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Reflections of a lost shepherd

May 22, 2014

God always has something to say…

Two hours before arriving here in Singapore, I had a short, simple, and sincere prayer. I begged Him to speak to me in ways that would penetrate even my stubborn and calloused heart. He did. He has been speaking since day one, and I have been wrestling with Him since then.

I’m halfway through my “me and Him” time far from the place where I couldn’t find rest, but still I feel that my heart is still misplaced and that I’m far from being rested.

For ten days now, I have been reflecting about almost all the facets of my life and how they have been from then and now.

In the first lecture of cultivating your Inner Life class, the professor shared his reflections on the condition of our hearts that struck me because God gave me just what I was asking for – an evaluation of what and how I have been as His servant, and more so His child.

They’re summed up in two words and unpacked in its five characteristics.

Toxic Spirituality1:

1. Service without Joy

Looking at how I preach, teach, and even a simple conversation with people…there is so little joy in them now. I lost the grip on the real reason why I’m doing what I’m doing.

2. Performance without Rest

Wherever I go, the pressure of expectation haunts me. Thus, I seem so busy to the point that I have become barren.

3. Work without worship

God shook me the moment I started to listen. I almost cried during the first day of class when the professor decided to break the ice by asking,

“If we, as missionaries, were instruments of hope for a lost and hopeless world, why is it that we often feel helpless and frustrated ourselves?”2

I realized that aside from losing the joy in serving Him and the peace that results to rest, I also lost the posture of worship. I have forgotten that ministry is the outflow of the heart. And since my heart has gone stubborn and calloused, worship lost its place.

“Work is a good word, overwork isn’t.”3 And I am just guilty of it.

4. Devotion without Discipleship

With these toxins in my heart, I cannot be a blessing anymore. It’s true that I have been really devoted. But I am devoted only to my devotion, not to the Him who gave me this new life so I can be a channel of His love and grace to people surrounding me.

Thus, I am not effective anymore. I cannot lead the leaders of the youth ministry for I myself am not leading them. I cannot inspire them to take care of their own groups for I didn’t take care of them.

5. Ritual without Reality

Last May 16 marked my second year as the youth pastor and my fourth year in service through the school and church ministry. Twenty-five years have passed from the time God has saved me.

Yet my spiritual life seems to be Joyless.
Restless.
Lifeless.

Almost everything are solely a ritual, not even a grasp of should be real, a victorious life with my Savior.

In one of my quiet times with Him, He reminded me to remember, “What I was saved for – that the Son of God might be manifested in my mortal flesh”4 and by knowing the hope of why I was called.5

I really want to outlive living. It is living from the inside out not the other way around. For it’s certainly true that what matters most is not how I look but my outlook in life, not the external but what I am on the inside.

Honestly, I am still wrestling with Him. I am still joyless, restless, and lifeless. But my heart now is hopeful.

One of my agendas in coming here is to observe and learn from few people that I admire most. So I travelled almost two hours just to attend a church’s service at Bukit Panjang. I was expecting for an “eloquent-never-heard-before-message” but instead, God intervened and spoke to me in a very simple but striking truth:

To once again keep the main thing the main thing6:

  • To SEE His defining love. To focus my heart and realign my soul to His unending, unexplainable, underserved and unconquerable love for me. So that someday soon, I may be able…
  • To LIVE the distinctive life in God.

For now, what’s clear to me is that He wants my heart to see His incredible love for me, which I’m really struggling to see.  I think I should really start from there.

It is so true that God always has something to say…

I should always have time to listen.

a lost shepherd,

Mark

_____________________________
1 Cultivating your inner life
2 Biblical Theology on Missions Class
3 Dr. Ho Chiao Ek, Professor of both Cultivating your inner life class and Biblical Theology on Missions class
4 My Utmost for His Highest, May 15
5 Ephesians 1:18
6 “The Love of God” (1 John 3:1) delivered by Rev. Edmund Chan last Sunday (May 18)
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