Hope for the Smudged and Broken

My father was an artist. I remember vividly one evening when I was in grade school that he came home drunk. He had been working on a special project for our town’s celebration every summer called AgRo (the exact words these letters represented escape me, but AgRo was like an expo of various agricultural products, native arts and crafts). His project was a set of pitcher and half-dozen mugs sitting on a tray all made entirely of bamboo. For hours on end, he patiently polished the bamboo pieces until they were shiny and smooth. After that, he painted on each one a cluster of bamboo trees.

When he left the house that afternoon, he had finished painting all the pieces and meticulously set them on their bamboo tray to dry. But a neighbor, his old buddy, who came from Manila came to our house and saw my father’s work. He held and examined them, admiring each piece, as my mother and I watched.

When my father arrived that night, he saw at once the paint smudges on his bamboo project. He knew there was no way to repair them. He was so dismayed that in great feeling of frustration, he shoved the whole tray from off the table and all the pieces fell on the floor. My mother and I were shocked. When he left, I saw his pained expression. I felt for him. Slowly, my mother and I began to pick up the pieces and mended the broken handles with wood glue.

After almost four decades later, I would come to know, really know, another Father. But instead of seeing Him greatly dismayed with me – covered in miry clay and all broken – He mercifully and lovingly picked me up, mended my broken parts and healed my wounds.

How could something that is covered with filth and with a heart and body so broken it couldn’t function properly be transformed into a thing that radiates the beauty and light of its Creator? But that is how the mercy of my Father in heaven works in a terribly messed-up life like mine was.

His workings are all so wondrous. But why doesn’t everybody see that? Why don’t the smudged, the wounded, the broken run to Him to be recreated, to become new – a new creation? These are the things that I saw:

  • One cannot see the truth in one’s life

One has been completely blinded by Satan’s lie that one believes one’s life is good, all good. I have two female friends who live as a couple, and by the world’s standards, they are blessed abundantly – health, finances, happiness – that their favorite line is “God is good!” To be in the belief that God blesses and favors those who do not obey His Word and follow after righteousness is a very dangerous thing. For it would be more difficult to make them un-believe the lie.

  • One cannot believe that God can forgive and change him or her

A testimony was shared to me by a sister in Christ whose mother-in-law asked her doubtfully when she told her about  the Gospel of salvation, “Can God forgive my sins?” (Her mother-in-law had committed abortion many times due to poverty. In the Philippines, one need not go to the doctor to have an abortion).

But God forgives anyone who comes to Him and repents and receives the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. This is His promise:

“Come now, let’s settle this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool. 
(Is. 1:18 NLT)

The mother-in-law believed and plunged herself at Jesus’ feet, repenting and humbling herself. She was made into a new creation – sanctified and clothed with righteousness.

Endnotes:

  • Read more of my testimony here.
  • Know the keys of salvation here.
I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Journey with Jesus,

At Peace with God’s Testings

A son whose simple dream was to get a good job abroad to bring prosperity to his family; who loves his father and mother that even at a young age, he accepted a job offer to work in China, just so he can help them. A son who loves the Lord Jesus and served Him faithfully. But fate would have it that this young man would taste the bitterness of God’s hard testing. While believing that his dream was at last within his reach, he ended up in a prison in China and was locked up. He was charged of transporting drugs to that country – a “drug mule”. How harder could it get?

How could he face the reality of a dream shattering to thousand irretrievable pieces? But maybe that’s easier to accept and come to terms to compared to the horrifying and uncertain future in prison in a foreign land with a charge that when proven guilty would send him to his death. How could he face every single day, knowing that that country is the world’s leading executioner?

And then there’s this wife whose fervent prayer is a blissful marriage, but what she’s been having for years is a difficult one, one that often sends her to great despair  and lose hope even of life, let alone a harmonious and peaceful married life. A wife whose soul is wearied by her spouse’s unkindness and seeming lack of love by the way he treats her most of the time. A wife who prays and wrestles, strives and fails, rises and believes, only to see herself go through the same cycle over again.

A wife who wants to hide from her God because she just couldn’t face Him with repeated failures and ugly mess. Who wants to escape and run as far away from frustrations, unhappiness and confusions as possible. A wife who thinks that the fights she never wanted make her unwhole and impure in the sight of God and what shall she do now? What shall she do with her dreams and her desire for almost-perfect marriage? How shall she close her eyes from the world’s standard of a happy marriage? But most of all, how shall she live with the daunting realization that this might just be the case for the rest of their life here on earth?

The son in prison survives every single day because of Jesus. In the dark prison cell, He is his light. In moments of uncontrollable fear, He is his strength. Jesus’ love is kept hidden in his heart; nothing in this world could steal it from him. And the fire of his love for Him which flourished throughout the years that he served Him freely, keeps burning in his heart.

He reads his Bible everyday like it was his lifeline (indeed, it IS our lifeline!). He is given strength from above to rise up morning by morning to share the Gospel to his fellow prisoners, even to those who oversee them. He has given up thoughts about his own life and future. Maybe in the soul level, he has died to them. He lives surrendered to God and His will. He lives embracing his testing, suffering, and calling.

And the wife? Jesus spoke to her to embrace her life with all its testings and hardships. She should not run away from it but let Him do His work. She should not think that the mess, the failures, the frustrations do not make her impure as long as her heart is right with Him, connected with Him, and her whole being – her eyes, heart, mind and soul – is focused on Him.

And she was freed and knew that with the exhilarating freedom came a commitment, a covenant, that. she. will. not. dare. take. her eyes. off. of. Him. Her eyes, heart, mind, and soul must be engaged fully with Him. And yes, she can. She can go on with life, marriage, family, plans, service, ministry, with joy!

How can they be at peace with God and their woeful situation? How can we be at peace with our own testings and sufferings? It is this, this is the key:

For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us,[a] leaving us[b] an example, that you should follow His steps:

22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”. (1 Pet. 2:19-22)

When we do good and suffer, and we endure the grief and take it patiently because of God – this is COMMENDABLE before Him.

We were CALLED to suffer with Christ and follow His steps.

This is our freedom, the balm to our pains and sufferings. This is our light in our confusions and comfort in our afflictions. This is our assurance in our discouragements and encouragement in our failures and frustrations.

Related article: A Reward for the Righteous (includes the testimony of the brother in Christ who was mentioned above).

Journey with Jesus,

Working Out Our Most Important Relationship

When I read that part where the Apostle Paul told the Philippians to “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), I didn’t really understand then what it entailed. I didn’t know how to do it in a deep sense, in a very personal level. I heard a preacher in our Church exhort about it in general terms, likening our salvation with that of a precious gift, and doing our very best to hold on to it, to not let it be snatched away by the enemy. I understood that we should not be complacent but always be watchful.

Then I read what Ms. Darlene Zschech had briefly written (I think on the back of one of her CDs?), “Just work out your relationship with Jesus.” It stuck with me. For that was at a time when I was struggling to understand what was happening with my life, straining to see the light amidst the fiery trials. When you’re tested to the uttermost, you want to have at least an understanding of what is happening, where your life is leading to, if God is even with you.

Working out our own salvation as Apostle Paul implores us means as much as working out our relationship with our Redeemer. It is synonymous. When we received our salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, we entered into a relationship with Him. Our salvation then can never be apart from our relationship with Him. When we work out our relationship with our Savior King, we are working out our own salvation. (Even the quality of our other relationships is determined by how healthy or poor our relationship with the Lord Jesus is).

Why is there a need? I believe all of us who received the Lord Jesus and His salvation have experienced the struggle to maintain a fervent, faithful, and trusting relationship with Him in varying degrees. This struggle is most felt during a hard and prolonged trial. In my case, it was a combination of physical, mental and emotional suffering compounded with problems and challenges in our company and household, spelling out a F-I-E-R-Y | T-R-I-A-L no less.

During that long chilly season, my relationship with my Savior was one which ebbed and flowed, now and then marred with doubts and fears, and threatened by feelings of sullenness, discontent, disheartenment, bitterness, and a few times, even silent rebellion. It was like you want to confront the One who has control of it all and know why. Why? You just want to know why.

It was during this time that I got so intimately acquainted with Job. Talk about being kindred spirits by going through physical suffering and the mental and emotional anguish it brought. Oh friends, I know how it was to live between life and death everyday. Job wanted a confrontation with God so much; He longed to understand the meaning behind all his suffering. Oh, how I had echoed Job’s laments!

There were times that I wanted to go far away from Him just to let Him know that I was hurt by His seeming indifference. Yes, I had struggled with my relationship with my Redeemer King: sulking and having a pity party one minute, then running to His arms the next. There was battle of wills: His and mine. Why doesn’t the Lord just heal me so I can continue to manage our company seeing my husband grapples with the intricacies of a chemicals company? That was just one of my questions in the early years.

There is a struggle because our own will and wants, motivated by our own limited understanding, clash with God’s will, His thoughts and ways. Although we were called to a personal relationship with Jesus our Savior, calling Him our best friend, He is still God and there is a need for us to surrender to Him – completely. To yield ourselves to Him in total abandon.

I have learned that during trials, our relationship with our Lord Jesus is tested and threatened. Faith, trust, hope, steadfast love – all these that weave the threads of the tapestry of our relationship with Him become most vulnerable. It is during these times then that we really get to work. Work out our relationship with Him. How?

One of the keys is to know Him more. In the early part of my fiery trial and my relationship with the Lord Jesus was precariously tested (well, that was as far as I knew with my limited view of the bigger thing, but it definitely wasn’t the same with Him; He was holding me steadfastly all the time and never letting go, but I didn’t know that), my constant prayer was to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).

We can know Him more by spending much of our time reading and meditating on His Word.

Another way is to draw ever nearer to Him; seek His powerful presence through worship. My favorite worship song during this time was Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer by Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Do you struggle in your faith walk? Continue to work out your relationship with the Lord Jesus. This is one relationship that has utmost importance to us. He is our Bridegroom, we are His Bride. We look forward to His coming when we’ll be forever with Him.

Additional reading: First Love

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My gratitude list ~ the gifts I received from the hand of the Lord:

  • One whole week without maids; it was like a holiday for our family and the peace, joy and intimacy it brought were priceless.
  • Singing praises with heart full of faith and fervent love for the Lord bringing a gush of hot tears as Tim struggled to breathe due to asthma-like cough.
  • A fruit gift basket with a beautiful card.
  • Eating bunches of lanzones with family.
  • My vegetable garden coming to life now.
  • Pretty boxed cards, good pens collection, new friends, and lovely written words
I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Inside the Enemy’s Camp {A Mission That’s Worth a Thousand Crusades}

(Meditating on Psalm 77)

We’re in Psalm 77 in our Journey Through the Psalms Friday, and how very timely to be discussing about it now that our Church, JESUS MIRACLE CRUSADE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRY, had just celebrated the 12th Mindanao Peace Mission Anniversary last October 7.

This is all I could remember about it. I was resting comfortably on our new bed in our new townhouse watching the evening news. I caressed my bulging tummy; I was about 5 months pregnant with our first baby. I saw in the news how these emaciated prayer warriors together with their beloved pastor were battling and struggling against all the hardships they were in as their stay in the Abu Sayyaf camp was prolonged indefinitely. What little I can remember of it (because I didn’t really focus my attention, there were other things in my mind then that were more exciting – how selfish I had been!) was that, those Christian men were staying strong in their faith amidst all the perils around them. I remember thinking, “Why would anyone want to go to that hellish place?”

It would be three years later when my memory would be refreshed about that news, when I was brought to the feet of Jesus at JMCIM, dying and shaking from unexplainable fear. It would be months later, as we continued to serve the Lord and hope for His healing, that I learned that the Church where the Lord had mercifully brought us to was the one who bravely entered the Abu Sayyaf camp to pray for the 21 Sipadan hostages and help with their release.

Every year as the Church celebrated this victorious peace mission in Talipao, Jolo, Sulu in the island of Mindanao, I would hear about the amazing – A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! – testimonies of the 12 prayer warriors who had experienced the horrors of that place in the presence of the fierce Abu Sayyaf. Just a few weeks prior to JMCIM’s entrance to the camp, a Catholic priest, Fr. Gallardo, was captured by them. They extracted all his nails and plucked out his eyes before they brutally chopped off his head.

I cannot now write all the testimonies of God’s mighty deliverance during their three-month ordeal inside the enemy’s camp and the military assault that followed. How could Bible-wielding, weak and emaciated (from daily fasting up in the cruel mountains of Jolo, Sulu) Christian men escape the fierceness of the Abu Sayyaf and later on, the canons and bombs from military planes (for the government had declared an all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf but they (Abu Sayyaf) insisted that the JMCIM Christians would stay close to them)?

I cried out to God with my voice—
To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted. 
(Psalm 77: 1-2)

The bombs would drop from the military planes, cutting off trees and spattering the earth. The Abu Sayyaf would be fleeing to wherever they could escape, but the faith-full Christian men, always anticipating God’s mighty deliverance, would be on their knees, arms raised up to heaven, yielding their bodies to God’s protection WHICH.NEVER.FAILED. (Sobbing now).

And God delivered them triumphantly, all thirteen of them. They were not hurt by the Abu Sayyaf nor the bombs and canons of the military assault. HALLELUIAH!

But the beloved pastor suffered much. Due to prolonged fasting (he had fasted 40 days and 40 nights before entering the Abu Sayyaf camp and continued it during much of their stay in the mountains), his body weakened so much that he could hardly walk and talk. He is still recovering until now. I remember the apostle Paul’s words: I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:17).

As the years passed and the Church continued to wait for the beloved pastor’s full recovery and as it travailed still in heartbreaking trials (the passing away of the beloved assistant pastor, Lina C. Almeda, among other trials of faith), some despaired (I was one of them) if the Lord’s eyes and miracles were still on His Church, JMCIM. But we were wrong in even letting that thought enter the mind. For God again showed His amazing miracles – healings, lives changed, deliverance – and let His powerful presence felt in the congregation every worship service.

I read Asaph’s laments and I can imagine the beloved pastor (and the beloved brethren) awake in the night, meditating on God and His wondrous works.

You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I have considered the days of old,
The years of ancient times.
I call to remembrance my song in the night;
I meditate within my heart,
And my spirit makes diligent search.

Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah (vv. 4-9)

I hold these precious words close to my heart. They serve as lamp in the dark, wisdom in weakness and confusion.

Last Sunday, October 7, the whole Church gathered together again to remember God’s goodness and celebrate His mighty deeds that He has shown. Once again, brethren, specially the prayer warriors of the victorious Talipao peace mission, shouted out their praise, testimonies, and celebratory messages in the pulpit. Human strength is not enough to shout out God’s wondrous works to the ends of the earth.

And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12 I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
14 You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples. 
(vv. 10-14)

Below, I share with you photos of this blessed event. I pray these will be a blessing to you.

Congregational singing – joyful. These were those on the grounds.

The beloved brethren with their umbrellas to fend off the heat of the sun.

The Children’s Choir

Youngsters in worship (Children’s Choir)

The Adults’ Choir (brothers’ side)

Youth and Singles’ Choirs combined. Those on their knees were being filled by the Holy Spirit.

The musicians

A sister worshiping.

Beloved workers in the vineyard of the Lord (preachers, prayer warriors, pastoral workers).

The Jesus Finest Generation Choir

Up close

Hands in praise

The beloved JMCIM mimers

The Adults’ Choir (sisters’ side)

Our dearly beloved Hon. Pastor Wilde E. Almeda in the pulpit. He was in the verge of tears remembering how God had mightily delivered him and the 12 prayer warriors.

The altar call

Endnotes:

  • I thank beloved Bro. Edu Cortez of ExtremeDetails for providing the beautiful photos. God bless you so much more, Bro. Edu! (Lord willing, I hope to get some photography lessons from you in the coming days :)).
  • I was blessed to have browsed the manuscript of the book written about the Talipao peace mission by an American (CIA) who had studied and followed through the whole event. I hope and pray that it will be published soon.
I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

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? :):

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

More on Giving Ourselves to Prayer

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16)

She talks of the latest evil that was done in that little town. A local government official – some kids’ father, someone’s husband, a father’s son, some man’s friend – was gunned down and everybody believes it’s politically-motivated. The father wept despairingly, wounded deep in his heart. There was indescribable hurt as well as anger that was hard to contain. The wife said, “All of my children’s hope and future have altogether crumbled and gone in an instant.”

This is the second time. Not too long ago, it was the town’s leader. He was a new one, full of promises and actions and well-loved by the townsfolk. They mourned then and were greatly shocked. And now this.

She talks how the proud and the fierce and the hungry for power threatens some more, emboldened. And there is shock and fear, and — helplessness. The one who holds on to power and hungry for more is one who is utterly powerless. Powerless against the evil that works in and through him. I stare at the Queen Anne chair and remember the words of our beloved honorable pastor, “We hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Hate the sin, love the sinner. But at this instance, I don’t know where the line between the two is drawn. It seems to me that the sin and the sinner are hopelessly intertwined and they are one, and I don’t really know what to feel.

But always, “love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth”, and I strongly denounce such evil. These things stir up anger and the proud mouth can’t be stopped, so I burst out with these words, “Hell is never full; it is never satisfied.” God knows and sees everything that is done under the sun among the children of men, and His Word, His will, His master plan will stand. He has set up a day of judgment and punishment for the wicked.

The Lord has made all for Himself,
Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.
 (Prov. 16:4)

Either that or His Gospel of salvation will be gloriously descending upon that mourning town and penetrating into the people’s hearts and they will all be humbly and hungrily accepting it. And they all will be miraculously saved and delivered from the evil one. So I tell her now, “The Lord Jesus Christ is the only hope of that town. He is the only one who can raise it up from the heaps.” I say this while deep in thought and my whole being shrouded and heavy with all this dark news. God is all-powerful. He will make a way. He will judge. He will reprove. He will punish. Or, He will turn their hearts around. And I don’t know what else He plans to do but I know He wants us to pray. Pray agonisingly, earnestly, unceasingly, unrelentingly. 

There stands at the outskirts of the beloved town a small, new house with ample yard. The dream is – this will be a house of worship of the true Church of the living God, a haven for the lost and the mourning. But the years pass – the grass grows uncontrollably, except for occasional cutting by  a hired help – and the house remains unoccupied, silent. For the workers are few and it breaks my heart. Didn’t the Lord tell us to pray for more laborers for the harvest? So, we pray. There are souls that need to be liberated – from evil works, from hatred and unforgiveness, from despair and hopelessness.

We can’t afford to be complacent, to be doing nothing. So let us “give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

Endnotes: Above photos courtesy of Bro. Edu Cortez of Extreme Details Photography; JMCIM worship services.

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My gratitude list ~ the gifts I received from the hand of the Lord:

  • My salvation and healing which comes from just One: the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Tim greeting the whole congregation and reciting a verse before their choir – Cherubim’s Choir – sang on a Sunday service.
  • Blessed to be a blessing: making my sister’s birthday abundantly blessed.
  • healthy menu plans and food that is good and available
  • Tim enjoying my homemade dark chocolate ice cream, how he scooped up by the spoonfuls and heaped them into his mouth :).
  • an afternoon in the garden – precious moments
  • a yellow chair, a throw, and a Bible

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.
Linked 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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