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?

God’s Hand

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. (Proverbs 3:27 NLT)

The ropes dug painfully into his armpits as he was lowered down into the dungeon. The air was damp and foul, and very little could be seen by the wan light of the late afternoon that entered in through the small opening above—an opening that kept getting smaller and smaller the further down he was lowered.

They said this dungeon had been a cistern that was now emptied of water…just how deep was it? Jeremiah did not know. At last he felt his feet touch the bottom. Well, there was no danger of him drowning—What his feet touched was not water…but mud: thick, cold and viscous into which Jeremiah sank.

Complete darkness engulfed him when they closed the cistern. At last he understood—he had been left to die there: Buried alive in mud and darkness, alone, and in the silence of the grave.

He must have struggled against panic. His heart and even his faith could have failed him with the realization that the evil men’s intent was that he should die in that pit of mire. To cry out for help was useless—had not king Zedekiah himself delivered Jeremiah to the hand of enemies? Besides, no one would be able to hear the feeble cries coming up from the pit. And if that wasn’t enough, the unpopular prophet had few friends, and none who could overturn the order of a king. Only one could help—and to him did Jeremiah cry out

But I called on your name, Lord, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!” Yes, you came when I called; you told me, “Do not fear.” (Lamentations 3:55-57 NLT)

***

But Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an important court official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern. At that time the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate, so Ebed-melech rushed from the palace to speak with him. “My lord the king,” he said, “these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern. He will soon die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.”

So the king told Ebed-melech, “Take thirty of my men with you, and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.”

So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to a room in the palace beneath the treasury, where he found some old rags and discarded clothing. He carried these to the cistern and lowered them to Jeremiah on a rope. Ebed-melech called down to Jeremiah, “Put these rags under your armpits to protect you from the ropes.” Then when Jeremiah was ready, they pulled him out. (Jeremiah 38:7-13 NLT)

***

Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. (Proverbs 3:27 MSG)

God could have easily sent an angel and delivered Jeremiah. God can use angels to feed the hungry, rescue the oppressed, speak up for truth, and spread the message of hope to the nations. But he gives us the opportunity to do this work, to be his hands, his feet, and be the means by which he gives blessings to others. That is why we are in the world. We are not told to be hermits and be holy by ourselves. The biggest blessing we can receive is that of being an agent—an ambassador—of God.

If Ebed-melech the Ethiopian had not heeded to the call of God and been brave enough to approach the king to plead Jeremiah’s cause, he might have ended up the way all the other king’s officials did: Taken captive by Nebuzaradan, dragged to Riblah in chains to face Nebuchadnezzar, and then put to death. But God had a special message for him; a promise that any of God’s children can claim if they do God’s bidding and are faithful to their trust.

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I will do to this city everything I have threatened. I will send disaster, not prosperity. You will see its destruction, but I will rescue you from those you fear so much. Because you trusted me, I will give you your life as a reward. I will rescue you and keep you safe. I, the Lord, have spoken!”(Jeremiah 39:16-18 NLT)

Have you claimed the privilege of being God’s hand for someone lately?

Long-Distance Relationship

I still remember the boy I loved. How can anyone ever forget the first requited love of their life?

It’s been years since then, and I’ve turned into a wry spinster of sorts. But still, I can’t forget random small memories of him. Like how, for example, he once caught me in a hallway as I passed, pulled me inside an empty classroom, and laughingly whispered a few bits of nonsense in my ear before letting me go on my way, with my face burning, because he’d just kissed me.

Ours was a tender relationship, with the blessing of our respective parents to boot. Who knows, maybe it would have fledged into something serious. Alas, it was not to be, because the inevitable happened—my first boyfriend moved away, ending the small gestures of affection that characterize puppy love, and leaving behind a little girl crying out for her first love.

* * *

I am the first to tell my friends that a long-distance relationship cannot work. Lovers’ promises of undying affection and devotion cannot survive the great divide of time and space. Or can they?

* * *

“…and be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)

When I read the last chapter of Matthew a few months ago, I was incredibly perturbed. I felt a great and extreme sadness. How could anyone that loved Jesus, that walked with him, that enjoyed close friendship and communion with the Son of God not be overcome by the sorrow? Sure I knew about the logistics of the master plan—the Holy Spirit coming to earth as the comforter, etc. That wasn’t the point.

You see, I knew the singular pain that comes with the realization that things are not the same, and that the hope of eventually meeting up again is not enough to keep a relationship going.

* * *

“…I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3 NLT)

If it were up to us humans to keep the relationship going (if it were based on our love and faithfulness), then surely whatever relationship we could have with Jesus would end soon after it sparks into being. But God’s love is as everlasting as God himself is.

I take hope in the knowledge that God himself is the guarantee of this relationship working out even when we can’t enjoy physical proximity. I believe that the ties of love that bind you and me to heaven are stronger—infinitely stronger than any human-forged ties. There is no beginning of His love, nor an end of it. It is boundless and ever present.

Physical separation is not enough to break such ties, and neither is our betrayal or our sin or our forgetfulness powerful enough a reason to break the love of God.

* * *

I bask in the knowledge that there is one who loves me greatly and tenderly. I read his love letters every day, and talk to him continually.

I’m 27 years old, my love life is a total wasteland. To most people I appear to be the one that disdains romance, who is proud of being the opposite of a man-magnet. A cynic. But truly, that’s all just a flimsy front.

My Heavenly Prince is the one that makes and keeps me hopelessly and incurably romantic.

Abandoned to Him (Part 2)

The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah . . . “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch:  ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For the Lord has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.”’ “Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land.  And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the Lord. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”’” (Jeremiah 45 NKJV)

So we drudge away in the Lord’s work. And feel unhappy, unrealized. We sigh and groan and mope as we wait for God to show up in an unmistakable manner. Like Baruch we go on, meekly doing the work and motions, hoping that one day our Great Work will begin.

Well stop that!

It is time to stop making suppositions about what you can do for God. Let God tell you. “Immediately you do abandon, you think no more about what God is going to do. Abandon means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking questions. If you do abandon yourself entirely to God, He says at once ‘Thy life will I give thee for a prey'” Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

When you do abandon yourself you have a great assurance that wherever you may go–even if it is into hell, as Chambers puts it–You will come out with your life. Nothing and no one can harm it.

* * *

I need faith. A greater faith. In the Bible there was a man who wanted a miracle, but begged Jesus to help him in his unbelief, and Jesus did help. I can’t ask for the proper abandoned state of being, but I can get there only by faith–and God will meet you where you are at.

If abandonment is letting the control of my life slip from my fingers, then fine. It’s time to admit that I wanted to use God as my free pass to fame–as a writer of “Christian Novels” or whatever. But I realize now that if I want to work for him, I must do it its own sake, not for seeking earthly or eternal glories or recognition. But most importantly, I want to have the greatest and biggest reward–Life. A life of dwelling for ever in the center of God’s will, fully trusting in Him, and knowing that He will never leave me, and never disappoint me.

Abandoned to Him (Part 1)

The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah . . . “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch:  ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For the Lord has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.”’ “Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land.  And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the Lord. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”’” (Jeremiah 45 NKJV)

So I’ve been asking God to give me purpose. I came to believe that I needed God to tell me what is that which I need to do to bring glory to Him and draw many others to Him. I was sure He wanted to use me in whatever great big plans he has. I’d been asking for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, for Him to give me the wisdom I lack, and the clarity of mind to discern what my purpose is in this world. And yet, I was feeling Spiritually bleh. 

* * *

I am reading through the Bible from cover to cover. It’s taken me at least two years to get to Jeremiah. Today’s reading, though, I felt was rather dry (Jer 45-48), and I wondered what message God had for me among the messages of doom to the Nations of Egypt, Moab, et al. Sighing, I reached randomly in my bookshelf and got out my Oswald Chambers devotional, and opened at one of the sticky tabs I had inserted in. And I read it–It was based on Jeremiah 45.

Coincidence? Not really!!

“Are you seeking great things for yourself? Not seeking to be great but great things from God for yourself? God wants you in a closer relationship to Himself than receiving His gifts. He wants you to get to know Him. A great thing is accidental. It comes and goes. God never gives us something accidental . . . If you have only come the length of asking God for Things, you haven’t come to the first strand of abandonment. You have only become a Christian from a standpoint of your own.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Ouch. But true. Because I know that when I feel spiritually bleh you try to do Things to kindle that fire which no one but God can set ablaze. You pray and pray, read the word, do Bible studies, sacrifice yourself, you do anything that will Mortify your flesh, except surrender control of your life. Until you do so your heart isn’t in the right place–So it’s all for naught. Because you’re asking for God to use you in a powerful way–YOUR way. You aren’t abandoning yourself to let HIM do or use you in the manner he thinks is best.

In other words, Chamber says that you are not abandoned enough to God if you keep asking for Things, even if it is the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.

WHAAAT?

Because prayer is aligning yourself to God’s will, not the other way around.

Reboot–Notes

Last week was the last in a month-long series of sermons at my church dealing with the issue of renewal.

We used the analogy of when your computer stops working and it crashes. Nothing you do can make it alright again. The only solution left is to reboot. This is what we need to do in life too.

1. Don’t despair when your life unravels and gets out of control. Because this needs to happen first before you can become the instrument of God. The only people God can use are broken people.

2. There is a beautiful analogy in the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). When, after his resurrection, Jesus met two disciples and walked with them on their way to Emmaus. He was invited for supper, took the bread, blessed it (gave thanks for it), broke it, and gave it to them. This is a metaphor for whAt Jesus does to us.

  • Jesus takes you
  • Blesses you — Do you remember when you first converted and accepted Jesus that great, happy time when you felt so connected to Him? Do you remember how you felt so joyful to be alive, and all around you saw evidences of his love and care for you? Maybe you began writing a blog, or composed happy music to share with others what Jesus has done for you? Yes. That is the blessing stage.
  • Breaks you — Your happy life begins to unravel. God reveals his glory to you and you see how you really are. Sinful, weak, inept. You’ve always been broken, it’s only now that you realize it. You lose your self-sufficiency.
  • Gives you a calling to serve others — Peter’s calling and Isaiah’s calling are just a few examples of this truth. Both were called to serve immediately they recognized how human they were.

3. God uses our messes to reach other people. He uses those things in the past that we had no control over, and those things we willingly walked into, to reach other people. Our scars and old wounds become channels for his grace to touch people whose lives we would not have been able to touch if we had been pristine. Satan’s plans are frustrated because he can’t knock you down.

4. Never forget that it is when you are weak that you are strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

God’s grace is enough; it’s all you need.
His strength comes into its own in your weakness.

– – –

Notes from Sermon by Pastor Ritchie Pruehs (1/25/14)

Video by Yours Truly 🙂

Doormat

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I will be loved (2 Corinthians 12:15)

When I began this blog I said that I wanted to share about what I learned as I looked to God. I wanted to share with others my spiritual journey. I was feeling very smug in Christ, I suppose. Please excuse me. I was on the Blessing stage.

Lately I’ve been examining myself and why I do what I do. I’ve been searching within my heart, and scrutinizing my motives. Is my service to others a duty? Is Jesus in the center of it all?

I think about how dejected I sometimes feel because I think that I’m not making much of a difference in people’s lives or making any significant positive changes in my life as a result of the service I do…but mostly (this is mortifying to admit but necessary to say), I feel like I keep making people a priority when those same people think of me as second choice, or replaceable.

Quite honestly, this struggle did not exist until I got a job and suddenly every precious minute counted. And my time finally began to be equated with money. Last week the struggle came to a head. Yes, I’ve reached the Broken stage….I think.

Last week I read a quote from Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest

The mainspring of [our] service is not love for men, but love for Jesus Christ. If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be crushed and broken-hearted, for we shall often meet with more ingratitude from men than we would from a dog; but if our motive is love of God, no ingratitude can hinder us from serving our fellow men.

That paragraph blew my mind. Chambers goes on to say that with the realization of how Jesus deals with us and how he has “saved us to the end of our meanness, our selfishness, and sin, nothing that we meet with from others can exhaust our determination to serve men for His sake”

He presents us with Paul’s case, Paul’s willingness to become a “doormat” for others for Jesus’s sake. He was met with abuse, ingratitude, calumny from the ones he gave the gospel to. He was persecuted, beaten, almost killed…and still he did what he did—he was a doormat for others to make use of—only because of his love of Jesus.

My soul-searching this week did not reveal to me that my motives are pure. On the contrary. I am selfish. I serve others, but in my heart of hearts I expect them to return the favor, or at least give credit when it’s due. That’s wrong.

I’m also a fake. Because there’s a few people whom I know who look to me for some spiritual guidance, and I cannot give them anything. Well. I DO, I listen to them and talk to them and they walk away feeling good or at least feeling better. But I think that is also wrong. How can I minister others? Was I not the one that recently complained to my mom Who will minister to ME? And Why doesn’t the person I care about, care about ME for once?

It’s a wonder I’m still compelled to continue writing in this blog. But like I said before, this blog details my spiritual walk with God, and this is where it has led me. Whoever said that transformation from the sinful human to the Holy nature was like a pleasant saunter?

No one said it.

Beside the Master

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? (John 21:15)

I can feel it. There are words that cannot be said, but it is in everyone’s minds as we sit here by the lake with our Master.

Outwardly everything looks the same. Last time we even went fishing together. And now that the Lord has appeared to us we are sitting here like before. We eat and hold on to his every word as he speaks to us words of comfort and wisdom—words from God’s own mouth.

But it’s no use. Something has changed, at least with respect to me. For days past I’ve noticed the unexpressed thought that they all have. The doubt. The distance.

There he goes again. I’ve just caught James looking at me. He looks away whenever I catch him, but eventually he glances at me, looks me over, and then looks at the Master by whose side I sit. I know what he is thinking—I am unworthy to be counted among them. I’ve forfeited my right to sit by the Master’s side and break bread together like before. I’ve cut myself off from the intimate fellowship I was once part of.

You see, I denied the Master. I who said I would die for him and with him if necessary invoked curses and oaths a few hours later and denied my beloved Master. Praise God He is alive . . . but things aren’t the same. Nothing can ever be the same. The other ten distrust me. I am no better than Judas who betrayed him.

And then the Master suddenly changes the direction of the conversation. Right in front of them he turns to me and asks.

Do you love me—more than these?

The others sit still. When was the last time I flushed with embarrassment? When was the last time I was at a loss for words? I’ve never experienced this before. I dare no longer express so violent and boastful an affection.

He asks me this three times. At last, my heart shatters when I see the significance of the number—for the number of times I denied him. Can it be too late? Too late to make my Master and my Lord believe that I love him?

And yet . . . I have nothing to offer but the humble love of one who no longer dares to boast and strut around in self assurance. I have nothing to make him believe the depth of my affection, my gratitude, and unshaken belief that he is, indeed, the son of God.

That old bloke is gone, my Lord, and in its stead is just me, Simon whom you called Peter, looking beyond myself to become the man you wanted me to become. And I’m so desperately hoping you will believe me. You know everything.

And that is enough. You take me back, and by your grace I am restored into close communion with you and my fellow brothers, my new family. Yes, I failed. Not once, but many times. But you, oh Lord, make all things new.

Restored to you, called once more to your service, and entrusted with a mission.

Yes, Lord. I will follow you. Use me to feed your lambs and tend to your sheep.

Holiness to the Lord

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9)

We are to remember that God has the ownership of all, and that our pursuits are invested with a sacredness that they did not possess before we enlisted in the army of the Lord. Every action is to be a consecrated action, for it occupies God’s entrusted talent of time.

Holiness unto the Lord is inscribed on all our actions, because our whole being is brought under subjection to God.

–E. G. White (Manuscript 49, 1898)

My first job after graduating from university was at a law firm. It was an experience I’ll never forget, particularly because the nature of the work required that I grow up. I had to step outside of my comfort zone and do things that I had never done before. Serve unlawful detainers? Check. Serve subpoenas and deal with uncooperative receptionists and door men to get it done? Check. Receive all manner of people in the office and call all manner of agencies to get the information I needed (a real challenge for someone as introverted and timid as I was then)? Check.

The legal environment was something I had never experienced before. It’s a fast-paced and demanding line of work. You also encounter in each case so much drama, tragedies, suffering and loss that it seemed to me that one got used to it–nothing was shocking anymore. Maybe only stupid. Oh, they laughed a lot at the stupidity of some of the people who came to us. I think that is why it seemed that the people I worked with seemed to me to be rather cynical.

It was not just that. I’d been a “good” girl all the time, so the environment was rather a shock to me. People swore liberally in their conversations, and as to their–ahem–morals, they didn’t really let them get in the way of doing things that are better not shared here. It was odd to them when I did not laugh at a witty joke full of innuendo, too. In time, however, my boss refrained from saying some types of jokes in my presence because my ears were “virgin” (as he called it), and some coworkers apologized to me whenever the swearing got really bad.

Where did that come from? I wondered. I never preached to them, saying–what you are doing is bad. What you are saying should fill you with shame. Nope. I just did my job–and I did it well, too. And it wasn’t that I was so unapproachable or timid and was living in a silent and isolated little bubble of my own. Nope. After getting the hang of the job I was energetic and friendly with everybody in the office.

* * *

I think that if we are Christians, we must live up to our namesake. Not just in church, or during church activities. Not just among our Christian friends and brethren, but among the people we work and live with. We are instruments, and once committed to God, we are to do God’s work even as we do our everyday labor.

People are not reached by the bullhorn guy who is preaching fire and damnation. People are reached by the Christian friend or the Christian coworker. People like you, and people like me, who live up to their Savior’s name.

The Unseen

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)

He was a philosophy major and he wanted me to tell him how I—a rational, intellectual person—believed in God. He caught me off guard (spiritually speaking). At that time I was ill prepared to counter his arguments, and though I spewed out all manner of things (which I still don’t remember) in a valiant effort to prove to him that Christians are not the mindless and anti-science lot he made us out to be, it was a dismal failure. Ultimately I had to fall back on faith: You believe or you don’t.

He rolled his eyes at me, “Well, that is what I want to know. You believe—have this faith that you call it. How did you come about to have that faith?”

I could not answer that then. The basic explanation of faith in the Bible still confounded me, how could I explain that which I never really knew of? I simply believed, and I figured that was the same as having faith, right?

Now I am inclined to think otherwise.

Belief—like I’ve said in one of my previous posts—is nothing special . It is essential to faith, but it is not faith. Belief will only carry you as far as the limits of your comfort zone, that is, up to the point where certainty ends and where faith must begin.

Ok, so I believe. How do I make the leap from believing to having faith so small (the size of a mustard seed) that I get to move the mountains? That, O my soul, is the work of God!—and it’s up to you to let him do his work or not.

God brings us into circumstances in order to educate our faith, because the nature of faith is to make its object real. Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction and we cannot have faith in Him…Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ  –Oswald Chambers [1]

My mercenary self always missed the point of faith. Before feeding the prophet—so to speak—I wanted to know for sure that God would replenish the jar of flour and the jug of oil. In short, I wanted to have the certainty of something happening (of my leap of faith being effective) before I acted upon my faith (before leaping). That, of course, is missing the point altogether. I was a mere believer—seeking certainty and not faith—what else was to be expected?

The ultimate goal of faith is to know and love the Father. Hebrews 11;1 talks about faith being a certainty of what is unseen. For me, the only unseen that matters most (indeed, the only thing I should seek to be certain of) is the Father–the great Unseen– whom one day we all hope to see face to face.

That is the crowning glory and the goal of having faith: to reach the point of not needing faith. To reach Heaven. Healing the sick, moving mountains, having free refills comes as a happy bonus. It’s extra.

 


[1] Chambers, Oswald, My Outmost for His Highest “Faith” (October 30)