Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Capturing Those Errant Thoughts

I don't suppose I'm the only one to have experienced this, but apart from one other person to whom I spoke recently, no-one else I have ever known in the last 30 years seems to have known what I was talking about.

Is it common for people who know the Lord to keep their own thoughts ... I mean their everyday, mundane, humdrum, even apparently harmless thoughts to themselves?

I wasn't always aware that I was doing this, until the Lord showed me that I wasn't sharing everything that I was, with Him.  I kept much of my thought processes, silly speculations and day dreaming to myself, unconsciously. I would go for long stretches of the day without taking my thoughts to Him. In between whiles I would talk to Him, praise Him, tell Him I loved Him and so on, but I honestly didn't bring the rubbish to Him. I think I was ashamed of much of it, or stupidly didn't think He'd be interested.

Anyway, He showed me this, reminding me gently that He loves me so much that He wants to be involved in EVERY part of my day, and since then I have been practising taking everything to Him. I have noticed that when I tell Him about areas in which I'm tempted, (for example, snacking too much in the afternoon) and talk to Him about how I'm feeling, praise Him for the feelings, and that He is stronger than those feelings, taking the thoughts consciously to Him instead of trying to ignore them and push them away, the desire I have for things which are damaging or unhelpful, just disappears. It's amazing.
How foolish I have been not to practise this all the time! I had times when I would do it, but I got distracted and then forgot. It has to become a continual habit, though. The enemy knows very well that if only he can get my mind off the Lord, he can quickly divert my attention to ANYTHING else. This ANYTHING else could be bad things, good things, interesting things, but as long as the ANYTHING else takes the first place of Jesus, then he has won.

'Hebrew 4 Christians' again:

Brother Lawrence said, “If I were a preacher, I should preach nothing else but the practice of the presence of God. There is not in the world a way of life more sweet, more delightful than continual converse with God.” Indeed, do not most of our problems come from just this – losing sight of reality, failing to open our hearts to God’s Presence? Yeshua said, “Live in me, and I will live in you” (John 15:3). We must make a sacred resolution to abide in reality, to stay united with Him. As David said: shiviti (שִׁוִּיתִי) - "I have set the LORD always before me - because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken" (Psalm 16:8). But how did David "set the LORD" before Him if He did not choose to open the eyes of faith to behold God's hidden Glory?

And it's so true. In this continual bringing myself before the Throne, being in His presence, taking every thought captive to His obedience in me in this way, I gradually overcome those areas which have been up until now still in bondage to giants. 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Against Knowledge.

"You will not die. You will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:2)

Those words reverberate down the millennia, don't they? They lie behind every action man undertakes without God's sanction. Our naturally rebellious nature tells us to take action with or without God's approval. Without God, we feel that we need to be like God. We seek to know. To know about things, even about God, but it isn't the knowledge OF God, but only about Him. The words comfort our natural mind, which, of course, doesn't want death. We want to be like God, but we want to go about it the short-cut way. Unfortunately, the short-cut way IS the way of death.

We can know all about Him, and still be without Him.

We prefer to follow our own plans and bury that still, small voice which way, 'Be still and know that I am God.' (Psalm 46:10).
We so much want to be in control. We want to know what will happen to us, IF.....
To God, however, it seems enough if all we know is He Himself. He doesn't tell us what will happen if we obey Him. So we have to leave the outcome to Him, even if it means our death. NOT knowing, means we abandon our craving for knowledge, for control, to Him, because He wants to bring us to the point when we are content and fulfilled in knowing Him, in Whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!

Soren Kierkegaard
Am I content to be simple, foolish even, knowing nothing but Messiah and Him crucified (ie. knowing myself identified in His death)? Am I content to lose everything I once thought worthy of praise, everything the world holds dear, everything those who love me think is good for me? Am I content to be HIS disciple, following in His footsteps, discarding every possession, the good opinion of others, every natural love, everything which ties me to this world, for love of Him alone?

'He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.' Jim Elliot.

God Will Provide

"And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together" (Gen. 22:6). Isaac was about 37 years old at this time and needed to understand what was being asked of him: "And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" (Gen. 22:7). This is the first word of dialog recorded over the three day journey... It is hard to imagine Isaac's pathos during this exchange. Abraham replied, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together (Gen. 22:8). Notice that the Hebrew could be read: "God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering -- my son!" (ירְאֶה־לּוֹ הַשֶּׂה לְעלָה בְּנִי) - making it plain that Isaac would be offered upon the altar. The Torah then repeats the phrase, "and they both walked on together," indicating that Isaac had accepted his sacrificial death in obedience to his father's will...

The life of faith is inherently paradoxical, as Kierkegaard noted: "Ethically speaking, what Abraham planned to do was to murder Isaac; religiously, however, he was willing to sacrifice Isaac. In this contradiction lies the very anguish that can indeed make anyone sleepless. And yet without that anguish Abraham is not the one he is. Neither would faith be what it is." Although Abraham understood that God must be obeyed, he also understood that human sacrifice was immoral, and hence his struggle represented the collision between the imperative of reason and the imperative of faith. Choosing to heed the voice of reason (i.e., the "ethical," the "universal") over the personal voice of God created a state of "fear and trembling" and a sense of being unable to communicate his passion and mission to others.

...from 'Hebrew for Christians'  FB page 

Imagine Abraham's feelings, wondering, all the way to Mt. Moriah, how he would ever explain his action to Sarah when he got home without Isaac. Imagine him knowing what God had told him to do, yet not being able to tell a soul beforehand. Imagine him wondering if he had REALLY heard God correctly. Imagine the attacks his mind must have been going through. 

Has God ever told YOU to do something which seems to go against everything everyone else, including church, has ever told you was right? Even against your understanding of the Bible? and what was the outcome?

How far has your faith REALLY been tested? Up until the point where everyone else thinks you're wrong, and you stand alone with the whole world against you, with those you love most, against you, not understanding you? Yet you grit your teeth, despising your Self for love of HIM who loves you more than Himself, for the upward call of God...

 Abraham, a man who had turned his back on child sacrifice in Babylon and had separated himself from the demonic practices of Canaanite Baal worship, was told BY GOD, to slit his own son's throat, drain him of blood and burn him in the fire of an altar as a sacrifice to God Himself.

What must he have thought about God? Who is this God, who asks such a thing of me? After He has given me laughter, after all these years, must I now relinquish the very gift of God, the Isaac, the joy He gave, and face the rest of my dotage with a heartbroken, bitter wife, alone? Yet I know His voice, and I have this peace that this is what He has commanded me.

Not for nothing is he called the father of faith. 

He trusted God so much... to the point where he reckoned, as Paul said, that God could raise the dead.

He was one in millions. There can't have been many with the faith and obedience of this calibre. These are the precious ones who shine like stars in the universe... like brilliant points of light in the general darkness. Oh Lord, give us this kind of faith...the faith that glorifies YOU!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Surfeit of words.

Much blog writing 
is all about gaining 
readers and approval 
and not about living
it out daily in trials.
It's easy to write something and
appear to be erudite but
I've seen the pride in
my own heart which hopes to be
praised and I’m
really not sure how
posts really help
(Including me)
spend more time
 reading others' surfeit of words
than we do
listening to His.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Testing in the Wilderness

If you find yourself in the wilderness at the moment, there are different reasons for it.

A preacher in the Wort&Geist movement here in Germany which began in 1999 and spread rapidly among those disaffected by the emptiness in the charismatic church here, and which has predictably, become extreme and heretical, (and has since decreased in numbers) teaches that if you are in the wilderness then you are out of the will of God. The teaching is based on the faith/prosperity teachings of Kenneth Hagin and writings of E.W. Kenyon. Enough said.

It seems that after someone has been involved in idolatry, the only way for the Lord to deal with him is in the desert. In Egypt, Israel was deeply entrenched in idolatry and the worship of false gods. In Hosea 2:14, after decrying the spiritual adultery which the nation was committing against Him, in their worship of Baal, the Lord says that He will lead Israel back into the wilderness. 'Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her.' God's longing is that we would repent. Romans 2:4 says ...'the kindness of God leads you to repentance'. Whatever we might think of the wilderness and its dryness, emptiness, barrenness, storm-prone, earthquake-prone character, one reason for being there is to rid us of everything which hinders us from following the Lord alone.

Another reason for being in the wilderness is so that we can be humbled and tested.
Deuteronomy 8:2 says, "You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not."

In leaving Egypt, Israel had to travel through the desert. There was another way to Canaan; the Way of the Philistines, now called the Via Maris, or Way of the Sea, the main trading route between Egypt and the nations of the Fertile Crescent as far as Babylon. This would have been faster but more dangerous in as far as there were bandits, as well as the Philistines to face there, and Israel, who had been slaves, unused to warfare and were travelling with women and children, quite apart from the fact that they were carrying a large amount of loot which the Egyptians had given them, would have been unable to defend themselves against inevitable attacks. So the wilderness was the safer option. King David would later say, when faced with three choices as the penalty for the sin of counting Israel's warriors of Israel (2 Samuel 24:14) "Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands." 
Israel in the wilderness would be in God's hands and would have to learn to trust Him there, and there were five main lessons and tests which God put before them:

Test no.1 : Listen to the Lord's Voice and Obey Him.
Exodus 15:25-26
“If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”
By worshipping false gods, and therefore by living an unhealthy lifestyle, the inevitable result would be disease and death. We all know about unhealthy lifestyles. False gods these days; demons of selfishness, can take all shapes and forms. By listening to His voice and obeying Him, the Israelites would avoid the traps set by these demonic entities, and remain healthy. If He lives in us, so can we.

Test no.2: Do exactly what He says: Walk in His Instruction.
Exodus 16:4
'Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. He gives bread, His 'rhema' word, as instruction for our walk. It's not only the 'what' that we should do, but the 'how' as well, if He lives in us.

Test no.3: Thank Him in every situation (don't test Him).
Numbers 13-14
"....Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it." (Numbers 14:22)
Israel had seen so many examples of God's provision and goodness to them time and time again, and yet, in each new situation, the majority of the people grumbled, complained, spoke negatively against the Lord and Moses, and refused to believe that God was for them and loved them. Here was a new situation. All they were required to do was to spy out the land. They weren't told to conquer it at that point. The Lord was using this situation to find out who trusted Him. Those who didn't would die in the Arabian desert over the next 40 years. It would have been Israel's ruin to have taken such an unbelieving horde with them into Canaan. They would never have succeeded in taking any of the land, had the grumblers gone with them. 
What Israel should have done, and what we are enabled to do, if He lives in us, when faced with a new challenge, is to thank the Lord for it (Ephesians 5:20) and in it (1 Thess. 5:18). The opposite of grumbling and complaining is to say, 'thank you'.  Mealtimes come to mind. Children (and some adults) will grumble if food that they don't like is placed before them. If they say 'thank you' to the one who prepared it for them, it is a blessing for him or her. Isn't it wonderful to know that we can bless the Lord by thanking Him in difficult circumstances? We can show Him that we trust Him, even though we don't enjoy the challenge. The reward is His peace, His presence and joy.

Test no.4: Trust Yeshua to fight your battles with the sword of the word of God.
Exodus 17:8-13
'So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.' (vs. 13). Jesus (Yeshua) is our 'Joshua'. It's trusting in His word, that goes out of His mouth (Rev. 1:16) which conquers the enemy. We do not need to be afraid at all, if He lives in us, we have heard His word, the rhema word which His Spirit speaks to us, and we can stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 20:17 ..."You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.”

Test no.5: Worship and love Him in the beauty of the Holy of Holies.
Exodus 33:9-11
'Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.'
Isn't this beautiful? Joshua would not depart from the Tabernacle. He stayed in the Presence of the Lord because he loved Him. Joshua was not a Levite. He was from the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 13:18), but his practice of remaining in the Tent of Meeting is a foreshadowing of our Yeshua, who didn't leave the Temple when His parents brought Him there for Passover when He was twelve (Luke 2:41-49), but remained behind, because as He said, He had to be 'in His Father's affairs'.
In the same way, if He lives in us, we need never leave the Temple. We are His temple, and we can remain in His presence all the time and gaze upon His beauty. 

Psalm 27:4: 
'One thing I have asked from the Lord
that I shall seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, 
to behold the beauty of the Lord 
and to meditate in His temple.'

The pre-condition for passing these tests is if He lives in us. We can do nothing without Him and if we don't have Him, then we can do nothing because we won't hear His voice, much less be able to do what He says. 
2 Corinthians 13:5 says. "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?" The wilderness tests us, humbles us, to see what or WHO is in our hearts.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Against Sophistication

"Don't show your ignorance!" and "Don't be silly!" were phrases I heard on a regular basis when I was a child. My family, while not showing it openly, have inherited pride, as well as other things down the line. All I ever wanted was to be good and to love God with all my heart, but an early age, I must have decided that in order to be acceptable and to please those I looked up to, I would NOT show my ignorance, but try to impress people. I had ample experience of failure in mathematics, resulting criticism and low self-esteem, and somewhere along the road I must have taken these words to heart. As a student, before I knew the Lord, I had shelves full of sophisticated books to demonstrate to anyone who perused them, what a 'deep' person I was. I spent my student allowance on books. I even had a lavishly illustrated copy of the Karma Sutra, allowing myself this because I was studying Hinduism. (I tore it up later.)

A year after I met the Lord, I wrote a poem, to illustrate what I was like before I met Him:

Not long ago,
When, whispering winter 
Would autumn fester
Through forest leaves.
A dark malaise would slowly
Grip me in its grasp.
I welcomed the cold
And revelled in greys
Thinking myself
Mystic, sophisticated, aloof
Suspended between extremes of mood
I adhered to relativity, redaction criticism
Reincarnation. My soul merged
With winter wind
Loaded with snow.
I made believe I was ...  nothing.
Warm summers I loathed -
Light startled starkness
And the warmth endeavoured 
To melt me
But could not
For my shell was far too thick and damp 
For merest nature to negate.
The Inviolate Invisible, however,
Invisible, yet obvious (so that men are without excuse)
To the world
He, quintessential Kingship
Wooed the cold and won the Bride
Whose icy shroud 
Vanished at His breath
And turned warm in His embrace.
Winter holds nothing for me now
Summers glow in incandescent splendour.
(I wipe my warm and sweaty brow
And turn on the ice-cream blender.) ;)

  When I met the Lord, I was overcome with the knowledge that I was loved in spite of what I was like. It was wonderful to be a child again, simple, uncomplicated, alive, trusting, walking hand in hand with my heavenly Father.

BUT there were voices of common sense and reason. A university tutor, ridiculing my faith; bewildered parents, unable to understand their 'philosophical' daughter and thinking I had joined a cult; my new Christian friends and Christians I have known since, recommending books, sermons, teaching, all kinds of 'good', well-meaning advice, which fell into my wounded, proud soul like the seeds of a poisonous plant into well-prepared soil. I read Christian books as if there were no tomorrow. I bought them by the box-load.

I know the Lord has called me to write. But I used to think I would one day write a BEST-SELLER and the resulting earnings would go to support what I hoped would be my husband's world-wide ministry. I justified it by saying that we wouldn't have to rely on people's gifts. We wouldn't be a burden to anyone. This was my human reasoning. Secretly, I thought how impressed people would be. I'd show them all. WOW.
Of course, I tried not to let this show and adopted a casual, nonchalant attitude to it. But when I was invited to write a novel for teenagers based on a Biblical character which would be published by a UK publisher, I was thrilled. I sincerely wanted to serve the Lord in this and thought that this was His will. I went down on my knees and committed it to Him. Since then, I have learned, by experience, that He's not so much interested in letting me be a successful writer, as He is in conforming me to His image, which He does by letting me fail.
My first experience of writing a book was what I personally considered to be boring. I was asked to write a dictionary of English words for German elementary school pupils. My second experience of having a book published which I had written (under a pseudonym) was disappointing. The editorial work was second-rate at best. 3000 copies had to be destroyed after I found out, on reading one of my complimentary copies, that the printer had used the wrong plates. The original manuscript had been printed, rather than the version that the editor had wanted printed. When it was eventually finalised, I discovered that parts of the book which I considered important were left out. I've hardly seen anything from the sales of the book. The publisher contacted me a couple of years later and offered to sell me over 800 copies at a lower price because they didn't have room in their warehouse and they had decided to put the English version out of print.

It was published in Germany last autumn and a few months ago, I decided to visit my local Christian bookshop, just 'to see if the book was on the shelves there, and see how many had sold.' A copy of the book was there, and I casually mentioned that I had written it and asked the bookshop owner, who I know a bit, how it was selling.
He didn't seem to hear that I had written it, or at least, this all-important fact seemed to leave him completely cold. He replied, 'Oh not much, really, at all. People don't seem interested in it. But HERE'S a GREAT book! It's written by a woman who's part of a local church close to us here, (he mentioned a name I half recognised) and is a fantasy novel like those of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis, originally self-published, and it's caught the eye of a professional publisher and has been selling like hot cakes ever since. But she's looking for an English translator. Perhaps you could translate it for her?" I politely declined, suggested someone else and beat a hasty retreat, burning with humiliation.

Part of me has tried for years to impress people with knowledge about God, about spirituality, about, as Oswald Chambers calls it, 'my own personal whiteness', my sophistication.  'As long as our eyes are upon our own personal whiteness we shall never get near the reality of Redemption. Workers break down because their desire is for their own whiteness, and not for God.' O.C. Jan 31st 'My Utmost for His Highest'.  The root was lack of self-esteem and pride. 

At base was a lack of knowing who I am in Christ; knowing HIM, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I didn't want to be a fool for Christ, which became glaringly obvious to me one day, when after a conversation about evolution with my father in which I defended the 6-day creation, he told me he thought I was a fool. 
I said, 'Dad, you've been reading the wrong books.' 
In hindsight, I realise that the right books weren't the antidote to my father's problem, but the knowledge of Jesus is. I was just too embarrassed to say this.

I didn't want to be weak, considered stupid by others, and so I was a coward, and relied on human arguments, sophisticated reasoning, intelligence, activities born not out of the command of God, but out of my own ideas. '...the Greeks look for wisdom...' (I Cor. 1:22) and in so doing I grieved the Holy Spirit, because I was not prepared to take my Self to the Cross.

What does it matter what others think of me? What matters is what they think of Jesus. For much of my life as a follower of Jesus I have tried to convince others about Him by presenting my SELF, in  instead of dying to self. At best, I was watching myself presenting Him. By dying to self, I might have revealed the presence and power of Jesus. 

So, Lord, put me to death. May I be weak. May I be foolish, may I be ridiculed and shown to be ignorant. Let me be insulted, let me be defamed, lose my reputation, may others tell me I'm wrong, misguided; just let me be Your simple girl. As long as I am in You, obeying Your voice alone, what does it matter?