Going Back to the Well

I lie long and silent on the sofa, back flat on the sturdy surface, as my weary flesh throbs away the rigors of the day. It has been a rather long and struggle-filled day. As silence finally settles in our home with only the faint sound of my husband’s praising in the guest room, I have time to think and pray some more. Pray silently over and over. For even though the weary flesh and mind shout rest, there is this desire to draw still closer to the Lord Jesus.

In the midst of seeming lack of clarity, we really cannot afford to be apart from Him who gives light.

There could be various things that could bear down on one’s soul. I’m particularly wearied by household challenges that involve maids who lack self-discipline. Maids whom I share the Gospel with but remain unmoved, indifferent, and therefore continue in their ways which are so different from ours. At times this gets me and my husband into unavoidable conflict and disagreement because he just wants to consider the necessity of having maids, what with my need of assistance and our whole household to tend. But for me, I just want maids who are devoted to their work, who sincerely care for the welfare of the household and the people they serve.

Sometimes I get frustrated that these daily challenges encroach into my spiritual quiet, provoke me and even bring me to a place of weariness and discouragement. Often, my soul shouts, wanting me to be fully well so I could manage and tend our household myself.

It is past midnight and I am here lying on the sofa trying to find a solution to all this, all the weariness making me as still as a log. Questions flood my mind but the warmth and comfort from the faithful Lord that are slowly enveloping my tired body don’t escape my notice. He whispers gently, He touches the exhaustion away, and I stop analyzing and just say deep in my heart and mind, “I love You, my Jesus; I love You, my Lord” over and over.

In the silence, when one’s tired mind and body are ready to succumb to rest, He whispers His love and comfort and the soul is restored. 

…he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul… (Psalm 23:2,3)

Why do we sometimes find ourselves near to unravelling, succumbing to bitter conflicts, painful discouragements and self-pity? I’ve heard others who even have lost their spiritual fervor.

My husband gently stirs me up. He’s done praising and he will carry me to bed. As he lifts me up in his arms, a still small voice speaks in my heart, “I’ve given you all you need so you’ll never be thirsty. Remember what I had given you at the well. It is all you need. It is flowing freely, eternally. You might have forgotten to drink and fill yourself up to overflowing. Come. Come again and drink freely.”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13, emphasis added)

Yes! Yes! Yes! How could we have forgotten? We may praise, worship, pray, and read the Bible everyday but we forget to wield the power of the Spirit! Sometimes we get into praise weary and come out of it weary still, forgetting to drink up and fill up all our vacant places to overflowing. Or maybe sometimes, we enter into praise with our minds busy with other things and come out of it almost not being able to contain and control the many plans that fill up our minds.

We go through weaknesses and weariness because we let our minds forget the power of the Spirit that the Lord has given us and what it can mightily do to our lives. We forget because we let the enemy stimulate our minds with other things, things of this world  – the Internet, social media, worldly pleasures, etc. Others become passionate with their jobs, careers, and businesses more than with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

But the fountain of living waters should be more powerful than any discord, discouragement, disappointment, self-pity, grief. It should bring more fire and passion than any job, career, or any other pursuit could. That is, if we let it flow in us freely and not block or choke it. Apostle Paul warned, “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19) and “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).

The Lord is that “Fountain of Living Waters” (Jer. 17:13). All other sources are “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). No wonder, even when one keeps on drinking in (not God’s light and living waters) what one thinks could fill, one remains thirsty and empty.

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Journey with Jesus,

A Heart Check

(Meditating on Psalm 81)

Sing aloud to God our strength;
Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song and strike the timbrel,
The pleasant harp with the lute. 

For this is a statute for Israel,
A law of the God of Jacob. 
(Psalm 81:1,2,4)

This, also, is the statute of our Church: to sing praises and worship God not only during worship service when the congregation gathers, but also in our own homes, in the morning and in the evening. Those who do this fervently with a willing spirit are blessed beyond their hearts’ desires, specially with a stronger faith in God.

But there are those who neglect to praise and worship and their focus was diverted to the things of the world: agendas, schedules, plans, and passions with other things like careers, hobbies, and other pursuits that may veer one away from deep communion with God. The more time spent with our pursuits, the less time we give in seeking God. Even in the time of private praise and worship, one may not be spiritually present; one’s mind and heart may be upon the to-do lists, or other exciting projects that await.

When our affections and passions (am I being redundant?) are diverted from the living God to the things of this world, aren’t we loving, adoring, and worshiping them instead? Isn’t this a form of idolatry? God admonished His people Israel:

There shall be no foreign god among you;
Nor shall you worship any foreign god. 
(v. 9)

I’ve heard testimonies in Church that they got so engrossed with work or flourishing businesses that they began to neglect to praise and worship God with all their beings. They had forsaken the Spirit’s admonition. They could no longer listen to Him for their hearts had been captured by their passions or given away to their work’s demands. Until one day, they found they no longer walked in the presence of the Lord. The Holy Spirit had left.

But My people would not heed My voice,
And Israel would have none of Me.
12 So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart,
To walk in their own counsels.
 (vv. 11-12, emphasis added)

To be given up by God is a most dreadful thing to happen.

Where do are our affections lie? Do we praise God with our lips but our hearts are far from Him? Do we worship in vain? Or do we delight in Him more than anything in this world? It is good to always have a heart check.

The Pursuit of an Authentic Life

It happens again. My son Tim breathes hard as his cough hardens. The rapid heaving of his tummy makes him weak and brings pain to his stomach muscles. I rub his back as I start to sing praises. I sing with all that’s in me. I lift up my soul and soon, tears are leaking out from a heart that surrenders everything. I release all – fears, worries, sadness, control. But this time it’s more than all that. It is also a cry for help, not only for my son, but also for myself. Because I ache to be true in my pursuit of Him.

I’ve been carrying that pain somewhere deep within me lately. I feel that all the things that I do – praise, worship, pray, read the Bible, write to share the Gospel, care for my family, encourage, nurture friendships – are not enough. Not enough to show the Lord that I’m true in everything I do. I want to examine deeply my motives why I do the things that I do. I want to weed out any trace of hypocrisy or farce in any aspect and part of my life. I believe that only then would I know I am a joy to the Lord and my relationship with Him is free from any obstacles.

I really can’t pinpoint on which aspect of my life I am not being totally true. Sometimes I catch myself asking, Do I really care for this person’s salvation or am I just doing what I need to do? Everyday, I strive to live a life pleasing to God. But I can’t deny the tug of the Spirit at my heart, sometimes reminding me and pointing out to me the real motives behind the things that I do. And I continue to carry a heavy heart and an emptiness somewhere deep within me until I have closely looked into every single motive behind every action.

So, I cry as I beg God to heal my son and I rip my heart open to Him thinking that in that way, I’m ripping up every veil that might be separating me from the floodgates of blessings opening wide and gushing upon my life.

We can never hide anything from our God. He knows the deep crevices of our hearts more than we do. We cannot fool Him at all. God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). And the soul knows that.

The whisperings of the enemy are in fact a mirror or an indication of what and where we are weak of. He whispers that my blog is not growing by leaps and bounds unlike other devotional blogs whose followers are by the thousands. He prods me to think that I’m inferior, my writing is not pleasing and excellent, and there’s nothing I can do that could change the situation.

The enemy’s attempt to attack and bring one down can be the very thing that can make one stronger, wiser and sharper. These whisperings could actually bring one closer to God as one would be prodded to look deeper into oneself and one’s motives in the light of one’s service to God.

The enemy assays to bring our focus to ourselves and away from God. He makes us think that it is all about us – everything we do is for us, and of us, and to us, and by us. But all this brouhaha with the enemy can be completely silenced by declaring that he is a liar and the father of it (John 8:44). Nothing, absolutely nothing, that he whispers is true.

All that we are, and therefore, all that we do, is for Him, and “of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

And I do my best to stay attached to and focused on this fulcrum of truth upon which my life spins. This must be the sole gauge in all the things we do. I am His; all that I write come from Him; I set up this blog for His purposes; my life is all about Him, for His glory. Shall we dare steal some of that glory? God forbid! He saith, am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another… (Is. 42:8).

I write to win souls for Christ, not to gain fame for myself.

So, we walk this journey knowing that the eyes of God are ever upon us. Whatever we learn in Church, that should be lived wherever we go. However we live outside of the walls of our homes, it should be the same when we’re inside of them. The early apostles had a word for it. Unfeigned love. (See 2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Pet. 1:22).

Additional readings: How to Truly Seek God and Live an Authentic Life

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So You Want to Know Real Joy?

This was one of the ways I had known joy in my adult life.

The piece of paper comes out of the fax machine slowly. I look and I see it is a purchase order from the biggest client of my year-old chemicals company. I look at the quantity and the amount and I am astounded. Then I leap in joy and laugh and kick my legs in glee and laugh some more. The heavens have poured out a blessing in measure I can not contain.

That was joy after the relentless hoping and working hard and sweat and tears and never giving up.

Then joy became like this.

Pearls – white, pink and bluish grey set in gold, surrounded by perfect diamonds – adorn the neck, ears, wrists, and fingers. String of diamonds that go all around and look beautiful in the wrist, don’t they call it eternity? Wardrobe that is never satisfied. Climb up the ladder of success higher and higher still.

But joy can never walk hand in hand with covetousness. Never. For joy satisfies and fills. Joy is a product of not wanting more, but being content with and grateful for what is graciously given.

That is how I know joy now.

I sit in my high back swivel chair. No, this is not my office chair which I used as president of my company. This is a substitute for a wheelchair for it is more comfortable when I’m home. I listen to praise songs, and when the crescendo of the glorious chorus lifts up my spirit to great heights, I weep and beg God to heal me so I can sing like the singers in the CD do. Then a still small voice speaks in my heart and asks, “What would you choose, to be able to walk but not sing, or to be able to sing well with all your strength but not walk?” And without hesitation, I answer over and over, “I want to sing! I want to sing!” Tears stream freely from a heart that is hungry for the Lord.

I cannot walk for now. I can only do it for a few steps and with support, only as a daily exercise. I cannot travel because I have problems with breathing. But I plan my family’s trip while I stay at home and wait. My heart hungers to travel with my family – walk barefoot on  golden sand glinting in the summer’s sun, or gaze at the green fields and trees as we walk by in the countryside… There are so many desires of my heart – travel to different parts of the world to share the Gospel and my testimony to win souls – but I remain here in this place of hope and waiting and expecting.

You might want to know – how do I go through the day? How do I curb the hunger?

You may not believe it but I live in joy. In the mornings, I awake to joy and inspiration from the Lord to face another day. How do I find joy? It is given to me by the Lord. It is His wonderful, beautiful gift. It is His grace. It is a fruit of seeking Him, of wanting to know Him more, of relentlessly pursuing Him, of spending time in His sweet holy presence, of delighting in Him! It is something that I humbly and gladly receive from His hand as He lovingly offers it to me.

Depression is absolutely absent. For the joy that comes from the Lord is real and pure and durable!

I had known joy that was riddled with guilt. Later, I realized it was not joy at all but sin, SIN, masquerading as joy. So beware!

What, then, is the difference between the joy that I had known when I was well and strong – working, traveling, shopping and embracing the pleasures of the world – and the joy that I know now? It is the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in my life. It is His Spirit that dwells in my heart who enables me to bear its fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)

That and all the wonderful ways He brings joy to my life:

praising and worshiping

love of family and friends

writing: blogging and journaling

homemaking: decorating, cooking, baking, ice cream making, vegetable gardening

reading (I love the Holy Bible and books!)

studying (the Word and other pursuits)

listening to praise music

photography

drawing

lavender scent and green grass and trees and birds!

shampoo and bath assisted by my husband

and many other simple things that most people would take for granted.

Friend, are you searching for joy in your life? Joy that fills and satiates and sees one through even in the most difficult times? Joy that is not fleeting but remains? Jesus is the answer. Let Him into your life now. Know the keys of salvation here.

Additional readings, yes? :):

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From Fear to Love

(Meditating on Psalm 76)

You, Yourself, are to be feared;
And who may stand in Your presence
When once You are angry? 
(Psalm 76:7)

The Bible teaches us to fear God. In fact, Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes summed it all up and concluded everything that have been written into one simple, yet very important verse:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12: 13, emphasis added)

A very simple and clearly-worded commandment, a reminder, and a nugget of wisdom which can change the course of our lives. Indeed, the pursuit of a righteous life starts in having the fear of God. In the absence of it, life leans on sinfulness. It opposes everything that God has commanded.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… (Prov. 9:10)

We begin to have a grasp of pure wisdom and to know God when we learn to fear Him. It is fear of Him that we begin to seek His truth and His righteousness. It is what urges us to find our way to Him. It is fear of Him that we want to seek and obtain His salvation. This fear of Him is what will drive us to pursue Him, know Him, believe in Him and in His Word.

Our fear of God is the beginning of our faith. When we fear Him whom we do not see, we believe in the existence of an Almighty God in whose hands our lives are held.

Ultimately, the faith that sprung up from our fear of this powerful God drives us to humbly surrender our lives to Him, repent, and accept His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is then that we begin the journey of a changed life intimately guided by His Spirit.

It is good that the fear of God is completed in us, compelling us to obey all His commandments. But a Christian that has been born of the Spirit progresses to the higher ground, a place where love dwells. This new creation now bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit, topmost of which is love. He or she now walks in love, and whatever he or she does, he or she does it for the love of the Lord. This is the higher ground – the place where true freedom and joy are experienced.

We can easily see the difference between doing things for God in fear of Him, or in our fervent love for Him. Do we go to church because we fear the consequences if we don’t, or do we go because we hunger for His holy presence? Do we praise Him for hours because we know it is what He desires and if we don’t, we fear that He might be displeased of us, or do we praise Him because our hearts are burning in our love for Him and our spirits can’t get enough of Him, drinking of His holy fountain?

Do we suppress our resentments to other people, doing our very best to forgive those who have hurt us – although our hearts say otherwise, thinking ill thoughts of them – because we fear the Lord’s anger might be kindled against us? Or, do we love Him enough to show our gratitude to Him by loving even our enemies as He has commanded?

Love liberates! Because of our fervent love for the Lord, we can now willingly obey His commands (John 14:15), even the hard ones, like loving your enemies, praying for them, and blessing them. It is love that compels us to honor and obey Him. A love that has been born out of His tender mercies for us. We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). He first showed us how to love, and now we can do it also by His Spirit who works in and through us.

…God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in Him. (1 John 4: 16)

When we have been perfected in love, there is no more fear for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18).

Related post: First Love

Endnotes:

  • This is an edited repost from the archives.

  • Photo of Umbrella Rocks Beach in my hometown of Agno, Pangasinan, Philippines, courtesy of Agno LGU.

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Beyond Comparison

This conversation I had with my sister ended (I hope!) my practice of looking at people of the world and comparing my life with them, often, me, feeling and believing that they have it better than I do. So, as I had written in When We Look at the Temporal Instead of the Eternal, I used to look and think that these people are so abundantly blessed despite not serving and worshiping the living God in spirit and in truth. And as I had come to realize, our vision is sometimes shortsighted: tending to focus our attention to what is seen and not  to what are unseen which are the eternal blessings our salvation brings.

And as I had experienced amidst the trials, there’s also a great possibility that we may overlook the instantaneous gift we have received when we surrendered our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is our liberty. Sometimes, it’s easy for us to take it for granted, even forget, until we see someone struggling to obtain it.

People can be held captive by the enemy in many different ways: drug addiction, alcoholism, chain smoking, gambling, materialism and covetousness, promiscuity, womanizing, etc. One may not be looking like the wretched person that we know of. And that is exactly what the Lord has showed me lately. I had admired her; she seemed to have it all (well, except maybe true salvation), until I learned that she is chained to something destructive that she’s completely powerless to extricate herself from. Her addiction is so pernicious that no amount of rehab can save her.

I’m not happy that I learned she has a huge problem, but this has taught me never to think that there are people from amomg those who have not received salvation who are better off than those who have. This has made me realize the fact that the life of the redeemed is in no way comparable to others. Truth is, it is beyond comparison. The redeemed life is a freed and powerful life. It is a life free from bondage. It is a life sealed with the Holy Spirit and closely guided by it until we reach eternity. 

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)

And because of these realizations, my gratitude to my Savior and Healer has grown deeper. I have gained fresh new appreciation to my salvation and the new life it brought, despite the many trials. The glory of this liberty that I have obtained and hold has shone brighter. I will in no way trade it for the world. Having a deep, steadfast gratitude and appreciation to what the Lord has done for us helps us run the race with endurance, rejoicing all the way to the end.

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Linking up with Lessons from Ivy.

A Life Estranged From God

(Meditating on Psalm 74)

O God, why have You cast us off forever?
Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? 
(Psalm 74:1)

I read Psalm 74 and I compare the life of the Israelites estranged from the Lord God because of their sins with the life of a backsliding Christian without the Holy Spirit. God punished Israel because of her multitude of sins, in particular, her idolatry. She had embraced and defiled herself with foreign gods and gone awhoring with them, and forsook the living God, her redeemer.

Sadly, this tragic story of the Israelites is replayed in the lives of many Christians in these modern times. After receiving the Holy Spirit and have tasted of its fruits, many have been lured again by the pleasures of this world and forsook the one who redeemed them. The scary thing about apostasy is that, oftentimes it happens gradually, without one even realizing it. That is, until it’s too late.

I’ve heard testimonies in Church of brothers and sisters who, at one time or another, had backslid and forsook their faith. Some of these stories tell that the process starts when one becomes so engrossed with one’s work or business that one gradually stops to attend worship services. Communing with God through private praise and worship and prayers (with regular fasting) is also forsaken. What would be the end of this utter negligence and complacency but that the Holy Spirit will grieve, and hence, leave?

Without the Spirit of God who dwells in one’s heart, one is once again powerless against sin, and this time, it is worse than before one received the Gospel of salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ has warned us of this.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” (Mat. 12:43-45, emphasis added)

It is hard to imagine life without the Holy Spirit. It’s too scary to even contemplate about it. Without Christ, without hope, without eternal life? There aren’t enough words to describe this wretched state! These stories that were written about God’s people who had lived before us serve as our reminders to remain faithful to God and serve Him only. Also, the testimonies of brothers and sisters who had experienced the horrors of a life without the presence of God will serve as dire warnings to us to hold on to our salvation and work it out with “fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

I marvel greatly at the enduring mercies of God and His faithfulness as I listen to brothers and sisters who once turned their backs to the Lord Jesus Christ and the faith but were drawn again by Him and returned them to the fold. But there were others who were not as fortunate but died without the Lord. How tragic that could be!

For God is my King from of old,
Working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by Your strength;
You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters.
14 You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces,
And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness.
15 You broke open the fountain and the flood;
You dried up mighty rivers.
16 The day is Yours, the night also is Yours;
You have prepared the light and the sun.
17 You have set all the borders of the earth;
You have made summer and winter. 
(vv. 12-17)

 Beautiful photo of the Milkyway courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras, Toronto, Canada.

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I’m linked up with Lessons from Ivy.