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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Recently I read this delicious little portion of ministry and I’ve been meaning to share it. It’s from a book on prayer and the portion I enjoyed is a commentary on the story in John chapter 2, when the Lord went to the wedding in Cana and changed the water into wine. If you’re not familiar with the story, basically it goes like this – Jesus is invited to a wedding, along with his mother and disciples. While they’re there, the wine runs out and Jesus’ mother comes and tells Him that there is no wine, obviously wanting Him to do something about the situation. His answer to her is “Woman, what do I have in this that concerns you? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) I was always quite puzzled by this reply. To me, it kind of sounded like something a teenager with attitude would say to his mom. Anyways, Mary obviously didn’t get the hint and goes ahead and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says. He gives them instructions to fill the water pots with water and then to draw some and take it to the master of the feast. Upon drinking it, the master of the feast declares that wine to be better than the previous one.

So here’s the portion I enjoyed:

Marriage is the center of human life, and a wedding feast represents the pleasure of human life. The Lord came to the earth and entered into us in order to become the center of our human life and the pleasure of our human life. He did not come to ignore us or to be unconcerned with our affairs. He came to bear responsibility for our affairs. However, as a prerequisite, we must hand all authority over to Him and give Him full liberty.

The fact that the wine ran out means that something central and crucial was missing at the wedding feast. Since the Lord was there, He was surely interested in the feast. He would not stand by without doing something. Nevertheless, Mary, the Lord’s mother in the flesh, a person who represents us in our way of contacting the Lord, went to the Lord to propose that He do something. She did this with good intentions. In contacting the Lord we must beware that our intentions should not go before His intentions. (The Meaning and Purpose of Prayer, p 41)

First of all, I was encouraged that Jesus was at the wedding. I’m sure He was busy, teaching, preaching and healing people. But He took time out to go to this wedding, to be involved in something so common to human life. He wants to be involved in, is concerned with, and even wants to bear responsibility for all our human affairs. He didn’t skip out and say, “Sorry I have more important things to do, I’m here to carry out God’s will on the earth.” Yes, He’s here to carry out God’s will, but He does that by entering into our situations so that when we realize the “wine” has run out, He’s there to give us the better wine.

Secondly, because He’s concerned and wants to bear responsibility for our affairs, there’s no need for us to direct Him. Like Mary, I’m often quick to direct the Lord when I sense there’s a need in a certain situation. I pray for the Lord to do something and even offer Him proposals and advice on how He should do it. But His response to Mary at that wedding is clear indication that He doesn’t need our proposals or counsel. He knows our need better than we do and He has His timing and His way to meet it. We just need to stop directing, start listening and do whatever He says. If He says to fill the water pots to the brim, then amen, that’s what I’ll do, even though I don’t see how that helps the situation. If we all could learn this lesson when it comes to everything that concerns us – our marriage life, family life, work life, church life – I think there would so many more opportunities for the Lord to change our water into wine.

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I recently came across this awesome portion in my random times of ministry reading –

The entire New Testament involves these two words: come and go. The New Testament involves coming, and it also involves going. To come is to receive grace, and to go is to impart grace into people. By our coming and going, we will eventually express a desire to the Lord. We will say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 2:20). Therefore, the second “come” is connected to the Lord’s coming again. Hence, the entire New Testament is concerning these three words: come, go, and come…May the Lord strengthen both our coming and our going. If we daily come to the Lord in the morning, at noon, and in the evening, we will surely go and testify to people. The issue of such coming and going is that we desire and yearn for the Lord to come back. (The Age of The One New Man, Witness Lee, pp. 56-57)

I love how this passage summarizes so simply the essence of the New Testament and of our Christian life. Our Christian life should just involve these three actions – we come to the Lord, we go to people, and then we yearn for the Lord to come. So simple, yet if we’re faithful to live a life like this, it will be one filled with joy, meaning, and purpose. The Lord has been touching me lately to step out of my comfort zone and to go visit people I normally don’t see on a regular basis. People that I haven’t seen in the church meetings in a while, new people that I’ve met at the church meetings, other stay at home moms that I might not know so well, basically anyone that the Lord would put in my heart. Often the Lord will bring a person to my mind, and yes, while I’m faithful to mention these ones in prayer when that happens, sometimes the Lord will nudge me to go a step farther…text them to see how they’re doing, invite them over for tea, or just drop by for a visit. I usually am not that good in obeying those nudges, but the more I come to the Lord, the more I’m learning to be one with Him in His sending. And when I do obey, the supply of life just flows and my joy is truly made full.

May you all have a blessed week of comings and goings! Come to the Lord continually to receive grace and go with that grace to whomever the Lord would send you. If we would all do this, I believe there would be the corporate cry within us all of “Come, Lord Jesus!”

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Recently I’ve been reading through a ministry book by Witness Lee titled “The Sufficiency, Pursuit, and Learning of the Lord’s Serving Ones.” I’ve been reading it in the snatches of time I have during the day – while waiting at the bus stop, on the bench at the park, during CC’s swim class. Reading it in little snippets during the day has been so enlightening, helpful and supplying. I’ve really enjoyed a particular portion I read a few weeks ago, which I’ve been chewing on and quoting to everyone. It’s so good, I’ll just quote part of it here –

Genuine spiritual life grows in desolate circumstances. We should not expect to always receive light when we read the Bible, to have the Lord’s presence when we pray, to save many sinners, or that our wife, husband, children, parents, and siblings will be spiritual. These expectations are unrealistic. Those who are genuinely spiritual pitch their tent between Bethel and Ai. God does not allow us to be free of desolate situations…God desires that we remain in the status in which we were called…If we can be normal human beings in our troublesome, complicated, and fallen situations, then we will have the genuine exercise of spirituality. Living between Bethel and Ai should be our normal experience.

Our outward circumstances in coordination with the operation of God give us the opportunity to develop a genuine spiritual life. We should not expect to be in a situation that is heavenly and without any problems…We have the weaknesses and desolation, but we also have the Lord’s blessing. We must leave our spiritual longings and learn to experience God in our desolate situations so that we may have genuine growth in life.

Is that not encouraging? To give some background, in Genesis chapter 12, Abraham was led by God to pitch his tent between Bethel and Ai. Bethel means “the house of God” and Ai means “a heap of ruins.” This is exactly where God also leads us to pitch our tent today. In our Christian life, our experience is often that we face the house of God on one side, but a heap of ruins on the other. We may be enjoying God in His house, but we also often find ourselves in the midst of many desolate situations that cause us to wonder if God is really with us. So often I have the mistaken concept that the more I grow in the Lord, the easier my life should become. But I was so helped to be reminded that genuine spirituality and growth comes out of the experience of Christ in the midst of all the desolate situations. We should never expect our life to be problem free, but our normal experience should be one of living between Bethel and Ai.

One day last week the Lord reminded me of this in a very practical way. It was a regular weekday and the day began as all other regular weekdays begin. Some time after breakfast CC discovered that his little brother had destroyed his Lego creation from the night before and a level 9 tantrum ensued. Let’s just say the situation quickly deteriorated from there. We missed the school bus, and as I was trying to get the boys out the door so that I could drive CC to school, they began fighting about who would open the door. By the time I got both screaming boys buckled into their car seats, I was on the verge of screaming myself. I was tempted to just leave them there and go back into the house and crawl back into bed. That’s when the Lord spoke that portion to me again. Here I was in the midst of a desolate situation, here I am facing Ai, but that is perfectly normal. If in the midst of that, I turn to the Lord and learn to be a normal Christ-enjoying mom to my children, then that can be an experience of genuine spirituality and growth in life.

So as I drove, I let the boys scream until they were all screamed out. I inwardly called on the Lord and tried my best to speak to them with my soft non-screaming voice. I don’t think I ever had the chance to get into the Word or spend much time in prayer that morning, but I felt like I touched the Lord and had a real experience of Him in the midst of that loud minivan. When we cooperate with His operation in the middle of our troublesome circumstances, whatever they may be, then God will really be able to grow in us in a practical way.

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The prompt for this week is…

Grateful

GO

Sometimes in the midst of my messy noisy life, it’s easy to forget that I have so much to be grateful for. It’s so much easier to focus on and complain about the little imperfections I have to live with – yet another marker stain on the couch, toys that refuse to stay tidy in their spots, little boys who can’t get along, a four-year-old’s constant non-stop whining. These little things cloud my brain and even though I’m always telling my boys the importance of saying thank you, I know with my sharp words and short temper I’m modeling to them someone who’s not very thankful or grateful.

So I’m so grateful for this week’s word, grateful for the reminder that for me to raise grateful children, I need to be a grateful mother. Today I will exercise to give thanks to my heavenly Father instead of using my energy to inwardly whine non-stop about all the trivial things. Thank you Lord, for providing for all our needs, marker stained couch and all. Thank you Lord, for healthy happy children, even though they bicker and whine and drive me up the wall. Thank you Lord, for the most understanding husband who after you, bears the brunt of all my complaining and whining. Thank you Lord, for friends and sisters I can not only commiserate with, but also pray with. Thank you most of all, for your daily unending supply of grace. Thank you for your life in me that can make me a thankful person. Amen and amen.

STOP

 

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I know today’s not Tuesday and that yes, yes…I’ve been awfully delinquent with my Truth Tuesday posts. But I have been enjoying things in the Word; I just haven’t had time to write them down and before I know it, another Tuesday has come and gone.

So this portion of enjoyment is actually from a couple weeks ago. I’ve slowly been working my way through the Life-study of Genesis (I took a break for a while, but now I’m back on track!). I’ve read through the life of Abraham and Isaac and now I’m in the real meaty part of Genesis – the story of the life of Jacob. And what a story it is. I think Christians may sometimes tend to uplift people in the Bible like Abraham, Isaac, or Moses, but Jacob? Not so much. From the womb it was clear that Jacob was a clever trickster, hence his name which means “supplanter” or “heel holder.” Unlike David or Daniel, he wasn’t the kind of person you’d want your kids to emulate. He tricked his brother Esau not once, but twice, out of his birthright and his father’s blessing (although the second time he had some help from Rebekah, his dear mother). As a result he was forced to run away from home and ended up at the house of his uncle Laban. Unlike his father Isaac, Jacob’s life was a life of sufferings and dealings, some brought on by his own mistakes and some arranged by God’s sovereign hand. He suffered under the hand of Laban, who was even trickier than him. I’m sure you are all familiar with the story of how Jacob worked for Rachel but got Leah instead. He had numerous dealings when it came to his wives and children (can you imagine having twelve sons?). I would definitely not envy such a life. But at the end of the book of Genesis (which I haven’t gotten to yet), Jacob is a fully transformed person. In fact, he is no longer Jacob, but Israel. We see a maturity in this man that was not there in his father Isaac or even his grandfather Abraham. He started out a conniving and sly person who always had a back up plan, and ended up a transformed person who was fully accepting of his circumstances and environment. In the beginning he’s striving to grasp the blessings, but in the end, he’s the one who blesses even Pharaoh. What hope that gives us all! Our sufferings and dealings are not in vain, but if we love God, they will work together for good to produce more growth of the divine element in us (Romans 8:28).

Anyways, that’s just all background. What I really enjoyed a couple weeks ago in my reading was that a big turning point in Jacob’s life was in Genesis 28:10-22. Here Jacob had just run away from his parent’s house and is in a strange place by himself with no where to rest. When night comes, he takes a stone and lays it under his head as a pillow. Curious, isn’t it? Why a stone? Why not a pile of leaves or dirt, or some soft grass? A stone doesn’t seem to be that comfortable to lay your head on. But it’s very significant. A stone is solid, not man-made, and if you read in other portions of the Word, you’ll see that Christ is the real stone and God wants to transform us all from men of clay to living stones. Jacob realized that he couldn’t trust or find rest in his natural resourcefulness, his conniving ways, but that the only rest for him was to lay on this stone. In our experience we all come to a time when we’re lonely, out of ideas, don’t know where we are or where to go. It’s at this time that we need to lay our head on Christ as our stone. He becomes our real rest and satisfaction. 

It’s at this point that Jacob also first meets God. He has a dream of a ladder with angels ascending and descending upon it and Jehovah Himself speaks to Jacob from above the ladder. God promises to be with him and to keep him as He was with his father and grandfather. When he wakes up, Jacob takes the very stone he rested on and sets it up as a pillar and calls the place Bethel, the house of God. How wonderful! The pillow becomes a pillar! The very Christ we experience as our rest and satisfaction becomes the material God uses for building His house. To us this stone is a pillow, but to God, this stone is a pillar for His house. As we journey on in our human life and Christian life, which may be full of sufferings and dealings as Jacob’s was, I hope we would all have this experience of meeting God at Bethel. If we know Christ as this stone pillow/pillar, then whatever happens to us will work for our good to make us the real Israel of God.

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The prompt for this week is…

Crowd

GO

She knew if she just touched even His garment, she would be healed of this flow of blood that has plagued her for twelve years. She had heard of this man, Jesus, and knew He had performed great acts of healing. If she could just get to Him, maybe she too could be healed. So she worked her way through the crowd. Everyone was pressing in upon Him, but somehow she found an opening. She was behind Him and reached her arm out as far as she could until her fingertips felt the coarse fabric. As soon as she did, she knew something had changed. The blood had stopped, her affliction was cured. Giddy with happiness she tried to blend back into the crowd and get home as fast as she could to tell her family of the miracle. But before she could get away, He turned around and asked the crowd, “Who touched My garments?” His disciples were incredulous, the whole crowd was pressing upon Him, surely there were many people touching Him. But He looked at her, and she knew that He knew. She had been found out, so she confessed to Him and to everyone the whole truth. She was ready to be judged or punished, but instead she heard from Him these comforting words, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be well from your affliction.” (Mark 5:34)

Maybe this isn’t exactly how it happened, but if you read the account in Mark chapter 5, it’s pretty close. This story of the woman being healed of the flow of blood has always spoken to me. How sweet that the Lord knew the difference between the crowd’s touch and her touch. He knew that the crowd was just there out of curiosity, driven by mob mentality, so they could see up close what miracle this Jesus would perform next. But this woman was different. She was driven by desperation; her only goal was to be able to touch Him, because she had the faith that to touch Him was to be healed. The Lord didn’t respond to the pressing crowd and the crowd received nothing from Him. But He did respond to this woman’s reaching out in faith and as a result, she was the only one in the crowd who received the healing.

So often I ask myself, “Am I just part of the crowd, or am I this woman?” Am I really desperate to touch the Lord or am I content to be just part of the crowd, touching Him in a superficial way? Yes, I attend the church meetings and yes, I read my Bible, and yes, maybe all week I’ve been involved in many activities that seem like they are close to the Lord and related to the Lord. Why is it then sometimes I feel like I receive nothing? Maybe it’s because I haven’t really “touched” Him. The Lord only responds to those who desperately seek Him. So I’m encouraged, in my personal time with the Lord, to step out of the crowd and reach out my arms in faith. This kind of faith will heal us and cause the Lord to speak a personal word to us. If this is our experience every morning, then we can really go about our day in peace.

STOP

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The prompt for this week is…

Willing

GO

Sometimes I think I’m getting a little too comfortable with my life here in Berkeley. A little too settled. If the Lord were to call me and my husband to pick up and move somewhere right now…in theory I’d like to think I’d be willing. I’d like to think that there would be the openness in my being to say “Amen” to the Lord or even to my husband. That’s in theory. In reality, I think there would be a lot of “But Lord…” and “What if…” instead of amens. In reality, I think it would involve a lot of tears and maybe even kicking and screaming to uproot me. So once in a while, the Lord will gently remind me that we are sojourners here…that like our father Abraham, we live a life of the altar and the tent. Everything we are and have needs to be placed on the altar, consecrated to God for His use. And our earthly dwelling can only be a tent, something so small and movable, not tied down to one place. That’s how Abraham and Sarah lived their whole lives and that’s how they taught their children to live. Their life of faith was one of having God’s appearing, building altars, and pitching their tents wherever God led them.

I recognize that I’m not there yet, that maybe I’m not so willing. But at least I can pray, “Lord, make me willing to be willing. Whether it’s here or there, I want to be rooted in You, not in any earthly place. I don’t want my comfort and convenience to dictate where I live, but that Your kingdom would govern where we pitch our earthly tent.” Like Abraham, we look forward to a better country, a heavenly one, and we eagerly wait for the city “which has the foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10,16). Sounds like a much better place to be than Berkeley.

STOP

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