As the title suggests, you probably know that I’ll be sharing on the matters of the heart. The triggers are many but I’ll share just one. About more than a month ago, my friends and I met up and hanged out. At one point as we were talking and joking over our meal, somebody mentioned, “Eh, so and so has got married.” And the rest of us continued, “Oh ya kan? So and so pun sudah enganged.” Almost in unison, we then recited this phrase, “And here we (the singles) are…” and laughed!
Naa.. what’s my point and where am I getting at?
Understandably, love relationship is a big thing. Left alone to our feelings, reasoning and decisions, we might wander and our eyes easily turned away from that which truly matters. After all, ‘love is blind’, so they say. The Bible however tells this: “Guard your heart above all things, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Needless to say, we desperately need the Wonderful Counselor to grant us wisdom and guide us through. (I have been praying and asked whether I should really made this (sharing) public. Quite different from my previous reflections, here however, I kinda lay my soul bare. Please understand that I am writing as a weak mid-twenties human being with longings and desires, who get smitten when watching romantic movies or seeing couples holding hands in the public.. not mentioning a few number of times when I have foolishly acted too soon and too slow to realize my folly. In other words, I am writing not because I know a lot, but because I have learnt (quite) a lot.)
Even so, above and beyond my human err, may you buddies, behold the Wonderful Counselor in my sharing for this idea is originally His. May you benefit from His counsels, I’m just a vessel. Essentially, what I’m doing is simply to heed Matthew 10:27 “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.”
Additionally, another yet evident confirmation I received prior to this was; “Whenever God gives us His inspiration, suddenly taking the initiative becomes moral issue – a matter of obedience.” –Oswald Chambers.
Alright… before we begin our journey, I think it might be helpful if I share with you the framework of my sharing:
a. Companionship – “Who’s idea is it?”
b. Waiting – “God seems to be so silent.. For how long? What am I to do?”
c. Answered prayer – “Praise God, my prayer is answered! So, what’s next?”
d. Unanswered prayer/ Unfulfilled wish – “Is God hiding something good from me?”
Okay.. that’s basically the big picture of my sharing. However, before commencing with our journey, let’s get our foundation solidly laid.
To this end, I love to share an insight by Franchis Chan in his book, “You and Me Forever”:
“I know this is supposed to be about people, but forget about people for a moment. Let’s focus on something bigger: GOD. Focus on something more important: your relationship with God. This relationship is far more critical than your relationship, for it is everlasting. This may come as a shock but Jesus taught that marriages don’t carry over into heaven. In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked about a hypothetical widow who continues to remarry. The religious leaders of the day were asking Jesus which husband this woman would be married to in heaven. Jesus answered:
“... In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30)
Maybe Jesus’ statement is hard for you to accept. It’s hard to imagine that you are no longer married to the person you loved most. However, there are two comforts you might want to hear:
1. this doesn’t mean that you and your partner are no longer deeply in love. My guess is that you and your partner will be even closer for you exist in glorified bodies with the absence of sins.
2. you will have a union with God which is guaranteed to be better than any earthly closeness you might be experiencing now!
While the Bible helps us understand what relationship/marriage is and how it works, it is not a book about marriage. It is a book about God. It teaches about our God by revealing His character, describing His past actions and telling us His future plans. When we consider the biblical story-line as a whole, our over-prioritization of our human relationship looks absurd. The Bible begins with a Being so powerful that His words command non-existent things to exist, and they obey. It presents us with a Being so holy that He once drowned every person on earth, sparing only the eight people who still looked to Him. It is a book full of examples of God punishing the arrogant and blessing the humble. And the Bible concludes with a terrifying future judgment, where every person is cast eternally into either a place of perfect pleasure in union with God or a place of ultimate pain apart from Him.
God takes the center stage in every story of Scripture. He is the Creator of life, the Judge and the Savior. So while the Bible does talk about marriage/relationship, let’s be careful not to use it to find merely tips on relationships. There is a much, much bigger picture. Draw close to Him and your relationship shall be an overflow of that. When things are right with God, your relationship can be what it was designed to be. Agree on God- agree on His holiness and agree on His supremacy.”
Taking into consideration F.C’s counsel and thereby with God in mind, we can now proceed with “a. Companionship – Who’s idea is it?”
To answer this, come, buddy.. let’s revisit the Garden of Eden.
Scripture reference: Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:18-22)
“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him. So the LORD God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the LORD God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.”
Issue: Man’s needs and longing.
Attribute of God: All-knowing. A Great Provider. The Giver behind ‘every good and perfect gift’.
Elaboration: Buddies, did you realize whose initiative was it in the beginning? Even before the man knew the missing puzzle in his life, His Creator took care of it. Then again, who actually brought who to who? The LORD was and still is and will do! He brought the woman to the man. See, not only He is the Giver of our lives but He’s also the Great Choreographer behind our life events! “How precious are your thoughts about me, o God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!... (Psalm 139:17-18)
Reflection : Dear ladies, notice that we are not to be just an accessory but ‘a helper who is just right’ for our partner. I examined myself and consequently feel inadequate for such a privileged position. How do I know this? Come on, I’ve lived with myself close to a quarter of century and this I know concerning myself: Though it’s true I am born again in the Spirit, but the traces of the lowly-nature, the old life still tend to resurrect from time to time. Evidences? I still get cranky, irrational, adamant, stubborn, selfish, self-preserving, etc: letting the flesh get the better of me. Hence, I desperately need the ‘Helper/Advocate/the Wonderful Counselor’ before I can be one to my only one (Wah, look at how they rhyme!) For me to be ‘a helper who is just right’… there is only one way, and it’s narrow… there must be MORE of Him, and less of me!
Naa.. having known the Initiator, let’s move on to the second part:
b. Waiting – “God seems to be so silent.. For how long? What am I to do?”
Scripture reference: Abram and Sarai (see Genesis 16 &17)
Situation: God had promised Abram and Sarai a son. However, Sarai hadn’t been able to bear children for Abram. So, she asked Abram to sleep with their servants as was the custom in those days.
Quoting from a Bible Study note,
“When Abram acted on Sarai’s suggestion to father a child through her maidservant Hagar (Genesis 16:2-3), it was not an incomplete unbelief. It seems Abram had not yet realized God would produce the line of inheritance from Sarai’s body (Gen 17:15-19), as well as from his (as promised in Gen 15:4). Sarai’s suggestion was an acceptable practice in the society in which they lived. According to the Code of Hammurabi (the code of law derived from the Babylonians around 1800 BC) and the cuneiform records of the Nuzi tablets (circa 1450 – 1350 BC), the purpose of marriage was mainly procreation. If the wife could not bear children, her husband expected her to provide a handmaid to have children for her.
Abram’s faith had been severely tested, Ten long years had elapsed since God had given the original promise regarding an heir (Gen 12:2, 7 and 15:4-5). However, in this case, the thoughts of Sarai and Abram were human plans rather than God’s plans. Sarai even sacrificed her own rights when she gave Hagar to her husband in the mistaken notion that such self-sacrifice would be pleasing to God. According to the original biblical ideal of monogamy (2:24), Sarai’s offer of her slave as a secondary wife for Abram was wrong and sinful. Abram and Sarai believed the substance of the promise; but the way they sought its fulfillment revealed a confused kind of faith that was mixed with unbelief in God’s power to do the impossible. They were impatient. True faith waits for God’s time.”
Issue: They believed the substance of God’s promise, but the method they used to seek after its fulfillment shows a mixture of faith mixed with unbelief.
Attribute of God: A Promise-keeping God. His way is higher than our way.
Elaboration: It could have been beautiful should they did not jump to action but patiently wait on God. Sadly, what was earlier thought as an act of grace soon ended up chaotically. Sarai blamed Abram. Hagar blamed Sarai, Abram sent Hagar off; a total wreck. Thereby, we should not lean on our own understanding but trust in the LORD with all our heart. Do away with the popular opinion saying, “Just follow your heart~”. NO! The Bible warns, “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12).
Reflection: Waiting is never an easy task. However, walking by faith and not by sight, the growth we gain from waiting on God is often greater than the answer or result we desire. It is during this tender valley moment we learn to wholly lean on the Most High and not anything less.
Quoting C.H Spurgeon, “If the LORD Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial for us; it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission and endears the blessings when it comes. The Lord’s people have always been a waiting people.”
c. Answered prayer – “Praise God, my prayer is answered! So, what’s next?”
Scripture reference: 1 Samuel 1:1-2,
“There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zuph in the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, of Ephraim. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.
Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of the LORD at that time were the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas. On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion[b] because the LORD had given her no children. So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the LORD had kept her from having children. Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat.
“Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?”
Hannah’s Prayer for a Son. Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the LORD. And she made this vow: “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the LORD, his hair will never be cut.”
Situation: Hannah had been longing for a child. Despite being deeply loved by her husband, it however, couldn’t soothe her longing for a child.
Issue: Where do we place our hope and cast our cares?
Attribute of God: A loving God who answers prayers.
Cast your cares unto the LORD for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, And I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Elaboration: Hannah wrestled / fought on her knees and requested directly from the LORD. AND WHEN HER PRAYER WAS ANSWERED, SHE GLADLY DEDICATED HIM BACK TO GOD.
Reflection: It’s humbling to learn from Hannah’s example. Yes, she really longed for her desire to be fulfilled by the LORD. No, she would not let the answered prayer be her idol. Eventually, she dedicated the very person she had prayed for to the LORD. That, to me.. is so astounding!
What would that look like in a love relationship? Essentially, for singles, I thought our future spouse is our ‘Samuel’ – “I asked the LORD for you” (1 Samuel 1:20). Naa, what then should happen after God finally answers our prayer and His beautiful timing eventually arrives. What do we do then? Hmm.. Illustratively speaking,, I think it might look something like this:
“Now that we are together, it does not mean that your wings are clipped. In fact, since two is better than one, I pray that my presence would encourage you to fly high and soar in the sky. This I also know, it comes with risks and sacrifice. However, in light of God’s love as the backdrop of our relationship and Christ at the centre, I trust when I am weak He is strong.. and He would enable me to love you fearlessly.”
(just as I finished the sentence above, the Wonderful Counselor brought to remembrance Joshua 24:15 “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Isn’t that exactly what I was trying to say? Wow!! Thanks Wonderful Counselor!)
For a living example, allow me to quote Susannah Spurgeon who wisely reasoned, "..My chosen husband was no ordinary man, that his whole life was absolutely dedicated to God and His service, and that I must never, never hinder him by trying to put myself first in his heart."
What an excellent example!
d. Unanswered prayer/ Unfulfilled wish – “Is God hiding something good from me?”
Wah.. we have journeyed together quite a distance now, buddy. In fact, we have now arrived at the climax point.
What if s/he never comes? What if our prayers are met with deafening silence? Would our view of God be distorted? Would we think He is hiding something good from us? It’s important to examine our heart and address this issue, buddy.
I confess at one point, I grew impatient of the deafening silence and sort of demanding an answer from the LORD; “Why does it seem so far yet so near, LORD? Why is the deafening silence?” The wrestle in my mind continued for a few days until one day… I was struck when He answered, “If I do not grant your heart’s desire, and you are to be single all the days of your life… would you still follow me, Would Christ be enough for you?” At that moment, I felt like my face was splashed with cold water! Instantly, I came to realize how I have idolized the little him above the BIG HIM. I praise the LORD for correcting me then and there. It’s easy to lose sight of the LORD as our great portion when we desire something more than Him.
In my heart however, I knew and I knew and I knew… only the LORD can satisfy!
Psalm 63:3 YOUR UNFAILING LOVE IS BETTER THAN LIFE ITSELF;
HOW I PRAISE YOU!
To close, I’ll quote A.W Tozer,
“ The only fear I have is to fear to get out of the will of God. Outside the will of God, there’s nothing I want, and in the will of God, there’s nothing I fear, for God has sworn to keep me in His will. If I’m out of His will that’s another matter. But if I’m in His will, He’s sworn to keep me.”
*a sharing to encourage my friends and all the ladies out there (^o^,)(")
1st Year worKING Anniversary!
March 1st, on this date exactly 365 days ago, I remember feeling on top of the world having received a tremendous blessing: the news of my posting. What a joyous day it was! Best of all, it’s a dream come true!
Today, I would love to erect a memorial pillar to commemorate the LORD’s great faithfulness over the passing days. Needless to say, this reflective writing is a feeble attempt to capture all the lessons learnt (during the period of 1 year) in its entirety. Nevertheless, I pray may the LORD bless and multiply this, my ‘five loaves and two fishes’ and may our spirits be fed and edified as we behold Him in the story.
May I therefore, kindly invite you, buddy to join me glance backwards in gratitude.. and in seeing His handiwork and active presence woven into our seemingly mundane routine, may we be encouraged to move forward, ‘walking by faith, not by sight.’ (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Alright, without further ado, let’s get started! (^o^,)(")
# Lesson 1: (Not just a ) Job
I remember how zealous I was in the spirit when I first started a year ago. (Oh, then again, I was suddenly reminded of how much more zealous I was when I first received the news of getting into the Institute of Teacher Education half a decade ago.) What about now? Having been in the harvest field, experiencing first-hand its mountain and valley experience, am I still on fire? Or.. have I forsaken my first love and become lukewarm.. or burnt out instead?
This day, I am humbly reminded that my job is more than just a repetitive routine. It is a holy ground where I would encounter Him continuously, thereby be enriched by the revelation of who He is, my Pearl of Great Price!
May I give some examples?
In my weakness, He is my strength.
In my anxiety, His peace becomes mine.
In my sadness, His joy is my strength.
In my struggle, my Helper is Him.
In everything, He is my All in all!
In other words, challenges are certain and the road is narrow. Yet, the journey uphill would soon find me at the foot of the Cross and in the embrace of the Lover of my Soul!
# Lesson 2: Relationship with fellow colleagues, superiors and school community members
Working in an organization and sharing the same goal, it is imperative that we are united in mind and purpose. To this end, I must guard my heart and mind against all forms of flesh-produced darkened counsels that seek to germinate seeds of discord, impurity of thoughts and division. Daily I have to beg the LORD to grant me grace to walk in the newness of life, His highway of holiness and be led by His Spirit. 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We must take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” For Christ to dwell in me, there must be no room for even traces of sin to tarry! In other words, I cannot let Donna’s voice be louder than the Wonderful Counselor. He is supreme and the Higher Authority to whom I am subjected to.
At times, however, I confess that my old lowly nature tend to resurrect upon confronted with real issues at hand. My ego gets hurt! But in a way, that’s good. Better still, let it be seriously hurt and soon die. Be subdued my self-righteousness, self-confidence, self-preservation, self-sufficiency.. be subdued all of them in their totality till Christ (and Him alone) be sanctified as the Lord in my heart; the only One worthy calling the shots of my decisions, emotions, feelings, actions and everything I am: His Word = final.
In Hebrews, we read this phrase ‘surrounded by these clouds of witnesses…” (Hebrews 12:1). In our real lives and at workplace, I think we are no less surrounded by good living examples if we are willing to see. I personally thank the LORD for the living examples I am privileged to work with. Of course every individual has their own limitations but essentially what we magnify is what we see. Seeing others in light of His grace, may our quests be more about ‘What is ‘right’ about him/her? Instead of ‘What is ‘wrong’ with him/her? For this, I pray may the LORD grant me humility to learn, eyes that lovingly highlights the best in the others as well as purity at heart that ‘nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind, esteem others to be better than oneself’ (Philippians 2:3). Looking at the example of Lord Jesus, He ‘emptied himself to the point of death’ (Philippians 2:8) not for men’s applause but for the single motivation of fulfilling God’s will in his life.
# Lesson 3: Relationship with the pupils
Naa.. Here’s where we’ll be talking about my clients, to which the Bible describes as ‘to such (the children) the Kingdom of God belongs to.’ (Luke 18:16) Honestly buddy, when the Wonderful Counselor opened my eyes to see my clients in light of that verse, it struck and changed me ever since. It is not mere stickmen I am dealing with.. they’re the stakeholders of His Kingdom, no kidding! With this in mind, I stagger at the thought of how privileged is my position to partake in serving them.
However, here’s the thing: I am clueless on how to go about it! Despite the period of half a decade of training in the college, reality and theories however, are pretty contrast!
Even so, I rejoice at the hope-filled humility exemplified by King Solomon in the Bible. If just a small number of our little predecessors enough to petrify me, I could relate to how King Solomon would feel then, as a kingdom was rested on his shoulder. But take heart, for the LORD of whom he put faith on is the same One to whom we could claim the same prayer;
“Now, o LORD my God, You have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am amidst Your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern Your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:7-9)
On top of that, I was yet reminded of the attribute of Lord Jesus. He invited us to come and promised us rest, and additionally he said, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matthew 11:29)
Did you see that, buddy? Working is so enriching an experience. We certainly have loopholes, but He makes us whole- to the conformity of His image!
Essentially, it is not just about ‘our students and us’ but ‘us as disciples and God, our Master’.
# Lesson 4: Relationship with the LORD
Last but not least, working is ultimately about the KING-at-work in me, through me and for me; worKING. God in His sovereignty and power could easily raise a stone and make a superb teacher compared to me. Yet, it is so precious of Him to count me worthy of His thoughts and to partake in His service. Looking forward, this I know.. By sight, teaching life is no more than about pupils, activities, exams and studies. But by faith, it’s about an adventure with the Master in touching and transforming lives.
My part in this? As in the first Miracle in Cana, it’s simply to be obedient to the Master’s word.. the miracle shall follow thereof!(see John 2:1-11)
Other words for that? God the Wonders-Doer and us the Miracles-Beholder!
O God of all my days, Blessed be YOUR name!
A sinner by nature,
A redeemed one by grace,
A teacher by profession,
A disciple of Christ by faith,