These are the nations that the Lord left in the land to test those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan … These people were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the commands the Lord had given to their ancestors through Moses (Judges 3:1-4, NLT).
The Fearsome Hittites
Earlier this year Metro Goldwyn Mayer, in co-operation with History Channel screened a new television drama about early medieval Scandinavia. It is the story of a famous Norse hero, Ragnar Lodbrok.
This Viking farmer, his brother, Rollo, his wife, the shield maiden, Logertha, and a few other warriors loyal to Ragnar, were the first Norsemen who sailed west to England.
They raided the English of tons of gold and silver ornaments, precious gemstones and jewelry. They even took a few Englishmen back to Norway as slaves. These warriors were formidable, fierce and powerful and filled many a brave soul with terror just on hearing their names.
As I was reading an article on the book of Judges, I met another tribe of people who were just as fearsome and powerful as these Norsemen: the Hittites. They were the third major nation our Lord left in Canaan.
God did not allow Joshua to conquer all Israel’s enemies for He knew their hearts. The new generation was already turning away from their Lord and prostituting themselves by worshipping other gods (Judges 2:17).
Our Pappa wanted to teach them how to war against these formidable foes who each represented a fleshly, worldly or satanic principle that have been with man since the day Adam decided to live life on his own.
The Hittites were a formidable nation and were spread out over an immense area. Their name comes from the name “Heth”, meaning “Sons of Terror”. These fierce warriors were big, strong and fearless opponents.
They may have long come and gone, but their gremlins of fear, that spirit of terror certainly has not. This spirit holds the whole world in its iron grip of hatred, violence, corruption, terrorism and wars.
When we look at our Lord Jesus’ words, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”, why is it that so many of our Pappa’s children are still held captive and controlled by the Hittite enemy? (John 16:33).
Can it be that the Hittites have masqueraded themselves in religious garb or Angel of Light attire? It might just be. Way too many Christian lives are held captive and controlled by the Hittite enemy.
It should come as no surprise. Paul warned us, “I know that false teachers , like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock … distort the truth in order to draw a following” (Acts 20:29-30).
One thing the world has no shortage of, is preachers and teachers doing their own thing in Jesus’ name, each having their own set of followers. They fleece their flock for their own gain, leaving their sheep shivering and starving in the winter cold.
I used to be one of these naked, poor sheep. I have seen my fair share of hirelings running away as fast as they could when wolves were attacking and scattering the flocks.
Our Lord told us the reason, “The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep” (John 10:13).
But I have also experienced the love, the mercy, the grace and goodness of the good Shepherd who sacrificed His life for me and reconciled me to my Pappa. I have experienced perfect Love that casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
I have the privilege of drinking daily, deeply from the Fountain of Life … of experiencing life in His Loving Embrace. I have the joy of having a Pappa who picks me up when the wolves come … a Father who comforts me with the beat of His heart.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry His lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young (Isaiah 40:11, NLT).
He Feeds Us
Today is the beginning of the International Fibromyalgia/ME Awareness Week. Although research is only in its infancy, we look forward to progress and perhaps a breakthrough in the near future.
Due to unbelief, many if not most sufferers, received very bad and hostile treatment from the medical profession.
But at least we are finally beginning to be acknowledged as human beings with a real and quite disabling disease.
Isaiah 40:11 reminds us so wonderfully of how well the good Shepherd from heaven takes care of mothers and their children.
He cares for the broken ones, the weak, the sick, the unimportant, the unwanted and the rejected of this world. They only need to come to Him.
When my son, Simon, was in Grade 11, we had to buy text books for Grade 12 when the Grade 12 pupils were selling their old books second-hand at a much lower price than new books.
I recall the week when we had to pay about R600 (around $67) for two text books as well as payment for the initiation camp for the following year’s Grade 12 learners.
It was in the middle of the month and we were stone, cold broke with only a few pennies we had to rub together in any case. Yet, I knew I had a Pappa who promised to take care of all our needs.
The morning the payment was due, we still had not received our Lord’s provision, but I assured my children that the money would be paid before the end of the day.
When they left for school, I had a serious talk with my God, reminding Him that today is D-day and we still were empty-handed (or rather empty pocketed).
He told me to go to the ATM, and of course I stubbornly had to argue a bit, for the previous day when I checked, I was taunted by a big, round zero. Oh, those trust issues!!!!
At the word of our Lord, in the famous Peter style with the fishing nets, reluctantly, off to the ATM I went.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found that double the amount we needed was paid back to us from the Receiver of Revenue. We were overjoyed and my children’s faith grew with leaps and bounds.
One would think that I was now cured of my stubbornness. Oh no, not this one. As a Fm/CFS sufferer, I had my fair share of unbelief, rejection and neglect from doctors, church people and also family and friends.
To such an extent that I landed up in the proverbial pig pen; not because of my foolishness, but because I had no one to care for me when I couldn’t take care of myself. Nobody believed that I was really ill.
But I was never alone. I could hear my Pappa screaming in my pain and suffering. Faithfully He was working in His normal mysterious ways to perform His wonders in my life.
The shepherds of ancient times would break the legs of the lambs that constantly wandered away.
Then he would set the leg and carry the lamb on his shoulder until the leg was healed. After that the lamb would remain by the shepherd’s side for the rest of its life.
Pappa knew of my stubborn propensities to be a master performer to earn everyone’s love and approval.
With my religious mindset, I just could not believe that I already was loved and accepted by our God.
Because of His amazing love, He did what the shepherds did with their stubborn, wandering lambs. Allowing Fm/ME in my life, He “broke” my legs.
With such tender care and love, He gently set it as well and carried me around His neck until I was healed of my stubbornness and insecurities.
I have learned how good it is when my Beloved Shepherd Himself feeds me with the milk of His love… His grace … His life and compassion.
Fm/CFS has taught me how to always walk with our Lord and never ever to leave His side again.
Even though we suffer greatly at times, I am so grateful for the wonder and joy of walking daily with our God … for the privilege of living in His Loving Embrace.
Love and sweet blessings
We all have experienced how our Lord has provided in miraculous ways. Please, share His goodness with us!
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4, NLT)
His Loving Embrace
Philip Yancey and Dr Paul Brandt are the co-authors of the book, The Gift of Pain. Dr Brandt was born in India to missionary parents and became a missionary doctor in Vellore, India for fifty years.
He was the first physician who discovered that leprosy did not cause the rotting away of tissue, but it was the loss of the sensation of pain that made the sufferers susceptible to injury.
This dear man knew from experience the wonderful gift of pain. A year or two ago I discovered the truth of his words when I was in the grip of excruciating Fibromyalgia pain.
As the strongest pain killers could only dull the sharpest edge of this sword ripping through my body, I went to lie down.
I was drawing near to my Pappa, asking Him to just hold me for I was unable to carry this burden alone. Like Jesus, I also needed someone to help me carry this cross. He mercifully hushed me to sleep.
Later, with my eyes still closed, I could feel my husband’s arms embracing me close to his heart.
I opened my eyes, only to find my dearest lying far away from me on his side of the bed, fast asleep. His gentle snoring told me that he was having a good time in the Land of Dreams. I was confused for there was no one holding me.
Then I heard Pappa whispering that it was Him, not my husband, hugging me close, just as I had asked Him to do.
He was cuddling me gently against His breast … He was enveloping me with His compassion … He was comforting me in His Loving Embrace.
He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes. He hurls down His hail like pebbles. Who can withstand His icy blast? He sends His word and melts them; He stirs up His breezes, and the waters flow. (Psalm 147:16-18, NIV)
Thawing in His Love
Oh, the beauty and joy of frolicking in the snow with complete abandon, creating snow angels and building big, chubby, potbellied snowmen with carrot noses, is truly a delightful gift from the storehouse of heaven.
Yet, another good heavenly gift I reluctantly accept and endure, is the beautiful flowers of feathery frost. Somehow I seem unable to see and appreciate their other-worldly, ethereal beauty!
While snow and frost are both formed from atmospheric vapor, snow crystals form on suspended dust particles high in the air, and frost, near the ground on just any flat surface like windowpanes and blades of grass. Their microscopic anatomy brings glory to our Heavenly Father’s attention to individuality and detail, for every single crystal, snow and frost, has a different shape and form; sort of their fingerprints from a Pappa of diversity.
Just like our Pappa truly has no favorites (James 2:1) and honors our individuality by giving each one of His children their own set of fingerprints, He also honors His creation. It’s diversity and beauty speak of a God who never overlooks a leper, a prostitute, a drunkard or glutton, or even a naked man possesed by a legion of demons, His children enveloped by the coldest winter frost of life.
Frost can be a killer by destroying whole crops during a severe winter season. I always contributed this to the extreme cold. Not so! The edges of frost crystals are needle-sharp. It destroys and damages any surface it settles on by cutting, slicing and stabbing like a knife. Truly, any surface, including my heart!
Before I walked with our Pappa God, I used to deal with the frosty winters of life in a very wordly, fleshly kind of way. Whenever the frost crystals of dissappointment, heart ache and sorrow, the pain of unfulfilled dreams and the whole enchilada settled on the surface of my fleshly, ground-dwelling soul, I would groan and moan, sulk and mope, indignantly blaming everything and everybody for my uncomfortable indisposition. So completely human! Truth be told, I even had the audacity to blame our Pappa at times!!
I am ashamed to admit that I even praised Him profusely, thanking Him for my discomfort and suffering. Yet, my heart, full of hypocrisy, seethed inside, frostbitten by anger and resentment, bemoaning the unfairness of life. Secretly, I kept both my eyes on heaven, fully expecting our Pappa to reward my valiant efforts of praising Him amidst my hard circumstances by making all the bad stuff dissapear. Of course, that never happened! Our Pappa in His wisdom, blessed me with even harder trials and tribulations, for He cannot be manipulated! So, the blame-game kept marching on, keeping me imprisoned and chained to that monstrous jailer, self-pity.
I am grateful to our Pappa for bringing me to the end of myself by allowing Fm/ME to stop me right in my tracks.
I vividly recall one morning in the early morning hours. I was suffering from insomnia (a Fm/ME symptomn) and this was the fifth day without sleeping a wink! Totally exhausted and with a body wracked with pain, I was at the end of my tether and endurace. I raised my voice one more time and, with an honest, sincere heart, I praised my Pappa, telling Him that I trust Him, regardless; no strings attached.
Our heavenly Father immediately reached down and gathered me into His Loving Embrace. For a few hours my heart was soaring high in the sky where the snowflakes dwell. The Spirit of our Lord Jesus was the wind beneath my wings.
Our Pappa taught me a valuable lesson. When my heart is imprisoned by the feathery fingers of frost, I must look at sunflowers and learn. A sunflower’s eyes always follow the sun. It basks in its warmth and care, praising our Pappa with it’s incredible beauty.
I have learned to never take the eyes of my heart off Jesus, the Son of all comfort, warmth and love. I have learned to look full in His wonderous face, assured that the warmth of His love will melt all those frozen tears in my heart and transform them into a bubbling stream of joy and delight, to the glory and praise of our Pappa.
Dear Ones, I am fully aware that at times it seems as if the frost-filled winters of life never seem to end. They seem to transform our weary hearts into flowers of cold, feathery frost. But at times like these we need to keep our spiritual eyes fixed on the Son, basking in the warmth of His never-ending love. This also has come to pass, not to stay!
The Lord is my shepherd , I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3, NIV)
A Love Letter to Pappa
Today of all days I cannot think straight for a whole bunch of Fibrofroggies have invaded my mind, frolicking to their hearts delight, causing havoc with my thoughts. Remember, Pappa, today is the day I was planning to join the Friday community over at Lisa-Jo’s. But you have chosen to lead me to a special, quiet place. That special place in your heart where it is just you and me.
Well, you are my Pappa and the Provider of all my needs. Therefore I will not huff and puff, striving to find words from my treasure chest of words and thoughts. All my words and thoughts seem to be having a good time of fun and play with those critters from Fibroland! I would rather rest in your presence, waiting for your still quiet voice to comfort me with tons and tons of love, compassion, kindness and grace!
I know you don’t mind if my song is without words, for you hear my quiet heart whispering to you. I love you deep from the bottom of my heart where the not even a single froggie can spoil our love.
Pappa, my five minutes have run out and I have to close now. You know that you are my life, my love, my world; actually my everything.
Lots of hugs and kisses to you. XXXXXXXXX
Today I am linking up with Lisa-Jo and many dear ladies at The Gypsy Mama (http://lisajobaker.com/category/five-minute-friday/) where we write for five minutes flat on a topic without editing. I love this!! For those who want to know where my froggy friends come from; they are visitors from the land of FM/ CFS. When they come to visit, which is quite often, I just rest in our Pappa’s Loving Embrace, allowing Him to comfort me with His quiet breeze of grace.
How does our Pappa God comfort you when life deals you a hard blow? I would love to hear from you.
But as I looked at everything I had worked to accomplish, it was all so meaningless – like chasing the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:11, NLT)
“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless! What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3, NLT)
The Futility of Striving
Solomon was a great man of divine wisdom. His words in Ecclesiastes show the depth of his wisdom when he acknowleded that all his striving and sweating caused him a severe case of burnout. A burnout caused by his relentless efforts in building his search for fulfillment, meaning and happiness on the wrong foundations: the shaky foundations of the world’s riches, values and ways.
Another foundation, much more subtle and dangerous, I have found myself building on, trying to find meaning in life, was religion. The etymology of the word “religion” shows that it is derived from the Latin word “religare”, a word aligned to the root word “religio”, meaning “to tie back” or “to bind up”.
During Paul’s visit to Athens, he noticed their numerous idols. Not to offend any god, they even had an idol to “an unknown god”. He told them,”Men of Athens, I notice that you are very RELIGIOUS in every way…” (Acts 17:22) The Greek word he used was “deisidaimon”, “deisi” meaning “to fear or respect” and “daimon”, demon!! Paul was actually likening religion to the worshipping of and paying respect to demons! To be totally honest, that frightened me to such a degree that I knew I was standing at the crossroads of my life and I knew I had to choose.
I realized I was swallowing all the lies the father of religion was feeding me, like Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Our Pappa gently showed me that my mind was veiled, darkened and wandering far from the abundant life our Lord Jesus longed to give me, free of charge! Before my Pappa gave sight to my blind spiritual eyes, I was striving and sweating, trying to cover my spiritual cold and nakedness with the fig leaves of religion.
I was knitting a sweater with a wide variety of religious knitting yarn: church attendance, giving to the poor, serving, Bible reading, praying and some more. My sweater closely resembled Joseph’s colorful coat. Instead of providing spiritual warmth and life, this sweater only birthed another sweater, me!! I was perspiring profusely trying to earn everything in life, especially love, worth and acceptance.
My late father once remarked that I always seemed to be chasing after love and he was spot-on with his words. I was completely baffled and left in the dark, for I had no idea why I acted this way. Was it because my earthly father’s love was the only love I had ever experienced without any strings attached or because my biological mother passed away when I was only 3 years old?
I suppose I will never know the answer, but I do know that from a young age the sweet Holy Spirit has been drawing me into the source of all love, compassion, grace, kindness and mercy, the abundant Life of our Lord Jesus.
What joy the day when our Lord Jesus started to free me from all the chains that were keeping me captive. He also revealed to me the true meaning of His words,”I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10), because to me it meant something along these lines, “For I came that you might have religion and have it more abundantly, to practise it more faithfully and committedly, defending it with all your might and behaving more morally!”.
What joy when our Lord took me by the hand and showed me a better way, a long walk to freedom, freedom from all this striving, sweating; freedom from the dark, futile road of self-effort and fear. Our Pappa promises us that there is no fear in love for His perfect love casts out all fear. ( 1 John 4:18).
I want to pay tribute to all those dear saints from the past who in the face of extreme opposition and persecution refused to accept another gospel which was not a gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-7). Saints like Paul and many others who preferred to be beaten with rods, to be shipwrecked, fed to lions, to go hungry, cold and without sleep, rather than to bow the knee before the idol of religion.
Thank you, Amber, and all you dear Ones for allowing me to share the freedom, love, joy and abundant life of our Lord Jesus with you for a short while along my journey of life.
When Jesus saw what was happening, He was angry with His disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:13-15, NLT)
A Lesson from Lea, with Love
Last week I was blessed abundantly when I had the privilege of visiting my 1-year-and-5-month-old little niece in Port Elizabeth. I could let my hair down and just be little, small and childlike, getting dirty as we built sandcastles and playing in the mud. I was the builder and she, the demolisher
When I arrived, little Lea was overjoyed as she ran up to me on her chubby little legs. Shrieking with boundless delight, she jumped onto my lap and stole my heart all over again with those beautiful, blue, innocent eyes, sparkling with stars of anticipation, expecting a great time of fun and play.
What a precious moment it was when she wrapped her little arms around my neck with complete trust and surrender, not doubting my love for her even for a moment. Our Heavenly Father showed me the holiness of the moment as the Holy Spirit gave life to the words of the French author, Jacques Ellul. In his wonderful book, Anarchy and Christianity, he remarked with unusual wisdom,” No matter what God’s power may be, the first aspect of God is never that of the Absolute Master, the Almighty. It is that of the God who puts Himself on our human level and limits Himself.”
I had the privilege of loving Lea the same way our Lord Jesus loved us when He did not consider His equality with God as something to hold on to, but He emptied Himself by becoming like one of us (Phillipians 2:7). I could love Lea by putting myself on her childlike level, without considering my adulthood and limiting myself. I listened to all her incomprehensible baby babble, pretending to understand every single word as she was wholeheartedly giving me an account of her little life. Needless to say, for a few hours we played to our heart’s delight.
The holiness of that moment wrapped its warm, loving arms around me like the first rays of the sun at daybreak after a cold, dark night. My heart sensed with anticipation that our Pappa was revealing an awesome side of His character to me.
During the third decade of the first century, the Jewish families from Palestine valued their children, especially boys, for their posterity. However, they were very low on on the social ladder of a religious society who highly valued education, wisdom and intelligence. They had no rights or status and were regarded as inferior, the least among family members, a nuisance only to be seen, but definitely not heard! It came as a shock to me that we need to become like these unimportant, inferior little ones to enter our Pappa’s Kingdom of love (Matthew 18:3). I needed to desire and value my Pappa’s love much more than my so-called rights or importance, the idols the world loves to pay homage to!
Our orphaned, broken world is trying to survive without a Father, but has robbed so many of our Pappa’s children of their innocent childlikeness, me included. Since as far as my mind was able to reach back in time to fetch memories from my past, I had been on a futile quest trying to impress my Pappa and all those I considered to be His representatives here on earth. Well, I know now it is just as impossible as trying to catch the wind or chasing my own shadow.
I was suffering from a severe case of, what I call, the Micah syndrome. Micah had the same mindset as me when he lamented so beautifully, “What can we bring to God? What kind of offering should we give Him? …. Should we sacrifice our first-born children?” (Micah 6:6-7, NLT).
This syndrome was rampant amongst the ancient Canaanite tribes. Seeking the favor of their gods, they tied their first-born sons to altars as sacrifices and offered their virgin daughters to fiery volcanoes. What an incentive to let go of chastity! I wondered if Abraham thought it was business-as-usual when Our Pappa asked him to offer up Isaac?
I was ignorant of the beautiful freedom our Lord Jesus gave me by being the only mediator between my Pappa and me. As I allowed the Holy Spirit of love to draw me closer and closer into our Father’s love and the resurrected life of our Lord Jesus, I was again able to recapture the holiness of childlike faith. I could once again hear our Lord’s invitation to just come to Him to experience His rest. (Mark 10:14). Just like little Lea, I ran up to my Pappa and hurried into His Loving Embrace. I told Him of all my brokeness, weaknesses, frustrations, hopes, fears and dreams without feeling that I was a nuisance. I started to experience the truth of our Lord’s words, “You have taught children and infants” (Psalm 8:2) and shared in His delight, “Oh Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.” (Matthew 11:25).
One of my favorite authors, A W Tozer, once remarked with divine wisdom, “An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others”. So true!
Dear Ones, your Pappa does not look at the limitations this illness forces on you, He looks at your childlike heart reaching out to Him through all your pain and exhaustion. He looks at your childlike faith that implicitly trusts His promise of love to be close to the suffering, listening to your cries for help. (Psalm 22:24).
The world might abandon their weak, but not our Pappa, for He has a special place in His heart for all the spiritually, emotionally and physically broken ones! May our Pappa bless you and keep you this week as you share your life with Him, knowing that you bring joy to His heart by just being the broken, beautiful you He loves. Allow Him to carry you as He wraps you close to His heart in His Loving Embrace.
I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and a bridle to keep it under control. (Psalm 32:8-9, NLT)
The last few weeks this Scripture has been repeating like a refrain in my mind and I was quite puzzled and uncertain about the reason my thoughts kept wandering back to Psalm 32. My heart quietly, without words, asked our Heavenly Father the reason for my predicament for I had a suspicion that I was being compared to a senseless horse or stubborn mule.
When I saw Amber’s invitation to write on An Abstraction on a Horse, I knew our Pappa was leading me to a painful, yet liberating revelation. The haphazard array of puzzle pieces in my mind started to fit perfectly as the scales, blinding my spiritual eyes, fell off. I could slowly but surely start to comprehend what our Pappa was trying to teach me.
For the past 8 years I have been suffering from Fm/ME and although I have come to a place of sweet acceptance and know our Lord will work His good through this illness as well, I have found it difficult to understand why our Pappa uses such a debilitating, chronic, painful illness to bring about His good. He knows how very sensitive I am to pain! But as always His thoughts and ways are definitely not mine!
Our Lord is very well acquainted with all my insecurities and shame-based self-esteem that causes me to gallop ahead like a frigthened, senseless horse, as fast as I can. During biblical times the horse was the fastest transportation available and I could relate to that. My whole life was consumed by my frantic galloping and racing, trying to outrun all the ghosts of my past: the feelings of guilt and condemnation for being so sinful and imperfect, my constant striving for approval and acceptance, etc. I was over-eager to convince my Pappa that with a lot of elbow grease and self-effort I could clean up my act and be worthy of His love.
I longed for His unconditional love, for His guidance and acceptance. I longed to walk with my God, but I was like a stubborn horse who lacked understanding. The jockey riding this horse was a very nasty fellow called Fear. He had a comfortable ride while I had to plow my way through the swamp of depression and despondency. I felt totally defeated as I was wallowing in the mud and mire of rejection and hopelessness. Mr Fear was a cruel man showing no mercy or kindness. Then that sweet day arrived when our God stopped this horse in its tracks with such velocity that Mr Fear flew off my back forever.
Our Pappa knew of my desperate plight and rescued me from this despicable man by allowing this illness to enter my life. It was the bit and bridle He used to lead this stubborn horse out of the marshland of despair into the beautiful meadow of His love and acceptance. Old habits die hard and I need to allow our Lord to keep a tight reign on the bridle of my life.
I am so grateful that He has, in His divine wisdom, allowed this illness to teach this galloping horse His ways and paths. Living with the constant pain and exhaustion that accompany Fm/ME is not easy, but is has taught me, like Paul had to learn, that His grace is always sufficient.
In conclusion, this is one horse that needs the firm Hand to lead it!
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.