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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He Has Done All Things Well

The two things I love doing everyday are sing praises and worship while remembering the mercies of God. Sometimes, there are other things that pull my mind and heart away, and I do get tempted to trade spiritual high to a sensual one. But I know that worshiping God and recalling all His wonderful works in my life are the ones that really fill my soul and enrich my life. And also, they are the ones that truly matter eternally.

While reading through the Gospels recently, this phrase made me stop and think. I had to reach for my journal and note it down.

…“He has done all things well… ” (Mark 7:37)

If I could sum up everything that the Lord Jesus Christ has done in my life into just one phrase, this would be it. Without a doubt and with a heart full of praise and thanksgiving, I say, “He has done all things well for me.”

I love reading the Gospels, especially the words and teachings of Jesus. They are so different from what we know of the world, from what we have been taught of the world even. They are high and hard to attain, if not for the Holy Spirit that transforms us into new creations and empowers us to live them out. And that’s the reason why I love them: they’re so opposite our natural tendencies. If we are humbly led by the Holy Spirit, we would want to study and embrace Jesus’s teachings. It is always a good spiritual challenge.

From Matthew to Revelation, we can know the heart and mind of Jesus. Throughout the Gospels, if we are thrilled to walk with Him from the manger to the tomb, we would know how merciful, gracious, loving, forgiving, giving, compassionate, spiritually strong, bold and courageous, meek and humble, He is. He taught (my favorite is Sermon on the Mount), He healed (everywhere), He listened (to those who asked for His mercy), He encouraged (remember Jairus and his dying daughter, how He assured him, “Be not afraid, only believe”?), He admonished (Martha, for example), He noticed (Mary’s washing of His feet with her tears and hair). He rebuked the Pharisees and scribes because He couldn’t stand hypocrisy.

He gave (feeding the multitude) and He gave time (healed Malchus’ ear though He was surrounded with soldiers ready to arrest Him). (I am already on the verge of tears recalling all these. Do you know Him that well?).

He was too meek and humble to not be provoked when He was spit upon and insulted. He remained calm and unmoved when He stood before Pontius Pilate (He is forever my hero!). He did not grovel before him to be freed, because He knew the truth that Pontius Pilate did not. And what was the truth that Pontius Pilate wanted to know? That Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Savior of the world!

He was brave and courageous. The bravest man I know who had lived on earth. He endured the scourgings. As the nails were driven through His hands and feet – He gave and gave and gave! Up to His last breath. To save the world.

Let all the world know — HE HAS DONE ALL THINSG WELL!!!  {Tears}

He has done all things well for me. When I was deep in sin and didn’t have the strength to rise from the mire, to get out of the quicksand of a depraved life – He came and took me out and put my feet on the Rock. By giving His Spirit, He gave me a new life. He changed me, had mercy on me, and blessed me. He listens to my prayers. Why? Because He wants to spend eternity with me. And He will do the same thing for you.

Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to me. To us. He has done all things well. And I love Him so.

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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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Praise and Worship

Meditating on Psalm 150.

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!

2 Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

In our Church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, we were taught not only to praise and worship God every morning and evening, but through every circumstance, be it celebration or grief, sickness or healing, battle or victory. In prayer and fasting, praise strengthens the flesh and spirit. Through any sickness in our home, praise terrifies the enemy and it flees. My husband and I sing praises until a sick child goes to sleep. Praise defeats Satan’s schemes, for he can’t stand true worship of God. When the powerful, holy presence of the Lord descends, no work of the devil can prosper. There is only victory.

 But there was a time that I was too weak and sick I couldn’t sing a single stanza of praise. This depressed me, so I compensated it with more reading and meditating on the Word. God was faithful to honor my offering. While reading His Word, I would feel His touch and tears would stream down my face. I’d found that soaking ourselves in the Word ushers in His holy presence, too.

But having said that, singing praises with all our beings is the best WAY to feel the presence of the living, breathing, all-powerful God. I know there are Christians who sometimes dither in approaching the throne of grace because of their failings and shortcomings. The feeling of unworthiness bars them. I go through those, too, sometimes. But I’m slowly understanding the Savior’s heart for me, and that is – He wants that I approach Him however messed-up I am or however I’ve messed things up. I’m learning that when we withdraw from Him because of feelings of shame or unworthiness, it is really pride that is prodding us. But if we humbly present ourselves to Him, bowing down before Him with our repentant hearts and tears – He will not turn us away.

Though wounded and bruised because of our own stumblings and failings, because of hurts brought by dashed hopes, unkept promises, prolonged suffering, unanswered prayers – we sing, we seek, we invite Him into our lives. And He will surely come. He will touch our hurting places and heal them. He’ll heal our spirits, even our bones and flesh.

So never give up on praise. Our souls thrive in worship. It feeds on worship of the living God. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

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I might be linking up with these lovely blogs and Still Saturday.

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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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Healer of Hearts

Meditating on Psalm 147.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Sing praises on the harp to our God,
8 Who covers the heavens with clouds,
Who prepares rain for the earth,
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.
9 He gives to the beast its food,
And to the young ravens that cry. (vv. 7-9)

In this psalm, the psalmist once again praises the glory, grace, and goodness of God. There are many things going on in this psalm, but I’d like us to bring our focus on this:

He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds. (v. 3)

This has been our running theme in recent posts – how that the Lord weaves a beautiful love story in our lives if only we give ourselves wholly to Him. The above verse gave a name to my story. Before I gave my life to Jesus, broken in body, heart, and spirit, I never thought that He alone could heal my brokenness and bind up my gaping wounds. The devil is way too cruel to leave you with a flimsy thread of hope of ever mending, once you ventured anywhere near his lair. Like living a life of adultery. You become his. That’s exactly how he left me – helplessly clinging to the thin thread that connected me to whatever was left of my life.

Then Jesus came, with His power, light, and love. I thought I only sought Him for forgiveness of my sins so I could die at peace with God. But there was also hope that maybe He’d be merciful enough to heal my body, too. But He did much more than anything I had hoped for. His grace abounded to me. “…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). He redeemed my soul, cleansed me from the sin of my dark past, restored my family, healed our broken hearts and bound up our wounds.

He can easily do those things in just one stroke of His powerful hand. “He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly” (v. 15). And yet, there are still many who don’t want to be anywhere near Him. They insist on seeking cure for their ailments elsewhere, not knowing that it’s probably their souls that were sick and suffering and need healing.

My prayer for the broken is this: That the Savior Jesus Christ be their Redeemer, Healer, Restorer. That He will reign in their hearts and minds and be their Lord and King.

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Step into Beauty

My husband was washing my hair in our bathroom one afternoon last week. As he worked up a lather and cleaned my scalp, he began to tell me about a sister in Christ, a mother about my age, who has been suffering from breast cancer. Her husband who works abroad as an engineer came home recently to bring his ailing wife to the hospital and care for her. She has grown weaker and her husband wanted to help her recover strength.

(image from Google)

I knew the couple he was talking about. The engineer husband contacted me on FB earlier telling me about his wife’s condition, and when he came home last year, he approached Felix in church and introduced himself. He is an Ilocano just like us.

As my husband rinsed my long, stringy hair, he said the couple have been in the hospital for weeks now but by God’s grace, she’s making progress. The doctors were amazed that in her advanced stage, she should already be in ICU, but she was not.

I was quiet the whole time. Washing my hair or bathing is one of the things I dread doing because it’s not comfortable for me. I just wanted to be done with it as soon as possible. I actually didn’t know what to say because Sister Sarah Advincula came to mind. I wrote about her testimony so how can I forget? In 2008 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, she chose to stay in the fasting house instead of going to the hospital. She surrendered her life to the Lord. For one year, she stayed there, suffering through her disease. But at the end of it, she was healed and recovered. She’s been back in the Jesus Finest Generation Choir ever since.

There are those who receive miraculous healing, and there are those who do not. There are burdens that we need to carry. I think no one is exempted from them. I pondered on these things as I endured my husband’s unrelenting scrubbing of my scalp and hair (I hate it when he does that). I wasn’t really in the mood to talk about such things seeing that I was sitting in my wheelchair while someone washed my hair. What I mean is, what can you say when you’re too weak to wash your own hair?

We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, so, just do your best to serve the Lord however small your contribution is. Whatever we can do for God’s kingdom, just do it,” I finally managed to murmur as my husband rinsed off the thick conditioner from my hair.

Until I settled in for the live webcast of the Friday overnight service that evening, I was unusually quiet, like there were lots of things in my mind. With 10 years of illness and suffering, I’ve gotten so used to the weight and usual gloom that accompany it. By the second hour of congregational singing, I sent the kids to play upstairs. I wanted to concentrate during the solemn songs.

The worship leader sang soulfully and with anointing. Suddenly, my spirit was caught up in the glory of praise and worship. I was transported into a place of beauty and gladness. Ah, how did I ever let misgivings make me forget the glory of the Lord’s presence?  We may regularly pray, read the Bible, a devotional, write about Jesus and His words and goodness, but it’s different when we enter His sweet, holy presence. There’s just no comparing it, no describing it. And if I were stronger, I would be opening my arms wide in complete abandon, my face toward heaven, as I let my whole being be enwrapped in the glorious splendor. I know how exhilarating it is to be washed and drenched in the Savior’s love as salty tears pour out in worship. The spirit is revived and — the burdens are lifted off and troubles fade.

Don’t let us remain miserable and weighed down by trials. Enter God’s presence by praising and worshiping. Step into the beauty of the  King of kings and Lord of lords!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace!
~ Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (chorus) by Helen H. Lemmel, 1922

You can read Sis. Sarah Advincula’s amazing testimony here.

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Spiritual Fervency and Discipline

First Corinthians 14:33 tells us that “God is not a God of disorder but of peace”. In the pastoral houses of our Church (JMCIM), there is orderliness and discipline in daily praising and worshiping the Lord. For these workers in the Lord’s vineyard – preachers, prayer warriors, choir members, and all full-time workers – must needs be on their knees in praise and prayer, morning and evening. This is living out Psalm 113:3:

From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised. (Ps. 113:3)

(image from Google)

As early as 6 o’clock in the morning, the workers gather to sing praises to God and worship. They close in thanksgiving and prayers and reading of the Word. In the evening, the same program is repeated. This discipline of praising and worshiping the Lord before prayers is taught also to be practiced in the homes of the believers. To praise and worship the Lord upon waking up in the morning. From the rising of the sun. 

Shall we now let this discipline wane in fervency and practice so that when we wake up in the morning, our first thoughts are our schedules and plans, and the first thing we hold and open are our electronic gadgets – cell phones, iPads, laptops? Shall we bury this godly practice of rising up in the morning, first and foremost, to praise the Lord, pray, and read the Word? Shall we now exchange these spiritual things with the Internet? Have we slowly forgotten the Lord’s words, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Mat. 6:33)? Seek ye first. God must come first. In everything.

When we stayed in the Fasting House in Pampanga where the room we occupied was attached to the chapel, I would hear a worker praising in the chapel even before the break of day. How blessed was that soul as he presented himself to God with his hungering heart and soul, singing to God with all fervor! It was his spiritual fervency, more than his discipline, that brought him to the chapel even before all the others. He wanted to be alone with God. He craved for Him.

And then there is the testimony of a former practicing dentist now a full-time worker and preacher of the Church. How he would close his dental clinic at noon, not to eat lunch in peace, but to get down on his knees and praise God to his heart’s content. This reminds me of faithful Daniel whom the angel Gabriel called “a man greatly beloved”. He praised, thanked, and prayed to God three times a day. He went to his house at noon just to do these things faithfully. Yes, even when there was a newly-signed law from the king that whosoever shall ask petition of any God or man save the king, will be thrown into the lion’s den (see Daniel 6). This was Daniel’s fervency toward God, and nothing, even death by being devoured by lions, could stop him.

And at the end of the day when all our toilings cease, shall we push the time to bend the knees to praise and thank God to the back burner and finish first all our stuff – Internet (seemingly endless social networking, reading, browsing, viewing), TV, etc. – which we may be eagerly anticipating to do? Shouldn’t we be enthusiastically anticipating to spend valuable time in the presence of the Lord? Shall we try to put private worship time at the very last saying that we are not yet in the mood to sing? We have certainly misplaced our fervency, pouring it out into our selfish pleasures instead of the things of God!

Before we realize it, it’s near midnight and all we want to do is sleep, and if ever we finally yield ourselves to praise and pray, the exuberance might be gone and weariness takes its toll on the flesh and spirit. Psalm 113:3 says that the Lord shall also be praised at the going down of the sun. At sunset or early evening.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. (Rev. 2:5, emphasis added)

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,