“Flame of God” by Amy Carmichael

I first read this poem when I was in college and thought it amazing. Amy Carmichael is my own personal hero and I delight in her many writings. She was a gifted woman who sought to serve God with what she had and where she was. Her own perplexity at why He made her a certain way encourages me beyond what I can say. God has a purpose for us and He reveals that to us in His due time. We might not understand what purpose something has for our lives and our future, but God does not waste a gift. Only we do. Are you grateful for the gifts that may not even seem like a gift?

Anyway, I love this poem. She’s asking God to not let her shy away from the challenge that she may face – to stand bold for Him and to even pursue the hard tasks. She even asks to be spent completely in His glory. I can only attempt the same.

———————

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God

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Bread for All Time – Bonhoeffer

I’ve had this book, A Year with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for a while, and pick it up when I have a mind to.  It contains letters and writings of Bonhoeffer stretched out across a full calendar year.  It’s really interesting and whenever I do pick it up, I learn something good.  He was a great man of God.

Saturday, I picked it up and read the entry for February 5th.  Here it is:

“Almost all of us have grown up with the idea that the Scripture reading is solely a matter of hearing the Word of God for today.  That is why for many the Scripture reading consists only of a few brief selected verses that are to form the central idea of the day.  There can be no doubt that the daily Bible passages published by the Moravian Brethren, for example, are a real blessing to all who have ever used them.  Many people have realized that to their great amazement and have been grateful for the daily Bible readings particularly during the time of the church struggle.  But equally there can be little doubt that brief passages cannot and must not tak the place of reading the Scripture as a whole.  The verse for the day is not yet the Holy Scriptures that will remain throughout all time until the Day of Judgement.  Te Holy Scriptures are more than selected Bible passages  It is also more than “Bread for Today.”  It is God’ revealed Word for all peoples, for all times.  The Holy Scriptures do not consist of individual sayings, but are a whole and can be used most effectively as such…The ful witness to Jesus Christ the Lord can be clearly heard only in its immeasurable inner relationships, in the connection of Old and New Testaments, of promise and fulfillment, sacrifice and law, Law and Gospel, cross and resurrection, faith and obedience, having and hoping.”

– from Life Together 58-60

I’m guilty as charged.  I’ve not even respected the Scriptures enough to read the “couple verses” or passage each day.  God’s Word is precious and I’m not neglecting It out of ignorance to the strength, comfort, joy that comes from reading It.  I’m not reading it because of this lie in my mind that tells me I don’t have the time or that I know enough of it already.  That’s far from the truth, and I definitely know it.  I’m always learning something new through reading my Bible.  So, there you have it…a conviction and resolution of sorts.

Check out the martyr Bonhoeffer’s life here.

Moses Forgets

This week, at one of my ESL classes, we read the story about the people of Israel complaining of their thirst in the wilderness.  This happened at least twice because it’s recorded twice that they complained enough for Moses to ask God to give them some water.  The first time, Moses asks and God says to hit a rock with his staff.  Moses does so and water comes out of the rock to quench the people’s thirst.  The second time, the people complain and Moses asks God for help.  God says to him to take the staff and tell the rock to produce water.  But when Moses goes before the people, he ridicules them and then hits the rock with the staff twice.  Water still comes out, but at a dear price – Aaron and Moses will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land, because they did not believe God and take Him at His Word.

This is one of those stories that I have usually just skipped over.  I love reading about Moses, but this one, for some reason, seems to just register and then I go on to the next thing.  But my student did not.  She had some questions, like:

If Moses had done it once before, then why didn’t he believe it would happen again the way God said it would?*

and

If Moses believed God, then why did He test him again?*

These are great questions!  I love watching a non-believer respond to the Holy Spirit, even if they are just questions, because asking questions are a sign that God is working on them.  I love the promise that God’s Word is living and active – It always does a work when spoken or heard.

The first question, well, how often do we forget what God has done in our lives before?  Moses was the advocate for the people of Israel and he came to God many times to petition for forgiveness for their forgetfulness of God’s love and provision…but he was not exempt himself from forgetting.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to lead people who constantly griped and complained about everything, but that one single action – that one burst of anger and pride – led to him not being able to enter the promised land.  Look at the wording:

“Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”
Numbers 20:10, ESV

It wasn’t, “Shall God bring out water for you?” but “Shall we…”  God says that because Moses and Aaron did not uphold Him as holy before the people, they will not bring those people into Canaan.  A little later in the chapter, Aaron’s death is recorded and his robe and office of high priest are given to his son, Eleazar.

The second question speaks to God’s nature and not Moses’.  Why does God test those who have, thus far, proven that they follow Him?  Why did God ask Moses to just talk to the rock this time instead of striking it again?  Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac after he had waited for 100 years to have him?

We’ve been talking in church the last couple of Sundays about Great Stories in the Bible and this last week the story was Abraham and this sacrifice.  My pastor spoke about how God did not throw a challenge like that on Abraham right off the bat.  Yes, asking him to leave his family and home to go to some land that he had never heard of was a big challenge, but it was a test comparable to his level of faith. And it’s not like Abraham never failed at a test that God gave him.  God promised him a son in his old age and beyond his wife’s physical ability, and rather than believe the fullness of God’s promise, Abraham cut a corner by sleeping with Sarah’s handmaiden.

God tests us; it continues throughout our lives as believers.  He will give us challenges at various times, but praise God, that He takes into account the level of faith we have at that time.  We may not pass them, but it is not because God has given us a challenge greater than we can handle, but because we are doubting ourselves, doubting Him, or believing a lie (or all of the above).

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV

So, back to the second question, why does God continue to test us?  It’s to grow us and to make us more like His son.  We will not be perfect until He makes us so, and that won’t happen until heaven.  But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want to start us on that road now.  And the successes in our life, our conquering those tests and moving on, serve as testimony to the lost that our God is a great and mighty God.  That He is concerned with our lives and with our hearts.  That He can change a person from being selfish and in despair to being selfless, a servant, and filled with hope.

And that verse above gives me hope that when I face a challenge to my faith and in my life, God has already gifted me with the strength I need to endure it.  What I have faced before now has only added to, not taken away from, the arsenal in my will to resist the devil and move forward in maturity in Christ.

*paraphrased into English

Day 5 – Love

I think the way people love changes over time.  God’s love stays the same.  God loves me the same as He did when He put my body together.  He loves me the same as when I took my first breath.  The same as when I first sang, “Jesus Loves Me.” The same as when I asked Him into my heart.  The same as when I was obsessed with boy bands.  The same as when my heart was broken and  I was crying for a Father.  The same as when I heard Him call to me from Russia.  The same as when I set foot in China.  The same as when my heart was broken and crying for a lover.  The same as when I shut my ears to Him.  The same as when I opened them again.

My love for Him has changed though.  It’s been childish, inconstant, genuine, self-serving, impatient, joyous, grieving, etc.  But is that then love?  The difference could be that God loves outside of my circumstances and I can’t help but love within them.  But the goal is to do the same.  Can I do that?  I’ve found that with certain things I am able to, but not in everything.  But God’s ability to love me constantly and continually outside of my circumstances is not a sign of His apathy to those circumstances, but a mark of how great His love truly is.

I could sing of Your love forever, I could sing of Your love forever…

This isn’t a commentary of my ability or desire to sing to God for all time, but a showing of the greatness of His love.  It would take more than eternity to sing all of it, and I would still need more time. 

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens.  Your faithfulness stretches to the sky.  Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, yeah.  Your justice flows like the ocean’s tide.

Day 4 – God is Sovereign

My favorite places are those where the sky is wide open in front of me.  For my current location, these include Harbin Park, at the top of the hill and the tiny regional airport, parked next to the fence running long-wise to the runway.  There’s something about the vastness of the sky, the length of the ground, being able to see a horizon without any obstructions.  It’s why I love mountains so much and why, yes, even Kansas is my favorite state.  You can see for miles!  Alright, it’s a close tie with Pennsylvania. 😉  Sitting in a place like this, it’s so easy to think about and understand God being sovereign.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me, if you have understanding.  Who determined its measurements – surely you know?  Or who stretched the line upon it?  On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” – Job 38:4-7 –

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all these earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens.” – Psalm 8:1 –

And as a thundercloud approaches me…

“The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters.  The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.” – Psalm 29:3-4 –

“When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place,…” – Psalm 8:3 –

But when I think of the little things, back when I descend and the world comes back up around me, is God still sovereign, or am I too small?

“…what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” – Psalm 8:4 –

Is He concerned with me and my issues?

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29-31 –

“…you are of more value than many sparrows.”  I try to make myself too small for God to see at times, and yet He does.  He values me and keeps me in His thoughts.  Even when I don’t keep Him in mine.  And He has the best in mind for me.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declared the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 –

I am at His mercy, like trees to a strong wind.  And yet, God is not just an indeterminate thing, like the wind, not choosing where to go and what to do.  God is in charge of Himself and of what He does.  And His goodness dictates that He do good things. 

I can see far sitting up here on this hill or on a mountains, but I can’t see the future.  god can see further and beyond the future.

I will trust my God, the One who Sees, to handle the direction of my path.

I will trust my God, the One who Creates, to have given me every quality I need to do His will.

I will trust my God, the One who Shapes, to continue working and growing me into what He wants me to be.

I will trust my God, the One who Knows, to only give me what I can handle.

I will trust my God, the One who Provides, to prepare and preserve me through anything I go through.

I will trust my God, the One who Loves, to pour His love out of me when I have none to give.

I will trust my God.
I will trust my God.
I will trust my God.

Day 3 – Schedules and Expectations

Kelly’s Day 3 was about “To-Do Lists” and mine is about schedules. Plans.  Expectations.  As I reflected on the list of things causing me bitterness and why they do so, I found it was because they don’t fit my schedule.  God and I have fought many times on this before.  Or rather, I’ve fought and He’s patiently waited for me to fall in step with Him. 

I don’t always know it either.  I will feel anxious out of no where and I’m sure that on reflection, “schedule” would be at the heart of it.  There are some areas that I am not anxious about planning for.  I’ve let go of my expectations.  One such area is what field God calls me to work in.  I could really care less WHERE I go or what I’m doing when I get there.  What I am concerned about is WHEN.

Ok, so, as I’m thinking about it, the “WHERE” factor is pretty much the only area that I’m not concerned about.  And even my anxiety right now to get away is not so much because I feel it’s time for God to send me somewhere, but more that I just want to get away. 

But let’s throw all the rest aside.  When I was “picky” about where I would serve, if God called me somewhere else, I would fight Him tooth and nail.  God had to hit me upside the heard…in several ways…to get me to agree to go to one such place.  When Japan came up, thankfully, I learned from that mistake and was willing to go, even though I knew nothing about the country and had never had any, ANY desire to go there.  And it was one of the best experiences of my life.

But that trip brought up something I have struggled with before – my expectations of others.  Especially of other believers.  but I am a work in progress, why shouldn’t others be too?

My expectations of how members of the family should be or friends, or boyfriends…whatever “position” someone holds…it reflects an expectation you have for them. 

God is the only One who we can expect to be just like He is described in Scripture and for Him to be exactly like that.  Anyone else has free license to go against your expectations, whether for good or for bad.

So, I’m asking God (not man…) to help me release my faulty expectations and the schedules I make in my mind.  His ways are not my own and I can never expect Him to keep to my own desires and whims.  I can expect Him to be good, to love me, and to be sovereign over all.  And as the meaning of those things trickle down in to my mind, my expectations will fall into line with who He really is and who I really am.

Day 1 & 2 – 10 Days of Prayer

One of my favorite Christian artists went and got married a few years ago to an amazing woman and…as most amazing women should, she started a blog.  It’s probably one of the few that I read consistently.  Her name is Kelly Needham and recently, she decided to do a 10 day Prayer and Repentance deal while her husband was out-of-town/country. You can find the start to her 10 day adventure here.

But I decided to do my own 10 day time, starting yesterday.  I’ve been feeling a little in a rut and recent events have left me wondering if God is trying to tell me something and I’m not listening to Him. 

I felt yesterday, that it would be good to start with what Kelly began within her reflections.  Her first point was, “It’s not about me.”  And I really like the Scripture she started each day with, so I’m definitely keeping that.  Here it is:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts,
See if there is any offensive way in me;
and lead me in the way everlasting.
 – Psalm 139:23-24

I was saying over and over in my mind, “It’s not about me, it’s not about me,” but nothing was coming.  And then I realized that I had forgotten how to pray.  I’m not saying totally, as in, I never talk to God…but I definitely have opted for the whole “pray continually” throughout the day without much concern for God speaking back to me.  To spend an hour, in determined prayer…it’s hard if you’re out of practice.  I went away thinking that it had all been a waste of time.  I didn’t feel like my prayer had been anything substantial.  Or had it?  I was determined to reflect on one thing and that one thing only while God was seeking to open my eyes to something else: my double-mindedness.

I’m caught between the two sides – truly investing my heart and mind in God and all that He is and pretending to do so, which is to say, to not invest my heart and mind in God.  I have been well-trained in looking the part.  But not only that, it is easier to camp in the place of “Do well” and not mean it, than to face the reality of my double-heart.  It’s easy to go in with purpose and meaning, and then live out your time steadily more for yourself and out of habit. 

And so, for today, the sermon on Contentment and the joy thereby was great and touched me, but I think God wants me to reflect on my bitterness.

“The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.”
 – Proverbs 14:10

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
 – Ephesians 4:31

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”
 – Hebrews 12:15

I’m very good at hiding my own bitterness.  In truth, I hardly recognize it myself.

[Insert list of things bitter about]

“…and many become defiled.”   It’s like when something begins to burn in the kitchen and you slowly realize the smell is there.  Then it takes a long time to get rid of the smoke and smell.  That’s how this bitterness feels in me.  What is contained in that list is not what matters.  That’s between me and God.  He has known it for some time and some of it I only just realized today. 

But I am bitter about these things because I am thinking that I know best what I need.  And as God shows me that and how, I flip back and forth between joy and sadness.  I can try to force myself to joy, but I don’t think that’s what God wants.  He could do that, if He wanted to.  But He desires me to want it, and not just to show it or know that I need to want it.

“Jesus, You are my greatest treasure,
Nothing this world can offer
Could ever compare to You.

~Nani yori mo
Nani yori mo
Nani yori mo
Anata-o~”
(Jap – Above all else, give me Yourself)
Above All Else by Vicki Beeching