Sunday, September 14, 2014

Double Edged III

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you and whoever takes what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even the sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Luke 6:27-35)

Even if the other meant harm towards you, do not empower it all the more with resentment. Because you and I have options: embrace the pain and leave ourselves open to a vindictive heart (thus, not turning the other cheek) OR walking in Freedom to be un-attached to that Power of the Flesh. I think you are already disconnecting yourself from any foothold upon your soul. Good job! May His Grace be easy Yoke upon you.

What he wrote confirmed what the Holy Spirit hinted at; what he penned was like the explanation to the sentence that the Holy Spirit gave this morning. It is one thing to cramp our brains with the word of God, it is quite another to have the word of God come alive, worked out, or exercised in actual experiences, in real decisions and see the Power of His Word transform us. His reply led me to take another look at Luke chapter six. And the whole chapter leapt to life before me. i love the Holy Spirit; i love the Word of God. i love how the word of God in the Holy Spirit cuts, but never wounds. His word never forces, but appeals and draws us in. He word calls us higher, calls us deeper, calls us to come align again with what He is like. His word reminds us again who we are, and Who we follow.

Suddenly, i am more than thankful for a friend like him, a no name, a fellow believer just like me living in the world, manoeuvring through life. We are fellow travellers journeying through life, sharing what walking with Jesus looks like in our individual lives; what faith looks like for an ordinary human person. We sometimes become comrades, we sometimes become each other's support crew, armed with His word, accompanied by His Holy Spirit, to come alongside each other. We are transformed not in a vacuum, but in the messy business of relationships. 

In my journey thus this far, i have learned many times over and over again that when someone meant harm towards us, or someone has hidden agendas when relating to us, or if someone has impure motives, we do more than forgive them. We do more than overlook their weaknesses. We turn the other cheek. Believe me, each time, everything inside me protest; everything within me grit my teeth to hang on to all my rights. It is always the work of the Spirit. And for someone hardened like me, He repeatedly take me to this place of not only have my coat taken, i learn to surrender my shirt as well. It is a deeper work of the Holy Spirit; it has nothing to do with our coats or our shirts, but everything to do with our hearts. i suspect He has a higher purpose, a deeper intention for us; i suspect we are to come to this place where we are no longer attached to things, or reputation, or self.  Until life is no longer about what we do for Him, but who we are in Him. And it is a journey. It is the work of the Holy Spirit one lesson learned, and relearned again and again and again... 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Double Edged II

And a voice came to him, "Arise, Peter, kill and eat!" But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." And again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." And this happened three times; and immediately the object was taken up into the sky. Now when Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon's house, appeared at the gate.
(Acts 10:13-17)

But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man." And as he talked with him, he entered, and found many people assembled. And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. And so I ask for what reason you have sent for me."
(Act 10:26-29)
 
I
As i drove into the street where i work, i could see the office door ajar. Immediately, i recalled this was that much anticipated day. Both bosses together with the Owner had been called to court to face charges Tenant has charged against us as Managing Agent and Owner of the property he rented for a year. i readied myself to face a solemn day at work. i met the Big Boss at the door. In his right hand was the bag of documents we prepared for him as evidence. i greeted him. Awoken from deep thoughts, he managed a smile and returned a Good Morning. As he stood next to his car waiting for his business partner, he looked aged. He looked tired, heavy-burdened. i have never seen him like this; my heart moved with compassion. As i went about my usual morning ritual of setting the place up, i heard the other boss shuffled around his office to prepare himself for the confrontation. i found myself a little corner at the back of the office hidden from them and prayed. Something had happened to my heart. i had a lens change that has transformed my heart. Suddenly, i understand a little more why i have been granted to work in this place. i saw there are multiple facets to this job, to this office, to this business.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:44-48)

II
i was surprised by the change in his tone. All i did was highlight what i could see might be his original personality. In the natural, from what he writes, what i encouraged him sounded far from true. He does not sound like a gentle person, not a gentleman; he refers to himself as a smartass. He can get contentious. He prides himself on being good at debating a matter, seeing this as exercising his God-given gifts, as doing God a huge favour. He was fuming on a debate he was having online with a professor of theology on the subject of homosexuals in church. Or something like that. He was stressed because he did not want the professor to have the last say. In other words, he did not want the professor to win since he disagrees strongly on the professor's stance. He felt compelled to right what he thinks is wrong.

From a sentence he wrote, i picked up a highlighted word, and based my encouragement on that word. i called him big hearted. i described what that might mean; being big hearted is being generous, compassionate. i called that as his true identity, and encouraged him to not fall into the temptation of being small, being argumentative, being contentious. Because, i reasoned, these characteristics are not his true self. Astonishingly, he turned. i guess, all i did was to present him with another way of looking at the fight, or giving him another method to battle. In shifting or diverting his attention from the content of his fight to his true identity in Christ, he rose to that true personality. He turned. He saw there is always a higher, more excellent way to speak for Jesus. He saw who he is in His eyes. He turned and changed his language; he has been redirected now to look at grace, to look at mercy, to look at love. To be big hearted.

i have been reading Acts chapter ten and eleven for the last two days. i had not seen it before, but i suddenly saw how Peter had a lens change, or a perspective change; by the Holy Spirit, he turned aside from an old rule from past seasons and ushered in a new and epic move of God. i think i understand a little how that heart change feels like. And this change, this transformation happens ever so subtly, so innocently, not of my own doing or striving; it happens when i take that first move of following, even when i am perplexed and blind, to obey the smallest urging of the Lord. Knowing full well that i am chasing after not to be the superhero that flies in to save others, to lead or compel others to change, but taking the better and more excellent posture of wanting change, seeking transformation in myself first. i cringe to think what disciples Peter would have fathered if he had not obeyed and was adamant that Jesus came solely for the Jews, and the gift of the Holy Spirit was only meant for a few and not all.   

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Double Edged

It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. (John 6:63)

i think i first noticed a pattern forming when in our weekly intercessory prayer meeting, what was spoken sounded familiar. Like a highlighting again of something i had heard recently. Something within bounced to life. It was subtle, like a reminder. i immediately brought myself to an agreement with what i was reminded of, turning away from what was not like His nature. The message or reminder for me was that there are multiple angles to look at a situation, and the key is to choose the one that looks like Him, and quickly readjust myself to Him. The key is to maintain a humble and meek spirit to not be too quick, or too adamant that mine is the only way, or the only perspective to look at something. To learn to use the power of choice is ongoing for me; to learn to discern or know what He is like, and make the closest decision to His nature is ongoing for me. So, when i see a trail, or clues lining up before me, i start to take note, i start to follow closely, i muse and ponder upon it. 

Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." 

I
"What do you think?" the Big Boss asked over the phone. He had called to instruct me on a number of tasks he needed accomplished in the next hour. i jotted down each item, and when he had finished, i quickly injected the results of tenancy checks i was asked to do on potential tenants. It has now become my responsibility to prompt him on urgent matters that needed to be attended to. This was top of that urgent-matters list, as Owners were anxious to have their property tenanted. i calmly presented my perspective, and suggested what i thought were other measures we could take to come to a better conclusion. He agreed and gave me the go ahead on the steps to take. It has taken these years of interaction, of learning his language, of learning humility in the work place, of learning obedience, and becoming trustworthy to come to this privileged place of being valued not only for my work, but for my perspective as well. It is an honour; it makes working where i work satisfying. My job is no longer just to man the front desk; i am now trusted to present my point of view.

II
For the last week or two, i have been exchanging thoughts or concepts with a friend. In our conversing, i share many of the spiritual principles that i am learning. Or musing on. Each time i type my discovery, an inspired thought that i have yet to fully comprehend, i find i uncover more. i find what i am learning is reinforced. By thinking aloud, pondering aloud with a friend, the thoughts become clearer. Multiple themes emerged, sometimes overlapping, as if we were looking at jigsaw pieces and finding that they fit together, saying the same thing, testifying the nature of the same Person. It is most exciting; life-giving, life-promoting. In my dialogue with this friend, from his perspectives, and his contributions, i have come to appreciate how He surrounds me with others to see the same things i see but in their way, in the place they live, in their individual journey in life, through their personalities. Suddenly, what i have discovered become so much richer. As i take another look, from another angle, through another who is not like me, i found my heart shifting, humbled. i am sharp, but at the same time blind. There are areas in me that i will need my brother to see for me; there are areas in my life that i need others to walk with me, and counsel me. i am made to share life with people. i have received a lens change; i experienced a transformation.

He is Creator who loves variety. Creation testify in a grand and extravagant scale how He enjoys being creative. He did not create only a handful of little insects we named butterflies, He made billions of them in all shapes and sizes, in stunning colours and  intriguing textures, in complex details. As if He made them with us in mind; every kind, every type, every personality, every temperament, everyone of us. Because we are His greatest love. This is why i like to say of everything that i have the privilege to be uncovered to me as things that i have learned and continue to learn. From a documentary i watched recently on the search for better surgical instruments, scientists are only now discovering that there are secrets hidden in butterflies waiting to be discovered. Therefore, i am more than convinced that there is always more; there is always another facet or another dimension waiting for me to uncover, waiting for me to see and be transformed by the renewing of my mind. There is always areas in the new nature that Christ has died and rose again to redeem for me just waiting for that one light bulb Holy Spirit moment to be activated, to be called to life.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fullness II

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13: 9-12)

She was really concerned. She was seriously anxious about the encounter she had with a lady the night before. She shared that the exchange exhausted her, and made her question if she was doing enough in faith regarding her medical condition. She was uneasy with the content of the conversation and the way this person delivered and pushed her believes. She was so relieved when someone came along, broke the monologue and led the conversation to something else. Funnily, both my right hand (wo)man and i could immediately identify who this person might be. 

It is funny because i had a very interesting conversation with the same lady two days ago right before the service. All along, our chit chat had been casual. But on this particular Sunday she shared her very strong opinion on the sermon the week before last. She thought the speaker was not anointed. She had a strong and warped understanding on the spirit world. i gave her  my attention to show i respected what she had to say. Within, in the quiet and calmness of my inner person, i listened intently to what was truly happening. Then i quietly, gently and non dramatically shared how i esteemed the speaker and his message. i light heartedly shared that i agree with the message; i agree with the style and the way the message was presented. i appreciate the different personalities who get to present the word of God in our church. i think this is refreshing. Though i did not tell her this, i knew that message was right on cue for our church body on this particular Sunday morning.

This was what i shared with she who was concerned that this lady might contaminate young Christians. i encouraged her that we can calmly and joyfully present our own convictions. In other words, we have the ability to discern by the Holy Spirit within us, to not allow anyone dictate their opinions to us, and we can do it respectfully, in an embracing spirit. We have the power, in a gentle and quiet spirit, to give no opportunity for debate, or any opening to fall into contention. This is what it looks like to walk by the Holy Spirit. He is not contentious, not haughty or argumentative. He is gentle, quiet and in full control. i told her now that she has identify this trait in this person, she has the privilege to watch out for younger Christians, to come alongside them if she were to see this lady corner them into what she experienced last night. We can rescue the younger Christian just like how she was rescued. Because we exist as a church for people, and some people will be just like her. We are people who live by faith, who walk by the Spirit; we are not people who give in to fear. Because the Spirit in us is stronger than any other spirits.

Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12)

The astonishing thing about the whole incident is that i find it funny or humorous. A year or two ago, i would probably have reacted to my encounter with this lady with the same fear my friend displayed. i would probably start to eye her with caution, and she would probably feel my heightened watchfulness and read it as rejection. Now, i am alert, i am watchful, but i am also light hearted and amused. Interesting, i would muse now. Such encounter with strange spirits are no longer heavy or scary to me. i have had a lens change, a transformation in my perspective and understanding of who He is, and who i am without even realizing it. How far i have come.

Could it be that this is an indication that in my journey, in my growth, in the inner spiritual expansion that i have experienced for the last five years, the uncovering or the realization or the discovery or the exercising of the fullness that i already possess in Christ is progressive, is on going. Is daily. Another way to look at this is to see my inheritance in Christ as receiving a devise that is beyond this world; a machine that can do multiple super, amazing and brilliant tasks. Recipients who have gone before me, and recipients who are currently my peers have only discovered a certain number of uses for it, and together as we examine, explore and fiddle with what is in our hands, we suddenly discover that there are perhaps millions if not billions of other functions this machine is capable of. The possibilities of what we can do with what we already own suddenly becomes mind boggling. We are suddenly in absolute awe that there is power beyond our imagination waiting for us to activate; there is so much more to our inheritance waiting for us to uncover.

This is what i am hungering for. i am crying out for that supernatural power that is already mine; i just need to find the button to activate it. i am pressing in to the abundance that completely defies my comprehension because my journey thus this far has more than convinced me that there is always more. i seek the fullness that is already mine. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fullness

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Ephesian 3:14-19)
 
There are people whom i love to converse with. Even though it is through personal messages that sometimes take a few days for an answer to reach me. i am one of those dorky people who still believe in hand written letters sent snail-mailed in an envelope. i am currently having a lively conversation with a friend who lives in another country in another time zone. We are chatting about living life here and now in the place we have come to call home. He is sharing the difficulty of responding rightly, if not in a Christ-like manner, during family confrontations. His story is the story of three brothers who share a successful family business with an ageing father who has remarried a younger woman after their mother passed away. We are dialoguing on how to walk in love and wisdom in our day to day lives, making decisions that impact us and those around us. In other words, do we suck it up, lay down our selves, let go, or do we stand firm in our conviction? Each situation calls for a different response. Many times, we are caught in the moment and do not listen out for Him. And we react.  
 
We do not have a firm answer; that is why it is a dialogue. This is why our conversing is refreshing because we both fumble, sometimes breaking through, sometimes falling short. Easier said than done is what we like to say to each other. We are highly aware of our huge need for the Holy Spirit. We are hugely aware that we are far less than being perfect as Christians.
 
So, is it like giving the left cheek as well when someone slaps us on the right cheek? i wrote, How do you see this? And what does true humility looks like in my daily life? These are questions i am desperately seeking. i need something more than good words; i am seeking more even though i do not really know what exactly i am looking for. 
 
His answer surprised me. He presented me a whole different perspective on giving the left cheek, on humility. He showed me another side to look at something that i had been taught many times in churches.
 
A lot of people seek the breadth, the length and the height of being in Christ. i am one of them. i want to live wide and long for Jesus; i want to reach for the highest peaks for Him. i have grand ideals; i have great faith. It is a gift, a privilege to have a belly full of zeal; to be able to see the positives and believe. Today, i am suddenly given another perspective; i am suddenly given the hope that there is more. i am presented with the realization that perhaps to reach higher, i should first go deeper. It is the concept that to build up, to go high, one must first go low, dig deep to build a firm foundation. Of course, the picture that comes to mind immediately when we see the word Deeper is the exercise of digging deeper theologically. Perhaps, there is more. If we know who He is, we know that He is a God who looks not as man sees; His thoughts are not like ours. Today, i suddenly found that giving the left cheek has a whole different side to it. i suddenly find true humility has another facet. Therefore, i wonder, in order to realize or to comprehend the fullness of what i already possess, i wonder, if it is for me to learn or to re-learn again, and again, what it looks like, and what it means to come low, to come deep, to come unseen, be undone again. And again. And again. And again...    

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Business of Being Christian

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a certain man who had been lame from his mother's womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, "Look at us!" And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene - walk!" And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were strengthened. And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened. (Acts 3:1-10)

I
i first saw her at the front door coming in with her husband. i recognized her as one who had received prayer the night we hosted a travelling minister with a healing anointing. This was their second week back after that night where she was miraculously touched by God. There was a marked and obvious change on her face, as if a dark mist had been lifted off her. She looked different, but i could not articulate what had changed. i wanted to welcome them, but i was with a lady going through some challenges.

It is our custom at church to invite people to come forth for prayer in the middle of the service. As people streamed forth for prayer, i waited to see if i was needed. i saw her come forward. When no one was free to come alongside her, i went to stand with her. She pointed to her ear, and said something about her hearing. i could not really hear her, or understand her because we were standing right under the speaker where the music was blasting. i prayed for complete healing; i asked for the fullness of what Jesus had come to give her. She told me she could not hear me because of the music. i felt i had nothing to give her; i did not have the healing anointing that the minister possesses. i gave her what i had; i told her what i could see. i told her i could see tremendous changes already happening on her; i told her that the life of Jesus has already started touching every part of her. i encouraged her to press into the fullness of His work, to believe in progressive healing that will continue. Her face lit up, and she hugged me. Thank you, she said.

When i went back to my seat, my heart ached. i hungered for what i did not have. i longed for that supernatural power to erase every evil, ungodly work that had crippled her. i yearned for something that i have yet to understand or experience. i cried out for more.

II
When i saw both husband and wife come forth, i was hoping someone else would go forth to them because i had prayed with the wife before. i was hoping that i could pray with someone different this morning. When no one was free to come alongside them, i went to them. He informed me of his need. His wife was there for her own need. I need a miracle, he said. As i placed my hand on his left shoulder, i felt grief upon his heart. i felt the Holy Spirit wanting to address this wound; i felt Him wanting to speak and bring healing to his heart. Standing under the speaker, where the music was blasting, it was difficult to present the tenderness of the heart of God having to shout, or speak in a forceful way. Thank you, he said; his eyes thankful, hopeful, but broken. He needed a miracle, and i was not able to give that miracle to him.

i went back to my seat and my heart ached. i hungered for what i lacked. i longed for that supernatural power, more than kind but powerful words to instantly erase every evil, and ungodly work that had so wounded him. i wished for the ability to grant him his miracle. i yearn for that something so much more than what i know or more than what i have now. 

When i started blogging, i purposely made it a point to omit my identity. i did it with the intention to protect the people i write about. In God's grand scale of things, i have now come to see this as His hand or His grace on me. i am meant to enjoy the freedom of not having to live my life about me. My life is about Him; i am living for Him to be seen, to be known. To be experienced. i am not living or writing or doing to be seen or to be known; i am not meant to live my life working to be famous or followed. i cannot make my relationship with Jesus into a business. It shreds my heart into minute strips to think i could use intimacy with the Lord for my own gain, for my own reputation. It means, whenever i identify this subtle motivation of my heart, i turn the other way. i seek the opposite. i have come to a place where my heart aches for more; i cannot afford to live solely for myself any more. i am desperate for more than what i have now. Because it pains me to not be able to represent Him sufficiently and effectively. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lamb II

for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His offspring.' (Acts 17:28)

In Him we live, sister. In Him we live, he wrote. Strangely everything inside of me turned as if i had just smelt stale bread. His intention was to promote to me that faith should not affect our emotions. In other words, my faith in his eyes is too emotional. For a while it troubled me. Life with Jesus, for me involves my emotions. i feel love for Him and i feel tangibly His love for me. i love the word of God and i love engaging my mind when i think deeply upon His word, leaning heavily upon the Holy Spirit for His input on what i think about. But, most definitely, life with the Holy Spirit for me, is not void of my emotions. Life with Jesus is life with a Person.

i shared this turmoil with a friend. And he wisely wrote: The only thing I would say "not" to share would be something one feel is truly personal between oneself and God. Each person has to listen to the Holy Spirit and figure that out for themselves. I've only recently begun guarding those treasures with Him. I didn't see it before as something truly "personal" that I was divulging that He might not want shared, like secrets between friends. His words cut like a knife, yet at the same time brought so much comfort. This is the wisdom that Jesus had. This is the wisdom that i am learning not only in my relationship with Jesus, but with those who are precious to me. Treasured friends are those whom i communicate in personal one-to-one messages, in face-to-face conversations. Treasured friends do not live their friendship out in public for all to see. True friends know how to guard one another; true friends guard the treasures shared between them.

i was going to title this post The Business of Being Christian because i was thinking deeply on the spirit behind what this man wrote. He is an accountant, an ordinary man with a family who attends church every Sunday. The question i had was: Why did this one phrase feel so stale; like a learned slogan? Like the slogan of a business. Could it be that life as a Christian to him is this, a business? Is he a professional Christian; someone who has made being Christian a profession, a business? i know what it is like to have a job, and to work in a business; i do not take my work home. i leave my place of work when i come home.

This is what i meant when i wrote: Life with Jesus is not a business. Jesus lives with me; He comes home with me. And i go everywhere with Him. It is Lordship, and so much more. It is Friendship.