Reflections on the Summer Home

It had taken me a good seven days, to settle proper back into dear Durham. With the move into the new house (I now live in another part of Durham, next to the railway station and with a marvellous view of the Cathedral outside the window as I pen my thoughts!), I had been rushing around Wilkinsons, Tesco’s, Poundland, Savers, and the Marketplace to furnish this little home. It is with a great sense of accomplishment that I may now extend an invitation as such, “Would you like to come up to my place for a cuppa tea?” Already, God has been very gracious to bring sisters and friends over for a visit, and I look forward to welcoming others in to our little abode, here in a another beautiful end of Durham.

It is timely now then, to write and reflect upon the goodness of the Lord in this Summer home, and indeed, remember and keep in my heart the things He had taught me and which I now share. A whirlwind Summer it had been indeed, generously peppered with deep moments of blessings. Many have asked of what exactly I had been busy with, and busy I had admittedly been indeed. However, whilst life in Singapore is allowably fast-paced (for time home with friends and family is incredibly precious), there must be time power packed with intense moments with God, precious times of fellowship kept for Him and Him alone. It is here that I share some thoughts upon reflection on the best summer I have had in 22 years of my life, now His.

  1. It is possible to fall in Love with God.

I begin with this greatest life lesson I had learnt, since 2013 had begun. All through my life I had never thought it would have been appropriate to use the term “falling in Love” in my walk with our Heavenly Father. Time and experience has convicted me and indeed, there can be None so thought-consuming, who loves you greatly for who He has made you for, and who is always and ever on your side, as God Himself. Holding His hand firmly, you learn many lessons, and He carries you lovingly through it all, for the purpose of knowing Him better, for the purpose of being moulded ever more so into Christlikeness. Life is indeed a great learning journey of Christ-centred discipleship. And so too, this is a journey of Love, one in which His child may then find, there are 10 000 reasons and indeed much, much more, to bless the LORD, and give Him all the praise, honour and glory due His name. Just because, of Who He is. Who He is, as revealed in His Word, and in Spirit. God is the Greatest Lover of our souls. Let not this be head knowledge, but filter gently, and sink in deep, into one’s heart.

2. God is a God of Missions, and the Mission Field is Here.

In an earlier blog, I had shared about the mission trip to Cambodia on which God had been gracious to allow me to embark upon in June, but here my focus is on Missions at our doorstep. Singapore itself is a crucible of the international world and its peoples. Our mission field is not, as oft thought, requiring of an uproot into a country far beyond (although I do acknowledge the great need for missionaries to venture out into the unreached tribes and peoples for the sake of the Good News), for God has also brought many international people right into the heart of Singapore. From the migrant workers we see daily in our midst, through to socio-economically disadvantaged peoples with whom we share our home, the workplace, the schools… when God commands us to love our neighbour, indeed our neighbour is anyone whom He places in our midst. There are many ways to serve in the field of foreign worker ministry (re. HealthServe, TWC2, and many other organisations such as Habitat for Humanity), from advocacy and pro bono-related directions, through to participating in interculture fellowship in the home church. A simple hug or supporting our Filipina or Indonesian sisters as they pursue their dreams here in Singapore, for example. It is good to keep in the know, always, of what God is up to here in Singapore. Attending the EP (English Presbytery) Missions fest itself was insightful – a venture into Prison Fellowship Singapore has revealed it to be indeed a challenging ministry requiring of the incredibly brave-hearted in Him – through to attending public lectures and talks given by NUS professors who present an academic perspective which will bolster one’s understanding of the current situation facing foreign workers. I am thankful for God’s provisions of dear friends and mentors who have sent me in the direction of these pursuits. It is good to be on the constant lookout – such opportunities to learn about what God has been doing here and at home, is all around. OMF Singapore is a great place to begin, too! As too, with one’s involvement in other para-church organisations, one must not neglect the central role of the home church and its support. Think also to the places one often frequents, in a day in Singapore. Bukit Timah Market is a place greatly yet-ministered to, as I had found in my time home, and so also, are the cleaning ladies we find in our midst, the workplace through to the canteen. Meeting Aunty Guizi whilst serving on the NIE CU Larkhill Camp (another excellent chance to serve God as a Christian teacher – for sisters and brothers who would be embarking on the same path), Mdm Ng, and thereafter Aunty Choo and Aunty Meng Chan. Aunties and uncles one may find everywhere, all seeking one with a listening ear and some time to sit, have a kopi and chat. To uncle whom you take the taxi with – Indeed it is my own dad who had inspired me to begin chatting because he too, as he has a habit of striking up chats with his passengers and telling them many stories (of which we often hear when he returns from a day of work – to our colleagues at work in the administrative office, for the aunty who clears your plate at the canteen… So many people have yet to hear of the Gospel, and when God refers to “neighbour”, neighbour is indeed anyone and everyone we do meet, to share of His Love. Be prayerful, about where God might be leading you to serve Him in missions, here at our doorstep.

3. Mentors and Shepherds

Mentors are indeed God’s very gracious gifts to His children, here on earth. I am thankful for a close-knit and indeed extended family, for very godly spiritual kinship here in Singapore. For Uncle Leonard and Aunty Doris, for dear Sister Lijie, for Aunty Ching Ching, for Karen, for Sasha, for Preachers Carolyn, Loli and Margaret, and the list goes on, with the saints God has been very gracious to allow me to meet as I grow up in Him. Conversations, once or multiple, with these beautiful elder Sisters or “Ate” (in Tagalog) have been spiritually lifting and have in many ways ministered to me greatly, in this process of discovering myself in God. Mentors are indeed good gifts God has given, He places people amongst us to lead us on His path of Righteousness and towards eternal life. Some of them, I do believe, are angels in disguise. As do you too, I look forward to sitting with Paul, Abraham, Esther, when I do get to heaven. Surely, surely, time and fellowship with dear sisters and mentors here, is a taste of Heaven on Earth. Look out for mentors, and look out for opportunities to mentor others too. We are all on the same path, on the Highway to Heaven – let’s embark on this journey of good faith, in Unity, that the smile and favour of God may rest abundantly with His people.

4. Keeping with the Family, Sisters and Friends

I have a few non-Christian relatives in my midst, and time home in Singapore is often a chance to witness and testify to the Love of God. On my heart is my Hainanese Popo, who remains deeply devout in ancestral worship, and too my dear aunts, my Gu Gu and Gu Ma, who appear to be content with the simple life – “as long as there aren’t too many troubles in life, I lead it quitely and simply…No faith, multi-faith, it’s all the same”. I do believe that deep down, deep deep down, there is an emptiness in everyone that only the Christian God may fill. As with the salvation of loved ones, it is important to always behold God in His character – in His Sovereignty in the salvation of loved ones, and also trust in His Mercy. Only God knows, and in God I trust. Actions speak louder and words, and whilst it may not be our position to minister to older ones amongst us, we may reflect the love of Christ in our daily speech, thoughts and actions – the decisions we make to spend our time, the way we spend our money, the way we serve our relatives in the home. The life of a Christian is one of a changed life, and prayerfully, acts of love and grace would draw our relatives to Him.

Time home has also been graciously peppered with meeting with dear sisters to me, of sharing and being edified by testimonies of God’s goodness and Grace in the time apart. There had been many a chance to witness to pre-believing friends, and also, too the Lord has been gracious to allow for fellowship with sisters I had never known. Among them are: Katerine whom I stumbled upon in the Project Timothy conferences and thereafter met up for a good Ice-skate, to Ireneaus whom I met at the Singapore Student Bible Conference, and with dear Ashleigh whom I had met at OMF meetings. God’s children are all around places – and it is once again, amazing, to come together in fellowship and come to share the love of God as He works in our lives. It was great in this time home to be  able to meet up with childhood friends of old too – dear Deborah, Wen Yan and Ismail from the golden days of SGH Childcare. How we have all grown! It is precious memories as these that I keep dearly in my heart even as I am here in England.

5. Talks, conferences and Good Expositions

Seeking good, sound Biblical teaching is a necessary pursuit for every believing Christian. Through various sermons God has very graciously given precious nuggets of wisdom and truth to store deep in one’s heart. I share my greatest and most humbling discoveries in this time home, refreshed in the Word of God and in His Spirit.

From the SSBC held at SMU on understanding the Holy Trinity – that God the Father gives us the Same Glory and the Same Love He does to God the Son, Jesus Christ, was the most mind-blowing realization, one I had never dared to presume before, but is indeed backed solid by Scripture in John 17.

On the seminar “A Pastoral Reflection on the Challenges Facing the Singapore Church today” given by Rev Peter Chan, the importance of the local church in taking a strong stand in these issues, and also one for which I distinctly remember, that “commissioning” should be for a variety of purposes – for army (typically viewed by Singaporean society, even Christian men, as a waste of time and brains yet failing to acknowledge that it has been given by God in His Sovereignty, and we ought to have “commissioning” to place people in the right frame of mind as they “go out into the world”, be it to the marketplace, or to work, to schools. Commissioning isn’t something just for missionaries to other countries, etc, commissioning should be for any member of the church who goes out to be a missionary in the world, wherever God has called them to go and be distinct as salt and light. That is indeed the reason for which Tim has decided to join me in England for the weeks before army – a process of preparing his heart for Army, a time that God has Lovingly given him in the two years ahead.

“Making Sense of Life: What Does it mean to be Human?” by the very revered Dr Ravi Zacharias at the Singapore Expo, in some ways a repetition of various anecdotes and excellent points made in his free online talks, yet he had ended applaudably. That is, humble acknowledgement that he had pre-empted questions which were supposedly posed from the floor by the audience, and his thoughts on what it means to be an honest skeptic. Basically, there would be those out there, he warns, who simply ask questions because they want to win a theological argument and aren’t open to apologetic replies at all (i.e. to those who enter the conversation with no intention of “listening”, there would be no real conversation indeed), and yet there are those whom, if approaching with a honest heart, are full worthy of time and opportunity to share and to receive. It is our part to be discerning, and never restrain from sharing, and indeed, being full honest. I do pray that that young man who had in his brevity requested for a meal with Ravi did have his heart’s hopes come to fruition. I continue to be greatly blessed by his sermons and his books.

From Project Timothy, by Bryan Chapell – The particularly humbling sermon on the first day, that God has Use for the Useless! Be strong in the Lord, not be strong “for” the LORD. How Gideon, the supposed great king, was revealed in his weaknesses, and yet the surpassing grace and mercy of the Lord should rest upon Him that he might be great among God’s peoples. Yes indeed there are supposed ‘Hero’s in the Bible, but God always reveals them in their weaknesses, and we are always convicted to direct our attention to the Ultimate Hero in the Bible – Christ Himself.

From “Impact UK” by Project Timothy – Being reminded that there is indeed no greater time, indeed no greater time!! Than now, for Campus Ministry (for how many times does one get to be a student!) that we should indeed be “abounding” in the work of the LORD (1 Corinthians 15) (John Macarthur has a good exposition on this verse alone), and indeed, being reminded in an exposition from 1 Peter 1, a reminder to not put our hopes in the temporal, transient things of this world but in the Eternal Hope of Salvation we have in Christ, which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, that which God has kept safe and secure for us in Heaven, and also that by His grace! HE KEEPS US SECURE in the Great Hope! It is indeed by His grace that we are able to have Faith in Him! My mind fails to behold how Gracious our God is, how Abundant is His Saving Love.

“Redemptive Discipleship”, IDMC 2013 by Covenant Free Evangelical Church, was the final conference I had attended in this Summer. God had been gracious indeed in His provision of the tickets to go and there were good gleanings from the two days I had been there. In many multiple ways this was one of incredible encouragement to the thirsty spiritual soul. As I share my own gleanings, so also I share those of my brothers and sisters who had also attended the talk, their sharings are also acknowledged here.

Things which had struck me in this conference are as such:

  1. In Starting Over, we must begin with the redemptive Love of God in Christ Jesus. Starting over, the theme of this conference, isn’t something which happens post-major-event in life, it had struck me on the second morning, that starting over is something which happens each new day. No matter how “spiritually high” or “spiritually low” one had been the previous day, each new day is God’s very gracious gift of new mercies to begin anew.
  2. The Garden of Gethsemane – A Place of Romance. It is a place commonly thought as a place of anguish, surrender, brokenness, and pain, yet, as Rev Edmund Chan so shared, it is too a place of Romance – God’s Romance with His people, indeed the Greatest Love the world has ever known, that Jesus would be willing to bear the cup of wrath and take our place wholly and fully, redeeming us as our Saviour. Starting over is always a process of coming home, coming home to the Greatest Love the World has ever known.
  3. Spiritual complacency – We must desire, must Want, to break free from the hold of sin. Sin’s hold on us is insidious and dangerous, and in all circumstances we must be driven to Christ who has conquered sin in its Entirety. Yes, sin is still here in this fallen earth, but it is Conquered. We must actively recognize sins in our life, hate it, and fight it to live in Christ. The word here is to be Intentional. We must, Intentionally Break Free, for in Christ, we have the Victory.
  4. Half-dones – Examine the self repeatedly for ‘half-dones’ which hinder real moving forward in spiritual growth. Are there hidden things in our heart which have yet been fully surrendered to God in Christ? Are there unrepaired foundations, have we compromised the Word of God which make us doubt His goodness and faithfulness when adverse circumstances hit? Are there ‘half-dones’? We should examine ourselves repeatedly, daily, prayerfully, in accordance with God’s Word.
  5. Redemptive leadership is based on God’s grace (Romans 15: 15). No one deserves to be in leadership or in ministry because no one is perfect, yet in spite of how we may fail Him, God still graciously chooses us, simply because of His Great Grace! Ministry is to be received as a gift from God to us; it is not earned in any way. Such was incredibly humbling and convicting, as I dwell upon the positions of servitude which God has graciously given me. I remember the words of Tim Keller dearly here, that the goal of Christianity is not ministry, the goal of Christianity is to know God intimately.
  6. Have godly ambitions as redemptive leaders in ministry. One must constantly examine one’s own deceitful heart and to discard any personal ambition of the self. It is good to have godly ambitions – to live intentionally for God, to realize that souls are in the balance between heaven and hell in eternity and that thus, we should ‘maximize our resources for His glory, take the most people to heaven with us!’ This is a great reminder as I return to England for campus ministry and indeed, as we live lives wherever God has placed us. There is no better time than now. And we may begin, with intentional prayer.
  7. Finally, in all things, that God is indeed incredibly intentional with us. He has indeed taken the divine initiative to draw us to Him through sending Christ at the Cross and in His resurrection, if only now we would exercise the conscious choice to submit ourselves to Him. God is always a God of 2nd chances. Even if we may fail to trust that His ways are higher than ours, He always extends a Hand of Grace, of Love, of Mercy. A life in complete surrender to God is a life that God desires for us, one of a Love, of Consuming Fire.

As I close on sharing in this section, I think to a sharing by Sister Rachel, one which very much parallels thoughts I have dwelt upon at length in this time home. Growing to Love God is something possible, something God desires for us. As we thirst after Him, we are made to be more aware of God’s Love, and the extent to which it overcomes and conquers all things. As we understand His Love, receive it with open arms, and grow to love Him more, surely and definitely, the way in which we reach out to those around us undergoes an inevitable change. In ministry and in service, it is necessary for our own relationship with God to be vibrant, healthy and growing. For how indeed, may we give love to others, if we do not first understand God’s Love for us? Spiritual maturity precedes spiritual multiplication, “The quality of the fruit is determine by the depth of the root” (Rev Edmund Chan). Amen.

I think to a practical application I have had of this understanding of God’s Love for me. This is with regards to the area of Forgiveness. Surely, at a point in our spiritual walk, we would have come across an area or event in which our human hearts spur us to harbour thoughts which hinder us from truly moving forward. These thoughts and feelings, if not taken in captive obedience to Christ, would inevitably spiral and affect areas of our ministry and service, and indeed our love for God and His people. I think to a sharing by a dear sister, one which Pastor Ann Chan had also expounded in depth upon in the IDMC. To picture Christ standing right by the whoever it may be, and hearing Him say that “I have fully paid for their sins, I have forgiven them in its entirety, I have loved them with an unconditional Love, can you, My child, not trust in Me and love them as I have loved them?” To Love as my Saviour loved. “Yes, My Lord”, had been my answer, and nothing I say here may express the deep healing and renewal experienced upon dwelling upon this realization of this solid truth of His Love. It is the experiences of life which teach us and draw us nearer to Him, as we truly understand how deep the Father’s Love for us in every sense of the word. All things that God gives, He works for our eternal good and for His glory. In a life of love and surrender, we are Triumphant in our Victory in Christ.

I do pray, that these gleanings from my time home in the Summer, will stay with me through the days of my life.

~

I close in final thoughts, for it is a beautiful day here in dear Durham, and the sunny hills do beckon.

As sisters and friends close to me will have known, in this summer, I had received what I thought to be affirmations for a future yet known. From the trajectory of my career in the Education Ministry, to where I might find myself most useful to God in service, through to other areas of this beautiful present God has given called Life, what is left as of now, is prayerful obedience, in Word and in Spirit, and to wait out this time He has given. I have indeed attempted to not let my plans run too far ahead of me, and it is indeed in His Sovereignty that He has graciously placed me here in dear Durham to grow in Him. I therefore think to a quote by Jim Elliot,

“Abundant life is not found simply by standing still and trying to convince ourselves to be patient when we’re doing absolutely nothing. The full life is experienced when we use any time we’re given to bring glory to God. Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

I have made a commitment to treasure this final year of opportunities to serve God here in Durham. Already, the first week here has been peppered with meetups, with Chinese sisters and friends, with iClub, meeting Dorina, and all that He has planned ahead in the week to come. Moments of dwelling in the Cathedral have been blessed with surprise gifts – To wander into the Cathedral on a Friday evening, to open the New English Hymnals to songs of old (think William Cowper, Henry Francis Lyte, Charles Wesley and “He who would valiant be” by John Bunyan, and to be pleasantly surprised by a choir rehearsal and stunning performance of the Lord’s Prayer by a group of young people. Such had brought tears to my eyes. How Real is our Father. How Real is He.

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“Hello, Old Friend”: A view of the Durham Cathedral near the time of the Evensong

Day by day, His mercies are new every morning, and at the end of each day thus far, all there is to bless the LORD and receive in open arms what He has given, with a heart of thankfulness. There is indeed nothing I may offer back to Him, but my Love. I open my eyes to behold His beautiful creations here in a place I have grown to love and know dearly, and I have since discovered a good many paths, hidden, beautiful paths yet untrodden. I thank the LORD again for a truly meaningful and heartwarming Summer back in Singapore, and look forward with great excitement, for what He has planned ahead.  The sun is out in beautiful Durham this day, and as one of new beginnings, and with good hope for what is to come, I venture outwards with this:

I put my hope in my Sovereign God, and I trust my soul to my Faithful Creator.

For God is only Good, all the Time, Good, Faithful and True.

He is the God we know and share, and indeed if yet not, is reaching out to you this day and this moment. Come, taste and see the Heavenly Father’s Love. It is the Greatest Love indeed, that this world has ever known. Christ has come, and Christ will come again to reign in Eternity – It is this Day for which His children awaits. Come, taste and see the Heavenly Father’s Love.

LORD, I thank You.

I thank You for Your Love in Christ for me.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

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Photo: A view from Framwellgate Bridge, a sight I shall cross daily now as I walk into the Durham marketplace. 

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