Sing in Your Babylon

Meditating on Psalm 137.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land? (Ps. 137:4)

Psalm 137 is a poignant remembrance of the exile of the inhabitants of Jerusalem to Babylon. The first few times I read this psalm, I ached for the fate of the people of God.  I had tears in my eyes. God was wroth with their repeated, blatant unfaithfulness that He used Babylon as instrument to punish them. So, they were taken captive and brought to a foreign land.

How do we see ourselves between the lines of this psalm in our present lives?

Last night, I started the live webcast of our church’s Friday overnight service with a heavy heart. I felt like I was not near God as I ought to be. I knew that I should be spending more time reading and meditating on the Word (not only in the morning and evening), praying, and praising God (and though I can’t vocalize because of my weak abdomen, I can always listen to praise and let my heart, mind, and soul sing silently). A lot of my time is spent writing and reading books, and although I go through the Scriptures as I write my book or blog, it’s different when you intentionally spend quiet time with the Lord, praising, worshiping, praying, and listening to His voice.

There are things we do that “exile” us from God. This is not of His own doing; I believe He never wants to drive us away. But our choices in everyday can drive us away from His nearness. We get so entangled with the affairs of the world that we get distracted and lose our focus. And when we feel we are not near to God, there is just heaviness. For He is the source of our peace and joy.

I was silently chastising myself as the congregation sang joyful songs. A thought even came to mind that if the Lord came at that very moment, would I be caught up with Him in the clouds and be together with Him for all eternity? Or would I be left behind because of my shortcomings and failures? How does one take hold of eternal life? How does one work out His own salvation with fear and trembling as the apostle Paul urges us in Philippians 2:12?

Not that we do not know, really. For we have been taught over and over again. But what I mean is — going through the motions of attending church, reading the Bible, praying, does not assure us of salvation because these things are not done with our whole beings. And, they should draw us ever nearer to God. If we can’t feel His presence there, if we feel empty, there is something wrong. For our faith must always be expressed through love (Gal. 5:6).  It’s our fellowship with the Spirit of God that affirms we are the children of God and heirs of eternal life.

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Rom. 8:16-17)

These thoughts played in my mind as I lamented my shortcomings. It was at this point that the words of the song being sung wound their way to my consciousness: 

He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me!

There’s no need to be too hard on ourselves. The Lord is plenteous in mercy. Let’s not exile ourselves from His presence just because we know we have a lot of shortcomings, failures, and blunders.

Once again, I received God’s mercy and slowly, He drew me to Him, caressing my heart and assuring me of His everlasting love. Silently, my heart sang.

(Beautiful photo courtesy of Sis. Evamarie Fetter).

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Journey with Jesus,

 

What Draws Us Away

I’ve been receiving painful chastisement lately. I needed it. It took me a long time to listen and heed the voice of the Holy Spirit. I don’t mean to scare you but there is a price to pay when we stubbornly disobey. And chastisements come because the Lord Jesus Christ cares for us and for our salvation more than we ever do.

(image from Google)

Although I have known long before that when we try to entertain ourselves more than we should and with the things that may dilute our spiritual fervor, a painful reminder will descend from the Savior – still, I let myself lured into it for a season. I know that for other Christians, this is just fine with them. The “safe” entertainment, I mean. But, for those who are in the pursuit of true holiness, this dalliance with earthly things cannot run for long.

Towards the end of summer (our summer here in the Philippines), I became engrossed in watching period dramas, more specifically, BBC TV adaptation of 18th century novels. I watched via YouTube which is connected to my flat TV. (We had disconnected our cable TV more than a year ago and my TV has no antenna, so there’s no TV watching). Although I was very selective in the things I watched (except the very last one which I did not finish) and carefully read reviews before I even considered watching – no sexual scenes, no foul language, no or very little violence, and there is a certain degree of goodness, inspiration, and morale from the story and characters, still, I felt I was being drawn away from things spiritual.

Though we may consider these as “safe” entertainment, these are still secular and later on, it would chip away at our prayer and worship life. It will dilute our fervency in all things spiritual – like seeking God’s face with all our hearts, souls and minds and with weeping. 

I had mental excuses like, “What shall I do with my idle time when I’m bound in bed like this? What shall I do while I rest and can’t do any other thing like bake, cook, etc.?”

This was the answer:

But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4)

Give ourselves continually to prayer. We are told not only to pray continually, but to give ourselves to it. Surrender our members to it. And our time.

And also this:

…his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law [Word] he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1: 2, annotation mine)

I know that there are many, even Christians, who entertain themselves with secular TV, movies, the Internet, and virtual games. But this should not be our pattern. We need not be like them. On Facebook alone, I see a lot of people, Christians included, who spend so much time playing games. May we not succumb to such spiritually unprofitable entertainment!

There is a constant need to be vigilant. And this is our very powerful weapon against temptation:

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation… (Mat. 26:41)

Watch out what we think, see, hear, and put ourselves into doing. And cover our hours with prayer. This is the promise:

He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:3)

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

Be Fully Awake!

Some time ago, I wrote The Lukewarm, taking heed of the Spirit’s leading and teaching at that time. Without a doubt in my heart, The Lukewarm was inspired by God, and I invite you to read it if you had missed it before as a background for this post :).

I was reminded by this post last night after I heard the testimony of a sister in Christ during Friday overnight service. She and her beloved husband are pastoral workers; the sister also sings in the Jesus Finest Generation Choir. From her testimony, I understood that her husband had grown lukewarm in his service to God. Why did I conclude that he was lukewarm and not cold? Because as I had written in The Lukewarm, the lukewarm make the effort of showing to everyone that they are still in the faith and going through the motions of serving God, but the fervor is gone.

They do it in hypocrisy, a farce, a thing which God hates.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,[a] I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Rev. 3:15-16)

So, for a long time, this brother made a show of serving God every worship service, but as his beloved wife has testified, he wasn’t really into the things of God: praising and worshiping, praying, and reading the Bible daily. When he was in the worship service, he did his menial job but spent most of the time talking with his peers. He did not worship during time of deep worship, and he did not open his Bible during Bible Study and preaching.

Many times his beloved wife admonished him, even encouraged him to open up and talk about his spiritual state, but he wouldn’t listen. Until one day, the Lord took his health and strength. He became sick of diabetes and UTI among other ailments that afflicted him. He lost a lot of weight. Then there came a time that he became very ill that he was brought to the hospital. He was struggling to live.

Because of God’s chastisement, he changed his attitude towards Him. He repented of his negligence and shortcomings. He became more fervent in worshiping with the strength he had; he read the Bible often during the day, and his prayers became earnest, agonizing.

Until today, he is still begging God to heal him and give him another chance to honor and serve Him. He and his beloved wife continue to pray and be zealous in serving Him amid the hard trial.

I am thankful to God that He is ever faithful to send us reminders for us to perfect our ways before him, either directly to us or through a brother or a sister. This is a wake-up call for all of us. We cannot hide anything from God, no, not even the deepest crevices of our hearts. He knows everything in there more than we do. Remember the apostle’s admonition:

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:13)

There is no more time to be complacent, to be lukewarm in our love and service to God. He is coming so very soon and He wants to awaken us from our spiritual stupor. We need to stop acting and faking it and going about our lives being numb to the things of God, but at last be fully awake to them!

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Rom. 13:11 NIV)

Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning… (1 Cor. 15:34 NIV)

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My gratitude list ~ the gifts I received from the hand of the Lord:

  • healing of Hannah of her stomachache and diarrhea with fever
  • late-night giggling and laughing with her about something funny that she said
  • renewed inspiration to write and photograph
  • delectable cakes from neighbor
  • luxuriating in exotic-scented bath products
  • new inspirations, new beginnings ~ change is good!

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Journey with Jesus,