Wednesday, August 26, 2009

For the love of the Father...!

The love of the Father. I’ve wondered how exactly I’m going to write about this because it is the easiest, yet the hardest thing to get. So, I decided to sit it out for a bit, and focus on every other thing I have to do, which is a lot. Then my aunt comes home one day and says: “You have not put anything up!” That’s when I knew the sitting out was done. But even now, I still do not know how to get it out right.

Anyways, let’s start with this passage, Ezekiel 14: 1 – 5:

1 Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. 2 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 3 “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? 4 “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.”’

Isn’t that typical of present day Christianity? We come to God’s presence, not thinking there is anything wrong with us, yet we harbor idols in our hearts. It’s not about physical idols; it’s the inner idols. Forget TV and fashion and all the things they teach in Sunday school. I’m talking about us. We are our own idols. The images we ascribe to, our visions for our future, in our interactions with people, from that cute boy/girl to the ignorant/annoying person you cannot stand. In our own way, we have become our idols, and we sacrifice the wealth, health and many blessings God has given us to worship ourselves, like real idol worshippers do. Just stop to think about it. We are not very conscious of ‘Self’, that we do not know when we cross that line, but we do that under the guise of making good impressions when we know it’s to attract whatever it is we wish to attract, or to put someone in their place, or to feed into this image of ourselves we’ve created. Either way, our minds finds itself revolving around this image of “self”, the god we are not conscious of. A bit too deep eh?

It’s ok to have aspirations and dreams, and we MUST beautify ourselves, ain’t nothing wrong with wigs and weaves and a bit of color here and there. We must have self-esteem and love ourselves for sure, but we do it, most times, to ascribe to this image of ourselves we have created. Remember in revelation, how Jesus was admonishing the church in Ephesus? They were Christians, and goods ones too. In fact, Jesus said they could not bear those who were evil, but they had departed from their first love even while doing the things they should with all of their might. If you ask me, I think they got the highest mark among the other 6 churches. They loved the things of God, but the love of God? Their first love? It was slowly being replaced by the love for something else. As God puts it, we draw near to Him with our mouths, but our hearts are far off. It may not be self, however, I choose to focus on self in this post because it is the common god that we are unaware of.

I got to understand this a while ago when I was battling the seeming dilemma between self-esteem and pride on one hand, and the love of the Father on the other. I am not snobby and intolerant of people, but God was constantly talking to me about pride and I just did not get. Over time, as He led me, He showed me I treated myself exactly as I described above, and this had a spillover effect on the way I treated others. Then I was worried! Not because I did not want to listen to God, but I felt that the unraveling I needed to do was at the expense of my image. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel like than the lady I know I am when I’m feeling and looking my worst. I just felt that it is impossible to love God and to not love myself, and in the process, end up ‘worshiping’ myself like I did. Then I came across this verse 1 John 2:15-16:

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh (love of the world 1), the lust of the eyes (love of the world 2), and the pride of life (love of the world 3)—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Focus on things of the world for now. The problem was not worshiping that image of ourselves per se, but it had its roots in the love of the things of this world. From lust, to the lust for things we desire (e.g. wealth, diamonds, cars, power, highly-placed positions etc), and the pride of life (hmm!!!). Think about it, when you put on that dress and it slides and fits on you like it does, and then you put on your stilettos, do that makeup that gets you looking and feeling like a sexy diva, use that perfume or that mixture of perfumes…isn’t all that coming from the 3 things John outlines that makes up the love of the things of the world? Doesn’t it translate into everything else, from your walk, to the kind of mannerism when you talk, and even to your very persona? You know you don’t act the same way everyday, so don’t even say, my clothes do not define me. No, they don’t, but the end you seek does. We don’t even know what/why we seek, but for sure our minds are attracted to the lust for that hot co-worker (love of the world 1), lust for that position (love of the world 2), and absolute confidence in our abilities, or way of handling things or people (love of the world 3). The problem with all that, as John points out is that we do not have the love of the father in us (the two cannot coexist). Our “love for God” ends at the emotion, or the high we feel after church on Sundays. Does not really mean much.

John 5: 39-42 talks about us, not just the ancient Jews. “39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. 41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you”. We seek God, we seek righteousness or rather the idea of righteousness and the idea of being saved and completely forgiven; yet we lack God’s love in us. But Jesus is saying, I do not receive honor from men, he does not need our seeking and "righteousness”. What is more important for us is that we must have that love of the father IN us. Not around us, but in us. Yet we do not love him. We hear what he says to us, but we do not do it, because we do not honor him. The bible says it clearly, that we do not honor him because we do not love him.

I did not want to accept it, and in Junkie fashion, I tried to prove to God that I can still see and go about life like I’ve been doing, and it does not mean I do not love God. Now that I admit it, it sounds stupid. But that was the direction my mind immediately went, without even realizing it. Months later, I’m back to square one and trying to figure out the junk I must move out, and all the things I tolerate in my life that takes out the love of the father. Thing is the love of the father makes you want to honor him. Think about it. True love translates into honor, not infatuations, but love, the kind that comes with respect. Think about the relationship with your child, that love for your child translates into you doing things that honor that child. From picking your child’s school, monitoring your child’s friends, everything is all about honoring that child and that child’s best interests. Basically, you’ve got their back, they can rely on your love, because of the honor you have shown to them. I did not see the way my mom brought me up as honor, as my mom is a correct African woman + we see honor as something that comes with age and should be earned. And rightly so, but sometimes, we give honor to people who have not earned it (like that ex-boyfriend). The person you give honor to in your life, is the person who carries much weight in your life. From what they say, to what they do, it has a bearing on you. If my mother tells me to come home early even if I want to hang out w/people I have not seen in ages, I would cut my meeting short, not because of fear, but because I honor her. My own pleasure takes 2nd place. That kind of honor does not happen to bosses or leaders you dislike, then you are just obeying orders, but honor lies in true love and respect. And when we choose instead to love the things that war against God and what He wants in our lives, we truly do not have the love of the father in us.

Even Jesus preached it while he was on earth. If you love me, you would keep my commandment. Too often we focus on the don’ts when all Jesus says is love the Lord your God, with all your heart…and your neighbor as yourself. The command is simply to love. But we focus on fornication, lies etc, and yet do not do his will. We do not even bother to find out his will for us in every aspect of our lives, how then can he be Lord over us as we profess? It is simply to love. To love God, and other people. And if we keep His commandments, we abide in his love, just as Jesus kept the father’s commandments and abide in his love. See we cannot do the things of God without loving him, that’s why we keep sliding off.

That love is not emotional, it is genuine. It is not the infatuation many Christians have with God, it is genuine love that seeks to honor him in our lives, seeking His will and obeying Him easily. That does not happen without the love of the father.

This love, what is it? 2 John 1:6: 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.

It is simple, love the father, obey him, honor him. We love those things that God opposes on a constant basis but it is natural to walk in the love of our father if we agree we were created by him, and in his image knowing he is LOVE. It is bondage to walk in sin, but in his love, shunning sin does not mean bondage. Paul puts it like this, the things of God are not troublesome but our minds have held us in bondage. That’s why we keep slipping, and feeling like a Christian today and nothing like that tomorrow. By having the love of the father in us, we seek to honor him; our minds cannot tie us down. Too often we focus on the don’ts, but how do you grow when you do not commune with him more than our daily bread. Love creates that hunger and thirst for him, his presence, his clear directions. Seek after him, it is the love for him that leads you on, but begin your search, don’t focus on getting your mind right. You’ve been trying to do that all these years, when would you realize you can’t do it yourself, and neither is it going to happen when you are married. Find him now, when he can still be found. Allow him to be as real to you as the computer in front of you.

In closing, this is my prayer for you “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and the patience of Christ” (2 Thess 3:5). Amen.

Best of the week!Link

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Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm a christian, I don't just feel like one

The moment I first believed, how did my heart get captured? I've tried to recollect it, kind of like the Holy Spirit pouring the love of God in our hearts as Paul describes it. Nothing is like that moment, but I hardly remember what it felt like right now.

I still do the 'basics' don't get me wrong, I try to worship, study the word, I even pray for the unsaved, even those I do not know, but I just don't feel like God is actually really really around me. I don't even know if I'm backsliding. Hell, I'm not...I don't do the things I used to..well, some, but I see those habits differently now, my mind has changed I tell you, yet I just feel OK doing them again - they just do not seem as bad, may be I took things too far thinking they were so wrong!

I was listening to Chris Tomlin's version of amazing grace this morning, and what stood out to me was that line 'the moment I first believed'. I remember the feeling I just described, and feeling that way time and time again. My journey so far has been a real roller coaster. Today, I feel saved, sanctified and Holy Ghost filled, tomorrow and may be next tomorrow I just don't care as much, as may be next week, I pray about that flu that I'm coming down with and it just vanishes. But why don't I just go from 'glory to glory'. How come I sometimes feel apathetic towards the things I was yearning for just days ago, when I vowed to never turn back. I know I did not make a conscious decision to 'turn back', but I feel as though I've lost it somehow. People tell me, "nooo, that's not you, that's the devil putting those thoughts in your head, influencing your thinking. Take authority!". But they just don't get it, they do not know I feel genuinely apathetic, even though I should know better. Some say "You got saved, but your mind is warring against you - you have to renew it everyday, die to the flesh!". Yes, but still...I don't know!

I do not have all the answers, but I know for sure I'm not the only one that has had to deal with those frustrations, and as I thought about the title for this blog, all of a sudden, 'the struggling christian' stood out to me. I had written about it a while ago in my journal, and there is a lot to say about it, but I'll try to narrow it all down.

Oh, and those advice I got, they were 'legit', but as with all the things of God, it's the Spirit that has to work within us that gets us that 'understanding' and peace. We cannot do it ourselves.

As I struggled through those moments when I thought I did something and so God has left me, and even after asking for forgiveness, I felt as though He is not coming back (I know Christianity 101 teaches otherwise, but when you feel that way, sometimes you don't believe it), I would come across scripture like "...if one walks in darkness, he stumbles, because the light is not in him" (John 11:10) and "the lamp of the body is the eye, if the eye is good, your whole body would be full of light,...if therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt. 6:23), and I would freak out! Because I don't want to be that person, but I do not know what I am doing wrong.

The Spirit has taught me, what He tried to in the above verses that I ran away from, that the mind is where it all lies. My mind (the eye with which I see the world) was bad, and so even as I grew in the things of God, I just did not carry it on the rest of the day and with time I became lost and felt disconnected. Obvious, but it was not so easy. Maybe when we read scripture like that, we do not want to believe it's us because we are good. And truly, we are, but we don't truly know ourselves, do we? We carry on the air of independence and confidence in our abilities, nice to people, we take care of haters (for lack of a 'better' word) w/out having to stoop down to their level, we generally handle our business like good, mature people/Christians. But good people does not equal godly people, and 'saved' people does not equal godly people, heck, do you even know for sure you are saved?

God puts it in a way that I like in Isaiah 28: 9-13

“ Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message?

Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts?

10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,

Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.”

11 For with stammering lips and another tongue, He will speak to this people,

12 To whom He said, “This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest,” And, “This is the refreshing”; Yet they would not hear.

13 But the word of the LORD was to them, “ Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little,” That they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught.

This passage was so refreshing at the time I read it, that I had to ask God out loud: "so You knew?" Thing is, we have just been drawn from the breast, what ever that breast was, whatever it was that our minds were so accustomed to, we have been drawn away from it, but we just do not know exactly where we are going, or what we are doing - our minds cannot stretch beyond its present boundaries. And as we learn, we have those moments when we are actually growing in the Spirit, and we feel it, but then, it becomes repetitive, some people then 'fit God into a routine', we do not have the understanding for scripture we keep coming across, we try to analyze it ourselves, we know something is missing, something is going horribly wrong, yet we cannot place a finger on it. Our Christianity is simply: precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little.

The funny thing about it is that God says with stammering lips and another tongue, He speaks to this people. I just got the understanding right now. Basically, God keeps repeating himself like babies do, till we understand, because that is the only way that we get it, as baby Christians. He keeps saying da da, ma ma, ta ta, yet we want to fly when we do not know how to crawl. We want to quote the quoteables and break down scripture, but we are still yet to get the ta ta and the da da, and in time, we lose that fire.

But really why do we just not get it. If you read the verses before verse 9, God talks about his people, the ones set apart to be used by him (that applies to all Christians btw..) being swallowed up by wine, erring in vision, stumbling in judgment. But more than that, the tables are filthy, covered up in vomit. That is our mind. The filthy table. How can a student learn with that kind of table, the vomit would find its way to the pages of the book, making the book unreadable. We read the Word, but we do not see it, we do not understand. Our minds do not let it happen. But we go on, and inevitably, we fall backwards, become broken and snared and caught. We then want to call up our friends that a month ago we decided to spend less time with, we find ourselves back in clubs, grinding away and drinking ourselves to stupor. Some become simply restless, trying to study the Word, but it feels like beating a dead horse. Those thoughts are forming in our minds again and we are saying "get behind me satan", but uh where?

In essence, we are not bad people, but our minds are carnal. Our 'eyes' are bad, and great darkness dwells within such that we do not feel like Christians, like we did the hour we first believed. But God is looking at us, as we struggle in our own blood and saying to us 'Live!' (Ez 16). We must gird up the loins of our mind, and refuse to conform to the former lusts, as we did in the days of our ignorance (1 Peter 1:13), resisting the devil, knowing that other Christians experience the same. (1 Peter 5:8-10). But importantly, and this has helped me a lot, pray to God bluntly...stop manufacturing lines that sound like 'prayer lines' and just talk to Him. I tell God straight up, "today Lord, I feel like I'm one step away, I was even thinking about him, that him, I don't know why I do these things, but I know I shouldn't, I was thinking it throughout, but everything reminded me of him. I could even smell him, but it's all lust, now even my hormones are all worked up, I truly feel 1 step away from feeling completely lost, I don't even understand all I've read all morning, where are you? Speak peace to me, and bring me back to where I should be." That does not sound like the prayer that comes from the pulpit on Sundays, but it is a prayer. Allow yourself to be intimate w/your God, your Father. I tell you, he is reaaaaally real.

But if there's nothing else you get from this blog, get this: the need the love of the father in you. I'll talk more about that in the next blog.

And remember, it is only diligent people who find him. Enjoy the rest of your journey.

Much love!!!