Friday, October 21, 2016

Backsliding part 3 - A mission

As God brings repentance to my backsliding heart, as He attracts me with His loving kindness, I find that not only does He want to restore me, but He wants to make me a restorer. 

One of the areas that has been restored in my life is prayer. And lately, a lot of our prayer time (I pray with my precious husband) is spent on intercession. 
We don't have a prayer list. We don't have a specific set of petitions, or people. When we begin, we ask God to bring to our hearts the requests He wants us to lay at His throne. And He always does. 

One group of people that comes up in our prayers, one way or another, is the church. We grieve over the sin we see in our midst. We grieve over false doctrines, which lead to different kinds of errors and sins. 

But we have understood that the Lord has provided discernment, not to make us judgmental and self-righteous. Just the opposite is true. The Lord shows us that, many times, the sins we see in others are a reflection of sins we ourselves make, and that we need to apply the advice the Lord gives each one of us:

Matthew 7:3-5 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

I plan to write a series of posts on this issue when I come round to it, but in a few words... When we feel the rush to be judgmental... Let's go to God in prayer. Let's humbly ask Him to reveal any hidden sin regarding the sin we're seeing in others. If the Lord shows us anything, let's confess it with no self-justification whatsoever. Let's settle our accounts with God first, in all humility and meekness accepting His correction, and THEN, after step one is dealt with, we can move forward to help brothers and sisters remove the speck from their eyes.

And how do we help our brothers and sisters be restored? Back to my topic. The first thing we can do for all of our brothers and sisters is pray for them! Pray with an earnest heart. A heart that will be willing to devote time to the well-being of others. In this case, prayer time.  

I want to share a few verses from Isaiah 62.  

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
    and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
    and her salvation as a burning torch.
The nations shall see your righteousness,
    and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will give.

Let's pray for our brothers and sisters, that they will be sanctified in God's truth. That each one of us will learn to abide in Christ, abide in His teaching, abide in His love. That we will learn that His commandments are not grievous, but joyful. The commandment of loving God with all of our hearts, and loving each other as He loved us. We need to come back to these two basic laws. True righteousness is Christ-likeness. We need to pray that each one of us will grow more and more like Christ, and less and less like the world.

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
    and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
    and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
    and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
    so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
    so shall your God rejoice over you.

Jesus Christ is our hope of glory. He's the one who makes us beautiful. He's the most precious jewel we can possess. God wants to delight in us. Let's pray that we will greatly rejoice in the thought of the wedding that is to take place in Heaven, with the Bridegroom. That joy, that hope, will make all other pleasures seem so insignificant. We need to pray for each other, so that our brothers and sisters will wake up to this glorious truth!

On your walls, O Jerusalem,
    I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
    they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
    take no rest,
and give him no rest
    until he establishes Jerusalem
    and makes it a praise in the earth.

Will you be one such watchman? Will you raise your voice, like Esther did before an earthly king for the sake of her people. You have a much more powerful king who is waiting to hear your voice! Will you persevere in prayer until you see the new Jerusalem established in the hearts of your brothers and sisters? Will we love our coming king and earnestly pray for the prosperity of His Kingdom?

The Lord has sworn by his right hand
    and by his mighty arm:
“I will not again give your grain
    to be food for your enemies,
and foreigners shall not drink your wine
    for which you have labored;
but those who garner it shall eat it
    and praise the Lord,
and those who gather it shall drink it
    in the courts of my sanctuary.”

We've allowed the enemy of our souls to tempt us, to distract us, to lull us to sleep. Therefore, because of our sloth, our grain was lost. We labored, but we labored in vain because we'd lost our first love. Let us return to Him! Let's pray for the return of many brothers and sisters who have backslidden, just like we have, who have been blinded, just like we have, whose salt has lost its flavor just like ours.  

Go through, go through the gates;
    prepare the way for the people;
build up, build up the highway;
    clear it of stones;
    lift up a signal over the peoples.
Behold, the Lord has proclaimed
    to the end of the earth:
Say to the daughter of Zion,
    “Behold, your salvation comes;
behold, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.”
And they shall be called The Holy People,
    The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
    A City Not Forsaken.

If we want for God to use us to prepare the way for the people, to clear the highway of stones, the first thing to do is repent of our own backslidings, and pray for those soldiers who have fallen in battle. 

The Lord has power to bring the Lazarus back from the dead. He has power over dry bones. Can we pray and believe that almighty God can use our feeble prayers to bring about change?

In closing, I want to share a few verses from James 5:

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

An adulterous heart’s confession, part 2

And here’s the prayer I have in my heart about any and all of my dreams, on everything that I have on my hearts that I know needs to be surrender to God's purifying power. It is based on Hosea, chapter 2. Hosea is one of my favorite books, because it speaks to my often “double-minded” heart, and helps me redirect my heart’s desire towards God, the source of all goodness.

Lord, whenever my desires or my plans have become an idol, whenever I've come to worship Your gifts more than I worship You, whenever I've become self-centered and self-absorbed, please do to me according to Your will. Strip me naked. Expose me, like the day I was born. Reveal to me the wrongness of my desires. 

Do not have mercy of the children of idolatry (MY plans which are not according to YOUR will), but destroy all the works of MY hands, so that I'll come to love the works of YOUR hands working in me and through me. 

If I've gone after lovers and believed that THEY give me my bread and my water, please do whatever it takes to bring me back to You. Hedge up my way with thorns, And wall me in, So that I cannot find my paths. When I chase my lovers, may I never overtake them. When I seek them, may I never find them. May I always recognize that it's YOU who gives me grain, new wine, and oil.

Take back Your wool and Your linen, so that I will come to know I'm naked in Your presence, that You see me just as I am, and do not let me become self-deceived. Uncover my lewdness, my lusts, the vain desires of my flesh, so that I will not call good what You don't call good. Cause all my worldly and ungodly mirth to cease, do not allow me to feast on what's not heavenly. Destroy my vines and my fig trees, Of which I had said, ‘These are my wages that my lovers have given me.' Punish me with Your righteous judgments, for allowing my heart to be filled with other gods, other baals. 

May I recognize no other God but You. May I especially free from the love of Self as a god, for you will not share Your throne with any man. May I have a heart to destroy all the earrings and jewelry, the "adornments" of idolatry, which came to me when I forgot You. 

And then, oh Lord, allure me, attract me, bring me into the wilderness, like you led John the Baptist, like you led Jesus, and from that place of being stripped of all distractions, speak comfort to me. 

For I know in that place of restored fellowship, You give me Your vineyards, And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; I will sing there, As in the days of my youth, As in the day when I came up from the land of Egypt. 

“And it shall be, in that day,” You have said, I will call You Husband, And no longer call You ‘My Master,’ and I will know you as Abba, Father, and I will know you as Abba, Father, and I will be a spotless bride for Your Son.

An adulterous heart’s confession, part 1

I am by nature a very passionate person. I love pouring out my heart on everything I do. I hate doing things “half-heartedly”, out of habit, out of a sense of obligation, either self-imposed or as a result of external pressure.
Now, I learned a few years ago, when I began to study the Bible seriously, that the heart is deceitful, and that we should guard our heart against the desires which do not please God. I have learned that not every dream that is in my heart comes from God. And some of the dreams I have may have been given by God, but still need to be perfected. 

Just like Abraham was given a son, a son who was the son of a long-awaited promise, I have found that when that Isaac (whatever "Isaac" may mean) becomes “my beloved”, rather than Jesus being the “lover of my soul”, God begins to pull at my heart’s strings and go ascend the mount for sacrifice. Not that I have to kill my physical son or destroy my dreams literally. But I do need to surrender, whole-heartedly, to God’s will for my life, and accept whatever He decrees, even if it is painful. 

I need to say, Father, once again, I know I need to deny myself. I know I need to die to this desire, so that my heart’s desire will be You. I need to return to my First Love, Jesus. I need to “renounce all that I possess” so that I’ll truly become Your disciple. I need to abide in Your Word, in Your Truth, in Your perfect ways. I need to learn obedience, if necessary, by suffering. I need You to judge if what I feel is Yours or mine. If it’s mine, I confess that the flesh profits nothing. If it’s Yours, I still submit it fully to you, so that you’ll kill whatever is fleshly in it and bring it back to life with resurrection power.

I’ve been pondering these thoughts, and praying this way, for more than a month. There’s a very specific dream which I’m trying to discern whether it’s in the Father’s heart or not. A specific calling. But I have decided NOT to walk in that direction UNLESS the Father’s presence comes with me. I will not step out of His will or His perfect timing. I will no longer strive.

The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

I want God’s Selah more than anything. I want to rest in His perfect shabbat. In His perfect will. He is my refuge. He is the God of Jacob. Jacob, the one who got a blessing by deceitful means (as I myself, have been self-deceived and a deceiver so many times) and still, because of God’s mercy, got a revelation of God in Bethel. Jacob, the man whom God sent an angel to wrestle with, because there were so many things in his soul that needed to be dealt with. And Jacob kept fighting and fighting against God... until he understood... and then he held on to the angel for dear life and said, Bless me!

And I want to cease striving, battling against God! And to me a promise is given:

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two.

He brings me to a point where I can just rest in Him. The war is over. He has won, and won me over. He breaks the vow and spears of my self, my own resources. He destroys my self-sufficiency, and brings me to the point of Christ-sufficiency. He burns the chariot in the fire. Indeed, His consuming fire brings to nothing all my well-thought but not God-conceived plans.

And then He tells me,
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

My soul is still. You are God. I am a mere mortal, but I’m learning from You! I am but a child... Simple, sometimes naïve and downright foolish. But Your wisdom astounds me! You are my wisdom. All the treasures of knowledge are found in Jesus. And I want to know Him.
As You will be exalted among the nations, You will be exalted in me. You will be exalted in this earth (my soul) the devil has ravaged so many times. I will be holy, set aside for You. I will call You my God and You will call me Your child.

A few days ago I read a blog entry which helped me confirm what God’s been speaking to my heart. Not about the dream I mention, but about my heart’s higher desire to be a wholehearted worshipper of Christ.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Rachem, Rachem, Rachem! (Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!)

The Lord has been impressing many messages on my heart, and the one I’m going to share is a very important lesson that has taken many years for me to grasp (and I’m only just beginning to get it).

Here I am, on a Saturday, with YouTube playing songs of praise and worship, and then this one comes in and touches my heart.

And as the song plays, I find this is the kind of song that when you listen to it, you need to replay... and replay... and replay...

Things are getting worse and worse. Those of us who have had our eyes opened understand that “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” This is becoming more and more apparent, and Isaiah’s words seem a poignant description of the world we’re living in:

 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who change darkness into light and light into darkness,
who change bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter!”

And as we see, with great pain, the world unravelling, our heart cries to God for mercy.

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!
The person who composed this song requested mercy for Israel, for Yerushalayim, the city of peace that is under attack. We see suffering all around us and cry for mercy for our
people. Our friends and family, our neighbors, our country, our churches, the unsaved people we know and those we don’t... We cry for mercy...

And as I was listening, some passages of Scripture came to mind:

Micah 6:6-8 With what can I come before Adonai to bow down before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings? with calves in their first year? Would Adonai take delight in thousands of rams with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Could I give my firstborn to pay for my crimes, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 
Human being, you have already been told what is good, what Adonai demands of you — no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God.

In keeping with my post of a Jewish song, I’ve just quoted from the Complete Jewish Bible, but the same passage in the NKJV, for example, renders the last verse as follows:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

And what grips me is the instruction to “love mercy”, or to “love grace”. Of course we love it when Abba Father shows grace and mercy to us. We all prefer God dealing with us in His loving mercies than in judgment! But what He is telling us here is that, just like we love it when He shows mercy to us, we ought to love showing mercy to others, being gracious when we deal with fellow sinners. If we understand’s God’s standard of justice and righteousness, of perfect mercy and humility, we understand we greatly fall short of the perfect model He displayed for us, Yeshua, our Messiah.

At least I... I’m far from being just and righteous as He is. I don’t have anything resembling His mercy. And I’m not at all meek and humble as He is.

So I acknowledge my serious shortcomings in keeping the commandment to love my neighbor as I love myself. I have strayed from the straight and narrow and fallen into the trap of self-righteous judgmentalism and unloving arrogance. I need to return to God. I need His mercy to cleanse me of these sins and show me how to walk in His perfect will.

Hosea 6:1-6: Come, let us return to Adonai;
for he has torn, and he will heal us;
he has struck, and he will bind our wounds.
After two days, he will revive us;
on the third day, he will raise us up;
and we will live in his presence.
Let us know, let us strive to know Adonai.
That he will come is as certain as morning;
he will come to us like the rain,
like the spring rains that water the earth.
“Efrayim, what should I do to you?
Y’hudah, what should I do to you?
For your ‘faithful love’ is like a morning cloud,
like dew that disappears quickly.
This is why I have cut them to pieces by the prophets,
slaughtered them with the words from my mouth
— the judgment on you shines out like light.
For what I desire is mercy, not sacrifices,
knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Like a dry and weary land, my soul needs God’s restoring rains. I have been unfruitful, I have experienced great spiritual drought as the people in Elijah’s time experienced a physical drought. But He has promised to restore those who realize their condition and become earnest seekers. As certain as the sun rising in the morning is the coming of the sun of righteousness to those that fear Him and wait upon Him.

Many of us have offered God a fickle kind of love. Like the apostle James reminds us, when we are in two minds, when we have one foot in God and the other in the world, we are “like a wave in the sea being tossed and driven by the wind”. Such a person is “unstable in all his ways”. But God wants us to walk in His ways all the time, not just when we feel especially “inspired” to do so.

And one thing that should be a characteristic of us believers in Yeshua is, precisely, mercy. We of all people should be gracious and merciful. We should imitate Him who showed to us a mercy we didn’t deserve.

Please meditate on Matthew 9, which I’m quoting now from the NKJV:

10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples,
“Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them,
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
13 But go and learn what this means:
‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’
For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Fellow brother or sister, read this again in the CJB version:

“The ones who need a doctor aren’t the healthy but the sick.
As for you, go and learn what this means:
‘I want compassion rather than animal-sacrifices.’
For I didn’t come to call the ‘righteous,’ but sinners!”

If you can admit you haven’t been as merciful and compassionate as you should,
please come to the throne of grace, where abundant mercy will be shown to you.
God will help you! Ask God to put His agape love in you!

More than ever, this dying world needs compassionate, merciful, humble and righteous people living out the Gospel they preach.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Backsliding Part 2 - Coming back

Once again, I'm back! 

It's been 3 1/2 years since my last post. The last 2 1/2 years were devoted to a full-time job which became ever more time-consuming and stressful. Rewarding (and I'm thankful for all the learning), but very demanding indeed.

Sometimes you need to let go of the good (or not so good) in order to receive something better. In this case, the better job offer came before my decision, and the decision was obvious. Yes, God can see our lack of faith and at times, will open huge doors that go beyond our wildest expectations. 

So I'm back to freelance translation, which is a job I love, but not as much as writing. And being freer to earn my bread with my work without feeling like a slave and having a little time to pursue my dream (isn't the Lord good?) I have decided to spend more time seeking the Lord, and sharing my findings with you.

I needed to come back in a lot of ways. I didn't want to write from that not-quite-home-yet frame of mind. So I took about a month to pray intensely, study the Bible and have my ears intent on listening.

There is a song that has really helped me in this process. I wanted to share it with you. The song is on YouTube and you can find it here: 

Ashuv Eleicha - Coming back to you 

The lyrics with the English translation appear on the video, with Hebrew transliteration so you can sing it too.

Just a couple of verses that ring so true to my heart:

Many ways I have tried

And in all of them I have gone astray
Many voices I have heard
But only one voice is burning inside me.

That sounds a lot like me, the "serial prodigal". Today I was telling a sister that I've backslidden more times than I can count. Never completely left the faith, but all too often I have felt my love for God is only a bruised reed or a faintly burning wick. And yet that still small voice, so often drowned by the screams of condemnation Satan wants to keep us crushed under, that still small voice never ceases to speak. 

Come back to me.

The Master's voice can be like the servant's voice in Isaiah 42, verse 2: 
"He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street." And because we have so many noises and other voices shouting all around us, many times we ignore it, to our own peril.

But the passage in Isaiah doesn't end there. And in verses 3 and 4, it speaks to the
heart of people like me:

a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
    till he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his law.

I may grow faint and be discouraged, but the Lord's servant doesn't grow faint or weary. Because He knows the end from the beginning. He knows the end of my story, the end of history indeed (HIS-story). The Lord of all has determined to establish justice in the earth. He has made it His purpose to write His law in our hearts. In MY weak heart, so often dominated by the flesh.

Ezekiel 36 contains one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. It starts in v. 22 telling Israel, I'm going to do something, but I won't do it for your sake. In other words, don't think what I'm going to do is because you deserve it! I will do it for MY name's sake. Well, that's great news for me. Because if God's grace depended on me getting my just desserts... it wouldn't look good! I have profaned His name, I have taken it in vain, I have been hypocritical, self-righteous... I have denied Him and betrayed Him in so many ways. BUT GOD... 

24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you.

Have you counted the number of "I will" in that huge promise? More than 10 times, the Lord says, I WILL help you! You're far away, but I'll bring you back to your land. And our land, our home is Jesus. Where else can our heart lay its head? Where else can we find words of eternal life?

Many times have I lost my first love. Many times have I allowed temptations to do their dirty work of attracting me away from the Father's home. Many times have I failed to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. Many times my life has looked too much like the first list in Galatians 5 and too little like the second.

But I don't want that anymore, because I don't want to lose my inheritance over one morsel of meat! 

So I come back.

Once again, I lift my prayers to my Elohim for the help I need to 
"lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely", and pray for a heart that will "run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith." 

Back to the Cross. HIS cross, and MINE. Because I have to crucify so many passions and desires, some of which are not bad in and of themselves, but can so easily become perverted by the flesh. Like Paul, I need to confess, "I die daily," and indeed, there are so many things I need to die to that if I had to mention them here, this post would be endless! 

The passage in Hebrews 12 I am quoting continues "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."Joy was set before Jesus when He was facing the cross. The joyful expectation of bringing many children to Abba Father. The joy of glorifying His father in death, as He had done in life, and knowing that sacrifice would bring a lot of fruit.

I need to endure my cross, too. But there's also joy set before me. Because a life that is free from self-condemnation is blessed and joyful indeed! A soul that is at peace with its Maker experiences gratitude and great joy! A seed that has learned to die knows it will not be alone, but be very fruitful. And just like Jesus, after facing shame and ridicule, experienced glorification, we will experience resurrection life if only we are willing to suffer and die first. 

So here I come, with my heart set on fulfilling my calling. My first calling to worship God and surrender my life to Him. And then, my calling to be a vessel so that He can bless others through my life.

Like God called Jeremiah, He's calling me:

“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”

And there's no way I can pluck up and break down, destroy and overthrow, build and plant in any other person, let alone nations and kingdoms!, unless I recognize that the first enemy I need to defeat is my SELF. 

So, as I let the Word do its painful but necessary surgery to circumsize my own heart, I plan on sharing my battle journals with you. My heart cry is 
"that I may know him and the power of his resurrection." I know that means I need to "share his sufferings" by seeking His kingdom and His righteousness in me and counting the cost of following Him. 

It's not easy. Never has been. At least for me. But I plan to keep fighting, with His weapons. And I know He is victorious. :)