To Know Christ, Digging Deeper, & Beautiful Views of Durham: Once missed, but now Found

Amidst the hullaballoo, I find time to sit away at my desk in the night, tapping away at the electronic screen before me. In this I find stillness; In this, I find calm. My thoughts process, I find Him.

I find Him, again.

A swirling of a myriad colours it had been indeed, the days have gone by, each day a precious pearl threaded into the necklace that His hands hold. It had been good fun. To welcome new students as they arrived on Ustinov Hill to a rainy afternoon (Showers of blessing aye!), and then shuffle them onto the bus headed for the hill colleges – For of course, if one be from a hill college, one’s heart is tied to a hill college in firm allegiance.

I had gone on the bus and enjoyed two free lovely rides around the whole of Durham (way beyond the University Hospital in fact!) chatting and making new acquaintances (For the very-strict, when does a friend become a friend? 😉 ), and then handing over, in grace, new fresh-faced post-xx-number-of-hours-flight Durhammers to their international Freps at college, settling people and waving goodbye. I had discovered new places I never had been to in my life – a St Margaret’s Garth beyond Crossgate, ‘Brackenbury’… It was nice to travel around, and come back to free muffins given out by the International Office. It was =) and yes, I do get a free purple University-emblemed shirt!

The next day was a flurry – giving a city tour to two individuals whom God had graciously brought along (never realized how much I had known about Durham, humbles me really!) and having amazing conversations with my friends. Yes, I do consider one a friend after I go beyond ‘What college are you at? What are you studying? Where do you come from?” and.. “I’m from Singapore!” Which always draws amazed looks and piques one’s interest. I say, Singapore is indeed blessed to have a smattering of pleasant comments – clean! green! (tiny)… “A great place!” Ah, I have never felt this patriotic in my life. I do love my country – it is where a Sovereign God has placed me, and where I shall return to, in less than a year. Singapore, is home.

Renee and Adnan had come over for dinner on Thursday, and together people in our house at 15 Lambton were humming, strumming to lovely tunes (though we never finished a song, heheh.) It was a late night and Renee had slept over, together we stared up at the night ceiling and watched as the living room bulb flickered like a firefly and then went out. A devotion that night, very timely, reminded us of the purpose of service in the LORD. Looking at Philippians 1 and 3, Paul indeed beckons us to know Christ, to follow Christ, to take up our crosses. It is easy, given it being International Welcome Week, flyering, bee-ing around and all, to get so lost in Christian service that one forgets, that:

The goal of Christianity is not ministry. The goal of Christianity is to know Christ intimately.” – Tim Keller

We need to protect our own walks with God, have a real genuine and active relationship with Him, and safeguarding our relationship with Him as we go out to serve Him. There would come the danger of being so caught up in “God’s work”, various areas of ministry, working in church, etc, that one neglects one’s quiet moments of solitude in God and in Christ alone, forgets the whole purpose of serving Him, even. The danger of burn-out becomes very real, and I am sure God brings His children home if that happens, but our part, I do believe strongly, to ensure that never happens.

We must, must, prioritize our relationship with Jesus Christ.

The goal of Christianity is not ministry. The goal of Christianity is to know Christ intimately.

The two are related of course, the former being a natural outpouring of the latter. But let us keep in mind, that we must always return to the Gospel, the Greatest Love ever known. Christ has come to save us from our sins, save us from ‘salvation by works’, saved us into a rightful relationship with God; our righteousness is not our own, it is Christ’s, clothed upon us. There is nothing we may do to make God love us more, nothing we may do to make God love us less.

Let us always, safeguard our relationship with Christ Jesus.

I do love Skype calls with sisters back home. I do very much indeed, and it was lovely to be able to catch up with Mell and also, later in the day, dear Natalie. Fellowship in Christ happens, transcends time zone differences, indeed transcends space-time. I am very much encouraged by our fellowship – we are reminded, of our eternal hope in our salvation through Christ in 1 Peter 1, that God never does waste any time of our lives (though our human practicalities turn on us and makes us think otherwise), and hey, that God did give us a spirit of power, love and self-discipline in Christ.

No matter how busy, how packed, how anything-that-it-is,

Nothing must take the place of quiet time with God. One hour with God sets your whole day right, reinforces your priorities, and enables you to trust God that His grace shall see you through, no hair shall fall from your head if it not be the will of God, no labour shall be tiring for in Christ we have One who shares and empathizes and who holds our future securely in His hands, for His Glory.

That one hour in the morning, will make a whole lot of difference. So, guard it. Guard it before God.

I am glad that God gives us fellow followers in the faith, to share, to edify, to encourage. Indeed, as the term I have found fond of using and hope shall never tire of, it is, it is, a taste of Heaven on Earth. I do believe that =) Very much indeed I do.

Many sisters have asked too of prayer, for health, for work, for relationships, for doors to open clear, for patience whilst waiting, for a good many things, all which are good desires indeed, and yet, I have recently been humbled again that whilst I do remember these in prayer, I must rather pray above all, this:

The words of Philippians 1, for which I pray for you,

– Indeed! The joy of Paul in expressing these words – let us make them our own!

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

For GOD is my Witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Philippians 1: 3-11.

Dearest sisters, these words of Paul I include in my prayer for you, as I hope you would too as others seek prayer fellowship with you. It is good to remember that above all we must seek that God would be gracious to draw us nearer to Him, that God’s ultimate purpose for us is not completed work (indeed, work in this life may never seem to be completed really), is not good health and relationships, His ultimate purpose above all these whatever it may be and wherever we find ourselves, is that we, partnered in the Gospel, partakers of His Abundant Grace, would continue to seek Him and find Him, to grow in love for God and also for His people, and be moulded into Christlikeness as we await with great hope that Day of Glory, where we would be presented pure and blameless, united with God in eternity. And it is because of this hope that you will rejoice in the Spirit. It is remembering this great promise of sanctification and indeed glorification, that will keep us, keep you going. I hope you are encouraged in Him. He is a Good God, Loving Father, and is

Only, ever Good.

You can trust Him.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3: 5-6

Through the week as well, God had reminded me, that I was here as a University student as well, and for that I must ask for wisdom and grace to manage my time and commitments, that it be an area of my life too, to be used for God’s Glory. I had been in a slightly flurried state of mind on Friday upon the surprise notification by my professor, that I have had to have my ideas submitted by the next week (as I type this, it is tomorrow!) and in a moment of fluster I had seemed lost and it seemed, grasping in thin air.

Yet,

There was a strange calm.

John 14 : 27

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

The same calm, which had carried through the major moments of my life.

The same calm.

In God’s Sovereignty, and in His Loving Goodness and Kindness, His grace would see me through. It would.

Sisters who had received a prayer for wisdom for this, thank you. Thank you for your kind prayers. The drafts have now been written, and they are topics which excite me and for which I would be very grateful to pursue in the year ahead. To the department they would be submitted tomorrow, and I look forward eagerly to the commencement, of my fourth year here in dear Durham.

God is Good; He has Provided.

Onwards, Christian soldier. Onwards, in good faith in Him.

Saturday had been a very blessed day – I had benefitted well from the Leaders’ Conference morning at church which very duly reminded me that it is God’s ministry that I am involved in, it is God who gives the growth even as we water the seeds, and indeed, that I must take my position this year seriously. iFocus is to be my priority, and meeting and loving sisters He has placed in my midst must be one for which I depend on Him for wisdom and for strength. Leading a Bible study group has its quirks and pleasurable moments, yes, but there is a time for everything, a seat for everyone (I did laugh aloud at the position-the-chatterbox-next-to-you-and-the-quiet-one-right-opposite-so-that-you-may-look-up-and-catch-her-eye-to-make-her-answer-your-question – to such detail leaders do plan ahuh! -) and with all seriousness, to dissect the Word of God carefully for the benefit of others. I found it amazing, the reminder that we here are disciples making disciples – sisters should never feel that they require leaders to help them dissect a text and understand it, as leaders we are to help younger Christians feel, and know, that they too would be equipped to be able to read and dissect the Bible on their own. I had purchased ‘Dig Deeper: Tools to unearth the Bible’s treasure‘ on recommendation by the church workers, and have indeed been humbled that, the Word of God must be handled carefully. There is a wealth of treasure in that book, and I would too very much recommend it.

Words which have set me thinking:

Banish any thoughts of a boring library and think instead of picking up the phone and discovering your Creator on the other end of the line. GOD IS SPEAKING” – Amen!

We need God’s Spirit to understand God’s word. Given it was the Spirit who inspired it in the first place, that should come as no surprise.” – INDEED, and Amen!

And yes, this one, which hits home. So very often:

We need continually to express our dependence on God for a right understanding of Him and His ways. He is the One who grants insight – 2 Timothy 2: 7, Philippians 3: 15 – and so we must pray! Pray before you open your Bible. Pray when you get stuck and do not understand. Pray again when you do understand it – in thanksgiving! Pray, pray and pray!

Aiyo… Yes I am convicted, and yes, I am humbled. and AMEN!!!!!

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” – 2 Timothy 3: 16

Indeed, we should allow God’s Word to penetrate to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; judge our thoughts and our attitudes (Hebrews 4: 12). We must, must emerged as changed people, people desiring change, in Christ.

We must come to God’s word, with a humble, repentant heart and ears to listen, persevere to obey. In Christ alone, there is Victory. God has promised Victory. 

Thus far I have read, and I look forward to using and indeed applying the tools the authors recommend – The context tool, structure tool, linking-words tool, repetition tool, quotation/illustration tool, the list goes on.

I am excited, to be reading my Bible more properly. Indeed, no matter how long one has been reading the Bible, how long one has been Christian, there is always so much, so much to learn.

Thank God for speaking through the conference, and indeed the book. Which, guides me to the Book. Amen!

This day had been one of discoveries, of scenes of Durham I had never seen before =D

I had taken a long walk round another route to the railway station, from the hill colleges, round past the Durham School and over the back end. It had been lovely to chat with Alice whom I had met at the conference, and I had – I must have! – stopped to admire Durham from beyond:

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Durham, pictured from a secret location 😉 

Then had followed a beautiful afternoon with Antonia (more affectionately known as “Ah Mo”) for one of the best walks I had ever had in Durham, and blessed with yet another amazing scenic point in Durham, another which I had never known.

Antonia had lived in Singapore for all of five years in the time she had schooled there, and I do believe deep down inside, she is truly and surely Singaporean. I am glad to have met her here in Durham this year. Live less than 10 metres away she does (yes, one of the Railway station too we both are), and I look forward to a good year of sisterhood ahead =)

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Antonia in the Sun, with blueberries I had eaten straight off the leaves! 

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A view of the Cathedral from the peak at Wharton Park, where we had met a lovely local lady called Jenny, and her two cherub-cheeked young sons! 

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Ah, the Railway in its evening-time splendour!

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Dandelion-like plants, a feeling of accomplishment one feels when one aids in dispersing the feathery seeds embedded within!

Ah Mo then guided me through the park, scrambling past hedges and ivy leaves, to the beautiful, beautiful forests beyond.

The Other Side of Durham.

Another, of deep lush forests, chattering birds, and good long walks in the cool evening air.

It was good, to be here.

It is good, to be here =)

God’s Creations in its loveliest!

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“That’s the way we should all take photos!” – Ah Mo

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Trees blossoming high, high over our heads

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And, pausing by for a rest in the forests, to one heartwarming chat 

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Above: An old apple tree, bent in age now and resting in the Orchard 

“Even to your old age I am He,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”

– Isaiah 46: 4

God is Good – His Steadfast Love endures forever! Indeed one shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace; so the mountains and hills before shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isaiah 55: 12).

I am thankful this day, for the amazing sights God has blessed our eyes to see. If I had not embarked on another year here in Durham, He would not have led my hand, taken it, to see, to see beautiful things I would have missed.

All things do work in our lives, for a time and for a purpose. No hair shall fall from your head if it be not the will of God; all your days were planned to be, even before you were in your mother’s womb.

I had come across these beautiful words of Spurgeon, it is these I hold in my heart, and it is these I do share with dear brethren now:

“I found Him whom my soul loveth: I held Him, and would not let Him go.”

Song of Solomon 3: 4 

“Does Christ receive us when we come to Him, notwithstanding all our past sinfulness? Does He never chide us for having tried all other refuges first? And is there none on earth like Him? Is He the best of all the good, the fairest of all the fair? Oh, then let us praise Him! Daughters of Jerusalem, extol Him with timbrel and harp! Down with your idols, up with the Lord Jesus. Now let the standards of pomp and pride be trampled under foot, but let the cross of Jesus, which the world frowns and scoffs at, be lifted on high. O for a throne of ivory for our King Solomon! Let Him be set on high forever, and let my soul sit at His footstool, and kiss His feet, and wash them with my tears. Oh, how precious is Christ! How can it be that I have thought so little of Him? How is it I can go abroad for joy or comfort when He is so full, so rich, so satisfying. Fellow believer, make a covenant with thine heart that thou wilt never depart from Him, and ask thy Lord to ratify it. Bid Him set thee as a signet upon His finger, and as a bracelet upon His arm. Ask Him to bind thee about him, as the bride decketh herself with ornaments, and as the bridegroom puts on his jewels. I would live in Christ’s heart; in the clefts of that rock my soul would eternally abide.

The sparrow hath made a house, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God; and so too would I make my nest, my home, in Thee, and never from Thee may the soul of thy turtle dove go forth again, but may I nestle close to thee, O Jesus, my true and only Rest.

“When my precious Lord I find,

All my ardent passions glow;

Him with cords of love I bind,

Hold and will not let Him go.”

Thankful, dear LORD. Thankful I am.

Thankful, for this life You have given me, this life I have in Christ.

Be Praise, Honour and Glory to God Most High.

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