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

“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”

For That ONE Person

If you could sacrifice yourself, give every drop of your life’s blood, and every ounce of your flesh in the fire for the sake of saving all your family–would you?

How about for that one member of your family who is rebellious, who has decided to cut all ties with mum and dad, who curses at you when you approach them, and just wants to be on their own doing their own thing–even if it means that they are rushing headlong to an early and violent death? Would you?

If your answer is yes, then you are a better person than most. There’s a bunch of people out there who claim they would, but if I (and you) think about that person who I’m still struggling to forgive because of all the hurt they have caused back in my childhood– sometimes the answer is an uncertain “yes” at best.

The universal family includes all of us here on earth, the angelic beings in heaven, and the other beings we don’t really know about from other worlds God has created. Of the untold billions of members in that family, our little world is but a mere speck. A black speck. A smudge in the perfection of God’s kingdom.

Jesus could have been asked the same question by wonder-filled cherubim who couldn’t understand his choice.

“Are you willing to die for that black speck? By the people who run away from you when you approach them, and who will curse you, torture you, tear you apart, and nail you on a cross? Will you continue to love them knowing they might not love you back?”

We know the answer.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, NKJV)

By his life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan’s purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen….Through the eternal ages He is linked with us….By love’s self-sacrifice, the inhabitants of earth and heaven are bound to their Creator in bonds of indissoluble union….The earth itself, the very field that Satan claims as his, is to be not only ransomed but exalted. Our little world, under the curse of sin the one dark blot in His glorious creation, will be honored above all other worlds in the universe of God. Here, when he shall make all things new, the tabernacle of God shall be with men, “and he will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.” – E. G. White, Desire of Ages “God With Us”

If we are Christians, we follow and do and say what Christ would do and say too.

Would I be willing to seek others? Willing to sacrifice the comfortable habits of my life for the sake of ONE person who needs to be reached?

Or has the miracle of self-sacrificing love not become a reality in my life?

Preventing Identity Theft

Identity Theft

I swiped my card for the fourth time, with great misgivings in my heart.

*DENIED*

“Do you want to try sliding it again, ma’am?” The lady at the register of my neighborhood grocery store said.

I nodded, and tried again, barely conscious of the fact that I was holding up the line–the customers behind me could have been very annoyed, but I didn’t care. Nor did I care about the person bagging my $30 worth of groceries–who could have been shaking his head and slowly, and ever so surreptitiously begun to unbag the groceries he’d already put in my cart. I was only conscious of one thing . . . my mounting frustration.

Later I called and complained to my banking institution. What gives? I have more than enough money to cover this measly $30! It was then that I was told that there were some questionable transactions that I needed to verify… Transactions that did not conform to my spending habits… and only THEN did I notice the recently-posted transactions on my account… it had not been 24 hours since someone spent hundreds of dollars from my debit card on some random internet purchases, and my bank had blocked my card as a safety measure.

I panicked–wouldn’t YOU if an amount equivalent to a week’s worth of work is suddenly swiped from your account by some anonymous thief?

* * *

I was studying today for a discussion I’m leading on Saturday, when I came across an interesting sermon that put the idea of “Identity Theft” in an interesting light. I want to share it with you….

One of the crimes that is beginning to take off in our high-tech, information-driven society is known as identity theft. . . . This crime is well named because as far as the credit and banking systems are concerned, the person using the information is the same person whose name is on the card or account. For all practical purposes, there has been an exchange of identity.

What identity thieves accomplish illegitimately, Jesus Christ has accomplished legitimately for believers. That is, He has affected an exchange of identity with you. Christ did not simply come to change your life. He came to exchange your life for His [1].

I hope that you are never a victim of Identity Theft. However, I DO sincerely hope that if anyone is to take over your identity, it be Christ. When he takes over your life, you don’t end up losing, but gaining much, much more than you ever had to begin with…

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20)

– – –

[1] Krell, Keith, “Courting Sin” https://bible.org/seriespage/courting-sin-1-corinthians-61-11

Wings

How much faith do you have? And when you ask for things in prayer–with “faith”–is it to proclaim the goodness of God? Or is it just to satisfy needs? This is a Bible Study based on a sermon I heard a year or so back, that brings some more truth to what faith really should be.

* * *

There is a peculiar word whose meaning I would love to share with you.

It is the Hebrew word for “corner [of garment]” = ḵânâp (Strong’s number: h3671). It is used many times in the OT (Old Testament). Such as in the following verse:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart…so you shall be holy to your God” (Numbers 15:37-40)

In the text above, God instructed the Israelites to trim or edge their robes with blue, and at the corner (extremity) of their robes add a tassel. This was for the purpose of remembering the Lord’s commandments.

One thing of interest is that the word ḵânâp is the same word is used to denote wings, either literal (like for birds and angels) or figurative, like the border or edge of a tunic or robe, as is used in the passage.

As the OT is about to come to an end, the word appears again. This time it is part of one of the most beautiful promises pointing to the coming of the Messiah.

But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. (Malachi 4:2)

And the word for “wings”? Yes it is ḵânâp.

  • How would you interpret the meaning of this verse?
  • Would you take the literal or figurative meaning of the word ḵânâp?

Now if we take the word’s literal meaning, we could say that Messiah would rise like a (figurative) bird, with healing in its wings. It’s poetic and lovely, and I think most people would interpret it this way.

But here’s an alternate way of looking at it. For that we need to go to the NT, and read about a particular event in Jesus’ life.

While [Jesus] was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” (Matthew 9:18-21)

Obviously the language changes to Greek in the New Testament, but the word used for fringe still carries the meaning. “Fringe” used here (Strong’s number g2899), also means the same as ḵânâp “wing” “corner”, and “tassel.” Furthermore, Strong’s  emphasizes this connection between the word as found in the NT and its OT counterpart ḵânâp.

* * *

But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. (Malachi 4:2)

  • What happens if we take instead the message of Malachi as it comes: that is, the Messiah rises, and healing can be found at the corner of his garment?
  • How does that throw new light into the motivation of the woman who touched Jesus’ garment?

The woman’s act of bending down to ground level and touching the corner of his garment was not borne out of her timidity or shame at her situation (well, obviously there was some of that—but she could have also touched his back, his long hair, or his sandal if it only came to that). Her choice of touching the edge of his robe was far from arbitrary, for she remembered from the promise that the Messiah would bring healing in the corners of his garment.

Her act of faith is now seen for what it really was: It was her way of proclaiming to the world that Jesus was The Messiah which the prophets had spoken of.

Not many people in his days easily made the connection between prophecy of the coming Messiah and Jesus. In fact, most people missed the point. Is it any wonder Jesus wanted to stop and find her—and give recognition for what she had done? Is it any wonder that she is the only one of the women for whom it was ever recorded that he called “Daughter”?

For if we ask for miracles, shouldn’t their main purpose be to proclaim the goodness of God?

Based on a sermon by Pastor Garrett Speyer

While Reading the Bible, Discard the Brain (But Keep the Heart)

Most cultures in antiquity designated the heart not only as the seat of emotion, but also the seat of thought.[i] That’s why the Egyptians, for example, extracted and discarded the “useless” gray matter (i.e. brain) prior to the mummification of the dead (“Who cares what this mushy stuff is?It’s just gross… Hurry up and get it out”).

The heart, however, was jealously and carefully stored, because it was responsible for life, desires, and thoughts.

This same attribution occurred in the Jewish culture, which is why in the Bible the meaning of so many passages in which the heart is mentioned should be re-considered—there is additional depth to the heart than we can suppose upon a cursory reading. It is, therefore, convenient to re-define the meaning of heart as used in the Bible. Better yet, discard the notion/function of the brain as the seat of thought and keep the heart instead.

According to some sources, the heart was the “seat of all morality and of all moral and spiritual functions.”[1] This encompassed the conscience, and the thinking self.

In short, what came from the heart was much more than emotion. It was thought of as “the authority within.”[2] In other words, the will.

* * *

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

By the fact that “heart” is mentioned in this passage, it describes this love as being much more than a love based on emotions; it is based on a total surrender of the will and the self. A love coming from what makes you you—a conscious love, not a heedless, reckless thing.

This begs the question—how does one love God like that?  How can we, people who have so distorted the definition of love to include everything from affection, to fleeting infatuation (even erotic passion), properly respond? Is God simply asking for the impossible?

* * *

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

God’s promise is to give you a new heart—and with it a new way of thinking, a new way of making decisions, a new way of being your own self. That is what makes the promise in Ezekiel so much more meaningful than before. God wants to give you a new set of values by which you are able to live by. Obedience of his law comes natural to the new heart he gives you, because it has transformed the “authority within” you. It is no longer you, but Christ who lives, thinks, and is in you.


[i] It wasn’t until Herophilos in Alexandria (Egypt) did many studies in human anatomy by means of dissections, that the center of thought was relocated from the heart to the brain, and the mechanical connection between the heart, the pulse, and the flowing of blood in the veins was first grasped.

The Warning

“Son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not join them in their rebellion…”(Ezekiel 2:8)

Ezekiel’s calling is quite interesting to me.

After his vision of God, he was given precise instructions as to what he had to do. He was entrusted with a mission: to be a prophet for the people, a light-bearer in times of spiritual darkness. Next, he was empowered to do his work, as the people he would speak to were hard-hearted and would not easily accept him or the message he had. Then, he was warned not to give in to the people and join them into their rebellion. Finally, he was given the word of God to eat.

* * *

It was interesting to me to note that God warned Ezekiel not to join the rebellion. Is that even possible for someone who saw a Vision of God? If so. . .  then maybe there is more to this rebellion business than I thought at first glance.

There existed the danger that, in the face of such a terrible outlook, Ezekiel would shirk his responsibility. If he let fear get the best of him, then he would become identified with the same rebellion that the Israelites were guilty of—the same rebellion he was responsible for speaking up against. There was always that danger that he would be influenced by the apostasy around him and that he would lose notion of the real gravity of sin. There is a subtle poison in the atmosphere of a sinful society. It is difficult that a person hold on to his faith when he is among people who have no faith, especially when those same people pretend to have the same hopes and aspirations which he holds. For that same reason, the church’s greatest danger comes from within, not from without. If those who are called to be leaders are themselves “rebellious”, just as the “rebellious people”, What else can be expected but widespread godlessness? The history of the apostasy of Israel reveals the terrible result of what happens when human beings look to other human beings, and place their trust in impious leaders. [1]

* * *

There are two things to note.

  1. The rebellion was not so much an open attitude against God—a worshipping of idols, or other such outright refusals to worship him. Instead it consisted of a lifestyle that on the outside had the semblance of goodness but without making the necessary changes that consisted in total surrender to God.
  2. The spiritual leaders were in large part responsible for this. Ezekiel’s calling and the warning contained within is for us today as well. No matter what you do in life–what your vocation or job you have, you are a light for others—hence, you are a leader.

Have you accepted the call to serve God? Consider the message found in Ezekiel 2.


[1] Comentario Biblico Adventista del Septimo Día. Vol 4. (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1985) p.612 Translated from Spanish by Paula

Visions Of God

On the fifth day of the fourth month of the thirtieth year, while I  was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1:1)

Visions of God.

Distinctly different than Visions from God.

* * *

These were not only visions given by God, but manifestations of the divine glory of God. These types of visions are theophanies [theophany in the singular], and often took place at the beginning of the ministry of a prophet. Recall Isaiah seeing the mighty throne of God, Moses in front of the burning bush, John (the disciple) seeing Christ in the midst of the seven lamp stands . . . .

Why would God give his prophets visions of himself? One can consider it as a type of initiation for one who is now to enter a new realm of knowledge and perception, a new stage of his life, a new responsibility and mission.[1]

* * *

I think when we are called to do a work—whether great or small—for Christ, God manifests his glory to us in some way or another. And yet, the manifestation is different from person to person, and often it is impossible to explain to others. Ezequiel, for example, describes what he saw: four beings of human form—but so strangely unlike humans at the same time. Four wheels. Lightning and thunder. Voices. A throne of lapis lazuli upon which was

“a figure whose face resembled a man. From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day” (Ezequiel 1:26-28)

* * *

It is said[2] that the purpose of Ezequiel’s vision was to assure the exiles that despite the bleak outlook of the future, the current events had not escaped God’s control. It was to be an assurance that God was in complete control of the cosmos and the affairs of the world.

A revelation of God, therefore, can be a new insight to his character, a reminder of mercy, and a deeper knowledge of his love.

– – –

Have you ever had a vision of God?

What is the duty, if any, of anyone who has ever received such a vision of God?

What do you think is the meaning of the rainbow halo?

What could this symbol have signified to a people who had been through great hardship?


[1] Comentario Biblico Adventista del Septimo Día. Vol 4. (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1985) p.604 Translated from Spanish by Paula

[2] Ibid, p. 607

How to Find Treasure

When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight (Jer 15:16)

Shortly after Jack Thomas graduated from college as a Mining Engineer, gold was discovered at Devil’s Head Lake, Montana. So Jack headed West.

Three years later the death of his father left him with $20,000 in cash to which he added another $20,000 collected from relatives and friends. With the $40,000 he headed back to Devil’s Head Lake and staked out his claim on a formation he had been studying and was convinced gave promise.

With machinery bought, a crew hired, he started to drill. But at the end of two years he was worn out . . .  discouraged . . . and broke. All he had left was the battered drilling machinery and an assortment of tools and supplies. Utterly disillusioned and disgusted, he sold the entire outfit to a junk man for $1,500.

But before carting the machinery away the junk man looked over the ground. He had a hunch that Jack’s mining knowledge might have been good . . . but that he might have been a bit short on grit and determination.

So, instead of dismantling the machinery, he decided to do a little drilling on his own.

Thirty days later . . . exactly two feet below where Jack [had] stopped . . . the junk man hit one of the most valuable gold streaks in the region. [1]

“As the miner discovers veins of precious metal concealed beneath the surface of the earth, so will he who perseveringly searches the word of God as for hid treasure find truths of the greatest value, which are concealed from the view of the careless seeker.” [2]

* * *

Oftentimes I find that it is all too-easy to miss out on God’s message to me because I don’t focus on what I am reading. I read a Psalm, or a chapter of Proverbs and I consider that as enough, when that is barely scratching the surface of a treasure mine.

Sometimes I am too busy to dwell on what I read, to seek out more information, or to pray about it. I suspect most of us are like that. But how great would it be if we daily devoted an hour just to seek God’s messages for us in the Bible?

– – –

[1] Spangler, W. M.Trigonometry and Graphs, (Scranton: International Textbook Company, 1954) Jacket

[2] White, E. G. Steps to Christ, “A Knowledge of God”