So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:16, NLT).
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8, NKJV).
Drawing Near or Striving Forward?
The sixteenth century French aristocratic lady, Madame Jean Guyon, remarked centuries ago that prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep you there continually.
She wrote in a poem, “There was a period when I chose a time and a place for prayer … but now I seek that constant prayer, in inward stillness…”.
Hebrews 4:16 always seemed to me like an unobtainable enigma … a secret of the spiritually mature elite … not a place where I can dwell … at the throne of our Heavenly King. It seemed like the dreams that fairy tales were made of.
I strived endlessly to come into His presence … to this Throne of Magic. I believed it was there that our Pappa God would wave His magic wand and make all life’s problems disappear like early morning mist, including the Fm/CFS.
If it wasn’t for Pappa extending His gracious Hand of mercy, I most propably would still have been striving … totally ignorant of my folly. But common sense prevailed and I realized when it was time to hoist the white flag and decided to investigate the reason for my defeat.
It was not for a lack of trying, just the opposite. I truly desired to live in His presence and I knew it was possible. Pappa saw my heart and knew that my desire to live in Him was truly flamed by the passionate eternal flame of love He had kindled in every human heart.
The letter to the Hebrews was written at the time when the Jewish Christians were extremely vulnerable and tempted to revert back to their Judaic religion and to join the cause de libre to overthrow the Roman oppresion.
The traditional Jews also questioned His respectability to be the High Priest since His ancestry was from the tribe of Judah, and not the tribe of Levi, like Aaron. That was the golden rule through all the previous ages.
Paul explained that Jesus was not a High Priest according to the wordly, physical order of selection, but of the order of Melchizedek. The two parts of this word give us a clear understanding of this eternal order of the High Priest of Grace.
“Melek” means “king” and “zedek”means “righteousness”. Our Lord was the only person ever who could qualify as the only true High Priest … the only sinless man who could enter into our Pappa’s presence without being consumed by His holiness.
Jesus, the Righteous King and High Priest, opened the way for all believers to be a priesthood in Him with immediate and always available access to our Pappa’s presence.
I knew I was, instead of drawing close into the spiritual life of our Lord, striving in the flesh, carnally trying to enter into Pappa’s presence … and that with dubious motives as well!! Oh, how can I forever be released from my deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9)?
Since I had no idea how to draw near to God, I did the only thing that made remotely sense in my predicament! Keep in mind that I was still thinking and reasoning in worldy ways and terms. I cried out to our Lord, asking Him to draw me and to show me how I could experientally enter into His life.
Through a little book by Madame Guyon, “Short and Easy Method of Prayer”, Pappa taught me how to come into His presence and, best of all, how to stay there where there is always just fullness of joy.
Dear Ones, I want to encourage all to draw close unto our Lord … into His presence … there where there is pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).
But Jesus knew their evil motives, “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed Him a Roman coin, He asked,” Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Ceasar’s,” they replied. “Well, then give to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar, and give to God to what belongs to God.”(Matthew 22:18-21, NLT).
So God created human beings in His own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27, NLT).
The Hurdles of Discipline
When my oldest son, Simon, was a secondary school learner, he was a provincial 400 meter hurdles athlete. At all the competitions his doting mother caused him endless embarrassment by, to put it mildly, proudly, yet noisily, jumping up and down, cheering him along and helping him to finish the race. Eventually he had to surrender, for he, for some strange reason, seemed unable to get his mother to behave more appropriately.
Then it happened! He stumbled and heartily greeted mother earth during a race he was about to win. My courageous, brave 18-year old baby got up and finished second…and then…collapsed! This mother hen quickly gathered her precious, bleeding chick under her wing, and that in front of an enormous crowd of spectators. So completely not cool at all!!
That was one of my favorite, precious God moments. Our Pappa taught me a most valuable lesson through this incident on His love and care towards us. Like the best parent ever, He lovingly disciplines us by allowing the hurdles of trials and tribulations during our race of life to teach us godliness and complete dependance upon Him. Every hurdle presents another opportunity to stretch those faith muscles to jump clear. When we fall, He lovingly picks us up and gathers us in His arms and wipes away all our tears while encouraging us not to lose heart, for He will always be there, right beside us, jumping up and down with joy as He cheers us on, rejoicing over us with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17).
As I was reading the above Scripture, the Lord opened my eyes to a big, bad insurmountable hurdle of misconception and wrong perception l had allowed to develop in my life, hindering my relationship with my Pappa to grow, to bloom and to blossom. My frame of reference told me that all our Lord Jesus’ anger towards the Pharisees and Scribes was also directed towards me. Our Pappa was, as far as I was concerned, a very angry, abusive God, expecting me to pull myself up by my own bootstraps and polish up my poor excuse of a life.
Our God patiently taught me through one of my favorite Bible teachers, James Fowler, my perception of His character was totally wrong. My frame of reference needed to include some “zits im leben” (setting in life). It needed to be based on the truth of whom our Lord really was referring to, as well as the culture and traditions of that specific time. When I read the text in that context, scales fell from my eyes and I looked at this Scripture with new understanding.
Allow me to give a little background information. At the time our Lord Jesus walked the earth, the Roman authorities issued a silver coin, the denarius, stamped with the image of the Emperor. It was used as the standard payment for taxes. The Romans were well aware of the Jews’ scruples about “graven images” and out of respect for their religious traditions, they issued a bronze coin without any image for the use of those devout Palestinian Jews, without having to defile themselves when paying their taxes.
I have wondered why politicians and religious leaders often seem to be bosom buddies until I saw the truth of Solomon’s words, there truly is nothing new under the sun! (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The Pharisees and Scribes were hand in glove with the Herodians, inviting them along when they tried to soft-soap our Lord Jesus by commending His integrity. As if they were qualified to be judges of integrity! They tried to force Him into a Catch 22 situation by asking Him the famous question about taxes. These highly religious and righteous Jews, as they considered themselves to be, had no reason to defile themselves by touching a denarius, but when Jesus requested one, they provided the denarius from their own pockets!! I wonder if all the bronze ones went to the poor!
Our Lord saw right through their evil intent into their greed for religous power, position, prestige and money. They were unwilling to give it all up and to give themselves wholeheartedly to our Pappa. We are all familiar with the outcome of this story.
A question started to form in my mind, “As humans, whose image do we bear?” Our Pappa revelaled to my heart the precious truth that we are all created in His image!! He created us as spiritual beings to lavishly love us and enabled us to love Him in return. That privilege was forfeited in Eden and bought back on the cross at Golgotha. If only I could rid myself of that brood of “Pharisees” joyfully lodging in my heart, suffocating the loving relationship between my Pappa and me. Our Lord’s words became crystal clear to me, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this eternal life” (John 5:39-40, NLT).
I rejoiced when we together chased the slave woman and her son from my heart as Paul instructed us to do. (Galatians 4:30). Good riddance indeed! But little did know of all the son’s siblings, cousins and cousins-twice-removed still stealing and feasting on the delicious fruit our Lord was producing in my heart, keeping me imprisoned and chained to the system of religious performance. I had cordially invited them in when I had gobbled up many false teachings in the past. The stone tablets of my heart had many laws, over and above the Ten Commandments. As the years passed by, I kept adding more and more, as well as erasing a few outdated, old ones.
I never was certain what the current religous modus operandi would be and was horrified of being rejected one more time, so I kept my list up to date, I never knew our Pappa could be so finicky for He seemed to change His mind from day to day, from denomination to denomination and even from congregation to congregation! Just to name a few of the silver denari, stamped with the image of religion, I was carrying in my pocket:
1. Only the Psalms and organ music are suitable for our Lord’s ears.
2. Communion must be served around a big table where everyone drinks from a humongous silver communion cup.
3. Tithe your gross income if you want to ensure God’s gross blessings.
4. As proof of having been baptized in the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues.
5. Serve, serve, serve and then serve some more; give, give, give and then give some more.
6. You have to be under the church’s covering, submitting to their authority. Failing to do that is proof of habouring a Jezebel spirit.
7. Wives submit to your husbands even if it kills you or be warned of the danger that you might turn into Jezebel herself.
8. Never mention someone’s name while praying for them in church for that borders on idolatry.
9. Do not disagree with your pastor, or if you do; zip the lip!
10. Do not always be the one suffering from an illness, for that shows your lack of faith and without faith you are not pleasing God. So rather suffer in silence and pretend to be well.
11. Spread the Gospel. Failure to do so will hinder the growth of your fruit supply and if you are empty handed when you meet the Fruit Inspector one day, you might be in BIG trouble!
And so the list went on and on and on!! Keeping them caused me endless spiritual pride and I could teach the Pharisees and Scribes a lesson or two about hypocrisy. Today I realize that it was all due to my extremely poor and shame-based self-esteem for I always used to measure love, anyone’s love, especially God’s, as something earned through my performance, yet mine always seemed to miss the mark!
Although some of these practices are not wrong in and of themselves, they do become law the moment they become rules and therefore replace grace, bearing the emperor’s image. I realize now that the Great Deceiver, the Father of Religion, played dirty tricks on my mind. Our Lord Jesus did not mince His words when He told the Pharisees, “For you are the children of your father, the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth.” (John 8:44a, NLT).
Dear Ones, even though Fm/CFS takes us through deep, deep valleys of suffering, I can now see and appreciate our Pappa’s hand of love and wisdom in my life, providing the hurdles of suffering to draw me away from the law-based road to destruction and steering me gently into His kingdom of light of love, of freedom and peace. He will personally carry you over all the many hurdles this illness and life in general bring into your life, looking forward to the beautiful butterfly that will eventually emerge from your cocoon of suffering.
May our Lord bless you and keep you secure this coming week, snuggled warmly in the safety of His Loving Embrace!
So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions ? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent. (18 Kings 1:20-21, NLT).
The Contest on Mt Carmel
The last month I have been reluctantly travelling through the well-known Fm/CFS country, Mega-Flare Land. Actually, I was forced to accompany my unwelcome friends, Mr Pain, his ugly wife, Exhaustion, and their brood of brat-like kiddos: Fibrofog, IBS, Migraine, Desperado and all their siblings. They were joyfully irritating me, taking turns in giving me the honors of piggybacking them.
Taking a short respite, we stopped at a shady Inn called Quitters Paradise. This scaly looking building was situated in the middle of the desolate Plain of Despondency. I peeked through a dirty window and was not at all surprised to see a few very familiar felons already lodging there. Mr Self-Pity and his cousin, Mr Down-in-the-Dumps, were beckoning me inside, cordially inviting me to join their wallowing in a dark, dirty cesspool of muddy despair. I willingly capitulated and in the blink of an eye I was overwhelmed by a major Elijah moment. Remember that time after Elijah outran King Ahab to Jezreel?
Well, true to human nature and just following Elijah’s example, I offered our Lord my very famous BUT-GOD complaint. Yet, our gentle, loving Pappa patiently enquired, “What are you doing here, Elijah? (Mia?)” (1 Kings 19:9b) He encouraged me not to waste my valuable little energy on my lamentations and languishing and invited me to rather join Him on another journey far back in time, thousands of years ago. I was not too keen to accept His offer for I did not want to leave my mud wallowing gremlin friends behind!
But our Lord’s gentle charm won my heart and I followed Him back to the days when Israel was experiencing a severe drought and was ruled by King Ahab. Actually, by Jezebel, since Ahab was totally under the petticoat government. Our Father introduced me to those obstinate, double-minded Israelites who were comfortably resting on their religious laurels. Their minds were in a comfy state of equipoise and they had one foot firmly planted in the state religion of Jezebel, and the other one, in the Heavenly Kingdom of our Pappa. My Pappa gently showed me that the condition of my heart was in reality not much different from theirs.
To my sorrow, I realized that my loyalties were also divided between religion and my allegiance to my Pappa. In other words, I was also double-minded and conveniently ignoring our Father’s words, “He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:8, NIV). I realized that I was also dancing around two altars and needed to repent of my foolishness, allowing the sweet Holy Spirit to drastically renew my mind and change my heart’s desires.
I appreciated Elijah’s originality in using a metaphor from the world of birds when he compared the Israelites to the notorious habit of birds, hopping from the one branch to the next, quite finicky about choosing where to settle. I could relate to that!
Ahab summoned Elijah and had the audacity to blame him for Israel’s 3-year long drought. Elijah vehemently denied the accusation and turned the blame back to its rightful owners: Ahab, Jezebel and their large entourage of Baal and Asherah cronies. Elijah courageously challenged them to that famous Carmel contest. Since Baal was considered by the people as the presiding deity who had the power over fire, the Israelites considered Elijah’s challenge to be a brilliant idea to determine once and for all who the only true God really was. I found it quite interesting that Elijah had rebuilt the altar of our Pappa that was previously demolished by Jezebel and her Asherah and Baal hirelings. It consisted of 12 stones representing the 12 sons of Jacob, and therefore the 12 tribes of the Israelite nation. It reminds me of our Lord Jesus using each and everyone of us as a living stone to build the spiritual temple of which He is the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:8-9).
To eliminate even the slightest possibility of human help (works of the flesh), Elijah ordered the Israelites to drench the altar three times, each time with 4 big jars of water. We are all familiar with the outcome of this contest, but my Pappa patiently showed me my allegiance to so many of the modern-day Baal and Asherah prophets and I knew that I also needed my own contest on Mount Carmel. I knew that serving their God only resulted in extreme spiritual poverty and subsequent “cutting of flesh” and bleeding of my soul.
I needed to allow our Lord Jesus to slaughter all my false prophets. Like Elijah, I knew that I could spare them not even the slightest hint of mercy. I placed all these false perceptions and beliefs on the altar of my heart, drenched with all my tears. Our Heavenly Father wasted no time in sending forth His fire from heaven to consume my offering and filled all the empty spaces, vacated by all the wrong perceptions and idols of my heart, with His Love, His Life and abundant grace. He gently opened my eyes to the futility of the so-called Health, Wealth and Prosperity gospel with its own legion of prophets who had already ushered so many people into apostasy.
He opened my eyes to the dangers of the doctrines of all the so-called “…isms”, like Fundamentalism, Evangelism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Pentecostalism, Calvinism and so forth. Although these religious systems all contain a lot of intellectual truth, they reek of a multitude of laws, rules and regulations, but very limited life, no grace, no love, compassion or the relationship with our precious Savior.
They can actually be quite detrimental to the wonderful freedom our Lord Jesus has called us to for a relationship of love and respect to blossom and flourish. Our Pappa is all for simplicity, “He has showed you , O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8, NIV).
He has shown me that Christianity is not and will never be a book religion, or morality, or a belief system. Christianity will never be a method of problem-solving, or a-what-would-Jesus-do role-playing or an ideological option. For, Christianity is and will always be Christ, a blessed life lived in our Lord Jesus, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27, NIV). Forever and ever. Amen.
Dear Ones, needless to say, I was then completely cured of my affectionate affinity to mud pool wallowing… if only until next time!! Thank you so much for once again listening to all my ramblings.
A river watered the garden and then flowed out of Eden and divided into four branches. The first branch, called the Pishon, flowed around the entire land of Havilah, where gold is found. The gold of that land is exceptionally pure; aromatic resin and onyx stone are also found there. (Genesis 2:10-12, NLT)
Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. (Revelation 22:1, NLT)
A Song of Love
Special Assignment, an investigative current affairs program on a South African television channel, broadcasted a disturbing story of Megan Adams and Alecia (a pseudonym). They are two teenage girls living on the streets of a township near Cape Town, the Cape Flats. These precious girls are addicted to crystal methamphetamine, locally better known as Tik.
This crystalline substance has become the city’s drug of choice, being cheap and widely available. In most cases Tik is smoked in a glass pipe. The girls sell their bodies into prostitution to feed the cruel monster that is consuming and destroying their lives. They are only two of the hundreds of addicts and have been brave enough to tell their stories of growing up in extreme poverty and subsequent falling into drug abuse. Many of these girls are just continuing on this wicked road of destruction.
Looking at the world-wide problem of drug abuse only confirms the reality of John’s words, “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19, ESV). He only comes to steal, to kill and destroy everything and anything he can possibly lay his hands on.
After watching this broadcast, my heart hurried back to our Pappa God to tell Him of their terrible suffering, asking our Lord Jesus to rescue them from the Kingdom of Darkness. I begged Him to break down all those fortresses of lies in their minds that are holding them captive. I nearly suffocated in a cloud of sorrow when I thought of the total mess and destruction the human race, the crown of our Father’s creation, brought to the beautiful world our Pappa created and prepared in the beginning for their enjoyment and sustenance. The words our God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, suddenly had a much more and deeper meaning to me, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner, but my salvation will be forever. And my righteousness will not wane.” (Isaiah 51:6, ESV). Yet, because of love, God provided a way out of this darkness through the cross of our lord Jesus.
I sighed contentedly as my heart gratefully followed our Lord back to Eden and sensed a love story being told by the river in the garden which divided into four branches. To my delight I found this river flowing all through the Scriptures, the river of life, providing the eternal life of our Lord Jesus. Because of our Pappa’s keen eye for even the smallest detail (like the number of hairs on my head), I realized that the names of the four river branches was not randomly chosen, but for a specific reason and asked Him to reveal to me this chapter of the Divine Story of Love.
The name of the first river branch, Pishon, means bursting forth; fast and strong flowing. I am humbled by the strength and force of the life of our Lord Jesus, bursting forth into the wasteland of our hearts after the Holy Spirit has planted that first little mustard seed of eternal life. The river Pishon surrounded the Land of Havilah, a land noted for its gold, bdellium (aromatic resin) and onyx.The name Havilah literally means circular. The gold was of the finest quality and indicative of the purity, the acceptance and security of our God’s love encircling and protecting that exquisitive relationship between our King and us. I am reminded of the golden censer filled with incense and the prayers of the saints, “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and He was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne.” (Revelation 8:3, ESV)
Bdellium, a tree resin, is an aromatic tree gum like myrrh containing essential, aromatic oils and is largely used for therapeutic purposes, perfumes and incense. This land of Havilah, the Eden of our hearts, is beautifully described by the Lover of our souls, “You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.” (Ezekiel 28:13, NIV). It reminds me of our prayers being a sweet smelling sacrifice that brings so much joy to our Pappa’s heart. I love spending time with my sons and, to their chagrin, I always want to know everything about everything that happens in their lives! Our Heavenly Father, being the Father of all fathers, surely longs for His children spending time with Him, trusting Him enough to talk to Him about anything!
The onyx is a gemstone and was widely used in jewelry, ornaments and carvings since antiquity. In the book of Exodus our Lord instructed the Israelites to use onyx stone in the tabernacle and the garments of the priests. The breastplate of an Old Testament High Priest contained twelve gemstones, representing the twelve sons of Jacob. The eleventh stone had to be an onyx, representing Josef. To me it symbolizes the abundant life of our Lord Jesus, delicious fruit of the Spirit and inner strength that would be added unto us and abundantly increased daily according to our need (Josef means, God will increase/ adding on). Since our Lord Jesus is our only High Priest in heaven, taking us all, in Him, to our Pappa’s throne of Grace, we can rejoice in the fact that we are all little gemstones in His breastplate of Righteousness. He carries us so close to His heart that we can hear the heartbeat of His love. Even the world considers the onyx stone a symbol of “spiritual” strength and protection, peace and confidence.
Dear Ones, as Fibromites we are all acquainted with fibrofog! Clear thinking does not come easily to us, even less to me since my husband firmly believes that I was born with my head in the clouds anyway! Nevertheless, I hope and pray that by now you can perceive, if only a little, the treasure of love our Lord has hidden for us curious ones to seek and find in the garden of our hearts.
In a following post I would love to continue on this expedition, seeking all the wonders buried deep in the ancient soil of Eden, and its rivers, waiting patiently to be discovered and enjoyed by our Pappa’s children. I am so grateful to be able to share that beautiful River Song bubbling up in my heart, singing of my love for my God, praising His goodness and glory.
I want to love you and leave you with the following: suffering causes only one of two things; it either breaks you or creates a passionate love for God in the depths of your heart!