Taming the Tongue

Our words are powerful.

'Tongue' photo (c) 2008, Joe Shlabotnik - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/James 3 talks about the need to tame our tongue, one of the most powerful weapons we have. The book of James even compares the tongue to a ship’s rudder, small but extremely powerful in shaping the course of travel – or in this case, the course of a conversation.

I know just the right words that can either build up and encourage my wife or words that will get under her skin. This is just one of the many by-products of marriage. Today, in a moment of frustration, I started to let my words get away from me. Fortunately, (probably by the prompting of the Holy Spirit), I was able to silence my tongue, regain some control, and steer the conversation back towards a topic way more positive. Still, this moment of exchange was enough to shift the mood of the afternoon for a short while, and if it were possible, I’d like to regain and redeem that jaded time.

I hope and pray that I can choose my words wisely, especially around my wife and loved ones. If I can’t love those closest to me, how can I be expected to love those that hate me?

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The Key to a Good Life…

…Good Relationships.

Today was filled with honest and lively conversations that allowed me to maintain good ties with people that I love. The one drawback was that I didn’t get to connect as long as I’d like with the one relationship that matters most (after Jesus) the act, not the dress code– my wife. However, we have an ongoing dialogue, and because of that, there’s room to be free of rituals as well as trust to let me go off on my own. Hopefully this is what my time with God can be – a relationship that’s continuous, fluid, and has  flexibility.

There’s no better way to live life than sharing it with others. It can get a little messy sometimes, but half the fun is sifting through those same messes we get ourselves into.

As I said, today was a good day. Lots of time with other people. Some of the conversation was fun and easy, like my time with a youth pastor (from the International Baptist Church in Hong Kong) and a mutual friend that is on holiday from university. We sat and talked and comforted ourselves in a cozy place called the brunch club in Causeway Bay. Mmmmm… Then again, there were a few other conversations. One was difficult and taxing and stressed me out. A couple others were easy, but covered some meaty topics. Still, this is life. And like I sad, have the fun is sifting these conversations and relationships, whether easy-going or quite messy.

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby

It was an awkward day with the youth group. I delivered part one of a three part sex series. Unfortunately, today wasn’t even the most uncomforatable topic. On the other hand, the kids responded pretty well considering all of them were under 14 years old.

'Preach It, Brother' photo (c) 2008, Steve Snodgrass - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I had the privilege of basing my sermon off of a message delivered by Tim Keller. He’s such a wise and rational pastor, full of dry, but quick wit. I’m a big fan. If you haven’t heard anything by him, I highly recommend subscribing to his podcast from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York.

'SEX' photo (c) 2008, Stuart Caie - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

 

Today I didn’t talk about the human body, puberty, or the mechanics of sex. Rather, I talked to the kids about being in close, intimate relationship with Jesus. In my preparation, I’m having my eyes opened to understanding the way God desires for us to meet with Him all day, every day. By knowing Him more, I’m able to become a man after God’s heart, and following Him becomes less of a set of rules and rituals and more about living in response to God’s love. It’s great, and I wish I could remember how to live like this more often.

Coming up next week we’re talking about our sexual and gender identity. Oh dear. Lord help me and all the kids!

Pass on the Relationship

'uno jenga. ' photo (c) 2008, kathryn - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Today I had the pleasure of passing on the fruits of my relationship with God with other people.

Every Friday night are small groups for my church youth group. All of our church kids come together for a night of worship, fellowship, prayer, and reflection. We kicked of 2012 with some fun games as well as a chance to think about all the good and bad experiences from 2011.

It was wonderful to simply sit around, talk, and encourage one another. That’s the beauty of God. As I grow closer to Him, I’m realizing that I can’t help but share what I’m learning from Him. God’s not meant to be contained, but He overflows from everything.

As a nice cap off to the evening, we engaged in our ritual game of uno-jenga. We deem it UJ, and it’s quite hard core because there are consequences. The person that knocks over stack has to do push-ups. The higher the stack, the greater the number of push-ups. I’m proud to say that tonight I didn’t have to do any push-ups.

3 Ways I Experienced God “Speaking” To Me Today

'Small Talk' photo (c) 2006, Bo Nielsen - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/I’m not sure if God speaks audibly, but He certainly speaks to the heart. He’s probably speaking all the time, but I’m not always listening or aware of His presence. Fortunately, I noticed His presence in three unique ways today.

    1. I was on a simple mission with a colleague today to retrieve some supplies after a large group event called Resound. While we were having trouble connecting with a third-party, we decided to have some lunch. We stopped by a very local, Hong Kong-style restaurant in Wan Chai near The Vine Church and waited. It was simply eating lunch together, and I didn’t really expect anything out of the ordinary. I suppose God surprises us sometimes. We ended up talking about a lot of things, covering a wide range of topics, and I was quite encouraged by the end. The miracle of sorts that actually occurred was the way that God opened up my heart to be free to speak to someone that I don’t normally open up to so freely.
    2. While hanging out with some youth leaders at Starbucks, one asked me to have an end-of-the-day pint together at a local pub. After we purchased our drinks, he asked me about my job and how things were going. He’s a rather observant fellow, so I couldn’t easily hide any struggles or concerns. Instead, in his genuineness, he allowed an open window for me to share, vent, and honestly talk about my ups in downs in youth ministry. He wasn’t trying to pry, but rather provided an avenue for me to open up rather than bottle up. It was quite nice.

'Pints of Beer' photo (c) 2010, Simon Cocks - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

  • 3. About twice a month I meet with a friend to practice spiritual accountability. We also share prayer requests and lift one another up in prayer to God. It’s absolutely refreshing! During our time together at another local pub, I noticed a girl drinking by herself and crying at a nearby table. I brought the situation to my friends’ attention, and we tried to figure out what to do about it. Ignoring it seemed like the easiest option, but clearly the most selfish and unhelpful. We talked about praying for her, but that seemed to passive and similar to a scripture passage in 1 John 3 that reads,

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

With that verse in mind, we couldn’t ignore her. We decided that once we finished our drinks and cigars that we would invite her over to our table and invite her to talk if she felt like it. We had no idea what we would say or how we could comfort her without feeling creepy, but we just felt like we should put ourselves aside and give her the option to talk to us. Then the best part happens. Once we settled our hearts on helping her, a friend of hers arrived, sat at the table, and gave her a shoulder to lean on.

I was reminded how God doesn’t always use us, but sometimes is wondering if were willing to be his servants. I suppose I felt a little like Abraham when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, but much less extreme! For a refresher on the story, check out Genesis 22.

Though today was a bit draining, it was a good, honest, and relationship-driven day. I am thankful that God has put so many good people in my life. Hopefully I can be a blessing to others as well.

Out for a Stroll

I just finished a long, but leisurely hike on Lantau Island. We trekked from Tung Chung MTR station to Tai O fishing village where we sampled street food. I had a delicious Chinese crêpe and a scrumptious “lo mee chee” (Cantonese for Mochi, which is Japanese, which is a glutinous rice ball filled with both savory and sweet bits). I asked for three into Canto, and I impressed the guy so much that I received a hearty “ho gang ahhhh!” (Awesome!)

It was a great walk, filled with both fun and deep conversations. I really enjoy the breadth of topics, covering anything from faith, to struggles, to parties. This is the kind of conversation that I really want to have with God day in and day out basis.

I’m looking forward to more days like this with both God and friends.

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.