Tag Archives: hebrews

midnight prayer

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Jesus

There’s no real place to begin. You are great. Thank you for reminding me of your unfailing love; love this isn’t determined by my performance, or even my attitude in approaching or obeying. I feel so inadequate, but I know that’s a lie. I am inadequate, but I’m also dead. You are the One alive in me; I have been crucified and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. You have blessed me with every spiritual blessing, including the strength to obey when I’m out of my league (because you are never out of Yours), and the Spirit to align my heart with yours. Holy Spirit, please do so. In my innermost being I long to worship Jesus in Spirit and Truth. Pierce through the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow; discern the thoughts and intentions of my heart. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! O God, how I need you. I need you for survival. I need you for satisfaction. I have tasted and seen, and now where else can I go? Thank you for never giving up on me, for never relenting in your pursuit of my heart. You have captured me, and your fetters of love will never let me go, no matter how hard I fight against and no matter how passive I become. You are the one who is holding me. It’s amazing. It’s my only hope. And, because of this, I will be singing of You forever. Forever.

I lay my prideful obsession with others’ approval at your feet. It’s all the same war, which you have already won, and yet I still try to pick up my wooden sword and flirt with the sin that only has my death intended. Help me to remember that amplification of myself is only resulting in death. Give me spiritual discipline and endurance to fight against this body of death and walk in newness of life, in step with Your Spirit.

I trust you have gone before me and I know you go with me.

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Wangki Mairin: The Voice of God

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(I just realized that the title of this post makes me sound like I am claiming to be the voice of God. This was not my intention, nevertheless…. Funny :P)

It only takes a few days in the Keogh house to know that both Tom and Nutie are in love with God. They seek His face continually, listening intently for His voice, and their lives are full of stories dripping with His clear direction.

After a day full of those stories, one of the house guests staying with us asked Nutie a genuine, honest question that I myself have asked many times: How do you hear the voice of God?

In response, Nutie called a Bible study the next morning, the first “English Bible study” we’ve had since I’ve been here in Waspam. And since she has a Bible school grad living under her roof, she asked if I had any wisdom to impart. Instantly, my mouth went dry, my pace started to quicken, and I found myself in an ironic position. At a loss for words, I instantly responded in prayer: Lord, help me. I know I hear Your voice, but I don’t know if I can describe it in a way that would make any sense. Praying a prayer about how to listen, which requires listening to know what to say. Go figure.

But God answered, like He always does. As we were sitting around the table, studying the Scriptures, memories of people and stories across the Scriptures flooded my mind. In order for one to listen to God’s voice, one must be able to recognize that it’s Him speaking. And what better way to do so than to hear how He’s spoken in the past?

-Abraham shows us that God doesn’t always give us the whole picture/plan. Instead, He sometimes works on a need-to-know basis, only voicing steps 1 and 2, calling us to step out in obedience, trusting God to guide us all the way through as we go. (Gen 12:1-4, Heb 11:8). We also see this idea in the life of Moses; God gave him direction in the desert, and then again in Egypt, and then again at the Red Sea, and then again on Mount Sinai, and then again through the wilderness wanderings, and then again on Mount Nebo. Each interaction was preceeded by his obedience of his given direction (Exodus and Numbers).

-James tells us that God can speak through trials. He never enjoys our pain, but instead offers us the chance to draw closer to Him through it, stepping up into our Father’s lap to hear the answers He will give as we ask Him. (James 1:2-8)

-Moses’ life shows us that God can speak through supernatural, unforgettable experiences. Through one burning bush, God took hold of Moses’ life in an unmistakable way, and his life was changed forever. (Ex 3-4)

-Saul/Paul’s life shows us that God can speak through “closed -door seasons”, making His will obvious through deliberately eliminating all other options. God took away Saul’s freedom (he had to be led around), his worldview (thinking that Jesus was just a cult leader), his mission, and his vision, all to make His one purpose for this man clear: serve Jesus. (Acts 9)

-I have heard God speak to me in ways similar to those seen in Nehemiah. God can speak through opportunities. When Nehemiah heard about Jerusalem’s condition (Neh 1), he immediately responded in prayer, not asking God if He wanted him to do something, but asking for His guidance as he responded. He clearly heard God’s voice when he saw this opportunity/need presented, one that specifically fit his passions and skills, and trusted God to overcome his own weaknesses.

-James also teaches us that God can speak through provision. To those financially hurting, God says, “Trust me. I will provide”, and to the well-off, God asks for generosity, open hearts/houses/hands, and submissive, joyful stewardship. (James 1:9-11)

-One of the ways I have heard God speak to me is how He spoke to Ruth: through influential relationships. While I’m sure Naomi instructed both Orpah and Ruth in the ways and laws of the Lord, it was her relationship with Ruth that led her towards the Lord. “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you, for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Though she was really clinging to the Lord through this statement, she clearly recognized His leading through Naomi.

-Through Elijah, we remember that God can speak through a still, small voice. Sometimes I think this phrase is annoying, because it’s almost cliche in Christian circles. Nevertheless, God chose to speak to Elijah in this way, showing that hearing God’s voice requires patience, a desperation for His guidance, and faithful, unswavering persistance. (1 Kings 19:9-13)

-Through Daniel, we see that God can speak through His Word. God has used the Bible countless times to speak directly to my heart. Daniel was just reading the prophecies of Jeremiah (which he acknowledged to be God’s Word), being faithful in His pursuit of the Lord, and through those words he clearly heard God’s voice of conviction. Through this conviction, and Daniel’s humble, prayerful response, God spoke incredible prophecies into Daniel’s ear, ones concerning both the deliverance of Israel from Babylon and the future deliverance (and judgement) of the whole world. (Daniel 9).

-And then we come to Samuel, who clearly heard God’s voice. I’ve always thought this was a funny story, though. One of the few people to audibly hear God’s voice, and it takes him three seperate times to identify the Speaker. (Not that I can say I’d be any different). How incredible would it be to audibly hear the voice of God?!?

One of the best ways to identify the voice of God is revealed in Hebrews 1:1-3.

“And now in these final days, He has spoken to us through His Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son He created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command. When He had cleansed us from our sins, He sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

Jesus is the clearest expression of God’s character, the best way to identify the voice of God, being the His very Word. Through the Gospels we can not only read the actual words spoken from God, but we can see what He cares about, how He approaches situations, and what His relationships look like. What better example can we ask for?

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. I could have written many more examples, and God speaks in many other ways, but I was greatly encouraged by these few stories that popped into my head. Not only did they help me see the fruits of my year at GCBI, but I they also reminded me of one other way God speaks: in response to prayer. He heard my simple, heartfelt request for help, and answered with a resounding “Yes!” by providing story after story after story demonstrating His deep desire to interact with His beloved creation.

What an awesome God we serve, amen?

Vulnerable

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I learned something today. You know how people always say that your perception of God often times is based on your perception of your parents (often, your father)? I never really believed that. I’ve had a pretty broken relationship with both of my parents for most of my life, but my walk with God has grown steadily stronger and stronger. I always figured I was the weird exception to this rule; maybe because I’ve been a believer since I was 6 years old. Maybe because I’ve been walking God for quite some time… But, through that intimacy, God showed me that I am not the exception.

For the past 6 months I’ve been helping with my church’s youth sunday school, which pretty much means sitting in with them and trying to facilitate discussion. And, of course, I’ve been learning like crazy during this “teaching” experience; every week, God convicts/encourages me somehow through our lesson. Recently, we’ve been going through Francis Chan’s “Surrender” series, in which students are challenged to surrender every aspect of their lives to God. This week we watched the last video: Surrender Self. As the video was ending, the narrator asked us a very simple question: What areas of your life are you clinging to? In what aspects of your life are you resisting surrender? Nothing immediately came to mind, and so I prayed that simple sentence: God, where am I not surrendered to you? Is there anything I’m clinging to, any place I’m resisting you? And He answered me. It was a beautiful moment; only a few times in my life have I “heard” God’s voice so clearly. I can’t really describe it, other than to say that if it were any more obvious, I would have heard a spoken voice. Almost instantly after praying that simple prayer, a thought popped into my head, and I knew it was from God. It was so unexpected, so out-of-nowhere, I knew it couldn’t have come from me.

My mind flashed back to multiple experiences these past few weeks, all with the same thought-process. Those spare evenings or spaces of time I’ve had recently, times I knew I spend with God, but chose not to. “I don’t have enough energy,” I’d tell myself. “I just need some down-time. I’ve been going and going and going.” And that may be true; everyone needs down-time, especially over-doers like me. But this morning, the Holy Spirit gave me some insight, His perspective on this situations; that soft, clear voice whispered in my head: Jessi, you aren’t vulnerable with me.

Lightbulb. And then I got it. This is one area where my childhood is affecting my walk with Jesus: vulnerability. I did not grow up in an emotionally safe environment, so I developed a “survival mode” in which I lived for many years: ignore the feelings of injustice, anger and pain I have inside me, and dismiss them by telling myself, “You’re over-reacting”, “This won’t help anything”, or “You need to respect your parents”. Throughout this year, I’ve started to realize that even though I may think I’m not angry anymore, simply dissmissing my hurt feelings does not make the pain, or the root issue, dissappear. The healthy way of dealing with those feelings is to face them, not hide from them. I don’t have to hide anymore. In the past, I suppressed those feelings for fear of them overwhelming me; the situations causing those feelings weren’t bound to change, so I was afraid that if I acknowledged those feelings, I’d be stuck in them, just like I was stuck in my situation. But things are different now, and it’s time to start peeling off that “survival mode”. With the Holy Spirit’s empowering, I’m gonna start cutting those strings and leave the old habits behind.

God showed me my own reasoning in those moments these past few weeks. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12.  My “I don’t have enough energy” was really “I don’t want to put the effort in to fight my natural inclinations and be real with God. I don’t want to take the time and energy to present what’s really worrying me to Him and actually leave it at His feet. I’d much rather continue in my ‘survival mode’ and try to distract myself.” And that dissatisfied feeling I”d have after spending that hour “relaxing” I’d just dismiss by telling myself that I must be tired from working so hard. I now see that I was dissatisfied because I was choosing the easy route instead of the challenging, fullfilling route.

One of my favorite bands, Tenth Avenue North, wrote a song about this same issue:

 

Father, help me to be vulnerable with You. Help me to fight the good fight, to war with my normal and choose to surrender myself to You. Help me to be honest with You and myself, knowing that You long for me to be real with You. Thank You for speaking with me so clearly. Thank You for calling me deeper into relationship with You. Keep calling me, Lord.

(for the music video, check out The Song in My Head…)

“Fixing” Mirrors

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So this morning I decided that I was just going to do it. There’s no way to start unless you just start….

God’s been convicting me on our relationship; I’ve let my time in the Word in class and homework take the place of my personal time with Him. And, not that it’s some legalistic sin, but I can tell the difference. I’ve still been learning like crazy, and God has been convicting/speaking/guiding me, but the intimacy that I know I’ve been designed for is lacking. So, I’ve decided to do something about it. Nothing magical, no instant fix. I’m just going to, by His grace, get back into spending time daily with Him, reading His word. I’ve decided to read through 2 Peter, and then hit the Christmas story (fitting for the season.)

So, this morning I cracked open Peter’s second book, only to make it 9 verses in, and then my whole day changed….

“Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”

The Holy Spirit took hold of me with that last verse: “…. short-sighted and blind…” That’s what I’ve become: short-sighted. I’ve lost sight of the big picture, I’ve become content with “ok”, forgetting both who God really is and who He’s called (purified) me to be.

And it kept coming. During the first service in church this morning, Pastor Randy spoke from Exodus 20:18-21, the Israelites’ response to God revealing the Law to Moses.

“18 All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speakto us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.”

In classic Randy style, he pulled all kinds of principles from those four verses, but the first one was enough for me. See, God’s show of power and holiness was supposed to inspire fear into the Isrealites (“so that [they] may not sin”), but they weren’t supposed to stay there. They were supposed to move from terror into awe and submission. But they stayed in the first position, because they based their decisions on what they saw. This hit me like round two; again, with the sight thing. What is the Biblical definition of faith? Seeing things the way God says they are, not how my eyes natually see them. The Israelites here did not have faith. In hearing thunder and lightening, they saw danger and “trembled and stood at a distance”. God challenged me that I am called to live a life of faith, and I can’t possibly live as He wants me to if I base my decisions solely on what I see. I can’t be short-sighted.

But it’s not over yet. Bring on round three. During second service, I’ve been helping with Youth Group Sunday School, where we’ve been going through Francis Chan’s “BASIC” series. He’s put together a DVD series of videos and discussion questions based on the basic fundamentals of the Christian life. Today’s was on…. living/walking in the Holy Spirit. So we spent a whole hour discussing how the Holy Spirit leads us, and what walking in His guidance looks like practically.

As the day progressed, I realized that I have placed mirrors in front of my eyes. I have made myself the center of my sight, falling deeper and deeper into pride and complacency. And with my own image reflecting back to me, my vision’s scope had shortened dramatically. Short-sighted.

Father, take down my mirrors. Help me “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles [me], and let [me] run with endurance the race that is set before [me], fixing [my] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:1-2.