Philippines 2018_Day 7_Saturday
We’re quickly approaching the end of the week - with the early rise and late finish, the day always feels particularly long and fulfilling. It’s day 6 and we are all muttering - so much has happened in the last 6 days, we have almost used up very minute of our day. This must be what it feels like to start your day and have a productive with God.
"The most important commandment is this: 'Listen, O Israel! The LORD your God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.' The second commandment is equally important: 'Love thy neighbour as yourself.'” - Mark 12:29-31
In this simple passage, Jesus lays down the commandments from which all others necessary for Christian living stem: love God, and love others as yourself. In this brief exploration of the scripture, I will be focussing on the former.
Such is its centrality to Christian living, direct references to loving God are ubiquitous throughout the Bible. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, for example, he writes that "whoever loves God is known by God" (8:3), and in James it is said that those who love God will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (2:5). A real and burning love of God is the cornerstone of our faith and, without it, we have nothing.
There is a problem, however, posed by this most important of all commandments. God demands that we love Him "with all [our] heart, all [our] soul, all [our] mind, and all [our strength]" (Mark 12:30). He demands that we love Him with everything that we are: He demands that we love Him perfectly - and such is the dilemma. For we are not perfect but flawed. We are no longer the Godly beings we were designed to be, but are fallen, riddled with imperfections. It is not possible for a human to love something perfectly, no matter how hard he tries: we will always, in some ways, be slaves to our own passions and desires, or to pride, rather than only to our love of God. Only one person has ever been to love God perfectly, and that was Jesus Christ - it could be said that the Almighty Father send us Jesus to 'show us how it should be done', as it were (1 Peter 2:21).
Now, with this in mind, we must be careful: it would be too easy to adopt the philosophy that because a perfect love of God cannot be achieved, there is no point in trying to love Him thus. Such a philosophy is apparent in many everyday situations. For instance, the phenomenon whereby strict calorie-counting diets lead to 'binging' once a daily calorie limit is surpassed - "I may as well enjoy this extra packet of biscuits... I can't keep to today's target now anyway!". Such thinking regarding our apparent ingrained inability to follow God's most important commandment could be horribly detrimental to our faith and, frankly, depressing. But fortunately for us, there is a simple solution to this problem.
God knows we are imperfect, and thus incapable of perfect love, and yet He still requests it. He still wants us to strive for perfection, knowing full well that attaining it is far beyond us. Rather than as a hard-and-fast all-or-nothing rule, it is far better, therefore, to think of a perfect love for God as an unattainable but still desirable ideal. True, we know we can never achieve perfection, but we must not let that deter us. If we continue to strive for a truly Christ-like love in the face of this impossibility, we will be moving along the right path. We must continue to nurture our love for God, and to let it shape us into better resemblances of the people He wants us to become - for that is the true goal for Christian living.
But why? Why would God request that we love Him in the first place? If I were to request that even one person should love me with everything they are, you would think of me as narcissistic, egomaniacal, perhaps even arrogant (and rightly so!); and yet God demands that we all love Him so! Does this mean that God is narcissistic, egomaniacal, or arrogant? Of course not: He is "a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness" (Psalm 86:15). So much so, that He sent His own son, a perfect being, to die for the absolution of our sins. His demands that we love him are not from narcissism, but from His love for us. We know that God knows (and wants) what is best for us, and therefore the logical conclusion is that God asks that we aim to love Him perfectly because doing so is good for us!
This should not be a surprising revelation - it is easy to see how loving God is of benefit. For example, a love of God helps us to humble ourselves before Him and others, allowing us to love others and to learn. When we love God, we are never alone: in our times of difficulty, we can lay down our troubles before Him and find sanctuary in His arms. When God is at the centre of our lives, there is always hope; and we can always find solace in the knowledge that by the Grace of God and through faith in Christ we have salvation.
Loving God begins within us, and as our love for Him grows it leads to acts of service - both to God, and to others. As we nurture our love for God, so it nurtures us – and the outward reflection of this spiritual growth upon those around us can only further glorify Him. It is therefore vital that a love for God takes precedence in our lives.
Main church service
In the weeks leading up to the mission trip, I strongly felt God dropped a theme in my heart for the Saturday service, where the ROLM church gather as a whole for the service each week – a theme of Reconciliation. It was not one of my allocated sessions to prepare for in the itinerary planned, so I didn’t initially have a message prepared to share. However, in a series of conversations during the trip there was a change in plan for me to share the message for that morning.
As I was asking God what specifically was on His heart to be shared the day before while travelling on the boat, I felt that a message preached recently in our own home church in Perth was to be shared in ROLM, of what a united church looks like in practice. A united church that truly loves one another and works together as one family, and especially felt led to share about the importance of forgiving one another, including sharing my testimony, and of God’s heart to see the church reconciled. Normally I wouldn’t be ‘adopting’ a message to share from someone else; but then realised that it is the same God that is speaking His message throughout the nations, and that as churches partner across nations, the broader international church family sharpens and builds one another up.
As the message was shared & alter call given for people to ask for forgiveness, to release unforgiveness & forgive one another, many came to the alter, and the BLi team supported the people in prayer. Many were weeping, a number of people falling down under the power of God. I could also see that people within the congregation including the BLi team were approaching one another and praying with each other, God’s work of reconciliation flowing freely. I was very touched and in awe to see God at work moving so freely, for us to be a part of this work, and to have some of the team pray & prophesy over my life too. God will surely continue to bear much fruit from the seeds sewn - He is always so good!
Even though the initial plan for the day was fairly empty, it soon become apparent that when God is at work, it’s a constant go. Soon after service and lunch - home visits were slotted in. We went out in teams of 3 with one of the youths bearing gifts (vitamins and eggs).
Hui Yun Teoh
In the afternoon, we have a bit of gap time before the farewell party. It was good to do some house visiting and bless the local in San Isidro where we have spent almost a week staying there. The intention was also to introduce us to the local's living situation and family lifestyle while ministering to them. We prepared 10 eggs from our self-sustaining farm and some pharmaceutical supplements as gifts to each family we visited. Naomi and I along with Abigail, set out to visit two families. The first visitation was to a Catholic believer whom visited River of Life church before but was no longer visiting due to conflicting practices between her belief and Christianity. We blessed her home and prayed for her, while discerning what to say so she can truly understand the grace of God who loves her not based on the deeds she has done. She had tears in her eyes after the prayer.
Then we moved to the second family, who were going through some grieving time. Abigail told us about the driver's family. His wife just gave birth to a baby without a skull and the baby died after a few days. It was so hard to chew on as we could only pray that God may use us to bring comfort to them at this time. Apparently the driver was the man who had been serving us for the past week, driving the 'tut tut' and the boat. I was amazed at how he could continue to serve the Lord after losing a baby just a week ago! Such great faith he has!!
The family was going through a testing time of faith, with the younger sister pondering about the future of her family and longing to encounter God again and her mum's health. Glory to God, that we prayed for her mum who had chest pain and she was healed. Though we have not gone through the same pain to be able to comfort them fully, yet our Heavenly Father who cares for each member of the family and also the family as a whole used our simple act of visitation to show love and hope to others in the midst of all.
River baptism @ San Isidro
Jung Yin Tsang
It was an amazing experience to be able to pray for and baptise the villagers. You could see the look on their faces of joy and delight when they came from the water, knowing they had committed their lives to Christ. We had only known them for such a short time, yet they were so keen and hungry for the Lord. They did not need to trust us or listen to us, yet something enabled them to hear God's word, to change their lives and accept the act of baptism.
After home visits, we took the boat out to a nearby bank to have water baptism. 6 in total were baptised. I was moved seeing one of the volunteer’s (AM) husband getting baptised. A few days ago, I had the privileged to pray with AM about her husband and the father of her children. He was then not a Christian, and she had moved back to the village from Manila due to difficulties within the marriage - we had prayed for salvation and for a husband that leads and a father that will be an example to her children. And there he was, stood unashamed, getting baptised. God’s works have been so tremendous. The healings come not only in the physical, but also within the body of Christ and within the body of Christ, family units.
Youth Alive service
After all 6 got baptised, we had to then head back across to the village ready for 5pm youth alive service in church. I have had a word to share from Matthew, and just before baptism, God had given me again a strong sense of community and similarity of community despite being from different cultural background! We are all actually going through the same thing. As Ken shared at the start of the week, as the leaders shared, he could see similar struggles in leaders back in the UK. What better opportunity for us to share into each other’s lives (as iron sharpens iron) than to have a cell group style sharing. So there we were in a hall, split into groups of 3 and 4, sharing about treasures, worries and praying for each other at the end. We then finished off the evening singing, dancing and celebrating! What a night it was to be declaring “you are the light the truth and the way, we live by faith and not by sight for You”. All that awesome 90 tunes with dance moves and such power in the lyrics! It was definitely a night to be alive.
To celebrate a successful week, we threw a party in the God’s Children Home orphanage on Saturday night. All of the children were invited, along with the youth team and all of the workers at the orphanage. The children were first treated to a feast of local party foods and cake. The cake seemed like a good idea until one of the youth team smeared icing on another’s face… soon, an all-out icing-war erupted! Once this was brought back under control, the planned schedule of activities was resumed.
We played several games with the children, which all went down a storm, and had all of the children stamp a “family tree” painting with their thumbprint, to celebrate that we are all under one God and all part of one family. The children made bunting – each writing down a time when God had been faithful to them – to hang in the orphanage.
The evening wound down with the presenting of “love gifts” to the children, to the youth team (including to those who acted as interpreters during the medical/dental clinics), to the workers and to the Pastors at the ROL mission. These were tokens of our appreciation for their hard work and dedication to each other and to the mission, and for their outreach to those who are more unfortunate. We hoped to really bless them with these gifts, in return for the blessings we had received from them during this trip.
Finally, the night ended with the children performing a song which we had taught them earlier in the week – “My Lighthouse”. Our stay at the God’s Children Home ended as it began, with the children singing and dancing and smiles all round. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful week.