keep going!

I was at a bookstore the other day and my eyes were drawn to a very interesting quote on a card. It read: “When you are going through hell, keep going.”


At first I smiled as I saw the card. Then I began to think about it, ponder it. Thoughts filled my mind. The quote is attributed to Winston Churchill. Now there is some question whether he actually said this but it doesn’t really matter to me because I can see why it is believed he said it. From the little I know about Churchill and all the challenges he faced as a leader, I could imagine the hell he went through.

Thinking about the quote, I thought, “Hmm, that’s true, if I’m going through hell, why would I want to stay there? Instead of wallowing in a hellish situation or trial, doesn’t it make sense to keep on going! That’s not a destination the that is not appealing at all to me.” Wasn’t the message of that quote the exhortation of Scripture? Didn’t Paul go through hell? What did he do? He pressed on. He kept going.

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Phil. 3:14

Wasn’t it a huge transition for the Jews to leave their traditions behind to follow Jesus?They experienced the challenges that sin presents just like we do. What was the exhortation to them, keep going? And Jesus went through hell, enduring the cross. He endured and kept going.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Heb. 12:1-2

“When you are going through hell, keep going…” I thought about that all day. I thought about Winston Churchill. I wondered, “What was Churchill’s motivation? What would inspire him to keep going, despite all he encounters, all the weight on his shoulders?” As I pondered that, I found a book, “God and Churchill.” On a whim, I purchased it.  Reading the story of this interesting man, I found his motivation.


Churchill had a very memorable conversation with a close friend at the age of 16, about destiny, more specifically, their own. His friend asked, “Will you go into the army?” Churchill replied, “I don’t know. It is probable; but I shall have great adventures soon after I leave here.” As the conversation continued, his friend said quizzically, “You do not seem at all clear about your intentions or desires.” Churchill being Churchill shot back, “That may be but I have a wonderful idea of where I shall be eventually. I have dreams about it.” Then he said something incredible. He shared what I believe became his motivation, what inspired him to keep going. He had a dream, which I would say, was a prophetic dream from the Lord. A dream that would, very soon, come to past.

At the young age of 16, Churchill said of that dream,

“Well, I can see vast changes coming over a now peaceful world; great upheavals, terrible struggles; wars such as one cannot imagine; and I tell you London will be attacked and I shall be very prominent in the defense of London…This country will be subjected somehow, to a tremendous invasion, by what means I do not know, but I tell you I shall be in command of the defenses of London, and I shall save London and England from disaster.”

“Will you be a general, then, in command of the troops?”asked his friend. Churchill continued,

“I don’t know. Dreams of the future are blurred, but the main objective is clear…I repeat–London will be in danger and in the high position I shall occupy, it will fall to me to save the Capitol and save the Empire.”

That was absolutely astounding to me! The incredible dream. Seeing from history the incredible fruition of that dream. The seemingly unsurmountable challenges Churchill faced. That is where that quote finds its origin. “When you are going through hell, keep going…” Winston Churchill went through hell and kept going. An author of another book about Churchill wrote, Without Churchill the world today would be unrecognizable–dark, impoverished, tortured. … Above all, victory required one man without whom the fight would have been lost at the beginning. It required Winston Churchill.”

Abiding and following Jesus brings all kinds of challenges, sometimes hellish troubles and trials. What will be my motivation to keep going? It must be the same with Churchill, God’s call on my life. Heading into this new decade of my life, I asked God if this could be the most significant, most fruitful, decade of my life. A decade that would bring Him much glory. I sensed God’s affirmation and encouragement. I felt God say, “Yes, it will be. You have and are being prepared. Keep abiding in My Son. And watch what I will do.” That is my motivation. What specifically does that mean? Churchill’s words resonate with me. “I don’t know. Dreams of the future are blurred, but the main objective is clear.” I don’t know but may this next 10 years bring God much glory. May I be so focused and motivated that I can say, “When you are going through hell, keep going.”

another step..going to to keep going!

I’ve got my eye on the goal

Once again, I go to Dale Wolyniak’s quote about a sabbatical,  “A ministry sabbatical is ideally quite different from a traditional academic sabbatical or a sabbatical practiced in business. It is about the spirit and soul being refreshed, renewed, and redirected.”  As time goes on,  I feel my spirit and soul allowing itself to be more refreshed. I see God’s loving hand bringing renewal, the “replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down or broken” in my life.

Redirection is being directed to a new or different place or purpose. As I look ahead to the end of this sabbatical, God is doing His good work in this area as well. One of the great joys of this sabbatical has been all the good reports coming out of our church. So many good things are happening. The pastors are doing a great job. Leaders have stepped up in wonderful ways. We continue to move forward in answering God’s call. God is so faithful and continues to lead our church forward, whether I am there or not. Yes, Jesus said, “I will build My church,” and He is. The church is growing. The leaders are growing. And I must grow as well.

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”    Ben Franklin

Yes, God has been directing us all to a new place, a new level. Things cannot be the same when I return. It cannot be the “old same old same old.” This is His church and God is bringing redirection in my life as I prepare to head back. A passage that I ponder often is Phil. 3:12-14. Eugene Peterson articulates this passage well in his paraphrase from The Message:

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

God has a call for me that hasn’t changed. It’s not finished yet. I’m on my way. Sometimes, because of my frailty and stubbornness, it’s been two steps forward and one step back. Or times when it has been one step forward and two steps back. I don’t have this all together. I don’t have it made. But I’m on my way. I am far from being an expert but I do have my eye on the goal. And I’m not turning back.

So what how is God redirecting me? In many ways, both big and small.

  • He is drawing me closer to Him. I am asking God to teach me how to experience Isa. 26:3-4. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.”
  • I am learning to trust Him more and let go of control. How wonderful the words of 2 Pet. 1:3-4. By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” 
  • He is giving me insights for the next steps of His call for our church and my life. As Grandma Leong loves to pray from Isa. 58:11,The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring,” I am seeking with renewed passion God’s guidance. I will need God’s guidance now, more than ever. 

It’s an exciting time but with all this refreshing, renewing and redirecting going on, God is also preparing me, character-wise to walk in a manner worthy of my calling. I am learning more tough but essential lessons. It’s been difficult to see my weaknesses and my lack of faith exposed by the loving hand of My Father. But it is good. I’m still a person under much construction. But that’s a story for another time.

another step…



a special day

Learning to truly and fully abide in Christ has been a challenge. I often feel like it’s three steps forward and two steps back. Being the impatient person that I am, I wish my progress would be quicker. Being the semi-realistic person that I am, I know that my progress, or lack thereof, is on me. Will I follow through and put into practice what God is leading me to do? Will I let go of things, even good things, that distract me from truly abiding in Christ? Honestly, it’s really my kuleana (responsibility).

Yes, it’s been a challenge. But in a greater way, it’s been so awesome! There is a fire and a deep yearning in my heart to walk this path, to continue to journey to truly abide in Christ. I know there is so much more God wants me to experience than what I am right now. There’s so much more that God wants me to accomplish during my short time here on earth. Yet I know  I cannot experience or accomplish anything on my own. It will come as I truly abide in Christ.

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Phil. 3:13-14

Today is a very special day. As I reflect upon this special day, it is clear that this adventure of learning to abide in Christ started way back in 1982. I know, I know, why has it taken so long? Knowing me, it’s really no big surprise. It takes me a while. But thankfully, I’m pressing on!

It all started in a one bedroom apartment across the Kuakini  hospital. One night, while I was watching television, something caught my eye. Or probably more accurately, God pulled my eyes away. There on a a makeshift desk, made with hollow tiles and a piece of plywood, was my wife, Jo. We had just gotten married and were settled into our first (of many) home. With her Bible on that desk, her head bowed, she seemed oblivious to anything going on around her. Engaged in her beloved Psalms, there she was, abiding in Christ. Yup, me watching something that was probably forgotten days later and Jo, in the presence of Almighty God, intimately enjoying His company.

I was intrigued by that  and later that night I asked her about what I saw. She explained how special the Psalms were to her. How reading the Psalms led her into worship and the closeness she felt with God. Again, me being me, shared how I never could get into the Psalms, not like how she did, anyway. But I never forgot that night…and all the other nights I saw her on that desk. That’s where my journey to truly abide in Christ began. It began with a glance at someone special who was further along the journey than I was. Or probably more accurately, someone who was on a exciting journey that I wasn’t. And it lit a spark in my heart to join her on that journey.

Why is today a special day? It’s special because it’s my wife’s birthday! I thank God for her and the life-changing impact she has made in my life. I am where I am, I’m headed where I’m headed, in large part because of her. Thanks, Jo! And Happy Birthday. And thanks, God! So thankful for bringing her into my life!

And by the way, I love the Psalms now! Thanks Jo!

the journey continues…




three steps forward and two steps back

It has been an interesting journey so far in learning to abide in Christ. Now I struggle with impatience so I would love to see a whole lot of progress. But this is a journey of steps. Steps I take and steps that are implanted into my heart. So alas, it takes time.

But as I reflect on the past month or so, I thank God for the steps He has led me to take.

  • It’s been about a month of not watching television. And the crazy thing is I don’t really miss it. Now television in and of itself is not bad. It’s how we use it that determines its value. For me it was a step in applying Phil. 4:8-9-“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” For me it was a step to think about things that I often ignored while watching tv. It’s been good.
  • I continue to take steps to overcome fear with a decision to abide in Christ. Do I still have fears? Yes. Do I still worry? Yes. But not as much. I am learning to admit and take my fears to God in a more intentional way. I am learning to make a conscious effort to abide and remain in Christ. I am learning to open my heart to receive more fully the love of God because perfect love casts out all fear.
  • I am learning to go to God with all my stuff. To lay it at His feet and rest in His presence. It’s still a challenge but understanding that I need to give Him all the stuff really helps. It’s so easy for me to just hold on to things, let them swirl around in my head and heart and even burden and weigh me down. I wish I had less stuff, especially heart stuff that burdens me but that is life. I am learning that God is more than able, and willing, to take my stuff. He just wants me to come into His presence, let go of my stuff to Him and rest there.

I look back and it’s encouraging to see where God has taken me. It might be three steps forward and two steps back but it is progress. I think of Phil. 3:13-14.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

It’s funny how very familiar verses take on a whole new meaning depending on the situation you are in. And more importantly, what the Holy Spirit wants you to know at that  time. So yes, I thank God for this journey and I press on!

my crummy guitar

Sadly to say, I am a very impatient person. I don’t like to wait…for anything really. Being impatient doesn’t help in learning to abide in Christ. For one thing, it’s a process. I want to be in a place where I am truly abiding in Christ, like yesterday! As I write that, I realize that a big part of that is that I don’t want to go through the learning process. I want it now. Reminds me of so many things that I dabbled in growing up.

After hearing my cousin play “Classical Gas” on his guitar, I decided to learn to play. So I saved up and bought a guitar, a crummy guitar (I write that purposefully for a reason to be explained later). I bought a chord book. After thinking it over, I made it my goal to learn to play, “Beautiful,” by Gordon Lightfoot. I got the music and away I went. For a few days. Steel strings cutting into my fingers. Those darn “B” chords (why can’t songs be written with just c, d, e, g, a chords!) frustrated me to no end. I surmised that the problem was my crummy guitar. If I had a Martin or something like that, it would go much easier. So, after a few weeks, into my closet my crummy guitar went with the chord book and the “Beautiful” song sheet never to see the light of day again!

Learning requires patience. It requires a heart that is determined that whatever you are learning is worth the time and struggle. I guess that’s what Paul meant when he wrote in Phil. 3:12-14-“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been perfected, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.” Yup, I must press on in learning to abide in Christ. In fact, isn’t that a part of abiding in Him? Pressing on? Choosing to remain in Him? Choosing to walk close to Him in every situation? I believe so.

Father, I press on in my journey to draw near to You and to abide in Christ in all things and all times. Thank you for your patience with me. And thank you for crummy guitars! In Jesus’ name, Amen!