The last two weeks have been filled with an abundance of God’s blessings and lessons! For study time, I read 1&2 Thessalonians, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel, Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, Nahum, Ezekiel, and Zephaniah, I inductively studied Jonah and Obadiah, and then I also inductively studied and led a Bible study on Habakkuk. Study time aside, I led intercession for a second time, had some wonderful nights out enjoying food with new friends, shared the Gospel and prayed for some beautiful people during my first time at YWAM Tuen Mun’s ‘Blessing Bags’ ministry, and I received some life-changing lessons on redeeming the arts for the Kingdom of God from a Korean performing arts ministry team that visited the base. I also wrote a short story and started a new script outline, because you know, I’m clearly not busy enough. No, but in all seriousness, I haven’t done any creative writing like that since school, and I have felt so inspired to get back into it since being here in Hong Kong, so why not? This is a season where God is pouring so many amazing things into my old noggin, so it makes sense for me to also want to start pouring out a bunch too!
I thoroughly enjoyed studying Jonah, Obadiah, and Habakkuk over the last two weeks. Jonah was exactly what I needed to study in relation to the struggles I have going on in my own life currently. Habakkuk, however, will be my main focus for sharing, because I believe that Habakkuk is the perfect book to read right now in relation to what is going on in the world. The book of Habakkuk starts with Habakkuk himself crying out and complaining to God about all the injustice he sees going on around him. God responds to his cry, but God’s response actually makes Habakkuk even more confused. So, he questions God some more. God responds again, and while Habakkuk may still not fully understand what God is doing, he comes to a place where he can still worship God and trust him. Based on the outlining structure of the book, here are some timeless truths I think we can discover:
1)”O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence’ and you will not save?” – Habakkuk 1:2 -> There are times when we question God and complain to Him, and then He responds, but the response we get is not what we wanted to hear. Whether it is shocking to us, we don’t understand it, or we just really don’t like, there are times when getting our questions answered actually just leaves us feeling even more confused. We have to remember that God is so much bigger than us. He is so much greater. We are never going to completely understand God. But we need to trust that what He is doing does have purpose, and that He does know best. We can trust Him, even if we completely do not understand what is going on around us.
2) “Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.” -Habakkuk 2:4 -> God is a just God. Even if there are times when wicked people seem to be prosperous, God’s justice will come eventually. We just need to have faith in God, and let that faith lead us to trust Him and to continue on His path of righteousness, even if that path seems to be one filled with trials and struggles.
3) “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.” -Habakkuk 3:17 -> Even during times of extreme trials, when nothing seems good around us, we can rejoice in God by trusting that He is good and knowing that He has provided every single person with a path to salvation.
4) “God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.” -Habakkuk 3:19 -> We should rely on God as our source of strength, as our strength doesn’t come from our circumstances or from ourselves, it comes from God.
During the past two weeks, we have seen heart breaking tragedies occur all around the world. As the Syrian refugee crisis becomes even more complicated, as nations lock down their countries against terrorist attacks, as both Muslims and Christians are persecuted for their religion, and as things seem to be getting more violent as opposed to peaceful, it is so easy for us to feel consumed by fear and overwhelmed by hopelessness. It is so easy for us to want to just cry out to God and say “Where are you?!? What are you doing? Hurry up and help!” It is so easy for us to doubt His sovereignty and love when we see horror going on around us. I think what we can learn from Habakkuk though, is that it is ok to question God, that He can handle our questioning. But we also need to know that sometimes even when God responds we just don’t understand. That doesn’t mean that He isn’t faithful and that He doesn’t have a plan. He does see the injustice, and He will respond when the time is right according to His perfect plan. Keep praying, keeping trusting Him, keep loving Him, and keep loving others. Those who are righteous and live by their faith will be lifted up by God. So do not live according to fear, live according to love, and when that seems impossible, ask for His strength. He always has more than enough to give to us.
Our base was honored to host ‘One Voice,’ a performing arts ministry group from Korea this week, and we were very blessed by the opportunity to watch them perform and hear a number of teachings from the leader of this influential group. Ever since I arrived in Hong Kong, I have been asking God “Why here? Why this community?” God gave me so much confirmation about needing to come here, and so naturally I wanted to know why. It was through the teaching we received from ‘One Voice’ that God finally gave me an answer. I studied film and theater for four years, and yet I feel like the lessons I learned from the few hours we spent listening to the leaders of ‘One Voice’ will have more meaning in my life than anything I ever learned while getting my degree. I have a feeling I will look back on our first day of teaching, when I learned so much, as a major turning point in my life, when my dreams and visions for using the arts in ministry were given a new strength and also a new clarity. Here are just a few main points from the teaching we received:
1) How gifted or talented you are is not the priority. Talent can actually become an obstacle when you rely on that talent, not God, and become prideful. Getting the heart to do something from God and then obeying Him is what is most important. It isn’t about how technically skillful the art is, it is about how well we worship God with it.
2) The Spirit within a person will be reflected within the art they produce. Two people can do the same exact dance and achieve two completely different outcomes. If one person is filled with sadness, bitterness, and anger, and this is what they want to display during the dance, that is what will be released. If another person performs the same piece, but they are filled with the Spirit of the Living God, and they want to joyfully display God’s glory and worship Him, that is what will be released.
3) God wants ALL the arts to be used for His glory! We need to stop putting a label on everything, separating things and saying that some are sacred and some are secular. God gave us authority over ALL THINGS in Jesus Christ. This means we can redeem all things for His glory.
4) Community and unity are vitally important and necessary aspects of any arts ministry.
It was the last point that answered all my ‘WHY’ questions. As I was sitting there taking notes, I suddenly heard God speak so clearly to me: “If you want to start a successful arts ministry, you need to know how to function within any community with amazing unity.” BOOM! Revelation! Functioning as a family within your actual blood-related family and even functioning as a family with other people who are very similar to you can teach you a lot. But it is when you have a group of completely different people functioning together as a family and living in community that you really start to become so aware of your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to relationships and working in a team setting. I grew up in two different Western countries, where individualism reigns supreme. I don’t think I would have ever learned all I have about unity and living in community if I had not come to Hong Kong and experienced living in a community driven by the Asian values that are so opposite to the independent lifestyle I am used to. It has been incredibly hard, but I also know that it is incredibly worth it.
Glory to God for this amazing opportunity! May He bless each one of you on each of your own journeys too. Thank you so much for reading, for praying, and for supporting me during this next season.
“O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy.” – Habakkuk 3:2