2014.02.05 Update

Hello friends, It has been far too long since I last talked to some of you.  And, even with those that I see more often, it has been unfortunately harder to have heart-to-hearts than I expected.  So!  This is an update that I hope will prove to be encouraging.  And, it’s written in hope that you will tell me how our great God and Savior is working in your life, and how I can rejoice with you and pray for you.  Yes, I do mean that.  Write me!

Before, I start, however, there are three things I must say:

  1. In the grand scheme of things, the details and workings of my life are not significant.  Indeed, my entire life is not significant.  Who will remember me a hundred years from now?  None.  Will anyone sing my praises a hundred years from now?  I pray not!  What are we but dust (Gen 18:27)?  What are we but withering flowers of the grass, here today and gone tomorrow (Isaiah 40:6-8)?  The Lord alone deserves all glory, and the only justification I have for telling about my life if it is to boast in Him, and Him alone (Romans 3:27).
  2. Also, I must say this: I have been intentionally plain in this update.  There is intentionally no mask wearing, no fancy words, no guarded speech.  After all, what’s the point of writing an update if you have no idea what I’m talking about?  So, as you see my failures, please, from one work-in-progress to another, be gracious with me.  The God of heaven is still sanctifying me to be like His Son.  My heart resonates with Paul’s: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it [perfection, maturity] yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
  3. This was written in about three hours with very little proofreading, and there might be some parts that are less intelligible than others.  Please forgive my sloppiness.  Although I like to write, I’m honestly not a very good at it.  If something doesn’t make sense, please ask and I will try my best to clarify.

Alrighty then.  With that foundation, let’s do this.

Church

I have been at Evangel Bible Church of Berkeley for about 4 years now.  I love every moment; the Lord has blessed me immensely through the ministries and people here.  One of my favorite things to do is stand afar and see the fellowship and laughs and love during our lunch times after Sunday service.  There are little children running around, college students smiling and laughing, couples and singles sharing and praying with each other, and so much good busyness.  Sinners through and through we are, but I love this church.  I pray the Lord keeps me here for a long time.  The Lord loves us, and is sanctifying us by His Spirit and Word (Ephesians 5:26-27), that He might make us worthy for Himself.  Oh, may all glory be to God, in the church and in Jesus Christ, forever and ever (Ephesians 3:21)!

At Evangel, I have been involved in a variety of things over the years, but currently two of my responsibilities include Sunday school for the children (ages 4 to 8) and the Christian club at Berkeley High School.  Some brief prayer requests below!

Sunday School

Right now I’m teaching through the book of Acts.  I love it love it love it.  The kids are so eager, so untainted by the secular skepticism that infects our culture.  I pray that the Lord would save them, for they are wretched to the core, and that He would raise up workers for His harvest from them (Luke 10:2)!  If you could, please pray that I would prepare well and divide the Word of God rightly!  Pray that their parents would continue to love and teach them the Word.  Pray that God would save them at a young age and use them for His good pleasure.

Christian Club

Due to my work schedule, I’m not doing this every week (Lord-willing, I can after May).  Yet, I love this ministry because it’s such a unique opportunity to take a jab at the crazy liberalness of Berkeley, right on their own home turf!  We have a consistent group of about 7-8 that meet with us during lunch.  I’m walking through 1 Peter with them, and my pastor is doing a series on Proverbs.  It has been such a blessing to see our group grow in numbers, and grow in a biblical understanding of suffering and wisdom.  I don't know what kind of fruit will come from this ministry, but pray that these kids will be saved and be witnesses of the Lord to their campus!

Work

For three months I’ve been working at a company called OSIsoft doing tech support for the software that we sell.  The software is essentially a way for large companies to collect data from their processes and store it for analysis and visualization.  Some companies use it to track how much energy and water they use, and others use it to manage the production and processing of their product (like paper, or oil, or pharmaceuticals ,etc.).  My job is to help people when there are issues with the software, or to teach them how to use it.  It sound simple enough, but there is so much to learn!  The training portion to learn who to do my job is at 8 months long (and I’m not even halfway through!).

My company likes to hire new graduates, and so many of my coworkers are in their early 20s.  Although it has been slow, I have been able to befriend them in my own strange way.  Some know I’m Christian (I'm certainly not shy about it!  I read my Bible every lunch) and, by the Lord’s grace, I don’t think I’ve been a poor witness of my God to them.  Yet, knowing them and their lives is devastating.  Every week (or multiple times a week), they all embark on a mission to drown their minds and bodies in the poison of alcohol.  I’m not exaggerating; it seems that all of them, without exception, love (and live) to get drunk.  Of course, alcohol in and of itself is not sin nor evil, but their carnal hearts have chosen this one outlet as a means of expressing their wickedness and hatred against God.  I often grieve when I receive their friendly invitations to join them.  And “although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).  Please, Lord, break their pride, and bring them to yourself! For the Lord to save them!  Oh what a marvelous work that would be.

I thank the Lord for my job.  And I don’t like it.  No, that’s not a typo: I don’t like it, and yet I thank the Lord for it.  Are those contradictory?  The idealist in me says, “You must love what you do, or else you can’t be happy!”  Yet, I can’t find anything in the Scriptures that says I must love what I do in order to honor God in my work.  He says to work for His approval, and not men’s, in whatever I do (Colossians 3:23-24), thus implying it doesn’t matter what kind of job I do, whether slave labor (as Colossians 3:22-25 most immediately talks about!) or super fancy engineering work or ministry.  I must please Him in all aspects.  I have the privilege of working for a Master who rewards with far more than a paycheck.

Why am I thankful for my job?  First, the Lord gave it to me, and by it enables me to pay for rent, food, books, gifts, etc.  Without His provision, I wouldn’t be able to have the physical blessings He has given me!  I wouldn’t be able to love people with the money He gives unless He gave it!  I wouldn't be able to save unless the Lord had given me a job that provides beyond my needs.  Man was created to work, and for now, I know that the Lord has given this to me to be faithful.  Secondly, the company is great.  They treat their people well and value us as people rather than commodities; that alone is a great thing to be thankful for.  I enjoy my coworkers; they’re nerdy enough to be cool and not too cool to be nerdy.  There are so many good things about being employed.

Why don’t I like work?  In my mind, it is first and foremost “that one thing that prevents me from doing what I actually want to do.”  Please, don’t read that as a complaint; I say it as dispassionately as possible.  Perhaps I think of it this way because I am exceedingly restless; I dread dread dread monotony and banality.  My heart craves glory!  I want sinners to repent of their sin; I want to spread the gospel in all the world; I want to be used by the Lord in believers’ sanctification; I want to be a means by which Christ builds His church; I want to see Christ exalted and His kingdom come!

While I sit at my fancy computer and click through windows and type through command prompts, I think, “As I work my safe and comfortable job, earning tens of thousands of dollars, in the freest country that has ever existed in the history of the world, millions of sinners perish without ever hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As I live my cushy American life, complete with fancy laptop, fancy smartphone, good food, and every earthly convenience at my fingertips, billions starve.  Today is one day closer to my entrance into eternity, where the glory of God will shine in all its brilliance.  On that day, there will be no more evangelism, no more missions, no more sinners saved!  So, now, what am I doing here in front of my computer?”  I’m sure you can relate.  The need and the urgency are maddening.  But, more on that below.

Lessons

Here are some things the Lord is teaching me (note that I said “teaching”, because I’m still learning!):

Wait on the Lord

Amidst all of the futility of work, I’m learning to wait upon the Lord, as the psalms repeat again and again.  After all, how else will I learn to be patient unless I’m forced to?  I’ve been constantly reminded by His Word and His people that the greatest thing, and the most faithful thing, I can do is to pray and trust in Him — and in His timing.  After all, who else can I lean upon?  Who else knows my every desire and need?  Who understands the groaning of my spirit, too deep for Words?  It is He!  I want to be able to say, “The Lord is my portion; I shall not want.”  I think, then, and only then, will I be useful for His service.  Yes, I want to be used for the kingdom, but He will use me as He wills, not as I will.  Until the time He says, “Go!”  it is time to wait upon the Lord!

Waiting is the antithesis to how I normally live.  Patience, long contemplation, and rest are not my fortes.  Thus, waiting on God is exceedingly difficult.  Each day at work, just waiting for lunch time is hard.  I’ll probably be learning this for many years to come.  But I’m looking forward to it; God ordains the works, the means, and the timing.  Help me to wait, Lord.

Surrender your Plans

If I have been crucified with Christ, and it is He who lives and no longer myself, He owns me.  If He has ransomed me from death and sin and judgement by His blood, and I am indebted to Him, He owns me.  If I am His beloved slave and precious sheep, and He is my good Shepherd and Savior, He owns me.  I am not my own.  And if He owns me, He owns my life, my ambition, my plans, my direction, my desires, my wants, my present, my future — all that I am, whatever I am, is His.  The apex of Christian service is laying oneself at the feet of Jesus Christ and saying, “What You will, where You will, whatever You will. I’m Yours.”

One of my greatest fears is that He’ll give me something I don’t want.  Oh, I’m not afraid of ‘extreme’ things like frontier missions, or persecution, or alienation, or suffering.  In fact, I want that; He gives me confidence and boldness and zeal for His name.  But, I am afraid of a ‘normal’ life.  I am afraid that Jesus would say, “Be faithful and content, and serve joyfully as a ‘normal’ layperson for as long as I desire you to.  Be faithful and content, and live do ‘normal’ things with your life (job, marriage, family, etc. like everyone else), as I desire you to, for as long as I desire you to.”  I am afraid of that life.  I don’t know if I would be content.

But, I am learning to say, “Lord, Your will be done.”  If I am most useful to Him and His kingdom’s causes as a ‘normal’ person, may it be to His glory.  If He chooses to use this broken and weak vessel for His own fame in a more ‘extreme’ way, then may it be to His glory.  A wise man once told me that it doesn’t matter so much what we accomplish in this life, but it does matter how intimately we know God, and how faithful we were with what He gave us.  I’m learning to take from His hand, little be little, and working hard for His glory; and I’m learning that what He gives next is entirely up to Him.  He is the Lord!  May He do what seems good to Him.

Whatever I am, whoever I am, I am the Lord’s

It has been said as a maxim that we ought to “know thyself.”  Honestly, I think that’s ridiculous.  I am a changing creature, fickle and inconstant on one hand, and being constantly changed into the image of the Son on the other hand.  How can I ever keep up?  Also, even if I was to know myself well, what benefit would there be in that?  If I were to plumb the depths of my being and know my psychology and personality type and everything else about me, who cares?  In what circumstance would knowing myself over knowing God or His Word ever be useful?  I can’t think of any.

So many times I’ve had the following monologue run in my head: ’Why did I do that?  [insert a few days of pondering in here, followed by a sudden realization] Oh yeah, because I’m a sinner.  *face palm*’  or ‘Why don’t I feel this way?  I should feel this way, shouldn’t I?  [insert a week of moping and spiritual naval gazing here, followed by a sudden realization]  Oh.  Right.  Because even my feelings and emotions (yes I do actually have feelings and emotions —.—) are corrupt and my heart is deceitfully wicked.  *face palm*

I am slow to learn.  And even as I think it slightly entertaining and comical to probe who I am, it is far more beneficial and rewarding to know God.  I am His, after all, aren’t I?  Why try to define and express myself apart from His understanding of me?  He knows me fully (1 Cor 13:12), and loves me and cares for me and is conforming me to the perfect, glorious image of His beloved Son; is that not enough?  I’m starting to realize, it doesn’t matter who I am; it matters far more who I belong to.  He defines me, and that is so much better than me defining me.  I’d so much rather be like Jesus than be like whatever I am now.  He’s the goal of the race; I’m better off running looking forward than looking down at the road!

~~~

In sum, the Lord has been wonderfully patient with me — for my entire life.  The above are just some of the many things He has done in my life over the past 4 months or so.  Although my love and joy in Him is fickle and inconstant, His love and care for me never wane.  I am held in His hands, and I know it well.  And, though it would be so much better to be at home with the Lord, where striving ceases and faith is sight, I am happy to live for Him on this earth in His service (but only as long as He wants me to be here, and not a moment longer!) I hope that you’ve been encouraged by His marvelous deeds in my life.  Let me know how I can serve you, to honor Him!

The Lord’s, Keith Php 1:18-26

P.S. I wasn’t kidding.  Write me (or talk to me).  Let’s rejoice together in Him!