God is good.

Thanking God for the Weekend

God is good.

It was a really rough week.

I got sick and struggled in my preparations for a major portfolio presentation because of it. I had to handle a difficult client, battled with doubt and anger. Reached the end of my patience. Dealt with late and missed deadlines….

All I can say is that I’m glad I survived. As I look into my study journal I notice that when I need God the most he speaks to me the loudest. When my strength is insufficient he helps me to overcome and go beyond my own expectations. There was pain this week, but through it all He was there.

God is good indeed. Wishing you a happy weekend spent with Him 🙂

Perfection - the ultimate example is God - The example our Lord gives us is not that of a good man, or even a good Christian, but of God himself. “Be ye therefore perfect”…

Perfect

“…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:44-48 NIV)

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Never Seek to be Satisfied

I was angry at the world. I cried out and it did not listen. I was in need and no one helped me. I wanted someone to love me; I longed to find someone who could make me believe that I was precious and special, but I only saw cold indifference around me.

No one cared. No one helped. I could throw tantrums, sulk here and there, and I could be miserable… and still the world would continue to go on it’s merry way to hell at a breakneck speed. I was being swept along by it.

I did not understand how I–a believer in God, a so-called Christian–could be so wretchedly unhappy, so lonely.

God… WHY???

I was so blind.

BLIND.

Around me were people who were going through greater pain and loneliness, who had no hope, and who were in a desperate situation. And I–so foolish and so selfish–was too blind to see that. When I was placed in a situation to comfort the needy, I had nothing to offer them. Maybe some sympathy, but no comfort except that which could be found when our misery found company…which was precious little.

* * *

Every experience in life is preparation for ministry. My loneliness taught me to feel how a human being could be driven to feeling that death is preferable than to continue living an empty life. I learned to be merciful to those who did not succeed because I found myself in the same position. I can also understand how people are driven to do crazy things and put aside their personal dignity in their futile search of love and acceptance away from God. I understand now.

But things don’t end with simply understanding others.

I need my self to be broken beyond repair–a broken vessel that is continually filled and is continually giving out from the blessings received; a container that is cracked and broken and and yet pass on God’s blessings to others.

God, may I be a container filled with your love, and may my self be broken enough for me to act upon the understanding that the dark times in my life have taught me. Fill me with wisdom and gentleness to do the right thing and speak words that will be like a balm to those who are hurting.

“He that believeth in Me out of him shall flow rivers of living water”–hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. It is time now to break the life, to cease craving for satisfaction, and to spill out…God spilt the life of His Son that the world might be saved; are we prepared to spill out our lives for him? –Oswald Chambers

Look to Jesus

The Israelites were traveling through a barren land. It has a really bad time. They’d just failed to get permission from the Edomite king to peacefully take the direct route to Canaan through Edom, and now they were forced to continue the long southern dessert road to go around Edom to reach the Promised Land. Just when they thought they had seen the last of the dessert they were forced back into it. To make matters worse they had even been attacked by a bunch of Arads. Granted, the Lord had helped them and the Israelites had defeated their foes, but still…

“And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.’ (Numbers 21:4-5)

And so, because of their sin of unbelief God withdrew the protection he’d placed over them, and allowed fiery snakes to approach the people and bite them, “so that many people of Israel died.” (21:6)

The people were soon sorry for what they’d done, and begged Moses to intercede on their behalf. “So Moses prayed for the people and the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” (21:7-9)

* * *

Note to Self: STOP LOOKING AT YOURSELF! LOOK TO JESUS ONLY!!!!!!

That’s all.

* * *

More? Ok. Here’s a tough lesson I’ve just learned.

When I pray, I cannot look at my self.
When I read the Bible, I cannot look at my self.
When I tell others about God, I cannot look at my self.

In short; whenever I’m the weakest and whenever I should be looking for God the most I cannot waste time or energy to look at my self.

Looking at my self is a simple and rather tasteless exercise; but it’s one we do often enough when we’re at the end of our rope. When we feel the weakest, we reach back into the recess of consciousness and drag out the trembling likeness of the internal self. The one we (sometimes) hate so much, but love to use as our excuse. For me it is that neurotic girl with all her psychoses, and doubts, fears, obsessions, insecurities, phobias and the like.

When I look to my self, I’m overwhelmed with the feeling that I’ll never in a million years measure up. I become so discouraged at the work in process that I begin to doubt in the almighty God who is at work in me. And it is at that exact moment when I should be drawing strength from God, that I am only feeling sorry for myself, focusing on my deficiencies, and placing myself in the spot where Satan, that old serpent, wants me at.

* * *

It took forty years of desert wilderness before the Israelites could go into the Promised Land, and even at the threshold of paradise they still had much to answer for. Their faith was not as it should have been. They were still a mess—a work in progress, just like you and me. They looked into themselves and became discouraged, even impatient, and so doubted God.

The fiery snakes had always been in that desert, and for the past 40 years had never bothered the Israelites, for God’s protection was always with his people. When the people doubted God and eschew his blessings, they placed themselves away from his protection–right where the enemy wanted them. But what they needed to bring them back to life was Jesus.

They only had to look to the serpent in the pole which represented Jesus’ life-giving work for humanity.

So when the serpent comes after you, and you’re feeling weak, look at Jesus. Don’t look to yourself, your current circumstances, your shortages, etc. There is no merit in you at all.

Look to Jesus.

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-16)

Mountain of Intercession, Valley of Interaction

So Joshua…fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. (Exodus 17:10 ESV)

When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites camp in Exodus 17, Moses bid Joshua take men to battle with the assurance that he would be praying for him. Thus, the battle took place on two fields that day: In the valley of interaction with Joshua, and in the mountain of intercession, with Moses. Both battlefields are important.

  1. “Divine strength is to be combined with human effort— There is a saying in Spanish that says A Dios orando y con el maso dando. Literally it means “Praying to God as you strike with the hammer” God blesses human efforts, and his blessing come in proportion to how much energy and effort you put in.
  2. The success you get while in the valley of interaction will be dependent on whether you are winning or losing ground in the mountain of intercession. It was noted that whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed (Exodus 17:11).

Those are the “obvious” lessons. They deal with success in the valley of interaction. But there is one more that I’m driving at, and it deals with success in the mountain of intercession. It is a much more complex thing.

* * *

One of the things I’ve just now come to understand is that though the purposes of God are incredibly mysterious to us, they resolve beautifully in the end. That chain of events when life seemed to get out of control made perfect sense once I was able to look back, connect the dots, and see how God made much good come out of it. Oswald Chambers put it like this:

The circumstances of a saint’s life are ordained of God. In the life of a saint there is no such thing as chance. God by His providence brings you into circumstances that you cannot understand at all…bringing you into places and among people and into conditions in order that the intercession of the Spirit in you may take a particular line…to bring them before God’s throne and give the Spirit in you a chance to intercede for them.

So for the past two weeks I took this to heart. I made a list in a paper of the people in my life—family, friends, and other people I interact with and I prayed over them daily. My prayer time increased by as much as fifteen minutes. It was a short list, you see.

But each day as I prayed I thought of a new name, and added it to the list so that it grew and grew. It came to include people I love, and people I cannot stand. People I wish I could help, people I want to avoid. People I admire and people I secretly envy. People who have hurt me and people who have brought me joy. People that inadvertently make my life miserable, and people whom I have hurt. People I need to forgive, and people whom I need forgiveness from. People who are poor and sick and in great need. People who seem to have it all.

As you may imagine, my prayer time increased dramatically the longer my list grew. Praying more is, indeed, a benefit. However, I never imagined that after my first week or so I would have to encounter some people whom I could not face. People I literally hid from. They had been in my mind as I prayed, and in my heart of hearts I begged God to make them go away from my life.

The answer to this prayer came the next week. I was forced to encounter them, and yet it was so sudden and unexpected that I didn’t even have time to be embarrassed or nervous. Instead I was empowered to face the situation with grace, and I parted amicably with them.

It took a few minutes for me to realize that in reality, while I had been praying for other people, God had been at work in me, preparing me to go down to battle.

* * *

It is a tendency we all have to seek the Lord when we are in the greatest need. The truth, however, is that the victory in the battlefield is won in part by how we pray up in the mountain of intercession.

Why? Maybe it is because that is where we get out of ourselves. Instead of looking at our lives from the angle of our needs, our complaints, and our particular point of view, we begin to see it as part of a vast, living network. Each of us precious and important to God. Or maybe it is because we realize that there are others who are in greater need, in more pain, and whose troubles are greater than ours–Yet how awesome is it when we are reminded of God’s power when we see the answers of our prayers in other people’s lives? Super awesome. I just think that when we pray for others we empty ourselves and begin grow more and become more conscious of God’s work on Earth.

Sooner or later we all have to go down into battle, but until the next battle rages, are you preparing yourself in the mountain of intercession?

“Take Me to You…”

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

–John Donne, Holy Sonnet 14

Let’s be blunt, and say that there is no middle ground. There is no “Self” that thinks and acts on its own initiative and has no Master. The truth is that you are either a slave to Christ or a slave to Satan—that’s it.

As a slave to Christ, you are—indeed—free. But you can’t be free until he storms the castle of your cherished self, demolishes your ego, and enthrones himself in the seat of your heart. As a slave to Christ, you live day by day dependent on him, looking daily at his pure, holy, and loving character and by his grace the chains of sin that bind you are torn. The key to this freedom is the outright possession of your life by God. Apparent slavery. Are you willing to give up the control of your life?

On the other hand, as a slave to Satan you are under the impression that you have the greatest freedom imaginable (after all, isn’t the crummy Decalogue and the word of God nothing short of a yoke meant to keep you from all you really want to do?). The longer you’re under this regime, however, the more confined and debased you become. Apparent freedom is nothing more than self-destructive slavery that degrades you and your view of self, God, and the world around you.

I’ve come to realize that freedom is simply a matter of perspective, in which I must take into account whatI’m being freed from, and what I’m being freed to do. The good news of it all is that YOU choose what master you want to serve. No one can ever take that choice from you. So choose wisely.

May you choose the Master that frees you from degradation and confusion and frees you to be the person you were meant to be—free to do what is both great and fulfilling.

“For You have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” Gal 5:13

The Siren's Song

When the Sirens Sing

Enjoying intimacy with God involves walking in the Spirit. And walking in the Spirit MUST involve gaining victory over the flesh. It’s not a life of no longer being tempted. It is a life of overcoming temptation.

The following is entirely from J. Oswald Sanders; a passage I read this morning that I thought I should share:

The key is not the mere damming back of the temptation, only for it to break out once again, worse than ever. It is the counteraction operation of a higher and more powerful law. The principle [can be] powerfully illustrated in the Greek myths of Ulysses and the sirens, and Jason and the Argonauts.

When Ulysses and his men set out on their journey of conquest, they were warned by Circe to avoid the sirens at all costs. She told them that the sirens’ voices were alluring but fatal to all who stopped to listen. The unfortunate listeners became rooted like a tree and could not tear themselves away, until they died of hunger.

“Fill your companions’ ears with wax” she counseled. “If you yourself want to listen to their song, first let your men bind you securely to the mast.” Ulysses heeded her advice. “If the melody beguiles me,” he ordered them, “I charge you, disobey my word, and bend more strongly to your oars.”

At length Ulysses heard the beautiful strains that stole into his mind, overpowered his body, and overcame his will. As the music came sweeter and sweeter, Ulysses’ love for home weakened. He struggled with his shame, but at last the bewitching voices of the sirens prevailed.

“Loose me and let me stay with the sirens!” he raged. He threatened and entreated… He raged and tore at his bonds, for it was agony for him to leave the spot. But not until the last sound of music died away did they loose him. He had passed out of the zone of temptation.

Jason with his Argonauts set out in search of the Golden Fleece. Medea warned Jason and his men of the menace of the sirens, as they began to hear their bewitching strains. All around they could see the shore strewn with the bones of those who had succumbed to the sirens’ charms.

On board the boat was Orpheus, the king of minstrels. “Let them match their songs with mine,” he challenged the three maidens whom they could see, and whose silvery voices stole over the moonlit waters…The oars of Jason’s heroes fell from their hypnotized hands.

“Sing louder! Wake up these sluggards!” Medea cried to Orpheus. Orpheus struck his skillful hand over the strings of his lyre, and his voice rose like a trumpet. The music penetrated the souls of the infatuated men, and their souls thrilled. Orpheus kept on singing until his voice completely drowned the voices of the sirens. Once again the Argonauts took up their oars, and Jason and his men sailed to victory.

“Sing the song again, Orpheus,” they cried. “We will dare and suffer to the last.”

* * *

These stories strikingly illustrate two possible ways of gaining victory over the desires of the flesh. One is the way of negations and prohibitions. They are of some help and have their place. Ulysses was bound, otherwise he would have yielded to the cravings of his heart. His men had wax in their ears, or they too would have yielded. But it is an incontrovertible fact that to concentrate the mind on the desires of the flesh, if only to conquer them, seems to intensify the desires.

How much better is the Orphean music than the Ulyssian wax! With the heavenly Orpheus on board, as we listen to His heavenly music, the voices of the sirens lose the power of their appeal, and our spirits are set free.

It is all a matter of who is in control of the life. The self-life with its unlawful desires and tendencies is the citadel of the fleshly principle, and will continue to dominate until it is consigned to the cross. Paul wrote: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24). That is involved in walking by the Spirit and results in our emancipation from yielding to the desires of the flesh.

– – –

Sanders, J. Oswald. Enjoying Intimacy with God “Walking in the Spirit”