Monday, January 28, 2013

"I'M SLIPPING! I'M FA—"

If I say, "My foot slips," Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up. ~ Psalm 94:18

I heard a powerful sermon on this text once. I had never paid attention to it before, but the speaker made it unforgettable. He told a story of when he was climbing up a very steep hill of pebbles. One wrong step and you could slide pretty dangerously, further and faster than you'd like. To top it off, he was afraid of heights.

I can't remember the whole sermon, so I actually might make part of this up. But it is true, nonetheless! It is what I personally have learned, and today, through a slip of my own, I realized there is even more to the promise.

We've heard the the text that says "The righteous man falls seven times, and rises up again." I claim this often as a precious promise when I fall or make mistakes in my spiritual walk. Probably many others do as well.

But this text is different. The "righteous person" here (who would be one that trusts in the righteousness and grace of Jesus Christ) is not shown to be getting up after falling. He is calling out while he is falling. And he doesn't even have the chance to formulate it into a plea for help.

Put yourself in the speaker's story.

Someone is climbing with you. Because of your fear of heights you are much more unbalanced than he is, and your foot slips. Soon you will find yourself in an unhappy (understatement) heap at the bottom of the steep hill, unless someone catches you and holds you up. In that split second you cry out, "Dear friend who climbs with me, Thank you so much for being with me. You see that I am slipping and about to fall. Please, hold me up before I fall to my death. Thank you so much."

You're kidding.

Of course you wouldn't say that! Or a least I wouldn't (I hope you wouldn't either). No, the words that would come out of your mouth would sound something like this:

"I'M SLIPPING! I'M FA—"

A strong arm grabs you and holds you up.

The friend wouldn't wait for you to technically ask for help. A friend is a friend, and they would hold you if it was in their power to keep you from falling.

God has the power to keep us from falling. "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy..." (Jude 24).

When I left the sermon that day, I had learned a great lesson that would soon make itself real in everyday life. I would always remember that when we are slipping and falling, yes, even as our foot slips (and most likely our own choice made it slip); if we cry out to God -- or just cry out! -- He is near, and in His mercy He will hold us up. What a deep, simple, beautiful promise!

From then on I took "hold you up" as meaning "you will regain your footing and not fall." Yet it doesn't say that! It says that God's mercy will hold you up. It means that, even if BOTH feet slip, God will still hold us up if we cry out as we fall. He will catch us and carry us, while our unsteady feet dangle over the pit, already wet from the edges of the swamp of temptation. He is near, ready in an instant to show us mercy in our failings, and carry us when we cry out for help.

This doesn't mean that God will save us from every mistake. He can't save us if we dive headlong down the hill at breakneck speed. But He can hold us when we fall. And sometimes temptation is too slick for a lengthy request for help.

So next time you find yourself crying out,

"I'M SLIPPING! I'M FA—"

His mercy will hold you up.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Next 22.5 Weeks: Part 2

"How is the Philippines?"
"Good."
"..."

Well, here is the post you have all been waiting for. Everyone has been asking, and I've been saying "good" for too long now. Here is my real answer; are you ready for this?

*deep breath*

Hot, humid, green, busy, pollution, traffic, jeepnies, flip-flops, Tagalog, family, sunshine, poor, rich, cement houses, food, Catholic, tricycles, canteens (little cafeteria shops), ethnic, Asian, billboards and signs all over (with everyone and their grandma's picture on everything they can get it on), dirty, palm-trees, mountains, loud, music (getting so tired of "Gangnam Style" wherever I go), cellphones, food (did I say that already?), sweet food, salty food, snacks, cheap spas, cheap massages, cheap everything, fruit (sorry, that's food too), mangoes, lack of toilet paper, dirty bathrooms, dogs in cages, "ma'am/sir" echoing from all sides, mangoes.

Yes, I like mangoes.
Especially the Philippine mango, fresh and cheap, every. single. day.
Oh, and rice. Better not forget that.

Can't, really.


But you know what? Some of the above may seem a bit foreign and annoying (no doubt it is) but that almost comprehensive, descriptive list is more than just a list. It's more than just my experience so far, and it's more than what life is for the next 22 weeks.

What makes that list is carving itself into my heart.

What makes that list?

People
in a beautiful place
called the Philippines.

Yes, it is beautiful. In spite of the run down tricycles, the lack of garbage cans (that should have been in the list), the crowded streets and malls and everywhere, the poor houses (shacks), the messy everything...

It's beautiful. Not those things in and of themselves. But those things represent real people and real lives and real souls.

Even I am not sure how the Philippines could be growing in my heart in spite of the foreignness (I didn't know that was a word) and inconvenience of being a North American SDA young woman who looks like and is a Filipina but can't speak Filipino in the Philippines.

But it is. Why?

God wants me here.

Anywhere is beautiful if it's where God wants you to be.

I pray that...

whenever I feel like I don't want to be here,
.........I will remember that God wants me to be here.

whenever I feel small and inexperienced,
.........I will remember that God is big and infinitely experienced (understatement).

whenever I feel tired,
.........I will remember that God "never slumbers."

whenever I make a mistake,
.........I will remember that all things work together for good, for them who love God...

...and who are the called according to His purpose.

So then, what is His purpose for me? That, my friends, is answered on a moment by moment basis (other than the grand, overarching purpose of reconciling the world to God, who is Love, by lifting up the cross).

But, what it looks like might be His purpose for me is something like this. If you'd like more details, don't hesitate to ask.

  1. Be a positive influence, encouragement, and help in my family, in many ways. (My lola [great-grandma] lives with us, and my grandma is battling cancer).
  2. Be involved at my grandparents' school teaching violin etc.
  3. Be involved with an Adventist family whose kids play violin, in their music and health evangelism ministries.
  4. Orchestrate music part time for Fountainview Academy.
  5. Go on a mission trip with my home church (from Canada) to the mountains of the Philippines.
  6. Be involved with the local church and boarding school.
  7. Continue reading and studying and memorizing and utilizing what I learned at ARISE.

All in all, I am just waiting to see how God leads each day, so that He can use me to be a blessing in whatever I do. I've been getting over a cold for about a week now, so since my parents left last week, not too much has happened yet. But now, life is about to get rolling...

Dear Father in Heaven,

Help me to remember that these people in this place called the Philippines are beautiful. They are beautiful to You; let them never cease to be beautiful to me. Help me help them. Reveal to them greater and deeper pictures of Your character and love through me. I am a weak and small vessel, but You are strong and great. The vessel is right-side up: please fill me, for You promised. Fill me with Your Spirit and with Your love. Let the next 22 weeks (and beyond) be fully and entirely Yours.

In Jesus' precious name,
Amen.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Who For?

Lord, I'm not exactly sure why You didn't want me to finish that other post. It seemed so good.

Maybe that's why. 

Sigh. 

Lord, I just want to be completely empty of self. The way I always seek for recognition through my own works (be it writing, speaking, music, accomplishments, the list is too long) is appalling. How can I, why should I, when You are the only audience that matters? 

That really matters, that is? 

Of course we should cater our delivery to the people who will receive it, without compromising the message. But ultimately, we are not doing it for them. 

We are doing it for You. 

Why am I so slow to remember?

One thing You have been teaching me is that the work of saving souls is not mine.

It's not even ours as a people.

It's Yours, and You are the one who has chosen to use us in Your work. You've even gone so far as to limit Yourself to working through failing human agencies, giving us a place with the angels in Your redemptive plan! But the work is not ours, nor does it depend on us entirely. Otherwise, no one would be saved. Because we fail over and over in transparently expressing the message of Your love to 
others. We get tripped by our own illusions of our abilities and talents. As if they were ours! And we end up falling on our faces and bringing dishonor upon You and Your message.

Yet You patiently work through it all, in spite of our blunderings and mistakes, and even through our greatest weaknesses. You said it once, "My grace is sufficient for you, and my strength is made perfect in weakness." I never cease to be amazed at Your grace. For our sake and theirs, You still use humanity to save humanity. Because of the weakness of your vessels, Your strength is made perfect -- Your strength is seen to be the only reason any effort for good ever works.

This is Your work, not mine. I'm so grateful that You have chosen me to take part in it. You want me to, and You say You need me to. In spite of my weaknesses and incapabilities. Amazing grace! The honor You freely give far exceeds any applause we might receive from people. Why should we strive for recognition any longer?

Who am I living for? Who am I writing my blog for, who am I preaching for, who am I playing and writing music for...

Who am I for? For the world? Or for God?

It is the motive that counts. And it is You who matters.


Lord, I want to be all-out...

For You.


Friday, January 11, 2013

The Next 22.5 Weeks: Part 1

I'm all moved in.

The Sabbath is but less than an hour old. In the quiet, I find the perfect opportunity to review my experiences from the last two weeks.

And anticipate the next 22.5.

This morning, my parents drove off to Manila at 9:00. That marked the beginning of the next 5 months of my life.

To be perfectly honest, I was scared.
And homesick.
And, of course, sad.

Some of that lingers still. But I knew the only unchanging, reliable source of peace and strength -- really, everything I need -- was God and His word. I praise Him for His unfailing love in speaking to me personally as I searched His word for comfort and direction.

I'm not alone.

Even though I lack the fellowship of like-minded young people and my immediate family, and I find my self in the midst of a new culture with different family and friends -- guess what overrides?

Love. God's love, that is.

God's love for me, and His fully satisfying care and presence.
God's love for others, which I pray will continually grow in my heart.

(I'm growing to love the depths of that word more and more. Pun intended.)

"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross..." Heb 12:2

To be continued...


Saturday, January 5, 2013

For Such a Time as This

Lying on my bed, I stared up at the mosquito mesh separating me from the ceiling. Outside, the rising sun told me it was time to get up and have my devotions. But I wanted to lie there and savor a rare experience. Perhaps it came because it was the Sabbath. Instead of wandering off to random subjects, as it usually does first thing in the morning, my mind was occupied with deep thoughts.

Suddenly, I was aware of a deep desire to save a soul. To bring someone to Jesus. But along with this thought came the anticipation of being able to tell all my friends. I began to question my motives. God was near, so I asked Him, "Is it wrong to want to save a soul?" Surely not, I thought. He said assured me that it is not wrong, but that my questioning was valid. The motive must not be self.

I then desired to have a selfless motive, and immediately God answered the cry of my heart. The desire to save souls came again, stronger, and this time with the right motive: to show them character of the God who is love and to love them with His love.

~~~~~

Lord, please fan this flame, this desire, till it sears my heart.

For Your heart was once seared.
For mine.

You did everything You could to win my heart and save my soul. It cost You everything, even Your own existence.

Though it seared Your heart with inexpressible, incalculable, indefinable pain, You counted me more priceless than Yourself.

In three words? God. is. Love.

~~~~~

After more deep thinking I got on my knees to start my devotions. Wondering what I should read, my eyes fell on "Esther" in my reading plan guide. A phrase that has been personally meaningful to me repeated itself in my mind: "Who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

So I read. And I searched. And I prayed.
"...from every quarter of this world of ours, comes the cry of sin-stricken hearts for a knowledge of the God of love. Millions upon millions have never so much as heard of God or of His love revealed in Christ. It is their right to receive this knowledge. They have an equal claim with us in the Saviour’s mercy. And it rests with us who have received the knowledge...to answer their cry. To every household and every school, to every parent, teacher, and child upon whom has shone the light of the gospel, comes at this crisis the question put to Esther the queen at that momentous crisis in Israel’s history, 'Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?' Esther 4:14" (Ed 262.2).
The question is for me.

If you have received the light of the gospel, the question is for you.

Who knows whether you are in your specific position or circumstance, for such a time as this?

Who knows whether you have had the privilege and opportunity
to become a son or daughter of the King,
to know the God so many people do not, for such a time as this?

Love knows. This is the time.



God counts them more priceless than Himself. Do you?

Will you, with me, let your heart be seared?


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