Monday, April 27, 2015

Seeking The Life Of Sanctification――Let Us Incline Our Ears To Robert Murray M’Cheyne Today!

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (21 May 1813 – 25 March 1843) was a devout servant of God who was used mightily by Him during the Scottish Revival period. I have been inspired by his holy life and his dedication to Christ. Though his earthly life was just 29 years but he still speaks to us through his writings. Today I’d like to share one of his writings with you, which has helped my spiritual life greatly.

(Andrew A. Bonar, excerpts from The Biography of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, now in public domain)

1.Personal Reformation

"I am persuaded that I shall obtain the highest amount of present happiness, I shall do most for God's glory and the good of man, and I shall have the fullest reward in eternity, by maintaining a conscience always washed in Christ's blood, by being filled with the Holy Spirit at all times, and by attaining the most entire likeness to Christ in mind, will, and heart, that is possible for a redeemed sinner to attain to in this world.

"I am persuaded that whenever any one from without, or my own heart from within, at any moment, or in any circumstances, contradicts this,—if any one shall insinuate that it is not for my present and eternal happiness, and for God's glory and my usefulness, to maintain a blood-washed conscience, to be entirely filled with the Spirit, and to be fully conformed to the image of Christ in all things,—that is the voice of the devil, God's enemy, the enemy of my soul and of all good—the most foolish, wicked, and miserable of all the creatures. See Prov. 9:17—'Stolen waters are sweet.'

"1. To maintain a conscience void of offence, I am persuaded that I ought to confess my sins more. I think I ought to confess sin the moment I see it to be sin; whether I am in company, or in study, or even preaching, the soul ought to cast a glance of abhorrence at the sin. If I go on with the duty, leaving the sin unconfessed, I go on with a burdened conscience, and add sin to sin. I think I ought at certain times of the day—my best times,—say, after breakfast and after tea,—to confess solemnly the sins of the previous hours, and to seek their complete remission.

"I find that the devil often makes use of the confession of sin to stir up again the very sin confessed into new exercise, so that I am afraid to dwell upon the confession. I must ask experienced Christians about this. For the present, I think I should strive against this awful abuse of confession, whereby the devil seeks to frighten me away from confessing. I ought to take all methods for seeing the vileness of my sins. I ought to regard myself as a condemned branch of Adam,—as partaker of a nature opposite to God from the womb (Ps. 51.),—as having a heart full of all wickedness, which pollutes every thought, word, and action, during my whole life, from birth to death. 

I ought to confess often the sins of my youth, like David and Paul,—my sins before conversion, my sins since conversion,—sins against light and knowledge, against love and grace, against each person of the Godhead. I ought to look at my sins in the light of the holy law, in the light of God's countenance, in the light of the cross, in the light of the judgment-seat, in the light of hell, in the light of eternity. 

I ought to examine my dreams—my floating thoughts—my predilections—my often recurring actions—my habits of thought, feeling, speech, and action—the slanders of my enemies and the reproofs, and even banterings, of my friends—to find out traces of my prevailing sin, matter for confession. I ought to have a stated day of confession, with fasting—say, once a month. I ought to have a number of scriptures marked, to bring sin to remembrance. 

I ought to make use of all bodily affliction, domestic trial, frowns of providence on myself, house, parish, church, or country, as calls from God to confess sin. The sins and afflictions of other men should call me to the same. I ought, on Sabbath evenings, and on Communion Sabbath evenings, to be especially careful to confess the sins of holy things. I ought to confess the sins of my confessions,—their imperfections, sinful aims, self-righteous tendency, etc.,—and to look to Christ as having confessed my sins perfectly over his own sacrifice.

"I ought to go to Christ for the forgiveness of each sin. In washing my body, I go over every spot, and wash it out. Should I be less careful in washing my soul? I ought to see the stripe that was made on the back of Jesus by each of my sins. 

I ought to see the infinite pang thrill through the soul of Jesus equal to an eternity of my hell for my sins, and for all of them. I ought to see that in Christ's bloodshedding there is an infinite over-payment for all my sins. Although Christ did not suffer more than infinite justice demanded, yet He could not suffer at all without laying down an infinite ransom.

"I feel, when I have sinned, an immediate reluctance to go to Christ. I am ashamed to go. I feel as if it would do no good to go,—as if it were making Christ a minister of sin, to go straight from the swine-trough to the best robe,—and a thousand other excuses; but I am persuaded they are all lies, direct from hell. 

John argues the opposite way: 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father;' Jer. 3:1 and a thousand other scriptures are against it. I am sure there is neither peace nor safety from deeper sin, but in going directly to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is God's way of peace and holiness. It is folly to the world and the beclouded heart, but it is the way.

"I must never think a sin too small to need immediate application to the blood of Christ. If I put away a good conscience, concerning faith I make shipwreck. I must never think my sins too great, too aggravated, too presumptuous,—as when done on my knees, or in preaching, or by a dying bed, or during dangerous illness,—to hinder me from fleeing to Christ. The weight of my sins should act like the weight of a clock: the heavier it is, it makes it go the faster.

"I must not only wash in Christ's blood, but clothe me in Christ's obedience. For every sin of omission in self, I may find a divinely perfect obedience ready for me in Christ. For every sin of commission in self, I may find not only a stripe or a wound in Christ, but also a perfect rendering of the opposite obedience in my place, so that the law is magnified, its curse more than carried, its demand more than answered.

"Often the doctrine of Christ for me appears common, well known, having nothing new in it; and I am tempted to pass it by and go to some scripture more taking. This is the devil again,—a red-hot lie. Christ for us is ever new, ever glorious. 'Unsearchable riches of Christ,'—an infinite object, and the only one for a guilty soul. I ought to have a number of scriptures ready, which lead my blind soul directly to Christ, such as Isaiah 45, Rom. 3.

"2. To be filled with the Holy Spirit, I am persuaded that I ought to study more my own weakness. I ought to have a number of scriptures ready to be meditated on, such as Rom. 7, John 15, to convince me that I am a helpless worm.

"I am tempted to think that I am now an established Christian,—that I have overcome this or that lust so long,—that I have got into the habit of the opposite grace,—so that there is no fear; I may venture very near the temptation—nearer than other men. This is a lie of Satan. 

I might as well speak of gunpowder getting by habit a power of resisting fire, so as not to catch the spark. As long as powder is wet, it resists the spark; but when it becomes dry, it is ready to explode at the first touch. As long as the Spirit dwells in my heart He deadens me to sin, so that, if lawfully called through temptation, I may reckon upon God carrying me through. But when the Spirit leaves me, I am like dry gunpowder. Oh for a sense of this!

"I am tempted to think that there are some sins for which I have no natural taste, such as strong drink, profane language, etc., so that I need not fear temptation to such sins. This is a lie,—a proud, presumptuous lie. The seeds of all sins, are in my heart, and perhaps all the more dangerously that I do not see them.

"I ought to pray and labor for the deepest sense of my utter weakness and helplessness that ever a sinner was brought to feel. I am helpless in respect of every lust that ever was, or ever will be, in the human heart. I am a worm—a beast—before God. I often tremble to think that this is true. 

I feel as if it would not be safe for me to renounce all indwelling strength, as if it would be dangerous for me to feel (what is the truth) that there is nothing in me keeping me back from the grossest and vilest sin. This is a delusion of the devil. 

My only safety is to know, feel, and confess my helplessness, that I may hang upon the arm of Omnipotence ... I daily wish that sin had been rooted out of my heart. I say, 'Why did God leave the root of lasciviousness, pride, anger, etc., in my bosom? He hates sin, and I hate it; why did He not take it clean away?' I know many answers to this which completely satisfy my judgment, but still I do not feel satisfied. This is wrong. It is right to be weary of the being of sin, but not right to quarrel with my present 'good fight of faith.'

 ... The falls of professors into sin make me tremble. I have been driven away from prayer, and burdened in a fearful manner by hearing or seeing their sin. This is wrong. It is right to tremble, and to make every sin of every professor a lesson of my own helplessness; but it should lead me the more to Christ 

... If I were more deeply convinced of my utter helplessness, I think I would not be so alarmed when I hear of the falls of other men ... I should study those sins in which I am most helpless, in which passion becomes like a whirlwind and I like a straw. No figure of speech can represent my utter want of power to resist the torrent of sin 

... I ought to study Christ's omnipotence more: Heb. 7:25, I Thess. 5:23, Rom. 6:14, Rom. 5:9, 10, and such scriptures, should be ever before me ... Paul's thorn, II Cor. 12, is the experience of the greater part of my life. It should be ever before me 

... There are many subsidiary methods of seeking deliverance from sins, which must not be neglected,—thus, marriage, I Cor. 7:2; fleeing, I Tim. 6:11, I Cor. 6:18; watch and pray, Matt. 26:41; the word, 'It is written, It is written.' So Christ defended himself; Matt. 4.

 ... But the main defence is casting myself into the arms of Christ like a helpless child, and beseeching Him to fill me with the Holy Spirit. 'This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,' I John 5:4, 5,—a wonderful passage.

"I ought to study Christ as a living Saviour more,—as a Shepherd, carrying the sheep He finds,—as a King, reigning in and over the souls He has redeemed,—as a Captain, fighting with those who fight with me, Ps. 35.,—as one who has engaged to bring me through all temptations and trials, however impossible to flesh and blood.

"I am often tempted to say, How can this Man save us? How can Christ in heaven deliver me from lusts which I feel raging in me, and nets I feel enclosing me? This is the father of lies again! 'He is able to save unto the uttermost.'

"I ought to study Christ as an Intercessor. He prayed most for Peter, who was to be most tempted. I am on his breastplate. If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; He is praying for me.

"I ought to study the Comforter more,—his Godhead, his love, his almightiness. I have found by experience that nothing sanctifies me so much as meditating on the Comforter, as John 14:16. And yet how seldom I do this! Satan keeps me from it. I am often like those men who said, They knew not if there be any Holy Ghost 

... I ought never to forget that my body is dwelt in by the third Person of the Godhead. The very thought of this should make me tremble to sin; I Cor. 6 ... I ought never to forget that sin grieves the Holy Spirit,—vexes and quenches Him ... If I would be filled with the Spirit, I feel I must read the Bible more, pray more, and watch more.

"3. To gain entire likeness to Christ, I ought to get a high esteem of the happiness of it. I am persuaded that God's happiness is inseparably linked in with his holiness. Holiness and happiness are like light and heat. God never tasted one of the pleasures of sin.

"Christ had a body such as I have, yet He never tasted one of the pleasures of sin. The redeemed, through all eternity, will never taste one of the pleasures of sin; yet their happiness is complete. It would be my greatest happiness to be from this moment entirely like them. Every sin is something away from my greatest enjoyment 

... The devil strives night and day to make me forget this or disbelieve it. He says, Why should you not enjoy this pleasure as much as Solomon or David? You may go to heaven also. I am persuaded that this is a lie,—that my true happiness is to go and sin no more.

"I ought not to delay parting with sins. Now is God's time. 'I made haste and delayed not.' ... I ought not to spare sins because I have long allowed them as infirmities, and others would think it odd if I were to change all at once. What a wretched delusion of Satan that is!

"Whatever I see to be sin, I ought from this hour to set my whole soul against it, using all scriptural methods to mortify it, as the Scriptures, special prayer for the Spirit, fasting, watching.

"I ought to mark strictly the occasions when I have fallen, and avoid the occasion as much as the sin itself.

"Satan often tempts me to go as near to temptations as possible without committing the sin. This is fearful,—tempting God and grieving the Holy Ghost. It is a deep-laid plot of Satan.

"I ought to flee all temptation, according to Prov. 4:15—Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.' ... I ought constantly to pour out my heart to God, praying for entire conformity to Christ—for the whole law to be written on my heart

 ... I ought statedly and solemnly to give my heart to God—to surrender my all into his everlasting arms, according to the prayer, Ps. 31., 'Into thine hand I commit my spirit,'—beseeching Him not to let any iniquity, secret or presumptuous, have dominion over me, and to fill me with every grace that is in Christ, in the highest degree that it is possible for redeemed sinner to receive it, and at all times, till death.

"I ought to meditate often on heaven as a world of holiness,—where all are holy, where the joy is holy joy, the work holy work; so that, without personal holiness, I never can be there ... I ought to avoid the appearance of evil. God commands me; and I find that Satan has a singular art in linking the appearance and reality together.

"I find that speaking of some sins defiles my mind and leads me into temptation; and I find that God forbids even saints to speak of the things that are done of them in secret. I ought to avoid this.

"Eve, Achan, David, all fell through the lust of the eye. I should make a covenant with mine, and pray, 'Turn away mine eyes from viewing vanity.' ... Satan makes unconverted men like the deaf adder to the sound of the gospel. I should pray to be made deaf by the Holy Spirit to all that would tempt me to sin.

"One of my most frequent occasions of being led into temptation is this,—I say it is needful to my office that I listen to this, or look into this, or speak of this. So far this is true; yet I am sure Satan has his part in this argument. I should seek divine direction to settle how far it will be good for my ministry, and how far evil for my soul, that I may avoid the latter.

"I am persuaded that nothing is thriving in my soul unless it is growing. 'Grow in grace.' 'Lord, increase our faith.' 'Forgetting the things that are behind.' ... I am persuaded that I ought to be inquiring at God and man what grace I want, and how I may become more like Christ ... I ought to strive for more purity, humility, meekness, patience under suffering, love. 'Make me Christ-like in all things,' should be my constant prayer. 'Fill me with the Holy Spirit.'

2. Reformation in Secret Prayer.

"I ought not to omit any of the parts of prayer—confession, adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.

"There is a fearful tendency to omit confession, proceeding from low views of God and his law, slight views of my heart and the sins of my past life. This must be resisted. There is a constant tendency to omit adoration, when I forget to whom I am speaking—when I rush heedlessly into the presence of Jehovah, without remembering his awful name and character—when I have little eyesight for his glory, and little admiration of his wonders. 

'Where are the wise?' I have the native tendency of the heart to omit giving thanks. And yet it is specially commanded, Phil. 4:6. Often when the heart is selfish, dead to the salvation of others, I omit intercession. And yet it especially is the spirit of the great Advocate, who has the name of Israel always on his heart.

"Perhaps every prayer need not have all these; but surely a day should not pass without some space being devoted to each.

"I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet with others early, and then have family prayer, and breakfast, and forenoon callers, often it is eleven or twelve o'clock before I begin secret prayer. This is a wretched system. It is unscriptural. Christ rose before day, and went into a solitary place. David says, 'Early will I seek Thee; Thou shalt early hear my voice.' 

Mary Magdalene came to the sepulchre while it was yet dark. Family prayer loses much of its power and sweetness; and I can do no good to those who come to seek from me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not trimmed. Then, when secret prayer comes, the soul is often out of tune. I feel it is far better to begin with God—to see his face first—to get my soul near Him before it is near another. 'When I awake I am still with Thee.'

'If I have slept too long, or am going an early journey, or my time is any way shortened, it is best to dress hurriedly, and have a few minutes alone with God, than to give it up for lost.

"But in general, it is best to have at least one hour alone with God, before engaging in anything else. At the same time, I must be careful not to reckon communion with God by minutes or hours, or by solitude. I have pored over my Bible, and on my knees for hours, with little or no communion; and my times of solitude have been often times of greatest temptation.

"As to intercession, I ought daily to intercede for my own family, connections, relatives, and friends; also for my flock,—the believers, the awakened, the careless; the sick, the bereaved; the poor, the rich; my elders, Sabbath-school teachers, day-school teachers, children, tract-distributors, that all means may be blessed—Sabbath-day preaching and teaching; visiting of the sick, visiting from house to house; providences, sacraments. 

I ought daily to intercede briefly for the whole town, the Church of Scotland, all faithful ministers; for vacant congregations, students of divinity, etc.; for dear brethren by name; for missionaries to Jews and Gentiles, and for this end I must read missionary intelligence regularly, and get acquainted with all that is doing throughout the world. It would stir me up to pray with the map before me. I must have a scheme of prayer, also the names of missionaries marked on the map. 

I ought to intercede at large for the above on Saturday morning and evening from seven to eight. Perhaps also I might take different parts for different days; only I ought daily to plead for my family and flock. I ought to pray in everything. 'Be careful for nothing, but in everything ... by prayer and supplication, make your requests known unto God.' 

Often I receive a letter asking to preach, or some such request. I find myself answering before having asked counsel of God. Still oftener a person calls and asks me something, and I do not ask direction. Often I go out to visit a sick person in a hurry, without asking his blessing, which alone can make the visit of any use. I am persuaded that I ought never to do anything without prayer, and, if possible, special, secret prayer.

"In reading the history of the Church of Scotland, I see how much her troubles and trials have been connected with the salvation of souls and the glory of Christ. I ought to pray far more for our church, for our leading ministers by name, and for my own clear guidance in the right way, that I may not be led aside, or driven aside, from following Christ. 

Many difficult questions may be forced on us for which I am not fully prepared, such as the lawfulness of covenants. I should pray much more in peaceful days, that I may be guided rightly when days of trial come.

"I ought to spend the best hours of the day in communion with God. It is my noblest and most fruitful employment, and is not to be thrust into any corner. The morning hours, from six to eight, are the most uninterrupted, and should be thus employed, if I can prevent drowsiness. A little time after breakfast might be given to intercession. After tea is my best hour, and that should be solemnly dedicated to God, if possible.

"I ought not to give up the good old habit of prayer before going to bed; but guard must be kept against sleep: planning what things I am to ask is the best remedy. When I awake in the night, I ought to rise and pray, as David and as John Welsh did.

"I ought to read three chapters of the Bible in secret every day, at least.

"I ought on Sabbath morning to look over all the chapters read through the week, and especially the verses marked. I ought to read in three different places; I ought also to read according to subjects, lives," etc.


Monday, April 20, 2015

The Blessed Minority―A Word Of Encouragement To Our Headcovering Sisters

In the world, numbers matter. People tend to evaluate things by counting numbers and hit charts. They assess the degree of success by counting the views or the number of products they could sell. Even christians tend to evaluate the churches or the ministries by counting the number of the attenders.

The Bible, however, tells us something completely different. The inspired words of God show us that there is a paradoxical principle in the biblical world.  We see that He has been choosing “unproductive” way to cultivate His new spiritual roads. After all, was it rather “unproductive” in today’s sense that God chose just one man (Abraham) in order to create the new nation? Was it rather “unwise” that Jesus was not travelling widely during his earthly ministry? He could have used marvelous “marketing methods” in order to gain mass support and to propagate his ministry. But He did not choose such a way. He followed heavenly way instead.

Are you a headcovering sister? So, most probably you are in the overwhelming minority in your church (or society) right now. And I want to encourage you today that it is such a blessing that you are placed in an obscure corner! The paradoxical biblical principle is working in this realm as well.

Are you a headcovering sister? So you are a pioneer who is cultivating the new way. But you might tell me, “well, I don’t think I am a pioneer. The reality is that I am so afraid that I don’t even have a courage to explain my belief on headcovering to others.”  

No, my dear sister, regardless of your saying/not saying, you are a pioneer and you are playing an extremely important role in His divine history. Just like Abel, who still speaks by faith (Heb 11:4), your faith in action is speaking nonverbal messages to the visible and invisible world. And you don’t need to condemn yourself and say something like “Oh, maybe because of my weak faith, other sisters in my church don’t follow my example.”  Caleb was a great man of God but few people followed his example. So,again,the number is not His spiritual indicator and we should break off the pragmatic mindset completely.

There are additional blessings to be in the spiritual minority. One of them, I found, is that our lone stance furthers detachment from the world, which is in fact the blessed gateway to go to heavenly way. My friend Sanae said she saw many pious saints among headcovering sisters. Why? “That’s because most of them have sacrificed greatly in order to practice headcovering command. If they were not serious about the Bible truth, they did not have reached this point”, she says. And I heartily agree with her.

When Roger Williams (1603-1683) was wandering in the forest as a lone exile, could he imagine that he was actually pioneering the new road which would have lasting influence? He was an obscure religious minority at that time. But he stood. “,,for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible.” (Heb 11:27 b) And so are we. We don’t see the numbers nor the outward situations. Ladies, let us keep looking unto Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith!

“We have to stop wanting to see results, particularly in our service for the Lord. God works primarily in the invisible realm.” B.Shlink

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32

Christian Headcovering And Heavenly-Mindedness

"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Col 3:2

"To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary." Ps 63:2

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself." Heb 9:24a

Heavenly things always govern earthly things. This is the Bible principle. As I was interceding for our headcovering sisters and pondering 1 Cor 11 this morning, I came to realize that this portion is also deeply spiritual and unearthly in nature. It is connected to God’s glory and the angelic interest in the gatherings of the saints on this earth. 

But I want to ask you; when is the last time you really felt heaven in your Sunday service?  When is the last time we were just overwhelmed by the presence of God and His glory? Is the confession of the above Psalm writer ours as well? O have we seen thee in the sanctuary with thy power and thy glory? Does our Sunday service reflect heaven and its beauty?

If we are honest to ourselves, we would admit that there are too many human elements in our hearts and (probably) in our churches. We are soaked with the philosophy of pragmatism and program-oriented mindset. In many places, we see that the earthly and carnal things are blocking heavenly and spiritual things. There is a tragic disorder. So the church is groaning and so are the saints. We are so hungry for the real things. We are tired of both human-made emotionalism and cold intellectualism in our churches. “My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” (Psalm 63:1)

I realized that to practice headcovering is not a goal but the glorious beginning. It will guide us to seek things in heaven earnestly and single-mindedly ever more. And it will not allow us to feel satisfaction until we see the full recovery of Christian worship on this earth. Let Thy glory fall down. O let us be absorbed in Christ who entered into heaven!

Lastly I am going to quote a poem written by Gerhard Tersteegen. 

How Sweet

How sweet it is, when, wean’d from all,
We follow Jesus’ secret call,
And hidden in Him live!
How sweet to be released from sin,
And, freed from all self-love within,
To God alone to cleave!

How sweet, from earthly things to part,
And In the closet of the heart,
To live retired with God!
How sweet, the Lord Himself to find
Residing in our inmost mind,
And make Him our abode!

How sweet, when with a child-like grace,
We walk before the Father’s face,
And seek but Him to please!
How sweet, when we to all below,
A meek and quiet spirit show,
And live in perfect peace!

How sweet. when with a silent awe,
In spirit near to God we draw,
Array’d in truth divine!
How sweet when with a cherub’s eye,
We fixedly behold Him nigh,
And in His glory shine!
How sweet, when all our powers and will,

Subdued, resigned, serene, and still,
At God’s disposal lie!
How sweet, when every lofty thought,
Is into due subjection brought,
Before the omniscient eye!

How sweet, when self and things remote
Are lost and utterly forgot,
And all our cares depart!
How sweet, beyond all time and place,
A still eternity to trace
Within our inmost heart!

How sweet it is, retired and free,
In such a desert place to be,
And hear the voice of peace!
How sweet, when undisturbed we rest
Like children on a parent’s breast,
And from our own works cease!

How sweet, when after wasting strength,
The spirit find its home at length,
And roams no more abroad
How sweet, in pure and perfect love,
To soar through sense to things above,
And join ourselves to God!

O precious, sweet eternity,
Thou realm of peace! How happy he,
Who Thee within hath found!
My spirit in Thy silence blest,
Shall steadfast in concealment rest,
Till life hath reached its bound!

---Gerhard Tersteegen

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights

tiny wild flower in the rock  source

Valley of Vision

Lord, High and Holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

 Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter the stars shine;

Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,

Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,

Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

 —The Valley of Vision: A Collection of
         Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Headcovering Bonds, Prayer Bonds and ,,,Eternal Bonds!

What kind of bonds do you feel you are most attached to? And from which bonds do you think you are gaining mental or spiritual support?  Family bonds? school bonds? Or church bonds?

As I was pondering this, a phrase came into my mind; that is, Prayer Bonds, Eternal Bonds. When the saints gather in the name of Jesus Christ and pray together, there occur special “bonds”  between us. And when I am connected to someone through prayer, -- among all the other human ties--I feel the most intimate closeness in it.

Because prayer in the Spirit (Eph 6:18) transcends the physical realm, we can be connected to one another beyond spatial and geographical distance. This is truly wonderful.

Our prayer for headcovering sisters has begun from our genuine love toward each other. It has begun in the love of Christ and grown through our mutual love. We want to pray because this is how we can express our love to each other. And we want to devote our time for intercessory prayer because this love needs to be expressed and practiced.

Though 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 might not be one of the most crucial Bible doctrines, it is the eternal word of God. These verses might look trivial to some, nonetheless, God’s holy command is contained in them.

William Tyndale offered his life for the sake of translating the Bible into English. And countless other servants of the Lord have sacrificed their very lives for the sake of obeying and keeping His commands.Why? Because His words (logos) are so precious. Yes, His words are so valuable that it is worthy to putting all our lives and passion into them.

O our fellow saints, shall we keep and cherish our “small place” with our most passionate prayer?

Is your place a small place?
Tend it with care!--
He set you there.

Is your place a large place?
Guard it with care!--
He set you there.

Whatever your place, it is
Not yours alone, but His
Who set you there.

--John Oxenham, Bees in amber

In the book of Revelation, we see the beautiful scene that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders offered golden bowls full of incense before the Lamb. What was the incense? The Bible says it is “the prayers of the saints”(Rev 5:8).

So the prayers of the saints are the incense being offered heavenward before Jesus Christ.

Many things have happened and gone in our lives but our prayers will not pass away but shall ascend high to heaven.And the very fact that we have prayed with one heart on this earth shall be recorded eternally by Christ. And this is my sincere wish to walk this prayer journey with you!

For those who want to join us; please read here. Let's Pray Together

Thy Way, Not Mine

Thy Way, Not Mine   source

Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be!
Lead me by Thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me.

Smooth let it be or rough,
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it leads
Right onward to Thy rest.

I dare not choose my lot;
I would not, if I might;
Choose Thou for me, my God,
So I shall walk aright.

The kingdom that I seek
Is Thine; so let the way
That leads to it be Thine,
Else I must surely stray.

Take Thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill,
As best to Thee may seem;
Choose Thou my good and ill.

Choose Thou for me my friend,
My sickness or my health;
Choose Thou my cares for me
My poverty or wealth.

The kingdom that I seek
Is Thine: so let the way
That leads to it be Thine,
Else I must surely stray.

Not mine, not mine the choice
In things or great or small;
Be Thou my guide, my strength
My wisdom, and my all.

Horatius Bonar (1808-89), Thy Way, Not Mine

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Old "Tolerance" And New "Tolerance"---in pursuit of the love of the truth (II Th 2:10)


In response to my recent post (here), sister Ruthie, my fellow sister in Christ, left the following intriguing comment .

"I wanted to let you know that I shared this particular post (“Testimony of my spiritual transformation (Part 2)- how a decisive step to practice headcovering breaks my oriental syncretic mindset”) with my children that I'm homeschooling and my one college aged son. We had an interesting talk about the Japanese culture especially in how the Japanese people worship and also how it affects family. 

"We are from the U.S., and my one son said that this is very similar to what is going on here in the states. The phrase "tolerance" is a huge buzz word being used in the schools and colleges. We don't want to make anyone feel bad by disagreeing with them or making them feel as if they are being condemned. We need to be tolerant. This is the current philosophy of the world. I agree with you that as Christians, we need to be constantly seeking after the truth (Jesus) and following what the Bible says. This will definitely lead to conflict with the saved and the unsaved alike.

"Even now, the topic of headcovering is a perfect example of how the world's philosophies have leaked into our churches and thus affected our beliefs in everything from headship, men's and women's roles in the family, divorce, respect for our parents, children taking their parents to court,...the list goes on and on. It all begins with departing from The Bible and what it teaches."

Yesterday, I watched the Youtube sermon entitled; The Intolerance of Tolerance (by D.A. Carson). In this sermon, he is explaining that there is a transition of the meaning of “tolerance” lately. He says, the word “tolerance” used to indicate “to accept the existence of different views” whereas the current meaning is going to be more and more like “to accept the different views themselves.”

The new “tolerance” insists that there is no absolute truth and that we have to accept this religious relativism absolutely. And this new concept not only has been fully accepted in society but also setting itself up to the supreme value with its coercive force.

Then he encourages us, saying “Don’t be surprised when you face conflict or suffering because of your belief. The Bible says, ‘for to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake’ (Phil 1:29).”

I asked myself, “what made me shrink from seeking the love of the truth (II Th 2: 10) and living up to it?” And I found that deep inside me, there is a hidden desire to avoid the Cross. If it is possible, I don’t want to be disliked by others. I want others say, “she is a compassionate Christian” but not “intolerant, unloving and fanatic” one. I don’t want to say some of the Biblical truths which sound uncomfortable to the modern ears. In a word, I want to preserve my ego and don’t want to die and live with my crucified Savior!

“Why, then, do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win a kingdom?In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies, in the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in the cross is highest virtue, in the cross is perfect holiness. There is no salvation of soul nor hope of everlasting life but in the cross. 
Behold, in the cross is everything, and upon your dying on the cross everything depends.There is no other way to life and to true inward peace than the way of the holy cross and daily mortification. Go where you will, seek what you will, you will not find a higher way,nor a less exalted but safer way, than the way of the holy cross."(The Royal Road of the Holy Cross, Imitation of Christ, p 57)
He is the Way, He is the Truth, He is the Life  source

The Cross will eventually unite us or divide us. The current “inter-faith” movement is trying his best to obscure the Cross of Jesus Christ, for they think the Cross is the stumbling block /offense for those who adhere to other religions. But like Paul, we say that “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Cor 2:2).

The current religious toleration and relativism is posing as if it was a harmless virtue but it is actually very intolerant and hostile to those who dare to say what the Bible says and live up to it. Moreover, it is very hostile to the Cross of Jesus Christ.

O Lord, help us to walk your way—the way of the Cross. Grant us the love of truth (II Th 2:10) and discernment to know the schemes of our enemy who are trying to deceive even the chosen ones. Unite us more and more under the holy name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2015

How to deal with our own preconceptions or biases―in search of understanding the Scripture

Old woman is earnestly reading the Bible source

One of the things which I have been struggling is the existence of deep-rooted preconceptions or biases in my mind.

When I first came to live in Greece, I had (secretly) boasted of my Protestantism, thinking that unlike Greek orthodox people who are following human opinions or traditions, we Protestant Christians adhere to the Bible and nothing else. Sola Scriptura!

However, over the years, I have come to realize that the things were not so simple as I had thought. It is true that we don’t have “church fathers” like Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian etc, nonetheless, we Protestant/Evangelical Bible-believing Christians are also deeply indoctrinated into various human opinions or denominational biases.

Plus, I am very careful about my own pagan background, asking the Lord to help me discern the root of my thinking so as not to interpret the Bible with an carnal, non-biblical mindset.

Recently, I read the intriguing book regarding this issue; Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson. It was truly an eye-opening book. The author is dealing with various fallacies which serious, well-intended Bible-believing Christians tend to be trapped in the process of understanding and interpreting the Bible. Here are some excerpts from this book;

“Careful handling of the Bible will enable us to ‘hear’ it a little better. It is all too easy to read the traditional interpretations we have received from others into the text of Scripture. Then we may unwittingly transfer the authority of Scripture to our traditional interpretations and invest them with a false, even an idolatrous, degree of certainty.

Because traditions are reshaped as they are passed on, after a while we may drift far from God’s Word while still insisting all our theological opinions are ‘biblical’ and therefore true. 
If we are in such a state we study the Bible uncritically, more than likely it will simply reinforce our errors. If the Bible is to accomplish its work of continual reformation--reformation of our lives and our doctrine—we must do all we can to listen to it afresh, and utilize the best resources at our disposal.” (p.14)

One decisive insight which I have got from this book is the concept of “distanciation.” It shed light on some of my confused points and oh, how I was delighted to know this wise counsel!

It might be a bit long but please allow me to share with you this particular discovery. Here is what the author says about the importance of “distanciation.”

“The fallacy at hand offers the clearest need for distanciation on the part of the interpreter. Unless we recognize the ‘distance’ that separates us from the text being studied, we will overlook differences of outlook, vocabulary, interest; and quite unwittingly we will read our mental baggage into the text without pausing to ask if that is appropriate.

We are truly prepared to understand a text only after we have understood some of the difference between what the text is talking about and what we gravitate to on the same subject. Failure to recognize the nature and scope of our own mental equipment is to commit what David Hackett Fischer calls the Baconian fallacy: 
"The Baconian fallacy consists in the idea that a historian can operate without the aid of preconceived questions, hypotheses, ideas, assumptions, theories, paradigms, postulates, prejudices, presumptions, or general presuppositions of any kind. He is supposed to go a-wandering through the dark forest of the past, gathering facts like nuts and berries, until he has enough to make a general truth. Then he is to store up his general truths until he has the whole truth. This idea is doubly deficient, for it commits a historian to the pursuit of an impossible object by an impracticable method." (David Hackett Fischer, Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, p 4) 
This does not mean real knowledge is impossible. Rather, it means that real knowledge is close to impossible if we fail to recognize our own assumptions, questions, interests, and biases; but if we recognize them and, in dialogue with the text, seek to make allowances for them, we will be better able to avoid confusing our own world-views with those of the biblical writers. (Exegetical Fallacies,p 106-107)
I am so grateful for the above statements, for I am learning that the very recognition that I have my own preconceptions/biases will be the starting point for understanding the Scripture better. This was such a consolation to me!

Moreover, God granted us the Spirit of truth. “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (I Cor 2:10 b)

This is my sincere prayer that we may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding till "we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Col 1:9, Eph 4:13)

Monday, April 6, 2015

One additional thought on Silence Our Enemy By Remaining “Little”

In my previous post, I wrote that  "Littleness leads me to a simplicity, purity and trust which characterize the child-like faith. By remaining little and unknown, the power of Christ may rest upon us. "

After meaningful dialogue with sister Jessica, however, I realized that---along with simplicity, purity and trust---perhaps I should have added boldness as well. Or I should rather say; simple, pure and trustful faith inevitably make us bold.

One of the lessons I am learning from the Lord right now is that, yes, it is very appropriate to have a humble view toward ourselves but I should not dare to limit His Way just because it looks much bigger or unfamiliar. I am learning that godly humbleness and narrow-mindedness are two different things.

I warned myself that I should never use my “littleness” for providing a cover for timidity, self-defense and hidden stubbornness . Because it surely hinders His Way. And it is a dreadful thing to “hinder” His Way! Will the Lord want to break my small world, my agenda, my boundaries? Then let them break! O Lord!

 “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”(Col 1:27). 

Notice here that Paul did not write “Christ for you” or “Christ with you.” No, he wrote so clearly that Christ is in us!

Christ is in us and in the midst of us. Christ, to whom all authority has been given in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18), is in us. This powerful spiritual truth inevitably produces supernatural boldness in our hearts if we simply believe it. In fact, this kind of godly boldness opens a new path through the thick undergrowth and it knows no limit. It proceeds powerfully and fearlessly. It is self-forgetting and full of Christ-mindedness.

Lastly, I am going to pray the prayer of Paul in the book of Ephesians for all the head covering sisters across the globe.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Silence Our Enemy By Remaining “Little”

lily on the valley   source

I had always thought I needed to become stronger in order to fight the good fight (II Tim 4:7) of faith. I had dreamed that one day He would make me a strong woman of faith who can help and inspire other sisters.

However, He has taught me various new lessons while I was lying helplessly on the sick bed. And I was drawn to the following verse of Psalms;

"Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger." Psalm 8: 2

I said to myself, “Why the mouth of babes and infants? God could have used the mouth of the spiritual giants for ordaining strength and silencing the enemy. “

The mouth of babies and nursing infants are one of the most vulnerable parts of the human body but our God with His almighty wisdom, chose to use this very vulnerability for ordaining His strength.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” II Cor 12: 9

We have been praying for our fellow headcovering sisters for several months. And every time, I had felt the dark power of resistance who does not want the truth of 1 Cor 11 be revealed. That’s because the revival of the practice of head covering brings spiritual restoration and recovery to the church and families, and thus the devil just hates that.  

So, I had prayed to God to grant me more power to fight back the enemy. I wanted to be a strong soldier of Jesus Christ. However, quite unexpectedly, He has revealed me another way to win the battle---that is, the way to remain little.

By my being “little”, He Himself can silence the enemy and the avenger.  Also this littleness leads me to a simplicity, purity and trust which characterize the child-like faith.  By remaining little and unknown, the power of Christ may rest upon us. 

Littleness also means withdrawal and retirement.  By rejecting the favor of men and its popularity, little maidens can be hidden and rest in the arms of God.

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 
A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you." (Psalm 91: 1,7) 

This is my sincere desire that whatever He assign me to do on this earth, I want to remain little and obscure so that His greatness shall truly manifest with power. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How to overcome life's sorrows and trials

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Life has its joys and sorrows. Today, I received an international phone call from my mother and heard that my dear father was hospitalized because of the myocardial infarction.

When we face sorrows and difficulties, what do we do? Do we sit down, crying and lamenting all day? Yes, I did cry this afternoon, but the Lord stirred up my spirit and taught me the important lesson; that is, we can be an encourager in every circumstance. When the wife of Ezekiel died, he continued His work the very next morning (Ezek 24:18). And the Lord said, “Thus Ezekiel is a sign to you” (Ezek 24:24 a).

From this verse, I learned that we believers are “a sign” to the people around us. When people see us, they must see Jesus—our heavenly bridegroom―. Our words and behaviors thus must reflect some unearthly beauties. In order to be so, our soul must be full of heaven and heavenly anticipations in the real sense. 

When we see our current circumstances from the viewpoint of eternity, everything takes on different meanings. When we really believe that we actually died, and that our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3), then the rest of the things on this earth have merely relative meanings. When our minds and hearts are above where Christ is, we are not only able to endure earthly sorrows and trials but also use even our saddest moments for the encouragement of our fellow human beings.

Driven from his church and home, Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), was wandering as a homeless with his wife and children for two years.  One evening when staying at a wayside inn, Gerhardt went out, and under the starry sky pondered deeply over his misfortunes. However, he did not stop there. With all his heart, he poured his faith and hope into poetry and so was born the world famous hymn we know as “Commit thou all thy griefs (1656)”.

1.Commit thou all that grieves thee and fills thy heart with care to Him
whose might and glory the starry skies declare.
He shows the winds their courses and points the clouds their way;
Will He not guide thy footsteps and be thy staff and stay? 
3. Hope on, then, weak believer, in trouble undismayed;
The gloomy night is waning, Thy fears shall be allayed.
Possess thy soul in patience, be firm in God’s employ,
And thou in radiant beauty shall see the Sun of joy.

If we surrender to Him, we are no longer our own. We are His “sign” in joyful times and in tearful times. We keep seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness even in our lowest season. Let us declare with Paul; “,,one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3: 13-14)