Archive for May 2010

Be A War Profiteer

May 30, 2010

Armors and Shields

“I’m sorry I’m so much trouble to you–she said as I massaged her back. She had been greatly oppressed again, and her face showed the strain.

“Oh, the trouble of driving me to Jesus, to seek His face and increase my faith, and my confidence in Him, and the trouble of learning to pray with perseverance? Is that the trouble you’re sorry for? Silly girl!”

I am the one who needs to apologize, I think. I am a crass profiteer off the war going on about her.

But I first learned about not wasting these opportunities for reckless profit  in the midst of my own fight for faith. Now I am a happy mother of children, but it was not always so. In fervent devotion I once offered up my body as a living sacrifice, holding nothing back, not even my womb–but I naively thought the Father understood my severe deficits in the  mothering department, and he would go easy with the actual numbers he put in my charge, and all their accompanying challenges. As the body count began to rise, I whined, “Why in the world did you give me so many children, Lord?  If you knew already I would be so unskilled in the battle of bringing them up in your fear and admonition?”

Oh those terrible days of much mourning over losses. I shrank back and hid. I sought to escape.

Back then I looked for magic wands and formulas to rescue me from the consequences. At last, I let my trouble drive me to Him, and to His rest, in the ruins of my life. Why do we resist Him so? It was unbelief that made me lose nearly everything before I finally surrendered to Him. But I have learned through much affliction to love and trust Him, and believe His word. God knows what blessings He can trust us with, and how much of a load of these gifts’ corresponding care and concern we can bear. He is looking for faith among those ruins. I have learned to pray, and I say to Him often enough, “Lord, either lighten the load, or strengthen my back!” But a load borne with faith is easy and light. And its weight is measured with joy.

So, I agree with David Wilkerson, who this week declared, “any affliction that keeps me from going astray—that drives me deeper into his Word—is healing. God’s most gracious healing force spiritually and physically can be afflictions. To suggest that pain and affliction are of the devil is to suggest that David was driven by the devil to seek God’s Word.”

So I no longer refuse Him who speaks to me so directly in the calamities He brings. He speaks so strongly and clearly to me in them, to come to Him, to cast my care upon Him, to rest in His unfailing Love. Affliction has been very good to me.

But there is no greater pain for a parent than to watch his child struggle under the weight of great loads we ourselves have learned with great suffering to bear. We long to rescue them–I long to save from  sorrows this blessing child whose aching shoulders I now massage, this girl who had just cleaned my room as a great surprise for me while I had been away and had broken one of my most prized possessions, a picture frame holding a hand-calligraphied portion of Isaiah 42. She had been dusting and the frame had fallen, and she was heartbroken–she knew how much it meant to me. How guilty she felt, and she couldn’t tell me.

She will learn for herself in time what are the real trophies of faith — the treasures that bear the marks of  further tests of faith– the marks of afflictions sent not to crush us, but to lead us to Him. She will learn that resting in Him is a glorious kind of overcoming. She will understand how the broken glass she mourns for is like the world that is passing away– but we have to look through those broken shards to see the enduring promises beyond.

Faith is a triumph of seeing. We take our eyes off the broken glass, the problems and cares and woes of life, and all that the Destroyer hurls our way in the sovereign will of God, and fix our gaze on the Word that He promises us will never return empty. This is all of grace. In the midst of the battle, in all the confusion and fear and lack of faith, he still will bless. Trials train our souls.

I would not trade these fierce battles for a life of ease — if only His presence goes with me and gives rest. For I am a War Profiteer.

The Insomniac’s Progress: Part 1– In Which Our Hero Waits, and is Weighed

May 18, 2010

Would you divert yourself from melancholy?
Would you be pleasant, and far from folly?
Would you read riddles and their explanation?
Or else be drowned in your contemplation?
…Would you be in a dream, and yet not sleep?
Or would you in a moment laugh and weep?
…By reading the same lines? O then come hither,
And lay my book, your head, and heart together.

(revised, from “The Author’s Apology for His Book, Bunyan)

It was the visit to the Museum of Sciences that did it, that finished what feeble control he had left. Insomniac could take it no longer. He had hidden some coffee in his backpack he was going to sneak inside, but it had sloshed all over the crumpled papers with scribbles that mapped the way of his incendiary journeys in the night hours. And he had just finished posting another foolish comment, about his status, like, “I repeat myself… but my brain cells are consuming themselves. I say these things again and again to remember where I have been….and to survive the light of day. I am afraid I may lose…I may lose my way again…..I was so greedy for your time, back when I slept… please forgive me, I talk too much…I’m way over 500 characters…I lost even my own attention, so how could I think of keeping yours…? ” He knew they were stupid, these continuous solipsistic songs of himself, but he couldn’t help himself, not any longer. So much static now, his usual crisp thoughts were blurred.

Insomniac whimpered in the line of people waiting at the entrance. He knew self pity was deadly, but he couldn’t help himself. It was this blistering light, and all those fathers with babies pinned to their chests, like medals. It was all too unbearable. He needed a voice, music; anything to block out the tumble of thoughts that threatened to overwhelm. These lines without an end. He fondled the curves of the crank-operated cell that was his latest prototype, and out of its depths–with the awesome power of code–it was silly he knew, but it always assuaged: (author’s note: to avoid YouTube’s ridiculous suggested video, I recommend you refresh the screen immediately after viewing)

But then was that calm voice, yet again, that in daylight was like the noise of those gravediggers in the nighttime, “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep….”Oh curse that quote of Bellow’s, from Evangelist’s comment on his blog, and his amused regard of the video that he had dubbed ‘The Autotune Worship Song to Science.’* He said, “Some of those guys believe Crick’s proposal of panspermia, that our Little Blue Dot was seeded by aliens. And how cute is String Theory to create for you cowards all those handy multiverses? Be honest–which Creation Narrative is delusional? All this to avoid that Razor that cuts through your big branes with such a finely-tuned KISS.” He had deleted that drivel immediately, of course.

He would scream if he had energy. But now the line was moving. He shuffled inside, looked about the building’s sustainable architecture in all its reassuring order, surveying the 60,000 photo voltaic cells in the solar canopy. His own donated jeans were part of the re-cycled denim that made up the insulation in the floor-to-ceiling glass of this pure and crystalline cube. He sighed with satisfaction, he always felt so safe here. But he had forgotten his way again. He ran upstairs to get a ticket for the Planetarium, but he was already too late for the first show.

He wandered over to the interactive exhibit explaining Global Warming. He typed his relevant data into the balance scale shaped like a skeletal foot, which measured his carbon footprint: he had no car, and bicycled everywhere, even on rainy days. He had never been in an airplane. He had never, ever eaten fast food. Well perhaps as a non-prescient child, but not as a determined adult. He composted his food scraps and, furtively, when no-one was looking, he recycled even his pocket lint. He worked at night by the light of one small compact fluorescent bulb, and ate raw the food he grew in his own raised beds. Except for his coffee. He apologetically composted the grounds, he longed to be a pure locavore, but his only weakness was at least organic and fair trade. He furnished his meager needs with repurposings from the Salvation Army.

He held his breath, as the scales were weighed, but then…he was at zero, it was always at zero; and the the lever holding the sole lifted his avatar’s silhouette high. He was not found wanting. He had taught himself to want nothing.

As he turned to leave, the exhibit’s message board invited him to share his ideas for saving the planet from greenhouse gasses. He frowned; he had no helpful suggestion that wasn’t already posted, and he hadn’t solved the problem yet of the bulkiness of the phone’s crank. Too awkward yet to be successfully marketed, even to the geekest of the greens. An oaktag in bold capitals caught his eye: “STOP TERRORIZING OUR CHILDREN ABOUT THE FUTURE, AND MAKING THEM FEEL AS IF THEY ARE MERELY AN INVASIVE SPECIES.”

He snorted. He groped for the prototype in his fannypack, but found no consolation at his homepage. Only another comment by that creep, Evangelist. Why hadn’t he blocked him already? Why was he now clicking on this link the fool had posted? Why was the panic rising again? Well, derision would drown out the clang of shovels against rocks. And the laughter. This cretin would serve as well as anything. He just wanted to breathe again.

 

Hudson Taylor: On “Holding His Faithfulness”

May 1, 2010
Broken Glass-2

Image by akeg via Flickr

I was dusting my dresser, and was heedless to some shards of glass. They lay there as a snare, not just to my fingertips, but to my heart–a framed scripture was shattered, and it had been one of my dearest possessions. A friend had carefully laid oak leaves around the words she had inscribed:

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
In righteousness you shall be established”, Isaiah 54:13,14)

Those words bleakly speaking through the broken pieces of glass seemed a fitting symbol of the struggles of my heart to trust and believe, despite what my eyes see, and to have faith that God is still at work in my life to restore what has been destroyed by the enemy. I have been exhausted, and unbelief has crept in again.

How faithful God is however to restore and revive. From unexpected places–at a bible study for some homeless people, in the Gospel of John, and Christ’s words to the doubting Thomas–how gracious He is to us in our unbelief, and how readily He hears our cry to Him, to help us with it!

I also reread some letters from Hudson Taylor to his sister and others, and a bit from his biography, that have always encouraged me. If you are struggling with a lack of faith, may they encourage you as well. Taylor writes:

“I feel as though the first glimmer of the dawn of a glorious day had arisen upon me. I hail it with trembling, yet with trust- as to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult; but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month has been perhaps the happiest of my life; and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul- Perhaps I shall make myself more clear if I go back a little- My mind has been greatly exercised for six or eight months past, feeling the need, personally, and for the mission, of more holiness, life, power, in our souls. But personal need stood first and was the greatest. I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living near to God. I prayed, agonized, strove, fasted, made resolutions, read the Word of God more diligently, sought more time for meditation and prayer – but all was with effect. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me- each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power- then came the question Is there no rescue? Must it be thus to the end – constant conflict and instead of victory too often defeat? How, too, could I preach with sincerity that to those who receive Jesus, to them gave He that power to become the sons of God (i.e. God-like) when it was not so on my own experience?-

I hated myself. I hated my sin; and yet, I gained no strength against it. I felt I was a child of God: His Spirit in my heart would cry: ‘Abba Father’; but to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless.”

“All the time I felt assured there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was how was I to get it out?- I knew full well that there was in the Root abundant fatness; but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As the light, gradually dawned on me, I saw that faith was the only prerequisite, was the hand to lay hold on His fullness and make it my own. But I had not this faith! I strove for it but it would not come; tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Savior-my helplessness and guilt seemed to increase. Sins committed seemed but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief, which was their cause, which could not, or would not, take God at His Word, but rather made Him a liar. Unbelief was, I felt, the damning sin of the world-yet, I indulged in it.

” ‘But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.’ As I read I saw it all, ‘If we believe not, He abideth faithful’ (2Tim 2:13). I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said: ‘I will never leave you.’ (Heb 13:5) Ah, there is rest, I thought! I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me?

“But this was not all He showed me, nor one-half. As I thought of the vine and branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul- I saw not only that Jesus would never leave me, but that I was a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. The Vine, now I see, is not the root merely, but all- root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit; and Jesus is not only that: He is soil and sunshine, air and shower, and ten thousand times more than we have every dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth! I do pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.”

A biographer writes of Taylor, that as he was reading the Gospel of Mark in Greek, he was struck with the words, “Ekete pistin Theou.” How strangely new they seemed! “Have (or hold) the faithfulness of God“: surely it was a passage he had never seen before? Turning to the corresponding words in English he read (Mark 2:22): “Have faith in God.” Ah, that was familiar enough; and something within him whispered, ’the old difficulty!’ How gladly would he have and increase in faith in God, if only he knew how! But this seemed entirely different. It laid the emphasis on another side of the matter in a way he found surprisingly helpful. It was not “have” in your own heart and mind, however you can get it, “faith in God” but simply “hold fast, count upon, His faithfulness”; and different indeed he saw the one to be from the other. As to the correctness of this modified translation, Mr. Taylor noted for the rendering ‘God’s faithfulness,’ see Rom. 3: 3, where ‘the faith of God’ evidently, means His faithfulness. The verb translated ‘hold,’ is thus rendered in Matt. 21: 26, ‘all hold John as a prophet.’ In the corresponding passage in Mark 11:32, it is rendered ‘ count’; and in that in Luke 20: 6, a different Greek verb is used, which well illustrates the meaning, ‘They be persuaded that John was a prophet.’ Let us see that in theory we hold that God is faithful; that in daily life we count upon it ; and that at all times and under all circumstances we are fully persuaded of this blessed truth.”. Not my faith but God’s faithfulness-what a rest it was.

He wrote “Want of trust is at the root of almost all our sins and all our weaknesses; and how shall we escape it but by looking to Him and observing His faithfulness? … The man who holds God’s faithfulness will not be foolhardy or reckless, but he will be ready for every emergency. The man who holds God’s faithfulness will dare to obey Him, however impolitic it may appear. Abraham held God’s faithfulness and offered up Isaac, “accounting that God was able to raise him from the dead.” Moses held God’s faithfulness and led the millions of Israel into the waste, howling wilderness. Joshua knew Israel well, and was ignorant neither of the fortifications of the Canaanites nor of their martial prowess, but he held God’s faithfulness and led Israel across the Jordan. . . . The Apostles held God’s faithfulness, and were not daunted by the hatred of the Jews or the hostility of the heathen…. ” And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell “of those who, holding God’s faithfulness, had faith, and by it “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained. promises … out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens?”

“Satan, too, has his creed: Doubt God’s Faithfulness. “Hath God said? Are you not mistaken as to His commands? He could not really mean just that. You take an extreme view, give too literal a meaning to the words:” . . . How constantly, and, alas, how successfully are such arguments used to prevent whole-hearted trust in God, whole-hearted consecration to God! … How many estimate difficulties in the, light of their own resources, and thus attempt little and often fail in the little they attempt! All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them….

“Oh! beloved friends, if there is a living God, faithful and true, let us hold His faithfulness. . . . Holding His faithfulness, we may go into every province of China. Holding His faithfulness, we may face with calm and sober but confident assurance of victory every difficulty and danger; we may count on grace for the work, on pecuniary aid, on needful facilities, and on ultimate success. Let us not give Him a partial trust, but daily, hourly serve Him, counting on His faithfulness.”

No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
and their vindication from me, declares the Lord. (Is. 54:17)

No weapon, not even the sharpest edge of broken glass, can prosper against a servant of the Lord, who looks continually to the One who is faithful, and holds only to His faithfulness.