizing His plan never fails, but mine does.

–          My faith and belief in God has exploded, doubt has been cast out

–          I have a new heart for the unloved of the world and God’s creation

–          Prayer groups have been formed

–          I now count everything as loss

–          My brother and six other people had the courage to go out into the world to seek out the lost

–          I feel like I’ve been given the gift of love to others, having no conditions.

–          Close, covenantal friendships have been formed

–          I am obsessed with obeying god and His coming kingdom

–          Jonathan has stepped out in faith like I wrote about

–          Our youth group is beginning to step out and walk by faith.

Patrick, they say you are blessed more in giving than receiving. I gave it all for you and God, and held nothing back, and I now look at the rewards of only 12 days. I feel no regret or shame that my plans fell on their face – God couldn’t have written a more beautiful story.

We welcome you if you choose to come tomorrow with open arms, and if you know Christ like you say you do, keep me in your prayers that I would continue to give it all to Christ.

Thanks to God for this wonderful experience! I know it doesn’t end there, and I obey and love Jesus to the grave and when this life is over. I hope to look back and say my plans failed miserably, but God’s plan was better.

In Christ,

Terence

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”                 – Proverbs 19:21

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Thoughts from Joel:

The journey has finally come to a close. Throughout the 12 days, we have all seen Patrick go from a man seeking glory for obedience – prideful and arrogant – to a man seeking only to reflect the glory of God back to all who witness what Christ has done through him.

Ultimately, we have seen a man fail. And succeed.

“I feel no regret or shame that my plans fell on their face – God couldn’t have written a more beautiful story.”

We all struggle with pride at one point or another. Are we willing to let it go? It may be manifesting itself in a small thing, like apologizing to a friend, or it may involve something bigger, like a career choice or job relocation. For many, we’ll try to hold on as long as we can. But eventually, God will overcome our own pride and lack of faith, showing us what we are truly capable of in this world when we embrace Him and overcome the uncomfortable situation He has put us in only through His strength.

It’s not until we experience the uncomfortable that we will experience the comfort found in Christ. Where is God asking you to trust, and surrender your comfort for Him? Don’t hesitate – Christ is leading the way. All we have to do is follow.

*a note to Terence: A big thank you to you, Terence. You’ve caused me to question, analyze, study, meditate, and pray in the writing of  your journal, and I’ve come out stronger, more bold, and more willing to completely identify with Christ. Thank you for making me stronger – you’ve been a blessing through your obedience.

Joel

DAY 10 – SIMPLE OBEDIENCE

Patrick, I feel the wheels in motion and I will strive in all I do the next few days to walk in God’s will. My obedience is of the utmost importance. As long as I’m a slave to obedience God will use me to change your life or mine.

We have a day of computer practicals and after I finish I see Patrick struggling, so I sit down to help him out. He seems to appreciate it, as I’m patient with him and try to love him as much as Christ would. I want nothing more than Patrick to experience that love first hand.

We go well into lunch and I tell Patrick that I’m fasting for today. He seems confused because it isn’t Friday, so I explain that its not a ritual – I do it because I think it’s a good thing. I wonder if Patrick has experienced this freedom.

Throughout the day God sends many people my way to love them unconditionally. I respond to the call and notice that my hunger is stilled as I show kindness to all who God tells me to. Patrick, find your fulfillment and food in doing the works of God.

It’s a full on day and there isn’t much time for wants but there was a lot of room for action. I believe for the lost to be found they need true Christian models who are serious about being Christ like – people who do everything out of love, who see God as their highest calling and if God tells them to show others Jesus, they obey. But nothing takes the place of Christ in our lives – we serve only Him.

Just as I’m about to head home, I feel an urge to hang around and say goodbye to Patrick. I obey, and walk around and tell him I’m about to head off. He doesn’t acknowledge it.

As I walk towards the door I hear a soft-spoken voice.

“Wait! Are you driving?”

I turn around and it’s Patrick, so I offer him a lift. I wasn’t thinking much of it then but I feel now Jesus was in that moment. Patrick, you had the boldness to ask me for a lift to your earthly home. Make my joy complete by asking me to show you the way to your eternal home.

As we drive we talk about the software we used that day, and eventually turn to the impossibility of a place on earth where everyone gets what they want in a commercial sense. Patrick says we will never know till we’re in heaven and I look at him and know in heaven we want what the Father wants. I know that at that moment his soul yearns mightily for living waters and paths to eternal dwellings.

At 7:30 I go to a prayer meeting with Nathan and Jonathan and we pray for the things of God. The lost, Adelaide, the stray, the blind, the poor – for obedience.

We all believe that significant things will be occurring in the next 6-12 months.

Patrick I want you to know there is much praying that goes before action. As Dean Knight puts it, 90% prayer, 10% action. Never forget that.

My mum asked if the ‘Scottish’ guy was still with me.

“Yes” I reply, “but with Jesus soon” I think.

Terence

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Thoughts from Joel:

As Terence continues to live a life of simple obedience, he continues to obey the simple requests God puts on his heart, and with this simple obedience, God is giving Terence opportunities to show His love to the people around him.

Simple obedience yields great opportunity. Don’t take God’s request lightly.

Last night, my bible study got into the topic of obedience. We talked about how easy it is to make excuses to avoid obeying God – especially in the simple moments. We are so good at validating it by saying, “it’ll work out. God is bigger than one decision, and He’ll get me to the place He really wants me to be.”

It’s true. God can – and will – overcome our disobedience. He will get us to the place He wants us to be. But what will happen to the people that you avoided by making your excuses? What will happen when we sit in our comfort zone while those outside of it need love? Will we step out? Will we obey? Will we give God the chance to move – in us and in those He has put just outside of our comfort?

One thing I pray for continually is for my comfort zone to be broken. I know that I’m a weak man, and often one of cowardice. But I also know that God is strong – and He has the ability to overcome all of my weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

Terence has taught me the value of simple obedience, and shown me the blessings that can come from it.

Joel

DAY 1 – MEETING PATRICK

AUTHOR’S NOTE: From here to the end of this series I’ll be the secondary voice of this blog, with Terence acting as the main voice. Because of this, Terence’s journal will be in regular font. I’ll comment here and there, and my comments will be made in italics. Enjoy!

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I met this man today. It was on a field trip for Integrated Catchment, the day after FRESH camp 2011. If it wasn’t for FRESH and the things that were said this would never have been written. If God didn’t show up the way He did that weekend none of these events would have occurred.

We were in a group of 8 digging up some soil. There was this man that questioned whether we were doing it right. He seemed pretty smart. Immediately I knew there was something different about this man. The way he spoke was different – very soft. He had an issue with his speech; stammering and lost for words sometimes. I had no problem with that; I neither drew near to converse with him nor avoid speaking with him.

We moved to the next site. I was talking to another man I met about basketball and how they couldn’t settle the lockout despite earning so much. “You must be talking about sport!” That man again. We laughed and agreed. At the next site that man was trying to get the GPS to work. I helped him out – that GPS was hard to figure out. After collecting the samples we exchanged data. Someone didn’t roll the soil properly so we had to change out readings. This man asked me to tell him the updated readings with quite a stammer. I looked at him and gave him the new readings. He didn’t have to be ashamed of his stammering around me.

As we left to the next site I remember him telling me or asking me something. He stammered and struggled to get it out, more so than before. I blinked at him and answered. I think it was then that I saw this man smile for the first time. I didn’t think much of it at the time.

I didn’t talk to him much from then until the end of the field trip, although I overheard him talking about baseball with the other man I met.

Around the second site, I came late to a conversation this man was having, overhearing he was colorblind. He motioned to the bushes in the near distance. Red flowers on green shrub. “I can’t tell red from green” he said. I’m not sure if it was at that moment or later that I thought to myself, “I’d love for Jesus to come into this man’s life and bring some color.”

At the end of the field trip we got off the bus. We were hanging around to see who would volunteer to bring the supplies in for testing. That man came up to me and extended his hand.

“Patrick” he said.

“Terence.” I shook his hand and he shook the hands of my other group mates and walked off. I didn’t think much of it then.

After saying goodbye to my new acquaintances and driving home, I realized that something in me desired nothing more than to show the love of Christ to Patrick, and as I replayed the events of the day in my mind, I knew for certain that I would pray for this man and allow Christ to reveal Himself to Patrick at the end of this course.

When I replay the moment I saw him light up and smile I get chills that run up and down my heart. I want nothing more than this man to smile because of the joy that Jesus brings.

I sent an email to all the people that went to FRESH camp, telling them about Patrick and asking them to pray that Jesus would come into his life and bring some color into his world.

I’m filled with an inexpressible hope and joy for this man. I know for sure that Jesus would love to encounter Patrick and show him love.

Patrick, when you come to the LORD and read this you’re going to remember the time I first looked you in the eyes. You are never going to forget the moment you shook my hand and introduced yourself to me, because in that moment God did a work in my heart that I will complete until the day I die. Patrick, I’m coming for you. You don’t know it now, but I’m going to show you the Father and you’re going to thank Him all the days of your life that He chose someone as useless as me to carry out His work.

When you come to our church, you will be welcomed by a community that has been praying for you since day 1. Throughout the next weeks, months, years, or however long it takes, I will be recording names of people who give me verses to proclaim over your life and when you come to our church, you will read these letters and put faces to the names you read. Patrick, I will see you tomorrow for day 2.

Terence Wong

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I couldn’t help but see myself in Terence, specifically with his proclamation to Patrick, saying

“when you come to the LORD and read this you’re going to remember the time I first looked you in the eyes. You are never going to forget the moment you shook my hand and introduced yourself to me.”

You’re going to remember me. That’s basically what Terence is telling Patrick. Terence has no problem hearing God’s call, yet once the call is accomplished, he finds himself seeking recognition for the completion. (Terence recognizes the pride in his pursuit in a later journal, and we’ll see his focus shift as a result.)

Too often as Christians we feel we deserve recognition for accomplishing God’s will. I am guilty of this, and if you’re truly honest with yourself, you’ll probably find you are as well. We must ask ourselves: would we still strive so fervently to do God’s will if we knew we’d never receive any recognition for it?

We must be honest with ourselves, and if we answer no we must remember who the God we serve really is.

If we accomplish things with the sense that it was out of our own strength, we will never be able to grasp the greatness of our God. We must realize that we are worthless, helpless creatures without the strength of God in our lives. It is never by our own strength that we accomplish the will of God, but by God’s strength in us, and when that will is accomplished, we must praise our God! It is incredibly easy to praise ourselves in times of victory, yet without God would we have been victorious?

In humility and worship,

Joel