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Eyes of Faith

“We live by faith, not by sight.”

As I reflect on my time in China and prepare for my last days here before returning home, this passage of Scripture comes to mind as a general theme for my journeys in China. “We live by faith, not by sight.” It is true that we are made alive in Christ through faith in His Name; not through works, not through anything of our own doing, but through faith in Him and His perfect work that was accomplished upon the cross. Jesus has spoken to me from this passage of Scripture not only as to how we receive life, but also as to how we are to live life with Him.

I think so often as Christians we want to SEE where Jesus is taking us and we want to SEE what Jesus is doing in the lives of those around us. We want to SEE things happen. I have often been guilty of this. For me, this has often caused difficulties and frustrations. I can think of two reasons why this is the case. First, we are more concerned with the destination or the result rather than actually following Jesus and experiencing a relationship with Him. The second reason is that we are attempting to follow Him on our own terms (by sight) rather than His (by faith); we are the ones attempting to determine how He will fulfill His promises and what that will look like (this isn’t actually following Him by the way). Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” So unless we walk with Him by faith, trusting Him and His promises, it is impossible to please Him.

This summer has repeatedly shown me that my faith is weak; that so often I don’t trust Him and the promises that He has given me. Consequently, I find myself relying on my own strength which is a weight and a burden that is indeed difficult to bear. Despite my many insufficiencies and weaknesses in faith, Jesus remains faithful. “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (KJV 2 Tim. 2:13) He has proved His faithfulness time and time again during my time in China. It has been a beautiful and wonderful journey in witnessing His great faithfulness.

Now as I prepare to leave China, Jesus has brought me to a very interesting point in my journeys with Him. There were (and are) many opportunities to share His Word with those around me. There were (and are) many open doors for the Gospel to be proclaimed here. As I reflect on the seeds that Jesus used me to plant as His Word and Gospel message went forth, I realize that as I don’t know now, I may never know what happens to those seeds (at least not until we are with Him in His courts). I know very little of how He used my life during my time here…at least from what I can see. But, when I reflect on His promises, I am filled with hope and I rejoice.

Before I left for China, Jesus shared a promise from Isaiah 55 for what He wanted to do during my time here. In the fifth verse He says, “Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” I was coming to a nation that I did not know to live amongst those who did not know me. It was a beautiful promise that echoed Jesus’ calling in the Great Commission. Now and throughout my time here in China, He often brought to mind the promise regarding His Word that comes in verses 10 and 11 of that same chapter. He assures us that His Word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish what He desires and will achieve the purpose for which He sent it. Upon reflection of the seeds that He used me to plant, I Corinthians 3:7 comes to mind: So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. He is the only One who is able to cause those seeds to grow. Simply knowing the goodness of His character and the promise of Philippians 1:6, we can rest assured that the work that He has started He will carry on unto its completion. He will not begin something in a person’s life and leave that work where it is. Rather, He will see it through to the end. Though I will leave, He will remain and continue His great work in the country of China.

In short, Jesus has brought me to a point where I must completely leave sight behind and walk only by faith in Him and in His promises. With the promises that He has given us and simply knowing who He is, we ought to rejoice and give Him praise! He who has called us is faithful and He will fulfill all of His gracious promises. Rejoice in Him! Cling to Him and to His Word. He is Him who always remains true from generation to generation. May He enable you to walk with eyes of faith to seek Him, the Giver and Fulfiller of every good and gracious promise. To Him be the glory forever and ever!

We are told in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians that Jesus has given “us the message of reconciliation” (5:18-21). That He has reconciled us through the cross to Himself so that we might experience a right relationship with Him. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is the hope held out to us in the cross of Christ: that the unrighteous would be made righteous through His blood. There is no other way to enter into the Presence of the Holy One, only through the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. And by faith in Him, we do enter into His Presence; we are reconciled to Him by His great mercy.

Paul tells us that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself”. I am constantly amazed at the breadth of God’s vision. As it was from the beginning and during the days Jesus walked on the earth, so it is now that God desires the entire world to be reconciled to Him. An interesting thought for followers of Christ: If we have been reconciled to God through Christ and have been made one with Him, shouldn’t we also be one with each other? YES! Paul tells us that we are all one in Christ. Jesus Himself prayed that we would be one just as He and the Father are one and that by this the world may know that the Father indeed sent the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world (John 17). It’s kind of an amazing thing, isn’t it? We are one with Christ and one with each other. He has reconciled us to Himself so that we may be one with Him, and He has brought us into His family that we may be one with each other. Unity in the Body is so important to Jesus that He told His disciples the following: So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

During my time in China, one of the amazing and beautiful things that I have seen the Lord do is reconcile a very hurt and broken relationship. In many ways have I seen the Lord’s hand working in my relationship with Joseph to bring about that reconciliation that only He can bring. It has meant deep healing in my heart and a sense of letting go and allowing Jesus to take care of it all. It has been an experience of receiving and extending grace and love. I can see how Jesus has changed our hearts towards one another and has helped us to relate with each other, serving one another in love. By His grace and wisdom, He has brought (and continues to bring) reconciliation to my life and to my relationships. I can only thank Him and give Him the praise! He has indeed used this for His glory as it was by His hand that this was accomplished. He works all things for His glory and for our good as He promises. Rejoice with me in the Great Reconciler, who reconciles us to Himself and to each other through the cross! To Him be the glory and the praise forever and ever!

When Rubber Meets the Road

I have recently returned to Zhuhai from a 6 day trip to Guangxi province. During that time, much was weighing upon my heart in regards to what I had left behind at the school in Zhuhai.

During my time at the school, there have been several occassions in which disagreements have arisen between Joseph and I as to how things were done in the school. Often, as things were explained to me, I would share my own opinions as well. Sometimes, a mutual understanding was reached; while on other occassions, this was not the case. The day of my departure, a similar situation arose after my last class for that day. At the conclusion of the conversation, Joseph told me that he would discuss with Mr. Kim whether or not it would be possible for him to terminate the agreement with the school regarding the summer camp.

This then was the state in which I left the school and Canton province to travel to Guangxi. I will be honest and share that I was terrified as I left the school; terrified at the prospect of returning to Zhuhai to find out that I no longer had a job from July 19th through the 28th. Losing a job is one thing, but losing that job in a foreign country with no where to go after that happens is another thing all together. Jesus convicted my heart of my need to trust Him in this situation; that He had a plan in this and that He was working it all out for His glory. How great was the rest and peace that filled my heart having given the situation fully to Him! I realized that it may be very possible that His will for my time in China may not include the summer camp; that He may want me to spend more time with friends in Beijing or with the friends that I have made here in Zhuhai (or perhaps something else all together!!).

Over the trip, I would listen to several parts of different sermons covering Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In Colossians 1:15-19, Paul writes about Jesus and who He is. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

Paul tells us that if we want to know what God is like, who He is, we need only look to Jesus because “He is the image of the invisible God” and “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”. In one particular sermon it discussed several different attributes of God and how we see those demonstrated in the life of Christ. There were two that specifically stood out to me. First, God is the Omniscient God. He knows everything. We see this in the life of Christ when He calls people out for their thoughts (see Mark 2:8). Not their actions, but their thoughts! Second, God is the Sovereign Lord. Jesus has authority over all of the created order and nothing happens apart from His will. This is demonstrated clearly in His teachings in Matthew 11:27 when He says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” He is Sovereign over salvation. Jesus is also the One who has authority to forgive sins and in many other ways during His life, He demonstrates His authority over creation as the Sovereign Creator.

Now, let me explain why it was so crucial for me to hear of how Jesus is both Sovereign and Omniscient. Generally, these seem like nice theological truths about the nature and character of God. However, with the situation I was being faced with, being dismissed from work in China, these two specific characteristics of Jesus were crucial in moving forward in the situation. In short, this hasn’t been something that has surprised Jesus. He knew about it. He knew about it long before it would happen, and moreover, He was the One who allowed it to happen. This was all a part of Jesus’ plan to further glorify His Name in and through my life. I could also trust that He was going to work all of these things out for my good as He promises in Romans 8:28. This truth and reality of the nature of Christ should give all of us hope and confidence to trust Him in all things and at all times. He reveals Himself through His Word as being the All-Knowing Authority over all of creation!

Towards the end of my travels I received an email from Joseph that further revealed the extent of the damage done to our relationship. The only thing I could do was intrust the situation to Jesus knowing that He would handle it and use it all for His glory. During the afternoon on the day we arrived back to Zhuhai, Joseph and I had a conversation about whether or not I would remain at the school. After much prayer, he and Mr. Kim had decided to provide me with another opportunity to serve at the school. I have been given time to reflect on what my own objectives are in being here and will again have a conversation with Joseph on this upcoming Saturday. In the time that I have had to reflect thus far, Jesus has revealed something very crucial in regards to the future of Joseph and I’s relationship. I came to China considering Joseph as a partner and a brother in the Lord. While I believe he is my brother in Christ, he is not a partner in teaching English in the classroom; rather, he is my boss. Jesus commands us to submit, to serve with humble obedience, to those whom He places as authorities above us. As Jesus has been gracious and revealed to me where Joseph is coming from, I am trusting that He will enable me to serve Joseph on his page. I am so thankful for how Jesus has displayed His goodness and mercy in this situation, and I trust that He will continue to do so. Only Jesus can fully bring healing and restoration back to our relationship, just as He is the only One who can bring healing to our lives and our very hearts. He is merciful to do so. To Him be the praise forever and ever.

A Different Page

On Wednesday, June 2nd, I flew out of O’Hare airport to make a connection in Detroit before making the approximately 17 hour flight to Hong Kong. I arrived safely with all of my luggage, but soon realized that I didn’t know what the person I was looking for actually looked like, let alone where to find them. Fortunately, there were two men with a sign that read “Joshua Weakly” and I guess I was the person they were looking for. A train, a boat, a taxi, and a private bus/minivan later, I arrived at what would be my home for the next nearly 8 weeks.

I was told prior to my arrival that one of the most critical aspects of this trip was going to be flexibility and having a servant’s heart. As I prepared to leave for China, Jesus was preparing my heart for what lie ahead. Through a few of my dear brothers in the Lord, Jesus challenged me to think about what it means to serve another person on their page versus my own. First, it is impossible to serve another person unless we are following Jesus. Jesus makes that very clear when He says: Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:26) It is Jesus who reveals to us the needs of another person, it is He who reveals to us how He is at work in their lives, and it is He that reveals to us how we can partner with Him in the work that He is already doing in their hearts! Our role is to look to Jesus and to follow Him. It’s amazing how every aspect of the Christian journey really comes down to following Jesus. Following Jesus also includes following the example that He set for us. So, what was Jesus’ example when it came to serving? It was sacrificial love, a self-denying, self-emptying sort of love that was ultimately expressed through His death on a cross. I John 3:16 tells us, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” In order to love, in order to serve others, we must lay down our lives and get on the page of those whom we are seeking to serve. As we follow Jesus and the prompting of His Holy Spirit, connecting with others where they are at, men and women will be served meaningfully.

Throughout this past week, this lesson from Jesus has been crucial during my time here. I am in a new culture where hardly anyone speaks my native language. There is no way that I could serve another person while remaining on my page. Rather, I must seek and rely on Jesus to show me how He is at work and what it would mean to serve those whom He has brought around me. The way that I might say something back in the United States might not be understood here, so I have to try to contextualize it for the audience I am sharing with. The beautiful truth is that Jesus’ Word is not hampered by language or cultural barriers. His Word can touch the lives and hearts of any person anywhere. I praise Him that it is His Word and His Spirit that works in and through our lives to draw us to Himself and to transform us into His image and likeness. Such a joy is it to follow Jesus! I will be honest and admit that I don’t always lay down my life for those whom Jesus has placed around me. That I fail to put others before myself and to operate on their page as opposed to my own. Praise be to God, there is mercy at the cross and my Savior is always faithful even when I am not!

In the near future, I will hopefully be sharing some of the experiences that I’ve had while at the school. Jesus has already been opening doors and it has been a joyful experience to live amongst these students that He has brought me here to serve. I am so thankful for your prayers and encouragement. Jesus has been reminding me of the importance of fellowship with His Body. May His love and mercy rest upon your hearts.

An Open Door

At the start of my Sophomore year at the University of Illinois, I found myself meeting a very interesting young man named Moon Seop. Jesus had a very unique story to write in both of our lives through our friendship, and a part of that story has to do with me traveling to China.

Moon Seop was an international student who was from Korea, but had gone to high school in China. He had traveled to other countries such as India and the United States in order to attend school at the U of I. In the course of our friendship, he mentioned to me that his dad may be looking for English teachers to work at his international school in China over the summer. Since Jesus had placed the world and specifically the people of China upon my heart, I was instantly excited about the possibility of going to China for a summer. However, when I mentioned the prospect to my parents, my mother responded by saying that I would never have her blessing to go to China. In Revelation 3:7b, Jesus says the following to the church in Philadelphia regarding Himself: What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I remember wanting so badly to go to China that summer to teach English, but my mother had said that she was unwilling to have me go. Knowing that Jesus calls us to honor our parents and that honoring our parents serves as a witness to them of the work of God in our lives, I knew that Jesus was closing that door. I can remember the prayer that was on my heart as I turned down my friend’s offer: Jesus, if you want me to go to China, I trust that you will open a door for me to go there and that you will work in my parents’ hearts so that they would be willing to allow me to go that I may honor them as you command us to do in your Word.

After spending an amazing summer in the Champaign-Urbana area being a part of a Summer Training Program, I began my junior year at the U of I. This year, however, Moon Seop was not going to be a student because he had decided to serve the mandatory requirement for military service in Korea. Before he joined the service, he made a short visit to the U of I. It was a joy in itself simply to see him again. However, there was more joy to be shared. He came back with news that his dad would be willing to offer me the same position this upcoming summer in 2010. This of course was very exciting to me, but I remembered what my mother had told me the year before; that I would never have her permission to go. I brought the idea to my parents once again, and to my surprise, my mother told me that she would consider it if I got her certain information. Before too long, I was in communication with the English teacher that I would directly be working with and gathered a lot of the information that had been requested. At the end of Christmas vacation, my mother asked me a question before I left to go back to school: When would you leave and when would you come back? I went back to school and later found out that my parents were beginning to look for tickets for me to go to China. Around mid-March I got a call from my mother to let me know that she had found some cheap airfare, and, that if I couldn’t find anything cheaper that she would buy the one that she had found. Within that week, I had my tickets to China, and my mother was the one who had purchased them. Jesus had set before me an open door that He was inviting me to follow Him into!

During the sermon on the mount, Jesus instructs His disciples saying: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

I am constantly encouraged by the ways in which Jesus has answered so many prayers regarding this journey to China. It has been far less about my faith in Him as it has been about His faithfulness to His promises! Praise Jesus for His faithfulness! Matthew 7:7-8 is a promise of Jesus’ faithfulness to answer prayers. So often, He answers our prayers in ways that we don’t expect, but He always does immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. I certainly didn’t anticipate Jesus leading me to China and softening my parents’ hearts towards my going when I first became a Christ follower. I wouldn’t have anticipated the beautiful ways in which He has provided for this journey. That is one of the many joys of following Jesus! As we follow Him we have the priveledge of witnessing how He works in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We can witness His plentiful provision and the transformational effects of His love, grace, and truth. I encourage you to continue to ask, seek, and knock on doors as you follow Jesus trusting that He will open doors before you that no one can shut.

Jesus Freaks

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This passage of Scripture, often quoted and seen on posters at sporting events, has a powerful message that has personally changed my life; the message of salvation and redemption of mankind through God’s Son, Jesus Christ! This verse clearly articulates the scope to which this message applies. Jesus came to the earth not just for one particular people group; not just for the religious people, not just for those who are deemed “poor”, not just for those who are considered “righteous”, but for all people. Jesus came into our world because of His love for all people; for the whole world! The message of Jesus’ love is for the whole world to hear. After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Clearly Jesus’ vision was for the whole world, for all people, to hear the Good News!

During my first year of walking with Jesus, He began to place the world upon my heart. One of the most memorable ways that He did this was through a book by DC Talk entitled “Jesus Freaks.” Over the winter break of my senior year in high school, my family took a trip to Florida where we visited a bookstore in the area. As I browsed through various books in the religion section, I came across the previously mentioned book. I began to read stories of men and women who had suffered and endured persecutions for their faith in Christ. Some of these men and women were released from imprisonment, while others perished inside their confinements. However, there was a resounding sound of triumph in their stories regardless of their release or death. This triumph came only through the hope that they had in the promises of Jesus. They, by faith, believed that Jesus indeed had overcome the world and had something far greater in store for them then their current sufferings. Paul writes in Romans of suffering by stating: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). There will come a day when those who believe in Christ will be glorified with Him in His presence. This promise of an eternal life with Jesus and the assurance of His eternal presence gives light and hope in even the darkest of circumstances.

As I continued to flip through the “Jesus Freaks” book, I realized how blessed I was to live in a country where I could worship Jesus freely; to live in a country where I could meet with believers and share the Gospel without facing the possibility of imprisonment. In the back of the DC Talk book, there were pages dedicated to the various countries that are considered closed or restricted to the Gospel of Christ. I opened the back of the book to one of these countries and it happened to be the nation of China. As I read through some of the details regarding the Church in China, two things happened seemingly simultaneously. I was in awe at how Jesus was moving in the lives of men and women in that country, and at the same time, my heart broke for both God’s people in China as well as for those who did not yet know Him in that country. I decided to begin to pray for the people of China and with these experiences, Jesus began to transform my heart. Jesus began to build into my heart His heart and vision for the world. He also began to specifically place the people of China upon my heart, and so I continued to pray for the people in that nation as well as for other nations around the world.

Jesus’ vision is to reach the world with the message of His love and grace and He invites us to be used by Him to reach men and women around the world. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we are to travel to foreign countries, but Jesus may very well call you to a place that you never dreamed of going. Before I knew Jesus, I never would have imagined going to another country to share the love of a God who died to save all of mankind. Jesus gives us an interesting promise regarding the world in the book of Psalms. The psalmist writes in Psalm 2:8, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” Jesus invites us to pray for the nations, for the ends of the earth. He invites us to join Him in reaching the world with His Good News and promises that He is able to reach even the ends of the earth. In this coming week, seek the Lord regarding a nation that He would lay upon your heart to pray for. Pray for the people there; pray even that He would use your life to impact the people there. As a friend once told me, “ask BIG things of a BIG God.”

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