Thursday, September 28, 2006

What Keeps Us Going?

because i can't come up with anything original, and because these are words i need to hear...

from the second quarter 2006 edition of send! - the gospel for asia news magazine, where gfa founder k.p. yohannan shares these thoughts:
I am always intrigued when I watch the start of the marathon during the summer Olympics. All the runners appear to be in top physical shape, excited to represent their countries and determined to win the gold medal.

However, it's a different story when I watch them 15 or 20 miles later. They look exhausted from the hot sun that beats down on them or miserable because of rain that makes their trail slippery. Some have trouble breathing when the race takes them over a mountain, and others struggle to keep up with the fast pace.

Although everyone, no matter how long it takes them to cross the finish line, is celebrated with cheers and applause, some runners will never get there. Somewhere along the route they drop out of the race due to exhaustion, injury or discouragement.

In the marathon race and in our Christian life, persevering until the end is what it's all about, not just starting well.

What am I talking about? Not giving up in our walk with Jesus and enduring in the call He gave us to win this lost world and build His kingdom. Both ahve to do with our inner life and with our commitment to serve Him.

Like the marathon runners, we, too, will encounter adversities along the way that have the potential to cause us to quit the race. Some of these trials include:
  • Relationship problems with other Christians that severely threaten our treasured self-life and call us to humility
  • Physical and financial setbacks that cause us to lose hope
  • Lack of fruit and fulfillment in our service to the Lord when we forget that the sowing season must come before we can reap a harvest
  • Facing our latent failures and sins when circumstances expose unbrokenness, pride, a selfish attitude, stubborn will or critical spirit
  • Frustratin and a desire to escape when serving the Lord becomes hard work and the feelings are gone
  • Feeling inadaequate and overwhelmed by the expectations our leaders and other Christians have for us
  • Spiritual dryness that comes when God tests us to see if we will still walk with Him by faith, even when there is nothing within or without to support us
  • Losing sight of our priorities -- shifting from serving the Lord to protecting our self-interests
With such a frightening list of adversities, what chance do we have to run our race and victoriously cross the finish line as the Apostle Paul did?

I have served the Lord full-time for the past 40 years. From my own life and experience I can tell you this: The godliest Christian leaders I have met, the most challenging sermons I have heard and the best books I have read on evangelism and discipleship have not been enough to help me survive in the race!

Only one thing has kept me in the ministry and following Christ -- and that is learning and practicing what the apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:1-2:

"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."

The secret of our survival is fixing our eyes on Jesus and making Him alone our focus. Then our walk with God and our commitment to serve Him will no longer depend on whether or not people treat us right or circumstance are in our favor. We will no longer rely on our emotions to support us or on our successes to keep us going. Jesus alone will become our goal and motivation -- our prize -- and we will live for Him, run our race for Him and cross the finish line for Him.
My dear friend, unless you learn to fix your eyes on Jesus alone, you will have no stability in your walk with God or in your service to Him.

Jesus Himself said, "Follow Me."

Therefore, meditate on Him, consider Him and think about Him so that you may not grow weary in your heart. The answer to enduring until the end is not self-effort or rational attempt to figure out the answers, but to stop and look into His eyes.

If we do this, we will experience what this song says: "When I look into Your holiness / When I gaze into Your loveliness / When all things that surround become shadows in the light of You / ... I worship You". After all his struggles, Job found the answer he was searching for when he fell on his face and worshiped the Lord.

Today let us decide to fix our eyes on Jesus throughout the race set before us.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

a feast of food and fireworks

last saturday...

after being woken up by a phone call mid-morning, asking for some IT help later in the day, i decided to roll out of bed and meander my way through the rest of the morning. in the end, it became a bit of a rush to shower and eat before dashing out the door to unknown challenges... which were really unknown cos it involved databases, in which i've little knowledge. besides the big DBs like oracle, sybase and informix that i had fleeting involvement with in my IT helpdesk days, i've only ever dabbled with the small fry of MS access.

well, to cut a long story short, after 60+ minutes of playing around with the installation of ppmp which was "not working", i serendipitously stumble upon the problem and it was all good from then on with the program starting properly (though i've since heard that it's playing up in other areas). can i just say that the installation guide was rather sparse... really not enough information to guide even the somewhat IT savvy. or maybe i just need a clue about mid-sized databases! or just select the right database from the drop down list, which was all that it was :$ but how's a guy to know that if the instructions don't tell you what to look for??

anyhoo... time for an ad break. so my friend sandra is staring up her own physio practice, which is why i was helping her out with ppmp... well if you're ever looking for a physio/acupunturist in the south brisbane area, check out holistic physio at 489 stanley st (3844 8202). it's actually inside a hair/beauty salon, so don't get confused. parking is available out back (entry via a driveway off graham st). hopefully the signage will be in place by the time people start rocking up :)

then it was off to meet up with the rest of the clay crew and mosey on over to the semillon and seafood festival which was taking place at portside wharf. this was the first i had heard of, let alone visited, this venue, so it was just a little bit new and exciting. the festival itself was somewhat disappointing, though i don't really have any baseline to compare it against. i don't drink, so was really there for the company and getting out of the house factor, and to try some seafood. that was even more disappointing... i think there were like 5 stalls out of the whole lot selling food. of these, 1 had nothing to do with seafood, unless there's something about mushrooms i'm yet to grasp, and 1 was the deep fried variety. the 3 remaining "real" seafood stalls looked rather rich for my blood. now i know seafood ain't the cheapest of foods, but really... at $15 per snack-sized serving, i went for the $9 seafood basket from the deep fryer. even then i was still hungry, and succumbed to ordering a $3 hot dog. yes. hot dog at a seafood and wine fest. the epitome of class. AND the breadroll was crumbly to boot... *sigh*

as the sun started to set, we wandered around the wharf and shops, taking pictures and browsing here and there. then headed back towards town to catch riverfire, the annual fireworks component of the riverfestival. thanks to D, i skipped the crowds below and saw the show from 10 floors up in a riverside office building, while some others decided to catch the action from ground level. i missed both fly-bys of the f111 jets with their afterburners - first time cos i wasn't ready, and second time i was ready but misjudged the height of the flight path. did manage to take some nice pics of the fireworks around the story bridge (though i'm sure the city reach / southbank area had more to see). some turned out a bit blurred... still i'm fairly happy with my handheld effort. here's one a more serious photographer friend took - what a difference a tripod and mega long exposure makes!

btw the streak of light across the top left corner is the trail from the jet.

after the fireworks show we walked to chinatown for dinner at cyber city 2002. this place was quite crowded -- we received a few hints to leave after we finished our food as there were still people waiting for tables around 9:30pm. i don't know if it's always like it here, being my first visit, but i guess if popularity is any measure, it's a half decent joint. one person cautioned that the food here is 'cheap and nasty', but i found it neither cheap nor nasty. we then capped off our time together with a pit stop for some gelati on the walk back to the cars. great way to spend a saturday :)

more photos of the day (from my camera) are available here.

Monday, September 04, 2006

there'll be no turtles here

so steve irwin, mr crocodile hunter, dies at the "hands" of a stingray barb, and the world mourns.

i found out not through the news media (of which i consume very little), but because people on my msn messenger contact list are paying tribute to the man by inserting the icon of a turtle in front of their display names. i saw it earlier tonight and thought little of it, but having just returned to my pc and seeing more turtles on my screen, inquired as to the reason.

i've nothing against (nor for, really) the man himself, and it sounds like a freakish way to depart this mortal coil. and death is never really a joyful thing to contemplate, unless you have the hope of life beyond death, in which case not even death is an altogether bad thing, and if you take (the apostle) paul's perspective on things, it's more than "not bad", but far better.

i reflect not on the man, his life, what he represented and stood for, nor what he meant to others (human and/or animal??), but on this wave (ok, maybe wave is too hyperbolic a word) of response i observe on msn. i opine not on specific individuals who choose to conform (ok, perhaps participate is a less confronting word :p) to the trend, for i cannot judge the motives and thoughts of their hearts behind the typing of "(tu)".

yet i wonder... who thought of starting this trend in the first place, and what does it achieve really? was the turtle chosen because it's the closest default emoticon to a crocodile? it's a dark green/grey coloured reptile...

more importantly, why choose such an arbitrary gesture to denote the payment of tribute? it may be well-meaning, but well... does it really mean anything? or is it another here today, gone tomorrow type of fad, more transient than the life (and death?) to which it's meant to point. does it even point to him, if people don't understand the sign?

the cynic in me thinks there's an opening for some clever marketing and promotions people there somewhere, do with a turtle what has been done with red noses, pink and red ribbons and the like.

but i digress...

in the end, if the death of someone, whether it be your closest friends/family or a celebrity on the other side of the globe, forces you to consider the fleetingness of your own life and the lives of others, then there's potential for good things to come from that. may you find a sure hiding place in the rock of ages, and bring others to him, such that you may all sing:
While I draw this fleeting breath,
when my eyelids close in death,
when I soar through realms unknown,
bow before the judgement throne:
hide me then, my refuge be,
Rock of ages, cleft for me.