It’s Not About Me

Today was Ash Wednesday. It was rather weird not attending a church service where ashes were placed in the shape of a cross on my forehead. I kind of missed that.

However, I haven’t forgotten about Lent. I still want to observe the 40 days leading up to Easter and spend some extra time reflecting on God. To help me do this, I’ve taken up reading and praying through a devotional book called ONE. It is the result of a large-scale collaboration project between 25 of the English-speaking, international churches in Hong Kong. That is a testimony in and of itself!

Today’s devotion was about preparation. (Seems fitting!) The goal behind it was to place us in John the Baptist’s “shoes” and learn what it means to put Jesus first and ourselves second. “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:30) I totally agree. At least in theory.

The problem is that I am nearly always doing things for myself. I know in my head that God loves me no matter what I do or don’t do. But I guess I still want to please Him and show Him I’m wholeheartedly His. It’s almost as if I feel like I need to earn His love. (Which no one needs to do by the way.) I guess this looks like a place for the Holy Spirit to step in and do the work in my heart and life that I can’t do by myself!

The other cool thing about today’s devotion is that it reminded me of a message I heard from Noah Ward, a teacher at the International Christian School. He gave a message about being third. It was simple and straightforward: God first, others second, ourselves third. Noah even had business cards made so we can keep them in our wallets as a reminder each time we open it that we should be living with a servant heart. I still have that card, two years later.

“Lord, help me live fully for you, as a response to the fullness of love you have for me. Amen.”

Thirsting For More

'Thirst' photo (c) 2011, jadeashley - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ Recently I’ve been noticing a longing for something more. It’s crept up on me. I find it incredible and incredibly unnerving the way I can let important things slip away from my grasp. In fact, this particular important thing not only slipped out of my grasp, I think it ended up beyond my horizon. Or maybe my perspective is wrong. Maybe this thing is in plain sight, but I’ve hidden myself from it.

This thing is my personal devotion life.

When Christ entered my life and my heart, I knew I found the source of true joy and fulfillment. I was so enamored with Jesus that I consumed my time with reading His word, worshipping, and at least trying to pray regularly. I couldn’t stop. It was like an addiction. I always carried my Bible around, and I truly wanted to spend time with God, and our relationship was rather effortless.

And now that I’ve become a youth pastor, that effortless relationship is but a shadow of what it once was. Ironic I think.

In spite of my current state, I can also sense a maturity in my relationship with God. It’s grown, evolved, and weathered quite a few storms of doubt. This gives me a hope. I know (at least in my theology) that God is with me always and never judges me for better or worse based on my performance. I am not a complete nincompoop.
'Thinking RFID' photo (c) 2009, Jacob Bøtter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Nonetheless, I realize the value in discipline and obedience in my relationship with God. I seem to recall Oswald Chambers saying a lot about that in his book My Utmost for His Highest. Therefore, I would like to be more intentional in my time with God. Not out of guilt or to unlock a new spiritual level, but rather to return to a deeper and more beautiful relationship with God – to renew that relationship of effortlessness.

This blog has now become my daily reflection of my relationship with God. I needed a project and tangible goal to keep me motivated. What better time than January first when people are making all sorts of new year resolutions! Certainly this will prove more valuable than one of my previous new year resolutions about learning to throw a frisbee disc further on a “pull.”

If you’re reading, I hope that you can meet God as I am meeting Him again. Feel free to join me in my journey as I bare parts of my faith for the whole of the world wide interwebs.

Day One.
Check.
Goodnight.