Delight in Approaching God

Most of the first half of my life, I only approached God when I needed anything, or I thought it was the right thing to do. There were nights when I was too exhausted to finish a replay prayer (replay means it’s the same prayer every night of my life). That’s because I delighted in all the things I did all day and not looked forward to spending time with God. I treated God as the Source and Giver of all that I needed and wanted (mostly wanted), and so, I approached Him to ask, ask, and ask. Of course I knew how to say “thank you” for every blessing. But did I really have that desire in me to pursue Him and know Him well – His ways, His will, His joy (yes, the things that bring Him pleasure)? Did I reserve a special time in my jampacked schedule, while I was busy advancing my career, to seek His presence and tarry with Him with my undivided attention?

The answer to all that is “No”. I wonder now – we call God our Father but often times, we don’t act as children. Kids love to play with their Dads. They shriek in delight when he tickles them or carouses with them; they climb up to his knees and listen to his stories; they follow him around, hero-worshipping him. I know because that’s what I see with our 6-year old boy. Indeed, kids do better.

I only learned to really know God and pursue Him with a purpose and longing when I received the Lord Jesus Christ in my life and embarked on an intimate relationship with Him. When I made it my life’s purpose and joy to know the God who created me, loved and saved me, and who delights to bless me – that’s when I learned that God doesn’t only bless but also longs for His children’s love and adoration. When the Holy Spirit began to dwell in my heart, that’s when I became sensitive to the voice and whisperings of God in my heart and soul. I began to live like He was in everything I did, and indeed He is, if we really consider it. He’s everywhere. Even with our crammed minds and days colored with confusion and weariness, if our souls are attuned to Him, we will hear Him calling.

Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God. (Is. 58:2)

When we start the day with the intention of spending time with Him and end it the same way, we will know that He is faithful to be ever present. And when He sees that our shoulders begin to stoop, our brows knit, and we look like we are drained of all energy, peace, and joy – He comes to the rescue.

This is one of the important lessons I’ve learned recently: The Lord calls us to His presence in many different ways. It could be a deep longing in our souls that we can’t really put our fingers on. A restlessness that no tangible thing on earth can quieten. A sadness or sorrow that can’t be reached by words or actions by another human being. Yes, I’ve learned that through these the Lord calls us to enter into His presence. And enter into His presence with an offering of praise. I know no other, shorter way to His heart than heartfelt songs of praise.

So, keep still before Him, open your mouths and sing. Sing loud, sing low – He hears them all! There are times when I sing and I just want to speak out what’s gripping me, and the singing and the wanting to speak vie for time. But this is what the Holy Spirit has whispered in my heart: Sing and let the lyrics speak; sing with hearts trembling because it’s bursting with love and worship for the living God – because your singing has touched the throne of grace and God is listening. And He’s delighted. It is when praise, words, and tears exquisitely meld together that we.are.in.true.worship.

Delight in approaching God. Not because we want things, but because we want. We want Him, His very essence.

(Photo courtesy of Perla Frisberg).

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Stand in the Holy Place

One night last week, I began to lament to my husband how that my newsfeed is being crowded with news about my FB friends’ travels. Relatives, friends, even brethren in Christ seem to go from one place to another again and again, I told him. Then, when a hint of bitterness slowly crept into my heart, I added, “Why don’t I just close my FB account?” My beloved husband stared at me, his expression inscrutable. “Oh, well. I’d better worship the Lord. That’s the best antidote against the onset of feelings of bitterness, dismay, discontent, and all their kin,” I said with a sigh as I turned away from him and set my heart to worship.

(image source)

So, I played Christy Nockels’ Waiting Here for You worship song over and over while I sang along with it, hands raised, eyes tightly shut. Once again, for probably the 4180th time, I ran to Jesus and laid myself at His feet. I’m sure people of the world have their own ways to escape their overwhelming sorrows. Retail therapy, gym, eat out, a night out with friends and booze – just to name a few. But for me, entering into the presence of God never fails to soothe my afflicted soul. So, I sang and worshiped until tears streamed down my face and I sobbed because of the powerful touch of God upon me.

The last time I read this phrase (which was just recently), it gripped me in a way that it hounded me for weeks: …stand in the holy place… (Mat. 24:15). I know I don’t always stand in the holy place. Sometimes, I find myself standing in the place of bitterness or discontent, even unhappiness. At other times, I stand in the place where there’s too much hunger for the fulfilment of dreams and desires. More often than I’d want to, between my morning and evening devotions, I find myself in places where I strain to entertain myself through writing (a Christian novel), reading (Christian romance novels), watching (Halmmark movies), Facebooking. And I know, deep in my soul, that these are not totally holy places. My soul cries out silently.

That shaft of light that emanates from the Savior is not found in the places of pleasure, but only in His presence, in the place where we humbly bend our knees, bow our heads, and worship the One true living God in spirit and in truth.

Let not our surroundings hinder us from approaching that shaft of light, thinking that we are unworthy. On our own, we are unworthy. For He alone makes us worthy. That’s why we come to Him, again and again, not because we are holy and without blemish, but because He is. And in His presence, in His holy place, He washes us from all filth.

Stand in the holy place. And yet, our feet are so rooted in the earth where temptations abound. “Gravitational pull” in the form of sinful pleasures, idolatries, etc., keeps people stuck on the earth. Even Christians, too, in their unguarded moments and moments of weakness. However much we strive to be holy, our surroundings can taint us. This reminds me of the Prophet Isaiah:

 So I said:

“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.” (Is. 6: 5-7)

Like the Prophet Isaiah, we dwell in the midst of a people of “unclean lips” (sinfulness, not only among the people around us but where we put ourselves into, like the Internet, etc.), but when we come before the holy throne with humble and contrite hearts, God is merciful to purge us from all filthiness. So, stand in the holy place.

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 NLT)

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Journey with Jesus,

Delight in the Savior King

Meditating on Psalm 149.

Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise His name with the dance;
Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation. (vv. 2-4)

So, the past days saw me going back to the mount where the Lord had delivered His popular sermon. For days I had tarried there, hoping to meet Him, to have the chance to fling myself at His sandalled feet and touch Him. But, He wasn’t there. I only saw rocks and patches of grass amidst the dust. And His light, His glorious light that shone upon it. The mountains echoed His eternal words and I strained to listen.

But that hadn’t been enough. So, what do I really want? Maybe to wrap my arms around my Savior. How many times had I wished that? But in praise and worship, He met me. I have failings and shortcomings, but I wormed my way toward His presence through songs that came from my hungering places. Without self-condemnation, I presented myself to Him through my humble songs of praise that were more of soulful prayers. And I felt Him. He touched me and the tears streamed down. His is the love that I crave for. Always will be.

Why do we not rejoice in the Lord? He is the source of our joy, our peace, our hope. He is our greatest love. Why do we not come to Him – in our lack, in our need, in our weakness? For the Lord takes pleasure in His people. He takes pleasure in me and in you, for He has redeemed us by His own blood. Don’t let the enemy’s lies and mocking whispers bar you from approaching the throne of grace. Delight in your Savior King for He takes pleasure in it.

Let the saints be joyful in glory;
Let them sing aloud on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth… (vv. 5-6)

Make all effort to discern your listlessness, your discontent, your sorrow, your emptiness. Your hunger. It maybe that your soul is parched for the living God, the precious Savior, the Lover of our souls.

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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Praise, Glorious Praise!

Meditating on Psalm 148.

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
2 Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!

Praise the Lord from the earth…

Kings of the earth and all peoples;
Princes and all judges of the earth;
12 Both young men and maidens;
Old men and children. (vv. 1,2,7,11,12)

Psalm 148 cries out to all of creation to praise God. Nothing and no one is exempted. From the heavenly bodies to creatures of the deep and every living thing in between – all must praise God. “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord” (Ps. 150:6).

Our powerful, glorious praise flings heaven’s doors wide open. It ushers in miracles beyond our wildest dreams – healings, lives changed, deliverances. It brings on God’s mighty acts and wondrous works: overwhelming victories in battle, great walls toppling down, earthquakes that open prison cells and unlock shackles, foul spirits fleeing.

The holy presence of God descends in heartfelt praise. And when it does, we will know peace that passes understanding, joy unspeakable and full of glory, hope that never dies, and a love — yes, a love that soothes all our broken places and covers all our lack!

So, praise God in the dark valley and on top of the mountain. Praise Him in the tedious climb and when you think you have no more strength left – you still have breath in your nostrils. Praise Him in the peals of rich laughter; praise Him in the midst of river of tears.

Praise God with your whole being, everyday that He brings. “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Ps. 118:24). Praise Him and do not cease, lest the stones will cry out!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above the earth and heaven. (v. 13)

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Journey with Jesus,

God’s Presence Through the Word

Meditating on Psalm 119:81-112.

My soul faints for Your salvation,
But I hope in Your word.
82 My eyes fail from searching Your word,
Saying, “When will You comfort me?”

Unless Your law had been my delight,
I would then have perished in my affliction. (Ps. 119:81,82,92)

Psalm 119 essentially talks about God’s laws, precepts, statutes, and testimonies. In other words, and as we apply the psalm in the present, it talks about the Word of God, the words that proceeded out of His mouth which were faithfully recorded in both old and new testaments and became the Holy Bible. The psalmist, in his extreme need, hopes in God’s Word, in His promises, and not on anything else. He diligently searches God’s Word, looking for the fulfilment of the promise which is in it. By holding on to and delighting in God’s promises, he is delivered and doesn’t perish in his affliction. What great light, penetrating from long ago, does this bring us!

The psalms teach us that in everything, in all our trials and tribulations, may they be diseases of our bodies, problems that break our hearts, or great dangers we face – we can put our hope and trust in God’s Word, in His promises. This is the one thing that makes us wiser than the wisdom of the world.

Oh, how I love Your law [Word]!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation. (vv. 97-99, annotation mine)

The Word of God teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). It heals our diseases. He sent His word and healed them… (Ps. 107:20). But it is also a channel through which we can feel God’s powerful presence. We praise and worship God to enter into His presence and feel Him moving mightily in us. But we cannot always sing with strength, especially those of us who are sick and weak.

There are seasons in my illness that my abdomen becomes too weak to vocalize. For weeks, even months, I cannot sing praises in my private worship time, but I compensate that in immersing more in the Word, morning and evening. I honor and worship the Lord as I soak up His Word, verse upon verse, passage upon passage, chapter upon chapter. There are times that He grips me so suddenly in His presence as I plough through His Word, that my spirit is caught up in His embrace. And I would stop in the middle of reading, raise my hands and worship, and bask in His glorious presence, tears cascading.

One night many months ago, when my son Tim was suffering from an asthma-like cough and my husband was away praying and fasting, I felt, heard in my spirit, and saw in my mind, the Lord talking to me. In the early evening, I read Him between the pages, during the ministry of prophet Elisha. I was so in it – the places, His words, His power, His presence. As if I was there myself. When later that night, Tim sat up and told me that he couldn’t breathe, I raised my hand towards heaven and cried out to God. As I prayed and begged Him to help Tim, I saw Him in my mind (my eyes were tightly closed) and He spoke to me.

“You spent time with Me tonight. You delighted in My words and works. You know Me, who I Am, what I can do. I will not fail you. I am with you. See, I am here. Just so very near you.” (Choking back tears). I was weeping because of the Lord’s holy presence and His words. And when I laid my hands on my son to cast out his sickness, I saw in my mind that it was God’s prophet Elisha who was laying his hands on my son. Before the night was over, Tim began to recover. Hallelujah!

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. (v. 105)

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Journey with Jesus,