Testimony: Its Raw Power

There have been two people who have single-handedly changed my views in my walk with Christ. Basically changed my life.

The first. In college I had a friend who was outgoing, loud, and who had an “in your face” humor that either gathered your most inner crudeness, or dispersed your proximity to him. I always found myself sharing plenty of moments in laughter with him. If anything, his presence thinned out my “seriousness” (I need that.. cuz I can be a little uptight).

It was that year where the whole Prop 8 was the big issue, not allowing gay marriage in the state of California. Everyone was proposing to say “no” for Prop 8. While the few conservatives posed their views to vote “yes” for Prop 8. Well, back then, I thought I was a moderate conservative and I sided with the yes-ers.

This whole topic came up while we sat at my favorite spot, where I spent all my breaks, lunches, and any time I had to kill time, the Coho. I was with my friend and my roommate. My roommate and I both sided with the yes-ers. My friend was arguing that we need to embrace our fellow homosexual friends and family members, instead of telling them they’re wrong for what they believe in or how they live. I listened intently while holding onto my views and “values.” He steadfastly gripped on to his knowledge of Jesus and said, “Jesus wouldn’t side with either sides. Jesus wouldn’t vote. He would simply embrace his people.” But, I continued and said, “But it also says in the bible that homosexuality was not right, and it is a sin. It’s wrong.” At this point, it was pretty heated. The moment I said that he got up and exclaimed, “Oh, you think so? Well my sister is gay.” He simply, but so urgently stood up and walked away.

I looked at my roommate in such shock and despair. We actually looked at each other like this 0 o 0. We couldn’t believe what just happened, and we couldn’t believe that we were so accidentally insensitive. That incident sat with me for a day. I didn’t know how to feel, or what I felt more. Did I feel bad that I offended my friend with my narrow views, or did I feel bad that I’ve been living with such a short-sighted heart? I ended up going to his place a couple of days later to apologize and talk about where he was coming from, and where I was coming from. It ended up being a life changing conversation. Everything he said the day before started to make sense to me. “Jesus would embrace his people.” “His” people. “Jesus wouldn’t vote. He wouldn’t stand on either side. He would just love.”

The Second. This actually happened yesterday. I drove down to Berkeley to meet one of my closest friend from Davis. I hadn’t seen her since early summer and I was dying to see her. I love that all our moments together are mostly her talking and me listening. I enjoy it, actually. She’s one of the few people I genuinely love listening to. She’s younger than me, but her soul is mature and like wine, aged well :)

She shared with me of her journey and the process of life, and returning to God. She’s a passionate being, easily catapulted to an extreme. She explained, knowing that side of her she wanted to be careful and cautious re-entering into the church, and this time with her boyfriend. She talked about her past, and experiencing the wild side of the city she used to live in, and the people she used to hang around. She believes that God is in control, so greatly outside of the church. She believes God brought her out of her haze of drug use and her friends. She saw how everything worked out so drastically after that moment she decided she didn’t want to live her life that way anymore. She testified, there’s no one and nothing that can take anyone out of that “state,” they have to make that decision themselves to change. It was so simple, and even so, “duh!” But, it wasn’t until that very moment it clicked for me.

I had been struggling with someone really close to me. Someone I care about more that anything or anyone in this world (next to God)! She has been invested in other things and other people, departing from God and family. Everyday I’m heartbroken thinking about her or seeing her. Everyday I ride on the spectrum of emotions, anger then pain, then back to anger, then sadness, and then bitterness. I’ve been learning so much these past couple of weeks about myself. I’ve learned I am impatient, and when it comes to the people that are the closest to me, I have the hardest time trusting God. I’ve learned that I am controlling and super sensitive. But even through all those life lessons, what my friend said last night sets itself at a place where I am undeniably shaken and urged to change. I can’t say or do anything that will change this person’s mind about what she is doing. I HAVE to trust God will give her a moment, a simple but life changing moment, where she can say, “I don’t want to live like this anymore.” I cannot make that choice for her. It’s her choice to choose.

That, is faith. Knowing God will bring an instantaneous change, without my effort or help is faith.

Last night, my friend helped bring me to another level of faith.

Both of my friends helped bring me to another level of faith, another level of sensitivity, another level of hope, and a huge change in perspective. They didn’t do it through a powerful welling of worship, or through a mighty sermon, they simply spoke through their life experiences. Their testimony. Their beautiful, unorthodox faith. I am left humbled.

Mysterious and breathtaking..such is our God, who we serve.

In the Know

You always trust what you see, and not so often what you know.

Is true of me.

As I was driving home after work yesterday, I realized how much darker it was (“thank you” daylight saving). I swear it looked and felt like 8pm, when it was really only 5pm.

For a moment, I thought of how our body and mind can feel what we see. Because of what I was seeing, darkness and everyone’s headlights, my body almost felt a little more tired, my vision was a little dimmer. But, I had to keep reminding myself it was only 5pm, don’t be fooled by what you see.

That’s how I am. I’m always fooled by what I see. I felt a little more tired, my vision was a little bit dimmer because what I was seeing was “night” settling in. What I know is that, in actuality, it’s not night just yet. The truth is it was only 5pm, and what I was used to seeing was brightness, which made me feel like we were still breezing through the afternoon.

Seeing is believing. I don’t know. That isn’t always true. I believe, knowing is what will set your path in believing, even when you can’t see what you’re used to believing.

When we set our sights in truth, we know we can’t be fooled by what we see at times: Sometimes, I see with my eyes that I’m not loved when my sister spends a little more time with other people, and not me. Sometimes I feel unappreciated when people don’t say thank you for the things I go out of my way to do for them. Sometimes I feel invisible when I see everyone, but no one sees me. Sometimes I feel anxious when I see things aren’t going my way. Sometimes I feel alone when I see that only I feel the way I feel. Sometimes I cry when I see division among our hearts.

All these things I feel because of what I see. I know my sister loves me, and that sometimes she expects me to know that, and to not judge her time distribution as a distribution of her love. I know I am appreciated by those who don’t always say thank you, because I always find myself giving and going out of my way for them. I know I’m not invisible, for I always receive calls and texts, so unexpectedly, from those who don’t always know what I’m going through. I know there’s not a reason to feel anxious because “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) The One who has my back speaks hope and life into me every morning. I know I am not alone because He says that we are one body, and we cannot function with any part missing. I know I can cry out for the lost and divided hearts, knowing He hears and acts.

I know, so that I cannot be separated by what I know because of what I see.

"Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is on you. There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God." 2 Chronicles 19

We are wicked. I am wicked.

Two chapters before, Jehoshaphat was named blessed and faithful. He was one of the very few who sought after the Lord earnestly and faithfully. Two chapters later, Jehu rebuked King Jehoshaphat for his shortsighted alliance with Ahab, an unfaithful and futile king. For Ahab never consulted the Lord in fear, but he detested the words of prophets.

Jehu says, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD?” Jehu speaks to Jehoshaphat as if Jehoshaphat should have known better than to invest his time with ungodly, no, self serving, no “an enemy to God” kind of man. Jehu warns Jehoshaphat that no good will come, in fact, he will be judged for his actions.

BUT the part that stood out to me that I can say I see my life in constant rewind of is when Jehu says, ” There is, however..” He doesn’t totally dismiss Jehoshaphat’s previous faithful worship and work to God, or even the fact that Jehoshaphat is really a man who seeks the Lord and fears Him. “There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God.”

I honestly feel like a wicked person when I realize the wrongs I’ve done, or the moments I catch myself in utter sin. The stench of my sin consumes my thoughts, dirties my white linen cloth. It’s as if all that I’ve worked towards.. getting closer to the Lord went to waste on that one little mistake here and there.

But, I am wrong. “There is, however, some good in you..” I can say most of the time I literally don’t know what to do, or what to say, or what to think. But thank God for that “some good” in me, for it’s a gift. That some good is the reassuring truth that our Lord, Jesus lives in me. No sin, no wrong, no mistake can outweigh the power of Jesus Christ. It’s how I deal with my sins, my mistakes, my self seeking cycle of actions that determines whether or not that good in me will grow. He gave us the gift of repentance, not so that we may sin more that his grace will increase, but to know that our God is merciful, compassionate, loving, glorious, and a father to us all. He wants us to be good as he is good.

Thank you, Lord, for the cross.

Spiritual Body

Ears that hear and eyes that see—
    the Lord has made them both.

Proverbs 20:12

The Lord is purpose-full. He never does anything without purpose. He is deep even in his simple creations. “Ears that hear and eyes that see—the Lord has made them both.”

Ears to hear, and eyes to see, but even still are we deaf and blind.

-Does that mean that the physically deaf and blind are incapable of seeing and hearing the Lord?

He is deep even in his simple creations. He wants us to grow deeper. Grow ears that can hear the rhythmic beats of his heart. Grow eyes that can pierce through hardened hearts. Leading to the heart, even the deaf and blind have hearts. So, it takes more than physical sight and hearing to know the Lord. He gave us shallow hearing and narrow vision purposefully.. that we may stop relying on our physical body, and see and hear the spiritual body he created through Christ Jesus.

Godly Instincts

I’ve had dreams I never wanted to wake up from. Lately, I’ve been having dreams knowing I’m dreaming. They call it being lucid.

This morning just before I woke up I dreamt I was pregnant and about to give birth. I know, it sounds kinda weird, ok, just reallyy weird. But, weirdly, dreams about being a mother is one of those dreams I never want to wake up from. I once woke up from a dream in utter sadness because I realized it was just a dream.. Just a dream that I was with my beloved and beautiful daughter, being whisked away as if what I was dreaming was real.

In my dream I was pregnant and just about to give birth. But, I remember looking at my tummy and thinking, my stomach is way too small to be giving birth. I needed visual confirmation that I was really pregnant, even in my dream.. I think I was in disbelief through lucidity. But everyone kept telling me, “It’s time.” So, without questioning them I prepared myself. I kept looking at my stomach convincing myself that I just have a really small baby. But I knew inside that something was off. All through my dream I was waiting to give birth, but I kept finding myself doing other things, running errands, being there for other people. At the end, I never gave birth. I woke up knowing I was dreaming and realizing in my dream I was pregnant and about to give birth, but never gave birth.

I responded in prayer. I don’t usually ask God what my dreams mean unless I’m confident they were from him. But without asking God what it all meant, he revealed it to me so clearly. You can’t force a baby to come out if it isn’t ready. You wouldn’t want your baby to be born prematurely. It would be unhealthy and dangerous for the baby. I knew even in my dream I shouldn’t be giving birth to a baby who hasn’t developed and gained the strength and health to come out. In that very very same way, I know that I can’t force things into my life, or force things to happen, nor speed up the time of my path. God created babies to stay protected in a mother’s womb for nine months, so that he or she can be born healthy and ready. Mothers don’t have to worry whether or not their baby will be born, babies will come kicking and pushing all on their own. I feel God asking me to trust he has all things, all aspects, every moving thing in my life in control. I have to have faith that all things will come to pass in his time and in his command. But he is asking me to prepare, clearing my mind and heart of worldly and selfish ways.

Wait, what? You went to Mexico? Tell me about it!

     God gave me a vision a couple of weeks before I left for San Telmo and I prayed for it daily. I had a sudden conviction to live out my faith not just in prayer or reading of the word, but to practice them publicly. I felt that our Christian walk should be greater than just praying in my room by myself, or having revelations through bible reading in my journal. I felt like God was calling on me to do much more. 

         About a couple of months ago my home church went through a huge breakup. For months before that, and I can even say for years our head elder did not like our senior pastor and his wife very much. After a series of events where my dad was elected as an elder for our church by the church, our head elder became angry. The issue was that my dad was already an elder from a different church, but my parents decided to leave that church because the issues they had with their pastor. So, the elder of our church now kept on arguing that it was “illegal” to make my dad an elder at our church. Fights and argument broke out in our sanctuary. Through all this so many people were hurt, especially the innocent children who watched their parents fight without knowing why. My leader, the EM pastor decided to resign out of nowhere. She announced to our group she was resigning with no warnings or a “2 week notice.” She didn’t explain why she was leaving, and honestly, I heard some back stories behind her partaking in all our church drama. I didn’t say bye to her, or show any range of emotions for her departure. I simply felt betrayed, and to keep myself from sinning I didn’t say a word to her though my heart fumed with bitterness, anger, and regret. Our church split, the people who wanted to stay with our pastor came out of the church and the building while others who agreed with the head elder stayed. We have been holding worship services at homes and we have been growing little by little.

          The reason why I share this story about my church is because it has a lot do with what I felt and learned in San Telmo. I went as a teacher to serve at El Porvenir, but I became a student to God’s teaching. Every day I was in San Telmo I felt a burning desire for  prayer within my heart for my church back at home. I cried out every time I envisioned our pastor and the church members. I asked, “God, why do I keep thinking about our church when I should be focused on El Porvenir, my own heart, and the brothers and sisters here in San Telmo with me?” He didn’t give me a direct answer, but I knew he answered me through the conviction to pray for my church. Every time I prayed I had a new vision/revelation of what God wanted me to do when I went back home. I felt like he gave me words to add onto my testimony. He then broke my heart for my family members, especially my sister. My sister and I are best friends, close, but volatile to one another when we fight. My sister has a deep brokenness that I instead of praying for, yelled at her and tried to force her to turn to you. I remember standing in front of the alter crying for my sister’s sins and brokenness and feeling an overwhelming conviction to pray for her and her sins as if they were my own. That is where God shared with me that my sister and I are spiritually connected to one another much more deeply than I thought. We are bound together by our sins, and we must lift up and break off our sins together in His name.

            I remember Pastor Paul asking the El Porvenir teachers how many of us thought about our beds and our homes? I felt so ashamed and guilty that I missed home, but I now know after being in San Telmo for two weeks that God allowed me to feel homesick, tired, and frustrated, so that he may break off my comforts and fleshliness. He showed me I would soon be returning home, but I wouldn’t be back in San Telmo for at least a year, and in that realization, there was much more God wanted to reveal to me in San Telmo that he wouldn’t show me back at home. He showed all of us teachers that in God’s eyes we are like these children in many ways. I remember feeling frustrated with the children whenever they didn’t listen, or whenever they traded our attention and love for someone elses. I remember I felt so betrayed that one of our students kept on wanting attention from the station leaders instead of their class teacher’s (me). I closed my eyes and I prayed, “God, what would you do? I know I can’t be angry at these children not just because they don’t know better, but because they deserve to have persistent unconditional love. How do you do it, God?” It was in that moment God told me I’m just the same. God pours out his love to me, gives me attention, asks me to come before him, and I look the other way and seek love from other people. I’d rather have human love than Godly love, and I admitted it right then and there that I was like these unruly children doing whatever their flesh desired. But God, out of his own character and his most inner being loves us to the point of death. That’s how unconditional his love is for me and for all.

         For the first time in a long time I felt I was surrounded by God-filled people and while I was in San Telmo I rarely had a hard time giving worship to the Lord. I always overcame my struggle of tiredness, sleepiness, laziness, and complaints simply through conviction of prayer and through my fellow brothers and sisters who were to me examples of Christ. I thought, this is what a church is. This is what a Body looks like. I constantly had leaders encouraging us through rebuke and shouting to die to ourselves. Yes, I was encouraged through the yelling, because I knew it was done in love for us to trust in the Lord. “Die to yourselves 24/7.” I think that was my favorite line of this mission because it was exactly what I had to do everyday. But I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew all the teachers and our team leader had to die to themselves as well, and I was not the only one struggling. I never felt so exhausted, so sleepy, so emotionally drained, so dead out of all the missions I’ve been through, even Panama. I remember I started to get sick and I battled stomach aches almost everyday. I had a sinus cold and my head felt 10 pounds heavier. But the day I was the sickest was the day I gave my hardest. The night before, we were seriously rebuked by our team leader because we were becoming too comfortable. We had done the program for a week and it became a routine. We all gave into our tiredness and laziness, and God led our leader to lead a night of prayer where we asked God to forgive us and strengthen us so that we may redeem ourselves the next day and the days after. I remember our leader said to go beyond our curriculum, and use our imagination if we lost the kids’ focus. That’s exactly what I did the next day. I gave it my all. I journaled that night, “My body was literally dying in sickness, but I knew I was living, the most alive I’ve ever been in Spirit.” I knew the Spirit was moving in me the day I gave my all. See, it was not in flesh, for if it was I would have failed and gave in to my fleshly sickness and tiredness.

      I learned when you give God your best God will surely show you the best. When I gave God more of me he had more to fill me with. God shared so many special things with me, but of all of them this one is the greatest. It goes hand in hand with the prayer and vision I had before I left for San Telmo. He said he would send me into the darkest places to bring light to them. I knew this meant I would be sharing the gospel with people inside and outside of my church. My spiritual walk was stunted by my fears of rejection, and yes, I have been ashamed of the gospel. But I know the power has always been in me through Christ Jesus, but there wasn’t authority to activate that power. All my shame, sins, laziness, idleness, and fears blocked the way of Jesus’ authority to awaken the power in me. Now, I know what it means and looks like to die to myself beyond just the words. The Word became life in me, and I am not ashamed of the gospel. God revealed the mystery of the church so that all may have access to the Lord through the gospel. We are his messengers. We have work to do, don’t we?