Milk

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (Hebrews 5:12-13)

“How long have you been a believer?” They ask me
“Oh, I was born in the faith” I reply “I’ve been a Christian all my life”
“Oh that’s nice!”

So it should be, right? I mean it’s 26 years. Fancy that!

If I was born in the faith 26 years ago—and I had grown and grown slowly but steadily (experiencing joys and sorrows, trials and triumphs—all holding fast to the word of God), I should be much deeper in my relationship with God than I am at the moment. Indeed, the contents of this blog would be radically different. I would not be gleaning from the writings of others and putting them here. Instead, I would be an Oswald Chambers, or a Mark Finley, an E.G. White or a C.S. Lewis, publishing something inspired that others would quote and put on their FB pages.

Being a believer is not the same as being/growing in the faith. So while I have believed in God for 26 years [and that’s nothing fancy: even the devils believe—and shudder! (James 2:16)], my time as a person who is trying to get closer and more intimate with God—a person in the faith—is much, much less than that.

So there are many who feed on milk; surface truths, accepted meanings of a certain passage, and what the Pastor or the doctrine of their fathers says. People who give the Bible a quick reading a few times a week, and pray three times a day the same prayer they have prayed for years. That is not enough to make us grow.

God is calling us to attain in him something more excellent than we ever thought possible. He wants us to go beyond the milk stage of Christians who are young in the faith and get to the solid food. He wants us to be deeper and to get to a point of a relationship that is more intense than we can imagine. He wants us to have spiritual discerning that will make us see right from wrong with clearer eyes. This is done by getting more acquainted with spiritual things and living at a higher, spiritual level.

Until we are deep in God, and have really walked with him, until we give deep thought and much research to the word of God there is nothing that we can share to others. I can post innumerable quotes from my favorite writers here or on FB, but if I don’t seek to go beyond the surface truths how am I to ever bring to you something that is original, God-inspired, and that will inspire you?

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Stand Firm

…unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm (Isaiah 7:8)

In the time of prophet Isaiah, king Ahaz of Judah was threatened by the kings of Syria and by the king of Israel. Those two forces allied and hoped to take the city, overthrow the king, and set up a new dynasty. The account tells of how when the news went to the royal court that their enemies were marching towards Jerusalem, “the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm” (Isa 7:2)

Among such fear and such gloom, Isaiah presented himself to Ahaz and delivered a message of hope to the king—to not fear the power of the armies because Jerusalem would not be captured. The message from God concluded:

…unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm (Isaiah 7:8)

* * *

Conditional promise or general advice? Can God work mighty miracles on behalf of people whose faith is lacking?

It is generally known that it is in one’s head that the battle is won. Our attitude dictates how we will meet a challenge, and that will determine our victory or defeat. God does not ask us to fight the battle alone, but to work together with him while believing that with Him we are already victorious.

King Ahaz could not believe. How could he trust and commit his everything to a God he had rejected and offended for so long? But God in his mercy did not allow the city to be taken, though a huge amount of plunder was taken from his country.

The importance of faith is that in our everyday lives it is being continuously tested in small ways. It is a living, growing thing. Major crises will come—ordeals in which we will be put through the fire. On that day may our faith be firm. God will see to it that we stand firm through it all.

Violin

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV)

No positive or real knowledge about the origins of a violin are known. It is, indeed, an ancient instrument, that has received successive changes in its dimensions, materials, components, and shape–not to mention its name. Some say it originated from the Arabs, and others claim it was the Europeans. Whatever the case, as time went on, more experiments on the shape of the violin were performed, so as to improve sound, tone, form, and richness of sonority. But none of the experiments could improve the violin as that which was produced by the 17th century Italian master craftsmen known as Stradivarius and Amati.

Now when I learned to play the violin in 2008, my mother bought me a lovely violin. I loved playing it, though that didn’t really mean that I was any good at it–it was only the fact that I was fulfilling an old dream of mine. It was a summer, so I had time to work at it, and was encouraged by my teacher to continue practicing and playing the violin despite the fact that I was going to school full time at the time. Then came the day I had to return to school and take the “hard” engineering classes. I put the violin away, promising to myself that I would practice at least three times a week. At first I placed it within reach, in my room. But somehow it ended up in the closet.

Two house moves and a graduation later, I retrieved my violin case from under my bed, for I had enrolled in a class and I wanted to get in shape by playing some scales. I opened it and saw to my horror that it was in a terrible, terrible state! The tailpiece was askew, the chinrest had come off, the varnish scratched, the gut holding the tailpiece to the end button had burst, the bridge was nowhere to be found. The violin had lain in an abject state of neglect for four years. It was unplayable, and only with the help of a violin guru was I able to get it back to playing condition.

Still, the guru could do nothing about my poor playing, for I need not say that I lost all the skill I had had before.

* * *

Whatever is your talent, use it.

There is no way make up for the lost time, or for the opportunities you missed in which you could have given glory to God and advanced his kingdom in some way.

Blessings.

The Perfectionist Christian

The past week was busy. And on Saturday I had one of those moments….

About a week and a half ago, my sister and I got a last minute request to sing at church. For the first song we were requested to sing was an absolutely unknown (to us) song. McCloud’s “Lord I Would Follow Thee.” For the second song, they requested it be something beautiful; not only a duet, but to include my sister’s flute playing into it somehow.

Heh.

We worked hard, practiced late into the night, eschewed going out at nights with friends for the sake of practice. To do a good job, worthy of who we were singing it for.

Then. . .

Saturday morning comes. Our turn to sing. We stand up in front of hundreds of people and wait for the beautiful music track to play (A track I am rather proud of, as it is one of my finest efforts for a song that I didn’t compose). We wait for five seconds, ten, thirty. The people are stirring uncomfortably, there is an audible murmur of discontent. People are throwing dirty looks up at the balcony where the sound booth is at. Our job is to smile serenely without losing our confident stance as we direct our gaze to the guy at the sound system who is panicking and shrugging his shoulders at us….

Lizzy whispered to me to just start acapella. I refused, hoping that the technical issue would soon resolve itself. During sound check the song had played just fine! But Liz, knowing that this waiting is more uncomfortable for the audience than it is for us seasoned performers (not to brag, but we are pros), began when the wait got painfully protracted.

She began singing with her clear, lovely voice. I have to follow. We split into harmony. I do melody, she does upper harmony, the notes are angelical, the message is heavenly. Hey, it does not sound half bad! We will be able to pull this off!

Then the music track begins playing! I have to rely on my knowledge of the music track which I myself made to know what verse of the song it is now playing at so we can just jump on in at the next verse.

We finish the song. People clap. I walk off, upset, I have to run upstairs to give someone a piece of my mind….

But before I can exit the sanctuary, the morning prayer time begins. I can’t exit the nave, and feel like I am forcefully subjected to prayer and contemplation of my tempestuous feelings. I am glad for that prayer time. I didn’t exactly pray, but those short minutes calmed me down–ten seconds would not have been enough, you know.

* * *

I take pride in what I do. If I am expected to do something, I will make sure that it is right and beautiful, and excellent, and hopefully better than anyone else’s. Yes. And I’m also a perfectionist.

God knows that I carry this mentality into what I do for Him as well. So as I thought about this today, all I can say is that the lesson God wanted me to learn was patience. As a leader, or just as someone who has to be a team player, I have to be excellent in what I do, but also be mindful of others and their feelings. I could have stormed upstairs, thrown a fit, or I don’t know what, and then felt bad about it. After the prayer one of the sound tech guys approached me and told me that the guy at the booth had gotten confused and had pushed up the wrong slider (or fader, whatever you call it to bring up volume) on the sound board, so while the CD was playing fine, the volume was turned low.

When I went upstairs (to make sure the track for my sister’s song would be played properly and the thing wouldn’t happen again) the guy apologized profusely. What did I do? I smiled and told him it was alright and that “all’s well that ends well” or some such other nonsense. By the time my sister’s song came, he was like a tiger, absolutely prepared, focused, and all went good.

After the service many people approached us and congratulated us on the beautiful music–but most particularly on how we handled  the first song. It was brave, our pitch was very good, our harmonies sublime. We did not wither but rose to the challenge, etc.

It’s sad that people missed out on the message of the first song, though… And that as I sang the song in that stage with thunder and wrath in my heart, missed out on it as well…

Saviour may I learn to love thee, walk the path that thou hast shown
Pause to help and lift another, Finding strength beyond my own
Saviour may I learn to love thee, Lord, I would follow thee
 
Who am I to judge another when I walk imperfectly
In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see
who am I to judge another, Lord, I would follow thee
 
. . . Saviour may I love my brother as I know thou lovest me
Find in thee my strength my beacon, For thy servant I would be
Saviour may I love my brother, Lord, I would follow thee
(Susan McCloud, “Lord, I would follow thee” V 1,2,4)
 

In our pursuit of spreading the gospel–and doing so with excellence–may we not forget the heart of the message we preach. Let’s love God. Let’s love our brothers. Doing so even when it is difficult shows that we are, indeed, Christians.

 

Should We Lose Sight of Him…

Devotion: Fidelity. Religious fervor. The state of being ardently dedicated and loyal.

 Is it a characteristic you have? Is it a characteristic I have?

Well, it is hard to admit it to myself—let alone here. But here it is: It’s obvious that I lack devotion in my life—I don’t practice my violin, I’ve gotten shamefully slack on my exercise routine, I’m rather sporadic when it comes to updating my blog. Shame shame.

Why am I bringing this up?

Well, dear reader, I had to return this week to one of the earliest lessons I learned when I began my walk with the Lord. You see, I lost sight of Him. Oh, it was only for a while, maybe a day, but that was enough. A single break in my devotion had me struggling to regain my footing.

* * *

Remember the story of Jesus when he was 12 years old and he went to the temple during Passover with Joseph and Mary? After the festivities, his parents went on their merry way back home assuming Jesus was with the other or with a friend and would join them when they made camp at night.

But Jesus had stayed back in Jerusalem at the temple. “By one day’s neglect [Mary and Joseph] lost the Savior; but it cost them three days of anxious search to find Him. So with us; by idle talk, evilspeaking, or neglect of prayer, we may in one day lose the Savior’s presence, and it may take many days of sorrowful search to find Him, and regain the peace that we have lost….

As we associate together, we may be a blessing to one another. If we are Christ’s, our sweetest thoughts will be of Him. We shall love to talk of Him; and as we speak to one another of His love, our hearts will be softened by divine influences. Beholding the beauty of His character, we shall be ‘changed into the same image from glory to glory’ 2 Corinthians 3:18.” [1]

* * *

While trying to find my way back to him, I thought he had gone away from me. But all the time he was the one by my side reminding me that I was missing out on great blessings that were mine for the taking.

If your devotion is not what it should be, don’t lose heart. Because . . .

You will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul…you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget (Deuteronomy 4:29-31)


[1] E. G. White Desire of Ages “The Passover Visit”

When it Rains

If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit…and I will walk among you and be your God, and ye shall be my people. (Leviticus 26: 3-4,12)

My mother grew up in a small Mexican pueblo out in the middle of nowhere at a time when there was nothing much to be found there but poverty and dust. There was a long drought at that time, and when she was growing up there the crops often failed; there was hardly any money or work to go around. It was a difficult time.

But much later when I got to visit, the drought had long gone, and the rains would come on time, bringing joy to all. I liked it when it rained there. It got very cold, then you would suddenly breathe in that loamy, dark, scent of damp earth. Soon, there would be thunder and lighting creating such a marvelous show with the rain and the sun that you would not know whether to run for cover inside one of the window-less houses or stay out under the rain.

We stayed out because nothing could beat seeing that display.  My sister and I, being city girls, would marvel at double rainbows or even triple rainbows as we huddled like two little sparrows under the eave of some abandoned house. The rain would go on its way to water the crops up the mountain, leaving behind a green and vibrant landscape, lush with tender vegetation which sparkled by the slanting light of the afternoon sun.

* * *

Today it rained. It made me very happy. It reminded me of how rain is a great blessing that we take for granted. If we need to drink or to make tea or coffee we simply open the tap. If we need to water our vegetable gardens, or keep our lawns looking their best we simply get the hose out or turn on the sprinklers. There’s plenty of water, plenty of food, plenty of everything good. Thank you, God.

Now, if we were living in a third-world country, the blessing of rain in its due time, abundant–or even dependable–harvests, would seem to us a rich blessing indeed. More so than it would be to someone living–say–in Southern California. Still, the promises of God to those who follow him and obey him are far from being irrelevant to us. Because it is by his grace that everyone who has in abundance can enjoy it, for he allows the rain to fall on both good and bad. We receive myriad blessings from his hand, sometimes we don’t even recognize it.

But the greatest blessing is that of belonging. The promise of Him belonging to us and us belonging to Him is absolutely wonderful and peace-filling. Because His presence itself is the rich rain that allows you to grow in him, be prosperous, and produce much fruit. With him there is no despondency that comes from spiritual or material poverty. There is no hunger, or thirst, or need apart from him.

For Those of Us Who Wait

I am waiting for my laundry to be done.

To distract myself and take a break from these myriad household tasks I check my email for the twentieth time today. You see, while I’m waiting for my laundry to be done, I’m also waiting for word about a possible job opportunity.

But . . . there is not a single new message in my inbox. Nothing—not even those emails from WordPress that I like so much.

The timer goes off—it startles me, and then I remember that the laundry is now done. Well at least there’s one less thing to wait around for. I go with my laundry basket downstairs, and as I fold clothes and pair up socks I glumly think about my life and complain and whine in my head to my ever-constant companion.

Father, this waiting is maddening. One email, one phone call, one reply is all I need. Is it so hard?

* * *

The Discipline of Delay.

In his book Enjoying Intimacy with God J. Oswald Sanders takes the reader along a very difficult subject. Discipline. One of the opening verses he uses is Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves…. Sufferings and setbacks are means of God’s perfecting. “If we are to enjoy a deepening intimacy with God, we must react to His providential dealings in a spiritual way, even though they may be inscrutable.”[1]

Waiting. What is my strength that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? (Job 6:11-12)

It’s so hard to wait! Why? For me it is because in the stillness of it I am forced to look at my life. I see the mistakes I did, the “should have done” and the “what if” moments. I find myself wondering—did I do right in my choices? Back then when I thought God was guiding me—was he really? And then I look at the future—what is going to become of me? I hate to admit it but sometimes while I wait I tend to lose hope as if I did not have a loving Father in heaven. This, of course, dishonors him.

But most of the time while I wait I am led to think about the past, realizing that all I accomplished was because of someone else. I was in junior college, and I had no money to continue my education and transfer to University. Who made it happen? God—two years were paid for through various means. I was in my senior year in university; tuition had increased by 50% since I’d transferred. I needed money to complete my final year! Who made it possible for me to finish it? God did by various means. God works in many ways—through miracles, scholarships, strangers off the street that give you well-timed advice and encouragement. My pride is shattered, my self dies a little, and my self-confidence gives way to humility.

God was good and faithful at a time in my life when I was just lukewarm. Through it all, though I was still so far from Him, He was faithful. And now that I have made a pact with him to be faithful and to do his will wherever he will lead me to the very end—why do I find myself doubting him? Why when he has left me precious reminders of his love for me?

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:7 ESV)

[So] Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land. Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. (Psalm 37: 34,37)

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. (Psalm 37:5-7, 9)

[For] they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31)

* * *

This week, if you find yourself waiting like me, take heart.

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay (Habakkuk 2:3)

God “will not spare present grief if it means future, permanent profit. He is concerned with our ultimate blessing more than our present comfort. But that does not mean that He is unmoved by our sorrows and trials.”[2]

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord…. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:22-33)

For we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14)

Have a blessed week.

– – –

PS: I’ve been trying to complete this entry for about a week. It seriously has been difficult. Still, these promises are as true now as they will be when I get the job that God has prepared for me. So I am posting it now, celebrating with the Red Sea in front of me, cliffs at my side, and the Pharaoh’s army is at my back, because I know–I am absolutely sure–God’s deliverance will come in due time.

Meanwhile, if you can remember to, please pray for me.


[1] Sanders, J. Oswald Enjoying Intimacy with God (Discovery House Publishers: Grand   Rapids) p.106

[2] Sanders, J. Oswald Enjoying Intimacy with God (Discovery House Publishers: Grand   Rapids) p.113