The Latest Lesson

Index to Lessons
- "Lay Cha Yeu Thuong" March 7, 2002 avoiding idol worship
"Distinguished by His Presence" August 4, 2001 (Exodus 33) what distinguishes you and I from all the other people?
- "Confessions of a Sleepaholic" May 1, 2001 (Jeremiah 6:16) what to do at the Crossroads
- "I Am Somebody's Girl" July 15, 2000 (Romans 1:6) security in Christ
- "The Gospel - Free of Charge" July 14, 2000 (1 Cor 9, 10:23-24, 10:33) living above reproach
- "Where Can I Flee From His Presence?" July 8, 2000 (Psalm 139:7-10) God's omnipresence
- "No Shortcuts?" June 6, 2000 (Exodus 13:17-18) when God takes the long way
- "The Great Provider-GOD" May 6, 2000 (Genesis 2) God will provide a mate
- "Unchained Giving" April 18, 2000 (Proverbs 3:9-10) learning how to give
- "God's Leading For Today" March 30, 2000 (2 Samuel 24) sacrifices to God

"Lay Cha Yeu Thuong"

Mar 7, 2002

Last night I was taught how to sing "I Love You, Lord" in Vietnamese -- and this morning, I practiced it and practiced it several times until I figured out how to sing it fully. So as I was singing to the Lord in Vietnamese while driving to work, I was suddenly struck by how amazing it is that the God of the universe can understand me in this whole different language! I mean, it's something I've always known - duh - that God can understand all languages, but it hit me all of a sudden how tremendous a "feat" it is that He could not only comprehend but was PLEASED by the offering of praise in a NON-English language. Wow, then it occurred to me that people all over the world are always pouring out their hearts to the Lord - using all kinds of intricate words, nuances, slangs and colloquialisms in all kinds of languages - and He UNDERSTANDS completely!! Wow did that blow me away! How short-sighed I am! What a big God He is!

This brings me to a lesson of sorts that God is showing me. Two years ago, I read from a book the comment that when we worship an inaccurate, inadequate view of God, it is a form of idol worship. IDOL WORSHIP!!! (The reason: if you are not worshiping the TRUE God, then you are worshiping a false God, so therefore you are "idol" worshiping!!) As I thought of this the other day, I prayed in my heart that God would not allow me to participate in idol-worship -- that He would give me a fuller and more accurate understanding of who He is, so that I could worship Him fully. And He is doing it!! By what He showed me today, He is beginning to do it... :)

O Lord Jesus, keep expanding my mind to see all the intricate, complex dimensions of You. Amen.

I hope that you would pray this prayer too. Ask God to give you a fuller understanding of who He is... so that you could avoid worshiping an idol.

"Distinguished by His Presence"
Exodus 33

August 4, 2001

Moses once asked the Lord God, "What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?"

The other day, I sat in my car journaling and praying and I asked God the very same question. What makes me different from everyone else? Am I any different? Is it possible to be different? I have quietly slipped into the pattern that has been weaved for me by all the other people in this world. I wake up in the morning, rush to work, rush though the day anxious for it to be over, then I rush home, just to rush to eat, shower and rush to sleep so that I can awaken again to another rushed day to do the same. So what makes me different?! Moses had the answer even while he was asking the question.

We enter a scene in Moses' life in Exodus 33 when he is told by Yahweh that he needs to lead the Israelites to the promised land. It was a terrifying command. Moses was no fool though. He knew the feat was impossible, but he also knew that it WAS possible if he had the favor and presence of the Lord of heaven and earth.

Listen to what he says to God:

Exodus 33:12-13 Moses said to the LORD, "You have been telling me, 'Lead these people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor with me.' If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."

Did you ever consider that for God to actually reveal His ways to us, His laws, His commands is actually Him revealing His desire and His heart to us? That in the revealing of His ways it is almost like being vulnerable to us? Only if He was pleased with us would He let us in to that part of Him so that we could have the secret to finding favor with Him. Ah, to know the way to obey and thus to find favor with God - now *there* is a great secret! And how desperately we need to be found with favor in His eyes! I never thought of it that way. But our God is not an aloof God who sits on His throne and laughs while His people are scrambling around trying to figure things out. Granted, we often foolishly do that. But our scramblings don't come because He has been unkind to us. It comes because we are fools. We forget that He has revealed His heart to us in His Son and in His Word. Here, Moses asks that God would reveal His ways so that He would continue to find favor with God -- espcially because he knows that what God has asked of him would be simply impossible if God did not find favor with him.

Exodus 33:14 - The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

Moses had asked whom the Lord would send to help him lead the Israelites. God's answer? Himself. And that is all he needs. And in Him, he will find rest. If we have the Lord's Presence, there is nothing we truly can't handle.

But Moses doesn't seem satisfied with this answer. Maybe he feared that the Lord only meant it for him. What about the rest of His people? Maybe he just wanted to make sure.

Exodus 33:15-16 Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?"

There it is. The heart of the matter. Life is utterly impossible without the Lord's Presence. We don't think this all the time. We probably only think of this during our hard, unbearable times. Or during these type of Moses-moments, when God has asked us to do the impossible. But Life is really always impossible without God. We need the mark of His presence in our lives! What else is gonna distinguish us from any other person on the face of the earth?? That is the question I propose to you.

Now, the answer isn't going to be about rolling up your sleeves and making that extra effort to try harder to be better. Add more rules. Add more boundaries. More discipline. More reality! Less dreaming. More vows.

No... the answer is simply in Moses' prayer.

Lord, I need your Presence in my life.

That's all.

I think we just need to ask. And ask Him, too, how you might find favor in His eyes.

Exodus 33:17 And the Lord said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, beacuse I am pleased with you and I know you by name."

The Lord is pleased with you and knows you by name. He called you out of your sin to be His own. He is calling you now to continue in His favor. Just ask in Jesus' name, and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:24. With His Presence in our lives, we become distinguished from all the other people on the face of the earth.

Mary Ann

"Confessions of a Sleepaholic"

May 1, 2001

      This past Sunday morning, I read Jeremiah 6:16, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." The verse was mostly an encouragement to me in regard to rest.
      Rest has been a huge issue for me in these last days. I think for the last month or so, I have been rebelling and resisting against God -- on almost everything. One of the biggest points of contention was whether or not I would put God first by waking up at 6:30 in the morning to have a quiet time with Him before work. The reason for this is that if I don't spend time with God before work, then there's just no way that I would have any chance at all to have a quiet time for the rest of the day. So for this past month, days went by when I didn't spend any time with God at all because I just kept choosing to sleep rather than converse with God. It got to a point where I pretty much gave up the fight and quit on God. I quit trying to wake up, I quit reading the Bible, I quit ministry, and I just altogther "quit" Him in my heart -- and I didn't even care! In the mornings, I would wake up to my wake-up calls from my truly dedicated accountability sisters, and then I would go back to sleep until the very last minute before I would have to go to work. I kept reasoning that if I could just get more sleep, then I would finally feel rested from the deep exhaustion that was weighing me down, and THEN I could spend time with God. But that didn't happen. No matter how much I would try to sleep, I would still be sleepy, still fall asleep while reading journal articles at work, etc. It was terrible! Finally, at the end of the month, I realized that no matter how much rest I tried to get, I would never feel truly rested if I am not resting in the Lord. That realization was a turning point for me. So all of last week was a week of saying to the Lord, "Ok, God, I want to come back." (It had gotten so bad that for awhile, I simply didn't care that I had quit on God. In fact, when people asked me to pray for them, I had to say no and that I couldn't.)
      Anyway, I heard a sermon from Dr. Jeremiah one day about John-Mark "The Man who Came Back". Mark had been a quitter, but God reinstated him (after 11 years!). He was a defector, abandoned Paul in the middle of a missionary journey, yet when he turned back, God restored him so that he went from being a quitter to being one who was useful to God. In fact, the very first gospel was entrusted to this very "quitter." Dr. Jeremiah said that God never gives up on you. "If you've quit on Him...come back. He wants you to come back." For the first time in a long time, I felt like that was a sermon that was prepared and preached expressly for me. God was telling me it's time to quit the quitting and come back. What was most encouraging to me was when Dr. Jeremiah said that restoration doesn't happen overnight. Just because I tell the Lord I want to come back, it doesn't mean that I will be reinserted into ministry right away or anything -- and I don't have to worry about that!! (I guess I fret about that most - because there are these girls in a small group that I'm supposed to be leading, whom I love, that I feel like I have abandoned somewhat while I've been in my rebellion.) Anyway, I made a very YES decision to come back after that.
      The next morning God did something really cool for me. After my wake-up call, I fell back asleep... and He just let me sleep until I was perfectly late for work. But the thing that was worse is that when I was on my way out the door, I realized that I had some Blockbuster videos due that day at noon and I still had to rewind em! The irony of it all is that I couldn't find the VCR downstairs where it usually is. So then I found our old, ancient rewinder and stuck the video in. Five minutes later, I pulled out the tape and realized the reason why we hid that dinosaur away: the video had moved only a millimeter!! So then I grabbed the video and ran upstairs hoping against all hope that I could find the VCR. And I did! It was in the computer room. As I sat there waiting with impatience for the tape to rewind, I relented and said to the Lord, "Ok, God. Ok. I get it. You made your point." I think in my heart of hearts, I foolishly thought that somehow I would be able to handle this by my own wits and still get to work on time. But this whole silly scene of scrambling around was God's way of emphasizing "giving me over" (just as in Romans 2) to the way I wanted to indulge my flesh by sleeping and choosing myself over Him. (Now, sleeping in itself isn't a bad thing at all. It's just that God and I both knew that it was a personal battle I was waging against Him. That each time I was choosing to sleep, I made a very active choice, "Lord, sorry, I'm not going to spend time with you. I'm going to sleep." I was choosing sleep over Him each time.) So in this whole situation it was like Him saying, "You wanted to sleep. Well, I let you sleep." Getting my way was not what I wanted after all. I think I learned that lesson well.
      The next morning, I chose to stay awake after my wake-up call. I spent time with the Lord, and it was a wonderful day at work. Work is still difficult, boring, dissatisfying, but it was all different that day, because I was different that day. Joy flowed out of me because I was finally walking with my Lord again.
      Jer 6:16 confirmed all these happenings. We are always at crossroads in our lives. Some decisions seem bigger than others, but we must make many decisions throughout the day each day. One thing I realized as I thought about this verse is that when you are at a crossroads, you can ask the Lord for direction. And when you ask, He will tell you; but when He tells you, you need to go the way in which he pointed you (no turning back in the middle or rejecting what He told you to do even if that path is not what you wanted)... because only when you go His way will you truly find rest. (Otherwise, you'll just be fighting Him, tired & weary all the time. Trust me, I tried that; it's NOT fun to NOT go HIS Way.) It's a matter of obedience with the Lord.
      See, with work, I have two choices, be content or be bitter. Which will it be? As I stand at the crossroads, I asked for the ancient paths. And you know what I saw? I saw that Joseph was enslaved, incarcerated, accused of a crime he didn't commit for many years in order to be refined and humbled (he was soo prideful as a youth) BEFORE the vision God gave him came true (i.e. that he would save his bros and dad & that they would bow down to him). Moses wandered around for 40 years. Jesus took the cup and was crucified. I don't think most of the Bible heroes expected or would've chosen the path that God gave them when He gave it to them after they had asked. But when each of them took the path God gave them, it was good. They found rest. I think it is the same for me. This was not what I expected, I wouldn't have chosen this job at all (freshman year in college, I thought that by now God would've sent me overseas on missions already!!); but I asked the Lord for direction and it is to this portion that He has assigned me to. (Psalm 16:5-6) So this is the way I will go. I believe that just as with Joseph, there's some refinement and humbling and disciplining that the Lord wants to work on in me before He sends me anywhere. Psalm 57:2 promises that He will fulfill His purpose for me. I cling to this promise.
      I think you can too.

Your sis,
Mary Ann

"I am Somebody's Girl!"

July 15, 2000

      My birthday is in two days. And as is my custom around this time every year, I always spend a lot of time reflecting about the past year, lessons learned and all that. This year my heart has gravitated back to that place where I am so poignantly aware of the sweet, sweetness of how blessed is this gift of Life in Christ! As I've been reflecting, it just causes me to sigh with contentment. There is nothing so much better and so much wonderful than this! I memorized a verse recently. Romans 1:6 which says, "And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ."
      This verse has tremendous implications to me. The word "called" means "predetermined", "planned", "elected", "chosen"... it definitely does not mean "by accident." And so think what that means! I was planned, chosen, etc, from the very beginning... to what? To BELONG to Jesus Christ. The word belong has so many connotations as well. The other night, I walked into my sister's room, and she was talking on the phone. This is what I heard her say just as I walked in and then out, "It's nice to be somebody's 'girl' sometimes. It's nice to belong to someone every once in awhile." The reality is that it is *always* nice to be somebody's girl, to belong to someone. We are constantly looking, longing and seeking after that. The reason is that we were made to belong to Someone. And the reality is that I, as a child of God, AM Somebody's "girl"... I am my own Abba's "girl", I am Jesus' bride, and I DO belong to Him in a relationship that will last forever and ever and ever, without end! There is never any fear of "breaking up" (in regard to what my sister was referring to). I belong to Him!
      Ah, what sweetness is this relationship with Jesus! :) I am so grateful for this life. It is truly sweet, wondrous life! =)

quite secure,
mary ann:)

"The Gospel - Free of Charge"

July 14, 2000

The Apostle Paul was one interesting character! He went the extreme to live a life of integrity and righteousness. He went the extreme to live as much above reproach as possible. Here is what I've been learning regarding this...

As I was reading 1 Corinthians 9 and also glanced over chapter 10 (vv. 23-24 and 33), I was struck by how Paul kept talking about believer's freedom a lot (how as believers, we have the freedom to do just about anything), yet it always comes down to something like 1Cor 10:33, "For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved." It occured to me that we always ask, "What does the Bible say about such and such?" because we want to know what the bare minimum we can get away with is. We want to know for our own pleasure-purposes what we can do. How selfish!

In contrast, Paul speaks about his rights as an apostle in 1 Corinthians 9. He proves very succinctly, that as an apostle who has led them to the Lord, he deserves to be offered/supported with money from the Corinthians, but he refuses to take advantage of this right! Why? He tells us why in 1 Cor 9:12b, "But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ." And also in verse 18, "that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge..." He doesn't want it to seem like he's trying to preach to earn money; that would completely degrade the Message. Paul also tells us that he is willing to be all things to all men so that by all possible means he could save some (verse 22). Then he talks about believer's freedom, how "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. Nobody should seek his own good but the good of others" (1 Cor 10:23-24). So from his example, I realized that we ought not do things according to what we could get away with but in reference to others around us. We must resolve, like Paul, to not put up with anything and refrain from everything that would hinder the Message of the gospel.

1 Cor 9:22 when Pauls says he's become all things to all men so that he may save some has perplexed me for some time now. This is the perfect example of "believer's freedom." What does it mean that to the Jew, he becomes a Jew, to one who has the law, we ought to have the law. How to apply that in our lives? How far is going too far? Can you go to a bar to evangelize, etc? But in light of the context (esp 9:12b), I realize that he will be "all things to all men" as long as it does not hinder the gospel. So if going to a bar and drinking would hinder the surrounding people, then don't do it. And if it disturbs your own conscience, then don't do it. Again, it's not about what we can get away with for our own sake. The question that it comes down to is, "What does it do to the Message I am trying to deliver? Hinder or promote?" How you answer the question ought to determine what you choose to do.

Times like these are confusing to me. I never know what is right or wrong anymore. The media, the school system, and all the people around me blur all the lines together. Not even Christians can agree what is right or wrong. And as believers, it seems like we have so much freedom as well. We are often exhorted to "meet the people where they are at"... but what does that mean to me? Some people say I should go to drinking parties, go clubbing, go to do this or that with nonbelievers so I can meet them where they're at. If I stay in my bubble, then I am not being intentional enough about going to the lost. But here I find that it really is as simple as I always thought it should be. It all comes down to one simple question. Will it hinder or help the Message? That is all I care about. And my resolution is to live as much above reproach as possible to win the hearts of the nonbelievers by the purity and reverence of my life.

in pursuit of righteousness,
mary ann:)

"Where Can I Flee From His Presence?"

July 8, 2000

The lesson that God has been teaching me comes from Psalm 139:7-10, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."

He's been teaching me what it means that He is omnipresent. I'll just tell you one way. Monday I went for jury duty - taking the trolley from Fashion Valley to downtown. Being that I am a college student who still lives at home and have very nice friends, this is the first time I've gone to unchatered waters by myself. From the beginning, it started out all wrong because I was late and didn't know HOW to take the trolley or which direction to go... and then I discovered that I only had a twenty dollar bill and the ticket machine didn't take any bills over 5. Realizing these things made me panic.. especially since I was sooo clueless and sooo late already! So then I had to go beg people for change, but after asking all the people on the platform, no one had change for a twenty. So as I slumped back wondering what to do, I decided to talk to the first guy I spoke to. He seemed nice. I asked him some questions about the trolley and in the end, he offered to pay my fare. After he helped me buy the ticket, I sat down with him and saw that he was reading a book. So then I asked him what book he was reading, and it turned out that it was a Bible!! So this Japanese exchange student who helped me was a believer! He was going to a class near Old Town, so he accompanied me on the trolley for most of the trip. I was soo thankful that God placed him there!

Then at the Hall of Justice, I ended up sitting next to this girl... who was reading Phillip Yancey's "The Jesus I Never Knew" then we started talking. It turned out that she lives in Penasquitos (where I live!) and graduated from Mt. Carmel HS years ago (the high school I graduated from too) and goes to a church down the street from my church! After we had a very nice conversation, we got dismissed early from jury duty.

As I was walking toward the trolley station I was thinking "God is good! He provided me with two sibs-in-Christ for company!" Then as I walked by a man standing at the station, he turned to me and said, "You're from the church aren't you?" (Imagine my confusion!) I stopped and turned around questioningly. He said again, "You go to Chinese Bible Church, don't you?" So I nodded in assent. It turns out that he remembered me because I've babysat his kids before! :) He first recognized me in the large jury waiting room. In chatting with him while we waited for the trolley, I discovered that he *also* parked his car somewhere near Fashion Valley, so he was my company on the trolley all the way back!

Notice, I was *never* alone. When I didn't have money or have any idea of the right direction, God placed a brother there to help me. He gave me someone to accompany me on my trip TO the courthouse, then AT the courthouse, then on the trip back FROM the courthouse! In these three sibs-in-Christ, God was giving me a very cool and clear message. He is always, *always* with me. When I go into new territory that is a little strange, bewildering and scary, He will go with me! He will guide me and His right hand will hold me fast. In the three people, it was his way of holding my hand and saying Joshua 1:9, "I will be with you wherever you go." Anywhere and everywhere. Pretty neat, huh?

This incident underscored what Psalm 139 means as well as a statement that a brother had said to me two days before the incident. He said, "I can't run from God's presence. He's everywhere. Even if I died, I'd still be in His presence." Isn't that the truth? How splendid, how perfectly reassuring that we have a God, who is ever-present and everywhere-present, who will orchestrate circumstances and strategically set His children in the right places to guarantee guidance, protection and love. What blessed assurance! :)

May you take comfort in the knowledge of His omnipresence in your life! Trust that He is with you always, strategically planning, working, orechestrating and doing things for your greater good.

"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen, for me, in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Psalm 16:5-6

Delighting in my inheritance,
Mary Ann:)

"No Short-cuts?"

June 6, 2000

     I flipped open to Exodus 13 today and read this very simple passage: "When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, 'If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.' So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle." (Ex 13:17-18)
     I was struck by this passage because it said that God did not lead His people on a certain path that was shorter. Instead, He led them into a desert (of all places!) and straight to a "dead-end": the Red Sea. What strangeness! If I were an Isaraelite I would've begun to wonder what God was doing. Why wouldn't He lead us on the shorter path? Quicker -- it makes sense. Why instead would He make them go a longer way and lead them straight to a huge obstacle?
     God's reason is great. He knows when His children are not ready to face a difficult battle. He did not want to lead His children into a situation that He knew they were incapable of bearing. He knew the limitations of their faith and their weakness. As I meditated on these things, I was reminded of 1 Cor 10:13... "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." The God that Paul knew and described in New Testament time is the same God of Moses' Old Testament time. You see, God demonstrates His sovereign perspective in knowing precisely what His children would be able to bear or not be able to bear. In this passage, we see that He did not lead them into a situation where they would be tempted to turn from Him completely. Instead, He lead them the longer way to a place where they had to learn to "stand firm" and "be still" and trust the Lord and see to their complete amazement how the Lord fights for them and gives them deliverance. (Ex 14:13-14) The longer way brought them to the Red Sea so that they could see God do a miracle that they could point to and remember for all the future generations. He could've taken them the shorter way and gave them deliverance from the battle, but that was not what He thought was best for them.
     I think too frequently I get frustrated because I don't understand what God's doing. Too often, it seems like God's just not making any sense at all. He seems like He's taking the longest way possible to accomplish a task - and I get impatient because from my perspective, He's waiting too long, or making me wait too long or just going about it all wrong. And boy do I get frustrated! In this situation, God didn't want to deliver them from a battle with the Philistines; He wanted to part the Red Sea. He wanted them to witness a bigger miracle. Just like with Lazarus in John 11. Jesus waited for two days after He heard that Lazarus was sick to allow Lazarus to die so that He could raise him from the dead and more people could see God's glory and believe. God often wants us to wait and it's because He is always working for a greater purpose that we don't see or understand.. and that's what causes us to be so frustrated.
     What helps me in my frustration though is remembering that God has this habit of leading us to what is best for us, not what we desire at this present moment no matter how urgent we think it is to us. In Romans 8:28, Paul writes, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose." But what is this good he refers to? What does that look like in our lives? Verse 29 says, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers." The "for" is a transitional word which connects these two statements together. The good that He works out is for us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. (What better thing for us than to be made into perfection?) And even more so, verse 37 says that whatever it is that we go through, we are not only going to get through it, but we will be more than conquerors.
     So whether we are in the midst of hard times in our family lives, not understanding sickness or death, or perplexed by the injustice of not doing well in school because we are playing by God's rules and not cheating, or not excelling at work because we don't cut corners, or not seeing our prayers being answered though we've been faithfully praying, or not getting what we think we need "right now"... and God just seems like He's avoided the "shorter" way on purpose to spite us; there is this Truth that will never stop being true. God has a great agenda on hand. In the midst of the difficult times, He wants to teach us the precise thing we need to learn, even if it seems too great an obstacle or long a distance. He will never lead us into something greater than we can bear. Instead, He will provide us a way out so that we can stand up under it. Stand up, stand firm and be still before Him; refined, changed transformed and conformed into the likeness of His perfect Son where we are more than conquerors.
     "The Lord has established His throne in Heaven, and His kingdom rules over all." (Psalm 103:19) What does He rule over? He rules over ALL things. He's in charge and in control... for now into all eternity.

Mary Ann :)

Click here for a more in-depth look at this passage.
(Exodus 13:17-14)

"The Great Provider-GOD"

May 6, 2000

Spring is definitely in the air! I would say that 9 out of 10 conversations I have each day have been about relationships lately ---- even my conversations with GOD!!

So I was reading Genesis chapter 2 awhile back and God gave me this oh-so-very cool thought and I feel COMPELLED to share it because it has been a blessed and reassuring thought to me in these crazy spring days full of romance that could possibly cause me to topple, "awakening" love when I'm not supposed to (Song 3:5b), drop the guard over my heart when I'm not supposed to (Proverbs 4:23), and stir up much discontent in me (which I would not prefer).

So in this chapter (if you want, read it over real quick before you read this email), God has produced the most prized of all His creation - Adam. He provides him a place to live -- and it's not just "any" place! God has provided a lucious garden with "ALL kinds of trees...pleasing to the eye and good for food" (verse 9). Can you imagine it? The "all" underscores the concept of MANY. And these MANY plants were not just wonderfully pretty plants to look at, but they were also good for the tummy! (Praise God for gooood food!!)

So that's the setting.

Then God provides Adam a way to serve his Master. He gives Adam the privilege of taking care of the garden and essentially ruling over all His creation. (Nice, isn't it?) :)

God even provides Adam with protection. He gives this one command to not eat from certain trees. (Why? The sin-nature in me wanted to scream, "That's not fair! Why would God limit him with such a rule?" But the Spirit in me victored by making me realize that the command was one of protection. God's ONE command was in order to protect Adam from the "death" consequenecs that would surely lay ahead if he ate from the tree of knowledge.) (What a thought, huh?!! He just wants to protect us!)

And then when everything was in place, God said to Himself, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (verse 18). So then He puts Adam to sleep. While Adam is sleeping, God creates Eve. When she is ready, He awakens Adam and presents her to him. (I betcha he was thinking, "WOW!!!" when he saw her.) :)

So what is my point? Do you see it? When Adam was good and ready, God starting putting everything into place for their encounter. Adam was put to sleep and awakened AFTER Eve was formed to be suitable for her husband. (Sidethought: She was taken out of him, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh to help him, love him, be a companion and counterpart to him. They are equals yet are to function differently for the well-being of the whole unit.)

But my thought was this, when Adam was ready for his "helper-mate", God put him to sleep and then woke him up and then presented him with his wife. Will it not be so with me? Adam was settled in his residence ("mission field" may I be permitted to call it?) first and fully provided for and then when he was ready for "help", God brought her along. When my future husband is ready for a counterpart, companion and helper, won't God present me to him? Won't He wake my "Adam" up? I believe this is the Lord's way. No need to plan, plot, scheme or contrive.

Much comfort in these convicting thoughts... Our Father is the great Provider-God. He will provide us with shelter, food, beautiful things, protection *and* lovers. :)

And so I wait. And if it is not His will, then I shall ever be *His* "helper" and servant as I am now,
Mary Ann :)

-- -- --
Here's a good order check-list a brother told me about last week to determine in your life:

Master, Mission and then Mate.
Who is my Master? (me or money or career or God?)
What is my mission? (How will I serve my Master?) and *then*
Who is my Mate? (Can we further this mission together? Do we have the same mission?)

"Unchained Giving"

April 18, 2000

I have a confession to make. Although the Lord tells us that we must be generous with our money, our love, our lives (EVERYthing), I find it not always so simple to obey. Being generous with my love and my life I have less problems with... but with my money, that is a different story.

There's this verse in the Bible that goes like this:

"Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine."
Proverbs 3:9-10

It almost doesn't make sense to me! When I was younger, my family was pretty poor. We always had to buy the cheapest things and save, save, save. That mindset got so well imbedded in me, that I have had a lot of difficulty routing it out. But not only does God promise to provide us with so much that we would be overflowing if we honor Him with our wealth, but in reality, He has already filled our lives with His love "to overflowing". So in consideration of all that, I have struggled with wanting to be as generous with my things as He is with His. But it has been hard.

During the summer, I struggled with tithing a lot. Ten percent of my paycheck seemed like a lot. But I submitted... and then ten percent didn't seem like so much anymore. It never seemed like I ever really lost any money at all! Everything I needed was richly provided for...

But still, giving away money outside of the realm of tithing was difficult for me. Every time I thought about doing it, it was like a mental battle. I could feel one part of me having to rip the money out of the grip of another part of me... like two people fighting! God made me realize how UNgood and disapproving this was as an answer to my request to "test me...(and) see if there is any offensive way in me" that I might be led in the way everlasting (as it says in Psalm 139). After He exposed my offensiveness, I prayed and prayed and prayed that He would cause me to be more generous in spirit, because in not being generous I felt like I was also being unkind and unloving. It was as if my holding onto money so tightly made me unable to hold or embrace anything else tightly. Hard to love when you want to selfishly hoard.

While all this was happening, as some of you know, my car has been in horrendous condition for quite some time, so I have been praying for a car for many, many weeks now. So two Fridays ago, my dad saw a car for sale. That Saturday morning, I got a chance to test drive it... it was a wonderful car in wonderful condition at a wonderful price. So I called my dad and told him that I liked it... and it was his turn to test drive it. Meanwhile, I crashed in on a discipleship training session where there was a guest speaker who was talking about John Piper's "Desiring God". He spoke of John Piper's "wartime" philosophy. Everything we have goes to God. If you have something broken, perhaps, and need it fixed and pray about it and that you could save some money and then you go someplace and get a really good deal and DO save some money. What do you do with the money? Naturally, I would thank God for allowing me to save the money, and "save" the money in my bank. Not so with John Piper!! He says that if God allows you to save the money, then you should give the money right back to God.

Now that was a novel, crazy idea for me! Being that I am such a hoarder, I would've never thought of that much less practiced it.

But on my way home, I started thinking about that Nissan Sentra wondering if my dad bought it or not. Then I realized that I had not prayed about the car at all. So I did. I asked God to make everything run smoothly if He wanted me to have the car. And as a sidenote, I told him that "it would be nice" if I could save some money on it... thinking (but not promising) about the John Piper wartime philosophy.

So I turned into my house and saw the Sentra in my driveway and knew my dad had purchased it. I went in and discovered that he got the car for $2750... which is $250 cheaper than the money I had expected to spend! Not only so, but then my parents told me that they would pay for half my car for me! (I'm kinda spoiled, I know.) They told me to use the money for the laptop that I so badly want.

But in my room, I reflected. Should I buy a laptop or give God back the money I saved? Prayer led me to a DESIRE to give the money back to God. In my gratefulness, it seemed like the most logical thing to do. I wasn't sure how I would give it back to God, but I was sure that I wanted to give it to Him. $250 laid on the table.

Many days later, a friend of mine asked me to proofread her support letter because she's going to the Philippines this summer for missions. I read it to the end and I was so struck! It was evident where the money would go!! Prayer made me sure. And not knowing what God has been moving in me, a few days after that, my friend also told me she was worried about the money issue for the trip. How funny! God had moved me to desire to support her while she is concerned about being supported. What a great provider-God we have. He's always at work! This confirmed further that the money I had laid on the table in faith would go to her.

But the true victory came when I spoke to a brother who is also going to the Philippines this summer and realized that I wanted to support him also! Should I split the $250? No, no... I didn't want to do that. As I contemplated this, I felt so perplexed because I shouldn't be spending so much money. I should be saving it! It was a muddle of confusion until I suddenly had this thought...

"WHAT AM I SAVING MY MONEY FOR??" If I am saving my money for anything, it ought to be this!

Eternal investments... no greater return!

This thought stopped me - Halted me where I was -- Stopped and stilted all other thoughts. I meditated. YES, it was true!!

And so much peace flooded through my insides at this realization. I feel the victory! And it is true victory because of my newfound unchained eagerness to GIVE --- When I write a check to tithe (or even in thinking about the checks I will write to support our brothers and sisters who are going on missions trips this summer), it's not a battle and not an obligation! I don't feel like I am clenching my fist anymore... I don't feel chained... and it is the sweetest victory...

Prayers answered... I am an overcomer because of Jesus Christ. 1 John 5:5.

Dancing at the foot of the cross,
Mary Ann Nguyen :)

"God's Leading for Today"

March 30, 2000

      I am desperate to know what the Lord God wants to lead me to. Do you want to know God's leading for yourself too? What is His desire for me in my life today? What is His desire for your life? To figure that out, we need to understand what He has led other people in the past to. Perhaps we can get our first answer from the last chapter of 2 Samuel today. Go ahead and read it first or the following won't make as much sense.

      In 2 Samuel 24, we find that the Lord leads David first to repentance. This begins in verse ten. David realizes his pride; he realizes that he has been desiring to trust himself (and the strength of his army) and not God. This presents a problem. This is not what God wants, and it is also not what works in life. And David knows that. So in leading him to repentance, God also leads David into trusting in Him alone. David must trust God for victory, strength and protection, instead of the strength of man. This is what God leads him to remember. And isn't that the way with our Lord? He wants us to see that He wants us to fully rely on Him alone. He wants us to see that the way our lives can be prosperous and successful is if we entrust everything to God's reign.
      So then David confesses his pride (also in verse 10). And God forgives. We read of this in the following events. Now, even though David is truly contrite, we see that his sins have consequences. They must be punished. But it is interesting here because God gives David a choice on how he will be punished. That is weird. So here we see how God also leads people to make choices. He wants us to make choices. It is what Elisabeth Elliot said today on the radio. Our choices are the crown of God's omnipotence. Interesting.
      David chooses that he would rather have God send a plague than be pursued by his enemies because, "Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men" (Verse 14). Even though he sins and we can see his folly in it, David demonstrates in these words and in his choice that he has a deep, intimate relationship with God. He understands the character of his Lord. He knows that God is merciful. So he entrusts himself to God - not for riches or something "good" this time, but for punishment! So we see that God continually leads us to make choices of trust, does He not?
      Next, we find in the passage, that calamity befalls Israel. Indeed, the Lord keeps his promise of punishment. Yet, David is right. God's mercy is great. He becomes grieved by the deaths and pain of His people and finally says to the angel, "Enough! Withdraw your hand" (Verse 16). And the plague stops. But David confesses again as he sees how the angel of the Lord has struck down all the people in the land, "I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family" (Verse 17). The Lord has led David to repentance and complete ownership of his sins and ownership of punishment. In this way, is the Lord not allowing David to also see God's justness? Yahweh is just in sending punishment, and David must own up to it. It's funny how even in the midst of our sins and their horrendous consequences, the Lord allows us to see more of Himself. He is constantly leading us to a greater revelation of who He is.
      Then the Lord sends word to David that he needs to build an altar to the Lord to worship him. The Lord leads David to worship. David goes to Araunah's house where Araunah wants to offer to him the threshing floor (where David is supposed to build the altar) as well as the bulls free of charge. But David makes a very clear and decisive statement in verse 24. "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." Isn't that interesting? I wouldn't have thought that anything was wrong with accepting this free offer. In fact, I would've just thought that the Lord was "providing" so I wouldn't have to pay. But David sees this in a different light.
      And is it not true? What kind of sacrifice would it be if it didn't cost you anything? Would it really be a sacrifice? I ask you to consider for a moment the definition of a sacrifice. What is a sacrifice? Is it not the offering up of something that you cherish or hold dear? If you gave something that meant nothing to you, it would not be a sacrifice. It would be like "throwing something out." It would be a meaningless giving away. Compare going downtown to serve food to the homeless at a soup kitchen versus inviting a homeless person bed and board at your home for a weekend. See the difference? The former would be sparing a bit of time out of your day. The latter would be service and sacrifice. It would mean a personal encroachment of your space. You would be sharing your life with this individual. So we must conclude that David was right. We can't sacrifice to God something that costs us nothing.
      After David purchases all that was necessary and offers it up to God and prays, the Lord answers prayer on behalf of the land and the plague stops (Verse 25). God listens to his prayers because they are from a sincere heart. The sincerity is evident in his insistence to offer God something costly. I find that very interesting that David "insists." If David had not sacrificed something that was costly, then would it have been very convincing that he was repentant? Probably not. For all the blessed sacrifices that God makes for us, our "great" sacrifices are so little in comparison! For the mercy that He constantly lavishes on us, shall we then in return offer him sacrifices that costs us nothing? What an ill turn that would be to the King of kings. David knows this. Thus, for God's mercy, he offers Him something of value.

      So let us summarize. God led David to repentance. He led him to see his sins, to full reliance and trust in God alone, to confession, to worship, to sacrifice - and best of all, to a greater revelation of Himself. So where is the Lord leading us today? My eyes fall on the words repentance and sacrifice.
      Now, repentance and sacrifice doesn't indicate that we must give up a huge amount of money to God. It is all about our hearts. -- Is it not? The Lord leads us to examine our hearts so that we can see clearly what we cherish, and even what we find and put our security in. It is in those things that He wishes for us to surrender and sacrifice.
      One thing is certain, when David trusted that it was wiser to fall in the hands of God than in his enemies, he was right. God is merciful. When he again trusted God in his act of worship by demonstrating his trust in offering something costly to God, he found favor and forgiveness. God gave evidence to support David's faith. He is merciful.
      As with David, I think that in the midst of all this repentance and sacrifice that I am promoting, we will find that if we lay our lives on the line, God will reveal a greater vision of Himself to us. So let us let Him lead us to repentance and sacrifice. Let's insist. This is my prayer for today. Will you make it yours?

Much love in Christ,
Mary Ann Nguyen

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Created: April 20, 2000
Last modified: Mar 7, 2002
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