mountaintops

On this Tuesday night that seems a little darker than usual, a Sunday School teacher's words during a lesson 3 years ago suddenly come to mind: "Times of spiritual highs are also times when we are in the greatest danger — of falling." The message on Deuteronomy 9:1-17 delivered at the close of our prayer meeting tonight was short, simple and sharp, and it essentially conveyed the same message: great spiritual adventures are followed by great spiritual tests.

In Deuteronomy 9, Moses reminds the Israelites about His encounter with God up on Mount Sinai, which was a mountaintop experience in all senses – Can you imagine being up on a grand mountain in the holy presence of the great God of heaven for forty days and nights? Can you imagine having that sort of experience with a God whom no man has seen before, and having that experience alone; all for and by yourself? God even promised Him that Israel would have victory in their impending battle with the Anakites. How much more awesome, how much more real, and how much more powerful God must've been to Moses on that mountain!

At the end of the forty days and nights, God gave Moses "two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God"; tablets of the covenant that included God's commandments for His people. I can relate so much to this: my greatest spiritual lessons have always come together with the Word of God. Sometimes He wraps up the lesson with a phrase or a verse. Sometimes it is even an entire chapter. However, as the story goes, God immediately followed up the giving of the Word with a reality check for Moses; a test. "Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made an idol for themselves. I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they."

What was Moses supposed to do? He who had just freshly experienced a "spiritual high" was immediately confronted with the contrasting, dismal waywardness of the people under his leadership. A spiritual high over forty days and nights, crashing down to the darkest valleys of disappointment at his people in a mere matter of seconds. One could wonder if Moses' throwing and breaking of the stone tablets were acute reflections of a somewhat crushed spirit. 😢

Tonight's message was for me. The past three months have been a wonderful time of experiencing the goodness, mercy, and power of the Lord personally. How awesome, how real, how powerful! Never have I been closer. I, however, did often wonder and worry whether all these lessons and experiences would have to be put to good use someday. Would I be tested, like Moses?

Something is coming, and I am afraid.

Tonight's message seemed to be a validation of sorts that I will be tested in the future near or far, and that shook me to the core. I'm not exaggerating when I say that a chill went down my spine when Kenneth's slides flashed the words "We have to realise that the test will definitely come and in all forms and sizes." For the Israelites, You sent the giant Anakites; what will You test me with, Lord?😕

In that moment, I suddenly became afraid of walking too close to the Lord. It just seemed a bit too dangerous.

But isn't this the biggest irony? When one is walking so close to the Lord, it should be as Dr. Warren Wiersbe writes, "…the future is your friend, and you don't have to be afraid."

We ought to be less afraid of everything and anything that is to come, and more secure in the Lord who knows it all. So I took a good, hard look at my own fear, and here's what the Lord helped me to see:

It was a fear of the magnitude of the test, rather than a concern with the quality of my response.

Would it be a broken leg? Would He take away someone I love dearly? Would it be a debilitating sickness? I was sick with worry about what the test would be, and I was strangely and pessimistically certain that it would be HUGE. Too much for me to bear. I didn't seem to be worried about tests that I thought to be smaller – losing some cash, doing badly on an examination, getting ridiculed by others… Was I confident that I would emerge from these more faithful and strong? I am suddenly reminded of how I almost lost my student card earlier this year, and how that incident thoroughly exposed the lack of faith in my response.

The truth is, the enormity of our trials does not really matter when we have an infinitely great God who says, "Is anything too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27) and means it more as a statement than a question. What does matter, however, is our response. Do we blame or resent Him? How about our responses as overcomers? When we overcome a small trial by the grace and help of our God, do we respond with the same kind of praise and thanksgiving, as we would with the overcoming of a large one? It is often the smaller victories that I find myself struggling to give Him the due praise for. If I can focus and resolve to respond with great praise regardless of the test, perhaps I would have less energy and cause for worry. Fear would be transformed to focus!🤗

But at the heart of it all, I think my fear really exposes my faithlessness in God's promises and in His very nature. Did I not believe His words through the Apostle Paul, that "no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man", that "God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13)? How about David, who testified to the compassionate nature of our God, "As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:13-14)?

He knows. He knows. He knows.

Whereas I find that I don't know: my fear shows that I don't actually know the all-wise, all-loving nature of our God for myself. I know it only in theory ("because the Bible tells me so"), but I haven't made it my reality. Sure, He promises some tests for us, but the Christian who has no doubt about the loving wisdom the Lord would worry a whole lot less. He would rejoice! He would think of the words in 1 Peter 1:6-7, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Less of grief, more of praise and glory and honour to Jesus. ✨

Our tests reveal our faith and what we believe about God. Genuity is at stake. Perhaps God gives us mountaintop experiences so that we may cling onto them for hope when the tests prove difficult. And more than just hope – He uses the lessons up on the mountains to sharpen our responses to the tests. So how did Moses fare on his test? As I read on, Moses wrote that "once again [he] fell prostrate before the Lord for forty days and forty nights" (v.18) and "prayed to the Lord" (v.26). "Once again"! In the forty days and nights of spiritual highs before the test, Moses had probably fallen prostrate before the Lord too, a natural reaction to His holiness. It was natural for Moses to do it again when He went back up the mountain after seeing the Israelites' idolatrous ways. We see here, how the Lord was grieved and angered by the Israelites' idolatry far more than Moses was, but how He also used it to train Moses' response and to make the lesson He had for the Israelites stick: that victory would not be on account of their righteousness, but on account of the faithfulness of the Lord to keep His promises to their forefathers. It was a test for Moses, and he responded in the manner that his previous mountaintop experience had taught him well to do. 👍🏻

A test is coming for sure, Jud - instead of being fearful, do you think you could remember that it isn't out to break you, but that it is intended to build you? Do you think you could think of it as the best time to be a testimony for Christ; do you believe that it could result in the "praise and glory and honour" that He has already promised?

Remember the glory He has shown you at your mountaintops, and you can! 😊✨

 

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the spoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in the darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the center of the silent Word.

Thomas Steams Eliot
Ash Wednesday

sake

Greek:/ ὑπέρ; hyper
1. in behalf of, for the sake of
2. over, beyond, more than
3. more, beyond, over

Merriam Webster English Dictionary:/
1. end, purpose
2. the good, advantage, or enhancement of some entity

Jet-lagging, midnight thoughts: I’ve always believed that language is perspective, which makes it a gift from God – given to help us see and understand things of the spiritual realm in different lights, in different dimensions. The different meanings of the word “sake” that I learnt today made good material for devotion! New discoveries based on old, familiar verses, to keep His love ever new, ever real to me.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

It is a word that tells us a lot: it is an exception, a distance gone for someone special, over and beyond what one is supposed to do. It is pardon… it is grace 🙂

He went to the cross not just on our behalf, but also in our behalf.

  • on behalf of: representing someone
  • in behalf of: for the benefit of, to help someone

The cross was for our sake, in that it is what we deserve (“on behalf of”) and what we do not deserve (“in behalf of”).

I think in all senses, and all means of understanding it, the word “sake” perfectly embodies the spirit of all that Jesus has done for us…

“And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
John 17:19

… and the word perfectly embodies too, the spirit of all that we ought to do for Him – in rightful return 👍🏻

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:10

We go through all that we are meant to go through, in order to represent Him on this earth and for the benefit His kingdom✨👑

We do it only for One, only for His sake, but He did it for our sakes – everyone, all of us – all of our sakes. How selfless and full a love! ☺️

go in faith

in the blink of an eye, it is now time to return; can’t believe I didn’t want to go on this trip at first, but ahhh the things God does for us when we give to Him a faith as small as a mustard seed 😊 a journey committed into God’s hands in faith is a journey we would expect to be a spiritual adventure…

Sunday, 10 July 2017
Changi Airport, Singapore

This trip is happening.

I don’t really want to go, because I don’t want what I have to return to.

I don’t really want to go, because of the hundred and one reservations that come with it.

I don’t really want to go, but I am going.

Perhaps I do want to go, but I just don’t know it.

In any case, this trip is happening because the Lord has allowed it to, despite the hundred and one things that could have stopped it.

So! We go in faith 👍🏻😌


... and a wonderful, wonderful spiritual adventure it was indeed ☺️💖

l’essentiel

Monday, 7 August 2017
Lille, France

“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple:
On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince

the past few weeks have seen a sort of exasperation and helplessness of sorts. the loneliest feeling in the world is probably sitting in a theatre with a cheering, roaring audience, but being unable to bring yourself to do the same because you believe in something, Someone else.

how can I help you understand, that it’s not the present but eternity that counts?

how can I let you see, that I’m not insane, that I’m not making all these up in my mind?

how do I show you, that He who is invisible is real?

how do I show you, that you need Him too?

how do I tell you the truth gently and clearly, but without sugar coating it too?

“Here is my secret. It is very simple:
One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Lord; start with me.

Help me make the invisible essential to my life, and help me make the invisible visible through my life.

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:12

beau Amour

[french]:/ beautiful Love

Sunday, 6 August 2017
Lille, France

beaming in bed, thinking about how many wonderful things sprouted from a little conversation at Palais des Beaux-Art this afternoon, when the first of many paintings of the crucifixion flashed before our eyes.

“who are these two people standing beneath the cross?”

my gaze shifts from the crown of thorns, to find two other mini pairs of eyes that had their gazes fixed on the same cross too.

“oh, I think it’s Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his disciple, John. Jesus entrusted Mary into John’s care just before He breathed His final breath.”

*shudders* “pretty sick.”

“what is?”

“that people would want to crucify other people. i’ve read about it…”

we spin into the sciences of the death: on ventilation, on spinal support…

“…pulmonary edema, and cardiovascular collapse.”

“yeap you’re right, that explains the water and the blood,” I gestured to another picture of the soldiers piercing Jesus’ side. “His legs were not broken, though, unlike the other criminals,” I gestured at yet another picture, “a special case. just as it was written in the Bible many, many years before He came.” (at this point, i was already amazed at how much of the gospel could be shared in a single museum visit).

“it’s a terrible way to die,”

“it really is. *sigh* one of the worst ways across all of human history.”

“did He know it was going to be like this before He came from heaven?”

“yeap, He did. He’s God; He knows everything! but He chose this way. He knew it, and He still chose it. *sigh* it must be love…”

“mmm, must be quite some love.”

many, many beautiful things are happening here, beyond what i can see and beyond what i used to think i did see. i too, like John, took my stand beneath the cross of Jesus today and saw something very, very different – the great wonder of His dying act of the cross, and how a precious soul of faith could be standing just right by my side.

use me, use me, use me, Lord;
i am willing, i am willing, i am willing 😊✨

all means all

Monday, 31 July 2017
London, United Kingdom

sweaty palms, from gripping the brown paper bag that held my chocolate croissant breakfast a little too tightly, as I hurried to school this morning.

sweaty realisations that perhaps, I may be gripping onto some other things in life a little too tightly as well.

“Lord, how do I love less of something that I love so much?”


“…You shall love Me, the LORD your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,”

because

The LORD is your God, the LORD alone.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

there really isn’t room left for much if all of me is occupied by Him, and if all I speak, do, see, and write is all about Him!

“all means all,” as Amy Carmichael’s words suddenly remind me this evening.

yep, all must mean all, and not even a teeny bit less 🙂

witnesses

Sunday, 30 July 2017
London, United Kingdom

Weaving bits of some of my favourite hymns that I’d re-learnt and newly learnt at Bermondsey Gospel Hall over these two weeks. Thank you for sharing with me the simplicity of a fellowship so grounded in the unfathomable love we have all received. 💖

the golden sunshine, vernal air,
sweet flowers and fruit, Thy love declare;


she joins all nature in manifold witness,
to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love;


to Thou who givest all,
upon us all 😊✨

“I have seen patients dying in hospitals. It’s not like in the TV shows or in the movies… in the movies, couples who have fought for years, in the face of danger, suddenly forget their differences and come together. Life doesn’t work that way, however.
 
When a couple meets a crisis, the result is a caricature of what’s already there in their relationship. We happened to deeply love each other and had open communication. Therefore the crisis drove us to each other. We were unified and trusted each other. Feelings of blame and anger did not creep in. The crisis of Claudia’s illness merely brought to the surface and magnified feelings already present.
 
John Claxton