Sunday, September 28, 2008

Trained Faith

I just made another entry on our main blog page:
I'll post it here:

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! – Psalm 141:2

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of waterthat yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
- Psalm 1:1-3

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. - Psalm 145:18

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
- Psalm 143:8

We are a very distracted generation.
Let us be honest about ourselves. We do not seek our Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. There is nothing in us that desires daily, sweet communion with our great Lover. We would rather be texting, watching TV, hanging with friends, spending time on the internet writing friends or researching, sleeping, eating, and the list can go on. We are very technology-oriented generation and while it is a great blessing, we have greatly misused it for our own self-interests. In fact, we misuse everything for our self-interest and comfort. Time is at the top of that list. Our lives are a vapor and we would rather spend the time so graciously given to us by having temporary fun or being idle. Jesus is not a priority to us. We need to stop pretending like He is.
When was the last time you earnestly cried with the Psalmist, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!”? Or, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”?

He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day. - John Bunyan

In the words of Leslie Ludy, “when prayer is missing from our lives, we spend countless time and energy trying to make our lives work, constantly failing and beating our heads against the wall in frustration. But as it says in Psalm 1, when we meditate upon our Lord day and night, we become like a tree that brings forth much fruit - and everything that we do just works. Our time is multiplied. Our effectiveness is multiplied. Our energy is multiplied. Life becomes fruitful instead of frustrating.
When our spiritual lives are thriving, when praying is the foundation of our existence, every other area of our lives begins to thrive as a result. Not only will we have victory in personal lives, we will be strong in order to pour out on behalf of others…” (Set-Apart Femininity)

When we are not seeking God earnestly, crying out from the depths of our heart, and pouring ourselves before Him, we can only expect to live an empty existence. Yes, when we’ve accepted Christ into our hearts the Holy Spirit has sealed us and we are assured of eternal life in Christ. But are we happy with just that? Is that all? Are we really content with living an empty, constantly-striving but fruitless existence on earth?
No. We are called to live by a much higher standard. It is the standard that Jesus Himself lived by every day of His life here on earth. He was in constant communion with the Father. He was sought after by many people, some wanted to kill him and some desired Him. He was a busy man with an ever-growing ministry. His attention was always seemingly “distracted.” But was it really?

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. – Mark 1:35

And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. – Mark 6:46

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed… – Matt 26:39

Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed… - Matt 26:42

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. – Luke 6:12

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” – Luke 11:1

And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping…- Luke 22:45

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. – Heb 5:7

Jesus built his life in sweet unity with his Father. Not for an instant was he ever away from God. God was in His Son, manifesting Himself to the world and giving us a pure and supreme example to live by! This is wonderful news! And we know that our bodies are a temple of God, a dwelling of the Most High, instruments of His righteousness! We are most certainly not alone. We can live by the standard Jesus himself lived by because the same Spirit dwelling within Him is now imparted unto us. It is what the early church was built on…

“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” – Acts 14:23

And it is a continual exhortation in the letters….

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” – Romans 12:12

“….pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:16

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” – Col 4:2

“…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…” - Eph 6:18

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Phil 4:5 – 7

There is something deep and profound in this type of continually poured-out living. It is a complete denial of ourselves and a yielding to Christ every day of our lives. This is not about when we feel or think we need to do it. Never, ever allow yourself to listen to your flesh when it gives reasons (that seem valid at the time) as to why you should be doing anything or being anywhere else than on your knees and calling upon the Lord. We hear the phrase and are exhorted to be “prayer-warriors,” but rarely do we actually consider it. It’s not a special calling, it’s a life – and once you are in Christ, you are His alone and belong to nothing and no one else. He is your life. Therefore, devote yourself wholly onto Him.
This is where we begin to understand the higher calling of a trained faith.

Trained faith is a triumphant gladness in having nothing but God – no rest, no foothold – nothing but Himself – A triumphant gladness in swinging out into that abyss, rejoicing in a very fresh emergency that is going to prove Him true – The Lord Alone – that is trained faith. – Lilias Trotter.

The Word speaks of this trained faith…
Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. – 1 Tim 4:7 - 10

We are called out of an immature, shallow basic belief in Christ and into a full-fledged leaning, clinging, living, crying, praying, speaking, walking, thinking, and feeling life in our dear Saviour! He calls us to “grow up” into Him. This means of a total abandonment of ourselves in every single area of our life, whether it’s struggles, desires, responsibilities, inward or outward…it belongs to Him because we belong to Him.
This “trained faith” was fully manifested in the life of Lilias Trotter, a women that, unfortunately, not many have heard of. She was an artist (painter) and a missionary to the Muslims of Algeria in the late 1800s. Now, here was a women fully taken up by the wonders of her Lord and she threw herself onto Him in complete devotion. These excerpts from her biography (A Passion for the Impossible by Miriam Huffman Rockness), which I highly recommend, describes her faith that kept her thriving despite severe spiritual and physical oppositions in a foreign world:

It was a trained faith that kept Lilias focused on the task and not the results or the uncertain future. It was trained faith that allowed her liberty of movement even when all the obvious avenues were blocked. And it was trained faith that would enable her to survive the arid stretch ahead.

The walk of faith that she proposed required a fellowship with the Father as current as breathing. This was no vague, mystical “communion” wrought of some secret formula. Quite simply, Lilias put the highest priority on spending time completely alone with God, studying His Word with an open heart and receptive to His voice – an activity requiring utmost commitment from her, given the many demands on her time. Just as she had found, in the early years, a quiet spot in a nearby woods, later she made sure a place of prayer was prepared in a rooftop room, “so beautifully out of the way of all the sounds of the house.” It was called the melja, Arabic for “Refuge,” and no one was to be disturbed there. Even within her summer breaks, rich with family and friends, she actively pursued “two weeks alone with God,” considering them essential to her soul.
“As an eagle…fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings – so the Lord alone did lead him.” Fluttereth over – the early stages of faith are reaching upward, like the eaglets for their food when the motherbird is overheard… it is an older faith that learns to swing out into nothingness and drop down full weight on God – the broken up nest of former “experiences” left behind – nothing between us and the abyss but Himself – a rejoicing in every fresh emergency that is going to prove Him true – the Lord alone – that is trained fath. (9 September 1902).

Prayer had always been an essential spiritual discipline for Lilias. She was convinced the band could not survive the hostile atmosphere, much less succeed in their mission, without the divine guiding and empowering that comes from intimate fellowship with God. Just as she had found this fellowship, during the early years in Algiers in Fortification Woods and, later, in the rooftop room at Rue du Crossiant, now, at Dar Naama, her bedroom became her place of prayer.
Listening humbly to the experience of others and searching the Scripture for further insight into the process of prayer, Lilias continued to explore the mysteries of faith.
The text from one of her favorite hymns, “May the mind of Christ, my Savior, live in me from day to day,” was her heart prayer:
It has come these days with a new light and power, that the first thing we have to see to, as we draw near to God day by day, is that “our fellowship is with the Father & with His Song Jesus Christ.” If we can listen in stillness, till our souls begin to vibrate to the thing He is thinking & feeling about the matter in question, whether it concerns ourselves or others, we can from that moment begin praying downwards from His throne, instead of praying upwards toward Him. (21 March 1926)
Lilias was ever encouraging others to pray.

Here is a sister that we should be greatly encouraged by. If I were to cover the many, many details of her life and ministry it would blow your mind even more. I thank the Lord for sisters like her!
Starting now, let us begin to strive to “live in a manner worthy of our calling” and allow Christ to enable us to live by this high standard. Let us begin our days in prayer. Let us clothe ourselves in His Spirit and walk in it throughout the day. Let us end our days intimately woven in the Word of our Jesus.

Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage that never fails. - E.M. Bounds

Make no mistake; it is a hard and painful life. Our friends and family may not understand and we will be perceived as being too serious about this “Christ-business”. Many may see this life as too extreme. In addition, our flesh will rage at the first recognition of this change of lifestyle. The second we shut our hearts and minds off from distractions and temptations and call to Christ to light up our temple, we are guaranteed that a great battle will begin with us. But the more we deny ourselves and the longer and harder we cling to Christ and His Word, the easier and more beautiful this discipline of a trained faith will become. We are more than conquerers in Christ!!

There is no power like that of prevailing prayer - of Abraham pleading for Sodom, Jacob wrestling in the stillness of the night, Moses standing in the breach, Hannah intoxicated with sorrow, David heartbroken with remorse and grief, Jesus in sweat of blood. Such prayer prevails. It turns ordinary mortals into men of power. It brings power. It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God. - Samuel Chadwick

Best definition of pray I know? Cry. – Charles Spurgeon

Hold fast to the Author and Perfecter of our faith!
In Him we stand!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Love Consists of Dying, Part 2

This is the second part to my recent blog post from my and my sister's main blogsite. Feel free to leave any comments on the main blog:

The fear of deprivation is “consuming my life,” says one letter (written to Elisabeth Elliot). The author sees marriage as a carrot on a stick that a sardonic God is dangling in her face. “I sit alone on a hill, separated from life as I would like it. Illusions visit and trick my heart and wound it time and time again. I get angry with God. I blame Him.” (excerpt from Quest for Love: True Stories of Passion and Purity)

Life often feels like the winter season to us in these matters. We writhe with passion for these desires of ours. Reading the Bible and praying to our Father offers no peace for us. We are restless. At first, we thought it was possible to relinquish these desires to Him, but the longer the pain continues the more hopeless we become. Like the author mentioned above, we come to the conclusion that the mess inside us is God’s fault. We have all blamed Him at some point of our lives about these matters of the heart…these desires for a blissful union in a beautiful marriage.
It is so easy to be consumed by desires to be held and loved by the bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. It is not a passion that we give up so easily. This is exactly why these desires belong in His hands and not ours.

“The surrender of the heart’s deepest longing is perhaps as close as we come to an understanding of the Cross. This trial of our faith is crucial, a word that derives from the Latin crux, cross. Our own experience of crucifixion, though immeasurably lesser than our Savior’s, nonetheless furnishes us with a chance to begin to know Him in the fellowship of His suffering. In every form of our own sufferings, He calls us to that fellowship. Ought we not to be thankful, then, for that?
“Did you really wrestle with God?” a girl wrote to me. “I mean, roll-around-on-the- ground- wrestle over these issues? I desperately desire the Lord to lead a man of godly character to pursue me, rather than vice versa. My trial is what to do about how I feel. I have prayed and prayed for an answer about him. Even after a day of fasting the only answer I got was keep waiting.”
Yes. I know. I wrestled. With a pang I still recall that early morning in Ecuador in 1952 – it was not yet light – when Jim Elliot left Quito for the eastern jungle. In love for more than four years, we were still not engaged. We were not committed to anything except the will of God. We had no answer but keep waiting. Would I see him again? Would we ever marry? I cried so bitterly my landlady heard me and rushed to my room.
Janet Erskine Stuart wrote: It is good that we should have to submit to what we do not understand. It teaches us the laws of faith and hope. It is good that we should have to do what we should rather not, in circumstances not of our choice. It is good that there should be always something to prick us on, something to remind us that we are in an enemy’s country, belong to a marching column. It is good that we should meet with checks and failures in what we undertake, to keep us humble and prayerful. All these things belong to sowing in tears.
God seems to have laid out the order of things in His Church, not for a general and brilliant triumph but for the hidden sanctification of the individual souls which compose it. (Prayer in Faith)” - Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth Elliot encourages us with profound wisdom…

“A good and perfect gift, these natural desires. But so much the more necessary that they be restrained, controlled, corrected, even crucified, that they might be reborn in power and purity for God.
Those who long for the gift of marriage can find great peace in the words of Psalm 16:5, receiving one day at a time the divinely apportioned gift of singleness, believing that our Heavenly Father’s love will withhold nothing that is good for us.
It should not be forgotten that a lifetime of singleness may be His choice for us. Will we still love Him, trust Him, and praise Him?”

It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desire which He creates. – Amy Carmichael

Does this seem strange?
“Does it stretch to the breaking point an early twenty-first century credulity? If it does, perhaps it is because there is an idea of honor here that has largely been lost. Honor is fidelity to a system of fixed values and relations. Is there anything today, even in the imagination of the Christian, for which we are willing to pay the price of self-sacrifice? Any idea left, any clear-cut goal, any control of passion?”

“We talked…”about the “codes” each of us had built, Jim on Matt 19:12. Jim put himself in the last category. He was prepared to renounce marriage if that was necessary in his case in order to obey God. As far as he knew, he was able to accept that, at least for now. My code came from Isaiah 54:5 and 1 Cor 7:34, 35.
No Christian ought to put himself outside the possibility that this is his assignment. The claims must be considered.”
- Elisabeth Elliot

This is a hard saying and a hard life. Nevertheless, it is an absolute truth. As Christians we must consider this possibility. Who are we to think we are outside this possibility? Who are we to reject the very life that Christ himself was called to?

Material for Sacrifice

“God gives us material for sacrifice. Sometimes the sacrifice makes little sense to others, but when offered to Him is always accepted. What was the “point” in God’s asking Abraham for the sacrifice of his beloved son, Isaac? The story has often been attacked as”pagan” and has been grossly misunderstood. Our offerings to Him may very likely be seen as senseless and fanatical, but He receives them. Jesus received the precious ointment from the worshipping woman, although those present thought it a foolish waste. It is lesson I understood very dimly in 1948, but it has become clearer and clearer the further I go with God. I have tried to explain it sometimes to people who are lonely and longing for love. “Give it to Jesus,” I say. The loneliness itself is material for sacrifice. The very longings themselves can be offered to Him who understands perfectly. The transformation into something He can use for the good of others takes place only when the offering is put into His hands.
What will He do with these offerings? Never mind. He knows what to do.”

“If the yearnings went away, what would we have to offer up to the Lord? Aren’t they given to us to offer? It is the control of passion, not its eradication, that is needed. How would we learn to submit to the authority of Christ if we had nothing to submit?”

“Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.”
Taken in the right spirit. These are the operative words. ….The effect of my troubles depends not on the nature of the troubles themselves but on how I receive them. I can receive them with both hands in faith and acceptance, or I can rebel and reject.”

– Elisabeth Elliot

Wrestling With Feelings and Loneliness

It is easy to become frustrated with having to live with these feelings and desires that only increase our loneliness, desperation, and longing. Sometimes, we ignore them. Other times, we fight them too much.

“Do not debunk feelings as such, Remember they are given to us as part of our humanity. Do not try to fortify yourself against emotions. Recognize them; name them, if that helps; and then lay them open before the Lord for His training of your responses. The discipline of emotions is the training of responses.”
“As we give ourselves to His rule He gives us grace to rule.”

“Let’s be candid with ourselves before God. Call a spade a spade or even a muddy shovel. If your passions are aroused, say so – to yourself and to God, not to the object of your passion. Then turn the reins over to God. Bring your will to Him. Will to obey Him, ask for His help. He will not do the obeying for you, but He will help you. Don’t ask me how. He knows how. You’ll see.”

“What to do With Loneliness:
Be still and know that He is God. When you are lonely, too much stillness is exactly the thing that seems to be laying waste your soul. Use that stillness to quiet your heart before God. Get to know Him. If He is God, He is still in charge.
Remember that you are not alone. “The Lord, He it is that doth go with thee. He will not fail thee neither forsake thee. Be strong and of good courage.” (Duet. 31:8) Jesus promised His disciples, “Lo, I am with you always.” (Matt 28:20) Never mind if you cannot feel His presence. He is there, never for one moment forgetting you.
Give thanks. In times of my greatest loneliness I have been lifted up by the promise of 2 Cor 4:17, 18, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” This is something to thank God for. This loneliness itself, which seems a weight, will be far outweighed by glory.
Refuse self-pity. Refuse it absolutely. It is a deadly thing with power to destroy you. Turn your thoughts to Christ who has already carried your griefs and sorrows.
Accept your loneliness. It is one stage, and only one stage, on a journey that brings you to God. It will not always last.
Offer up your loneliness to God, as the little boy offered to Jesus his five loaves and two fishes. God can transform it for the good of others.
Do something for somebody else. No matter who or where you are, there is something you can do, somebody who needs you. Pray that you may be an instrument of God’s peace, that where there is loneliness you may bring joy.”

“Waiting silently is the hardest thing of all. I was dying to talk to Jim and about Jim. But the things that we feel most deeply we ought to learn to be silent about, at least until we have talked them over thoroughly with God.”

( – Elisabeth Elliot)

Hungering for Something More

“That “dragging on the soul,” that stretched-out agony of longing – what are these but the sharp showers, hot sweats, wet feet of which that old saint Rutherford wrote so often? His letters are full of them. There has never been any other route to glory. From the earliest stories of Israel to the story of His Son’s journey as a man on earth, God has been bringing men always through much tribulation. There is no strawberry shortcut.
Was it necessary for God to test the fiber of His children for forty years in the wilderness? Wouldn’t forty days have been enough? The process must go on…and on…and on.
Through affairs of the heart God uncovers our true intentions: “…whether or not it was in your heart to keep his commandments. He humbled you and made you hungry; then he fed you on manna….”
But it was not manna the people wanted. It was leeks and onions and garlic. It was meat and bread, whine and oil – ordinary food.
So it is with us. We’re created men and women. If Adam needed Eve and she was made for him, isn’t it natural, then, isn’t it altogether fitting and proper, that men and women should hunger for each other?
It is natural indeed. However, it’s not the only thing God has in mind for us. We are not meant to live merely by what is natural. We need to learn to live by the supernatural. Ordinary fare will not fill the emptiness in our hearts. Bread will not suffice. We need extraordinary fare. We need manna. How else will we learn to eat it, if we are never hungry? How will we educate our tastes for heavenly things if we are surfeited with earthly? Sex simply will not suffice any more than bread will. My heart was saying, “Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.” The Lord was answering, “I must teach you to long for something better.”
“…He fed you on manna which neither you nor your fathers had known before, to teach you that man cannot live on bread alone but lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” – Elisabeth Elliot

S.D. Gordon, in his Quiet Talks on Prayer, describes waiting. It means:
Steadfastness, that is holding on;
Patience, that is holding back;
Expectancy, that is holding the face up;
Obedience, that is holding one’s self in readiness to go or do;
Listening, that is holding quiet and still so as to hear.

How long, Lord, must I wait?
Never mind, child. Trust me.
(Elisabeth Elliot)

Does God Want Everything?
(a chapter from Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion & Purity)

God sifted men’s hearts in the Old Testament times.
“God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” – Gen 22: 1-2
God was still sifting hearts in the New Testament times:
“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. – Matt 19:16 - 22

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. – Phil. 3:8

Great spiritual principles. Unarguable. To all of them, my intellect gave full consent. A giant of the faith like Abraham or Paul the apostle – of course they had to be tested with great tests. I was only a college girl, trying to do well in my studies, praying for direction for my life, attracted to a very appealing man whose primary interest was in the Kingdom of God. Anything wrong with that?
“If you wish to go the whole way…..” It was not to the intellect alone that the question came. My heart and my feelings were involved now, and I must give an answer. God was sifting me this time. Did I want to go the “whole way”? Yes, Lord.
“Do you want to be worthy of Me?” Yes, Lord.
“Do you want to know Christ Jesus as Lord?” Certainly, Lord.
In Lilias Trotter’s beautiful illustrated book, Parables of the Cross, she describes the death—life cycle of plants, which illustrates the spiritual processes that must go on in us if we are to die to self and live to God. In the love life, as well as in other areas:

The fair new petals must fall, and for no visible reason. No one seems enriched by the stripping.
And the first step into the realm of giving is a like surrender – not manward but Godward: an utter yielding of our best. So long as our idea of surrender is limited to the renouncing of unlawful things, we have never grasped its true meaning: that is not worthy of the name for “no polluted thing” can be offered.
The life lost on the Cross was not a sinful one – the treasure poured forth there was God-given, God-blessed treasure, lawful and right to be kept: only that there was the life of the world at stake.

What kind of a God is it who asks everything of us? The same God who “…did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all; and with this gift how can he fail to lavish upon us all he has to give?”
He gives all.
He asks all.

Until the will and the affection are brought under the authority of Christ, we have not begun to understand, let alone to accept, His Lordship, the Cross, as it enters the love life, will reveal the heart’s truth. My heart, I knew, would be forever a lonely hunter unless settled, “where true joys are to be found.”

His Commands Are His Enablings

Though my natural instinct is to wish for a life free from pain, trouble, and adversity, I am learning to welcome anything that makes me conscious of my need for Him. If prayer is birthed out of desperation, then anything that makes me desperate for God is a blessing. – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Through no fault or choice of my own, I am unable to express my sexuality in the beauty and intimacy of Christian marriage, as God intended when he created me a sexual being in his own image. To seek to do this outside of marriage is, by the clear teaching of Scripture, to sin against God and against my own nature. As a committed Christian, then, I have no alternative but to live a life of voluntary celibacy. I must be chaste not only in body, but in mind and spirit as well. Since I am now in my 60s I think that my experience of what this means is valid. I want to go on record as having proved that for those who are committed to God’s will, his commands are his enablings….My whole being cries out continually for something I may not have. My whole life must be lived in the context of this never-ceasing tension. My profession life, my social life, my personal life, my Christian life - all are subject to its constant and powerful pull. As a Christian I have no choice but to obey God, cost what it may. I must trust him to make it possible for me to honor him in my singleness. That this is possible, a mighty cloud of witnesses will join me to attest. Multitudes of single Christians in every age and circumstance have proved God’s sufficiency in this matter. He has promised to meet our needs and he honors his word. If we seek fulfillment in him, we shall find it. It may not be easy, but whoever said that Christian life was easy? The badge of Christ’s discipleship was a cross. Why must I live my life alone? I do not know. But Jesus Christ is Lord of my life. I believe in the sovereignty of God, and I accept my singleness from his hand. He could have ordered my life otherwise, but he has not chosen to do so. As his child, I must trust his love and wisdom. - Margaret Clarkson
When Christian was crossing the River at the close of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, his heart failed him for fear. He began to sink in the cold, dark waters. But Hopeful, his companion, helped him to stand, calling out, “Be of good cheer, my brother; I feel the bottom, and it is good.” Then Christian recovered his faith, and passed safely through the waters to the Celestial City. If there are singles who find the waters of singleness dark and deep, who feel, “I sink in deep waters; the billows go over my head; all his waves go over me,” this is my message to you concerning singleness: “Be of good cheer, my brother, my sister; I feel the bottom, and it is good.” - Margaret Clarkson

Jesus, if this is Your will,
then YES to being single.
In my deepest heart, I want to marry,
to belong to a great man;
to know that I am linked to his life…
and he to mine…
following Christ and our dreams together….
but You know what I need.
If I never marry, it is YES to you.
- Ann Kiemel Anderson

The Falling, the Darkness, the Dying

The beautiful colors of the leaf are only revealed in the fall season….when the leaf is dying. – Tim Doyle

It’s when one is living in the midst of those five years or whatever the span may be, that it is easy to read spiritual books as nothing more than spiritual books, with no relation to the hard realities we are trying to cope with. Yet the deep principle of life out of death, so wonderfully illuminated for me by Lilias Trotter in her Parables of the Cross, has everything to do with the hard realities. There was real comfort for me in the lessons shown at the top of the stadium by the rainbow, the cloud, the words about the corn of wheat, the sunset. God spoke peace into my emotional turmoil because I was asking for it and looking for it and being silent enough to hear it.
To those with ears to hear and eyes to see, there will be very great release from unbearable burdens in the language of autumn trees, for example, when they dress most gloriously in preparation for death. The red of the leaves is the sign of the cross. Winter follows, when snow closes everything in frozen silence. The three then are skeletons, but wonders are being performed under the surface of things. Spring comes, and the hidden wonders burst out all at once – tiny shoots, swelling buds, touches of green and red where all seemed hopeless the day before. Miss Trotter shows the yellow blossom of the gorse springing straight out of last year’s thorn. Plain lessons for us, if we’ll open our eyes.
If the leaves had not been let go to fall and whither, if the tree had not consented to be a skeleton for many months, there would be no new life rising, no bud, no flower, no fruit, no seed, no new generation. – Elisabeth Elliot

Psalm 78:8 – let us not find ourselves amongst the “generation with no firm purpose, with hearts not fixed steadfastly on God.“

The growth of all living green things wonderfully represents the process of receiving and relinquishing, gaining and losing, living and dying. The seed falls into the ground, dies as the new shoot springs up. There must be a splitting and a breaking in order for a bud to form. The bud “lets go” when the flower forms. The calyx lets go of the flower. The petals must curl up and die in order for the fruit to form. The fruit falls, splits, relinquishes the seed. The seed falls into the ground…
There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver meant it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul.
It is easy to make the mistake here. “If God gave it to mean,” we say, “it’s mine. I can do what I want with it.” No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of – if we want to find our true selves, if we want real Life, if our hearts are set on glory.
Think of the self that God has given as an acorn. It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of the oak tree. God’s intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is…”the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Many death must go into our reaching that measure, many letting goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the “loss” of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purposes in your life, the less terrible will the losses seem.

There must be relinquishment. There is no way around it. The seed does not “know” what will happen. It only knows what is happening – the falling, the darkness, the dying. That was how it felt to be separated as we were – as though we had been given no clues as to why this has to be. “The wanting itself is good,” Jim wrote, “it is right, even God granted, but now God denied, and He has not let know all the wisdom of the denial.”

The acorn does what it was made to do, without pestering its Maker with questions about when and how and why. We who have been given an intelligence and a will and a whole range of wants that can be set against the divine Pattern for God are asked to believe Him. We are given the chance to trust Him when He says…” if any man will let himself be lost for my sake, he will find his true self.”
(Elisabeth Elliot)

“Being in love,” wrote C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, “is a good thing, but it is not the best of things. There are many things below it, there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life.”

Oh how many things there are above it! If we would dare consider our Great Lover, the one who knitted us in the womb and breathed life (not just mere physical life, but eternal life) into our feeble hearts – we would most certainly find something worth hungering for! Blessed are they who find their hearts and rest in Christ alone.

Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living. – Jim Elliot

O how we are made to live!

Just a reminder that these past two blogs are aimed at every single Christian. Regardless of whether we ever marry or not, these are truths for us all to consider and live!
In Christ alone,

The quotations in this blogpost are from most of the books below. All are amazing and soaking in the Spirit of Christ.
Elliot, Elisabeth (Discipline: The Glad Surrender, Passion & Purity, Quest for Love)
Piper, John (What is the Difference? Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Loving Consists of Dying, Part 1

This is my recent blog on my main blogsite:

This is a continuation to my introduction blog post (titled, Single-heartedness), in which I stated the basic issue of young adults today, Christians and un-Christians-alike. That issue is the heart, or also the affections and the will. We are a generation that likes to grab at things and, to be brutally honest, we covet on a daily basis. This predictably leads to an impatient spirit that is found in almost every young adult today. Most often you’ll find couples who are “going steady.” It is very obvious that…”the couple are not ready for marriage or even for the public commitment that engagement ought to entail, but neither are they ready to leave each other in God’s hands, “in the sublime keeping of the general and unspecific belief that God is answering our prayers in His own time and way.” Each clutches at the other, fearful lest he “get away” (Elisabeth Elliot).

Before we even address anything about single-hood, marriage, or sex, we need to get to the core of this matter.

“Amazingly, of all sins, covetousness ranks high enough – or low enough – to be explicitly forbidden in the Ten Commandments: “You shall not covet” (Ex 20:17). There’s a good clue to its meaning in 1 Tim 6:5-6. It speaks of “people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.” The word “covetousness” isn’t used here but the reality is what this text is all about. When verse 5 says that some are treating godliness as a means of gain, Paul responds in verse 6 that “there is a great gain in godliness with contentment.” This gives us the key to the definition of covetousness.

Covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God.
The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God.

When contentment in God decreases, covetousness for gain increases. That’s why Paul says in Col 3:5 that covetousness is idolatry. “Put to death … what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. It’s idolatry because the contentment that the heat should be getting from God, it starts to get from something else.
So covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God or losing your contentment in God so that you start to seek it elsewhere.
Have you ever considered that the Ten Commandments begin and end with virtually the same commandment – “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3) and “You shall not covet” (Ex 20:17)? These are almost equivalent commands. Coveting is desiring anything other than God that betrays a loss of contentment and satisfaction in him. Covetousness is a heart divided between two gods. So Paul calls it idolatry.” (Piper 92, 93)

This is a hard Truth. This means that I sin more often than I thought. What a wretched realization of myself before God! But this ugliness in me (whether my longings are innocent or evil, it doesn’t matter – they both take my focus from Him) is what moves me to my Lord. This sinful nature should move us all closer to the Light when we see even a bit of a shadow over us. Let us move to Him, to learn to think and feel as our Lord thinks and feels.
But hold on second…you’re still thinking…
“If I don’t chase after romantic relationships, won’t I always be lonely and insecure? If I don’t pursue popularity won’t I become one of those strange social recluses who lives in the woods and has no friends? If I don’t build my life around success and achievements, what will become of my future?”
“Am I enough?” came the gentle challenge of my Prince, and His tender voice drowned out all the clamoring confusion in my mind. Jesus was, and would always be, much more than enough. He did not desire to destroy my life, to leave me as a desolate, lonely failure alone in the woods somewhere. He gently assured me that as I pursued Him and Him alone, all my other needs would be met. In the meantime, my only concern must be to worship Him with everything in me. – Leslie Ludy

If we imagine that happiness is to be found by furious pursuit, we will end up in a rage at the unsatisfying results. If, on the other hand, we set ourselves to pursue the wise and loving and holy will of our heavenly Father, we will find that happiness comes – quietly, in unexpected ways, and surprisingly often, as the by-product of sacrifice.
Desire for marriage deeply tests our understanding of the cross. The cross of Christ means sacrifice. He gave Himself. He asks us, who want to be disciples, first to relinquish our rights to ourselves, then to take up the cross, and follow (Luke 9:23). The cross in Roman times was an instrument of torture. Jesus took it up gladly – in obedience to His Father and for love of you and me. If He asks us to take up our cross daily, He is asking us to be willing to suffer. What else can the cross mean?
Except for those far ahead of most of us in sanctity, waiting is a form of suffering – the difficulty of self-restraint, the anguish of unfulfilled longing, the bewilderment of unanswered prayer, my flesh and my heart failing, my soul breaking. These are indeed tribulations, and tribulation is the curriculum if we are to learn patience. We want answers now, right now, but we are required at times to walk in darkness.
Nevertheless, God is in the darkness. – Elisabeth Elliot

“And yet even God-given desires can gain an unhealthy hold over our hearts and lives, such as the longing to finally experience a beautiful, God-written love story with one person for a lifetime. As precious as this dream is, it is all too easy to make this desire the focus of our lives. As a result, we miss out on experiencing the most beautiful love story of all time with our true Prince. The reality is that the only way to discover the true beauty of a God-written love story with another person on this earth is to delight in Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – to find our security and joy in Him alone. Rather than focus all our efforts on the pursuit of a human relationship, we must center our lives on the pursuit of intimacy with our true Prince. Only out of the intimacy with our heavenly Lover can the beauty of a God-written human love story be experienced.
To prepare the environment of our inner sanctuary for intimacies with our Prince, any other lovers – anything we devote a huge part of our time, emotion, energy, and affection to (good or bad) – must be ushered to the door and kicked out. That means anything that has an unhealthy hold over our hearts and compromises our ability to be completely devoted to Christ. Often these are the things that we derive most of our earthly confidence, security, and happiness from. They are the things we cling to most tightly, the things we can’t imagine giving up or living without.” – Leslie Ludy

-Thou art bound to arise

The first step is always the hardest and that involves taking our minds off ourselves and placing it on Him. We must grab hold of our feelings and thoughts and say to our flesh, “NO! Look up!”

It is not my business to think about myself. My business is to think about God. It is for God’s business to think about me. – Simone Weil

No sin is worse than the sin of self-pity, because it removes God from the throne of our lives, replacing Him with our own self interests. It causes us to open our mouths only to complain, and we simply become spiritual sponges – always absorbing, never giving and never being satisfied. And there is nothing lovely or generous about our lives. – Oswald Chambers

“You are thinking that controlling your imagination does not depend on yourself…but it depends very much on yourself! When you cut off all the restless and unprofitable thoughts that you can control, you will greatly reduce all those thoughts which are involuntary. God will guard your imagination if you do your part in not encouraging your wayward thoughts. – Francois Fenelon

Here s the battleground, and none more crucial, in the lives of young people, who determine to be holy. There is an “Ancient Foe who seeks to work (them) woe. His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal” (Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress”). Until Jesus Christ is Lord of the sex life He is not Lord of one’s life. Not only is every act meant to be subject to His holy will, but every thought must be brought into captivity to Christ. And this “captivity” turns out to be not bondage, not repression, not misery, but joy! – Elisabeth Elliot

The discipline of feelings – “Troubled soul, thou art not bound to feel, but thou art bound to arise,” wrote George MacDonald.
Daniel is an example for us, he was trouble, dismayed, seized with terror, yet he rose and attended to the king’s business. “The story of Daniel provides a strong lesson in the victor of a God-directed will over the natural emotions.”
No one whose first concern is feeling good can be a disciple. – Elisabeth Elliot

The man who has accepted the rule of the Spirit in his life will accept spiritual discipline. In accepting the discipline of his Master, he will willingly discipline himself. This is a sign of spiritual maturity, just as it is a sign of emotional maturity. Both parent and child must suffer in the process of child training, because punishment sometimes becomes a necessary part of that process. Therefore it is a great joy and a great release when the parent sees the child at last accepting responsibility and disciplining himself. He is beginning to mature. Our Father in heaven must be glad when His child learns to control himself and not to have to be held in with bit and bridle.
It is the will that must deal with the feelings. The will must triumph over them, but only the will that is surrendered to Christ can do this. – Elisabeth Elliot

- Yield Our Whole Selves

Come, brothers and sisters, let us remember…
“Christ’s priorities of what he wants for you are so different than your priorities, that if you don’t begin to get your mind saturated with Jesus’ way of thinking, then you won’t be able to make sense out of the pain in your life. You tend to get angrier and angrier - because your priorities are, “if he loved me then…..”and you provide a list of all your demands and its not his list, it’s not the way Jesus thinks, because what he values is hearts that are so enamored with him that that shines more clearly when everything we were leaning on is gone.” - John Piper

This is God’s universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in the world. – John Piper

“For, until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that nought is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; nay, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity.” – John Calvin

We should remind ourselves that it is “in these matters of the heart” that our own hearts are “sifted and scoured and exposed” and “the process of purifying” begins. – Elisabeth Elliot

“I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake love until it please.” (Song of Solomon 2:7) ….no one, man or woman, should be agitated about the choice of mate, but should be “asleep” as it were, in the will of God, until it should please Him to “awake” him.” – Elisabeth Elliot

There is another way: to love what God commands and desire what He promises. It can’t be found except through prayer and obedience. It cuts quite across the other way, takes us where things are not at the mercy of changing fashions and opinions. It is a place where a man’s heart may safely rest – and a woman’s heart, too. – Elisabeth Elliot

- A Holy Life Is A Whole Life

Today, there are many preconceived assumptions about single-hood that are not only wrong, but clearly and undeniably unbiblical. It’s look down upon and rejected. If Christians truly desire the ways and wisdom of the Lord, this is one of the first and crucial areas we must change our thinking and feeling in.
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.- 1 Cor 7: 32-35
“It (sexual personhood) does not first emerge in marriage. No one is ready for marriage who has not discovered in practical ways how to live out his mature masculinity or her mature femininity.
“…The point is this: singleness has been a noble and courageous path for ministry ever since Jesus and the Apostle Paul chose it “because of the kingdom of heaven.” It is no sign of weakness to want to be married. It is normal, and it is good. The courage comes when you sense God calling you to singleness (for this chapter of your life) and you accept the call with zeal and creative planning for His glory.
- John Piper

Chastity is rare, but it always possible. “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).
The “traditional” view has been handed down to us by no less an authority than God Himself, yet it is deeply disturbing to find that abstinence, chastity, virginity, sexual purity are seldom if ever the subjects of sermons in most churches today. It is often taken for granted that as free moral agents, we may choose whatever feels good or seems “right for us.” Sex is considered a basic need and becomes therefore a right that no one ought to be denied.
But God’s word is plain. “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thess 4:7).
A holy life is a whole life. The words whole and holy derive from the same root. The word use for passionate lust covers a wide range of sexual interactions.
The very struggle in which we find ourselves when sexual longings are unfulfilled is God’s call: Come to Me. I will give you rest. But we must take His yoke – a burden indeed, but a light one, He promises. It is much lighter than the yoke our self-will imposes. – Elisabeth Elliot
So let us live by this….
Set-apart life: It is a life fully given over to the control of God. A life that is not its own anymore, for it has been bought with a price – the price of Christ’s blood. It is a life consecrated, and literally, set-apart for the purposes, the Kingdom, and the glory of Jesus Christ alone. It no longer lives for itself, but for Him. The set-apart life is the most profound and beautiful life. It is a life enraptured in the pleasures and graces of heaven; a life enabled by the muscle of God to carry out the errands of the Most High on Earth; and a life intimately fused with the love, purity, power, joy, passion, and peace of the person of Christ. - Eric and Leslie Ludy

Let us be comforted…
Wait for the Lord; be strong, take courage and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14) >
Waiting is a season of preparing, particularly for singles (regardless if they marry or not). It a time to build up ourselves in the Lord. The Lord may give us what we desire and we have to be ready for it. Or, He may not and yet we are to be ready anyway. Be always ready for Him.

(Gal 5:22, 24 – 25) - Love always entails suffering. One who loves God is willing to wait. – Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth Elliot writes of an incidence where, at a seminar, she was given a piece of paper with the question… “What do you do when you feel you’ve come to a point that your singlehood appears to be an inadequate status for deep personal growth? How long do you hang on?” Elliot writes, “….Is that what singleness is? Does that mean that marriage and only marriage is an adequate status for deep personal growth? How ever did Jesus manage, then, as a single man?
I’m afraid the snake has been talking to that person. He’s been sneaking up and whispering, “God is stingy. He dangles that beautiful fruit called marriage before your eyes and won’t let you have it. He refuses you the only thing you need for deep personal growth, the only thing in all that world that would solve all your problems and make you really happy.” (Elliot)

- Little Deaths

But still, we feel the ache continually…

Is there a harder discipline than that of waiting, especially when one’s desire seem as wild and uncontrollable as a prairie fire? A bitter young woman wrote (to Elisabeth Elliot), “I am sick of waiting for God to get His act together. I feel hollow, empty, empty, empty, and disappointed in Him.”
Without real trust in who God is – trust in His never failing love and wisdom, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Is He a good God? Will He give what is best? If the answer is yes to both questions, it follows that He will withhold many things that look attractive to us. It is His mercy to withhold them. Shall we accuse Him of failure to get “His act” together or shall we echo the psalmist’s word, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27: 13 – 14).
His promise of guidance may be fully counted upon. Does it make sense to believe that the Shepherd would care less about getting His sheep where He wants them to go than they care about getting there? - Elisabeth Elliot

“When the will of God crosses the will of man,” Addison Leitch said, “somebody has to die.” Life requires countless “little” deaths – occasions when we are given the chance to say no to self and yes to God. The Apostle Paul said, “For continually, while still alive, we are being surrendered into the hands of death, for Jesus’ sake…” It is not that everything that has anything to do with ourselves is in itself wicked and deserving of death. It did not mean that when Jesus said, “Not my will…” There could not have been even the smallest part of His will that was wicked. It was a choice to lay down everything – the good He had done and the good He might do if He was permitted to live – for the love of God.
….little deaths have to be died just as great ones do. Every reminder that aroused a longing had to be offered up.
There is a big however. It is this: We are not meant to die merely in order to be dead. God could not want that for the creatures to whom He has given the breath of life. We die in order to live.
A seed falls into the dark earth and dies. Out of its death comes multiplied life. As Saint Francis prayed, “It is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
It takes faith to believe this, as it takes faith for a farmer to plant a seed. It takes faith to live by it, faith to act on it, faith to keep looking at the joyful end of it all. A failure of faith here leads certainly to resentment and then to depression. The destruction will go on and on.
- Elisabeth Elliot

Lord, don’t let us fall away. Help us to walk the entire path before us and not just part of it. Help us to give all ourselves and not just bits and pieces.
Part 2 will deal even more with the most emotional parts of this kind of living/season: the loneliness, the longing, and the battle between flesh and spirit.
God Bless,

The books that I’ve quote from are below. All are amazing and soaking in the Spirit of Christ.
Elliot, Elisabeth (Discipline: The Glad Surrender, Passion & Purity, Quest for Love)
Ludy, Leslie (Authentic Beauty)
Piper, John (Battling Unbelief, What is the Difference? Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)