Thoughts from April 2003

April 30, 2003 - Jesus' temptations... mine & yours
Luke 4 - I've always separated Jesus' temptations into 3 categories: 1. physical & flesh, 2. power & fame & material wealth and 3. spiritual (testing God) -- but God gave me fresh insight yesterday. The temptations are not that simplistic. The focus of my 3 categories are on "what" satan was using to tempt Jesus with, but it doesn't consider the kinds of spiritual questions (doubts) that are being put into play.

In the first temptation, the kinds of questions satan is daring Jesus with is, "Are you really powerful? Are you really the Son of God? I bet you can't even turn stone to bread!" It's a taunt and a punch at His ego. How many times have we because are so prideful tried to assert ourselves - boastfully - in order to prove something, in order to prove our capabilities and therefore our worth? Jesus doesn't fall for this scheme. He knows His worth is not proven by Him showing off His powers for no God-honoring reason. How I need to understand that my worth is in Christ and that I don't need to convince people that I am capable or productive or fruitful. I don't need to ramble off a list of people I've led to Christ or the titles of ministry positions I've held. Nope, it's just not necessary!

In the second temptation, satan offers Jesus some "powerfully" tempting stuff... but it is so very temporal. Satan attempts to draw Jesus away from God the Father with the ultimate sin, and that is to worship another. When we turn our hearts away from God, we have committed the ultimate sin. This is a desire satan continues to have through the ages. He wants us to worship him and worship material things and power... anything BUT God - for when our hearts are divided, we lose the joy and we cease to tap into the power and we become "useless" to God. I think that, for me, beyond material things, fame and power, just the concept of being drawn to worship other things - even in placing other things before God, spending more time with other things than God - it is essentially loving and therefore worshiping other things more than and above God. Our choices reflect what we love. My choice is unfortunately too often for the lesser thing.

In the third temptation, satan dares Jesus to jump off a temple to test God to see if God will save Him. Satan here is attempting to make Jesus ask questions not only of "can He save you?" - see, that may seem to be THE question -- but it's more of, "Will He?" "Does God really love you? Does He care about you? Does He care about your well-being? I bet He doesn't. Why don't you try it and see." These are certainly questions I've asked before. Does He really love me? Will He protect me? Keep me safe? Provide for me? Satisfy me? Sometimes I find myself asking these questions unconsciously everyday. In my heart of hearts, I know God does love me and will totally take care of me - His Word identifies this Truthfulness in every way. But I see how satan is still using the same tactics to try to hinder my walk with God, to paralyze me, to keep me from victorious living... and how too often, it works.

But those questions are merely propagating lies.

My only battle plan is that of Jesus'. Not only to have the Word memorized, but to actually believe that it's true. That's the only way to combat satan - to believe Truth and banish the lies from my presence.

April 28, 2003 - sorry
Sorry I have not been updating here. Sometimes God's whispered words are so intimate they simply cannot be public domain.

For more superficial upddates on my life, you can read my xanga. I'll still be updating here, but I guess I'm also waiting for fresh revelation.

April 22, 2003 - into His heart
When I spend time with God, it's like I get to climb into His heart. When I don't, I feel as though I am merely holding His hand. I say this, because I know a lot of us speak of the importance of having constant communion with God. And that's the way it should be. We should always be speaking and listening to God in our hearts. But that to me, is hand-holding. When I actually, set aside a sacred time to be with Him, it's like climbing into His heart. When I read His Word -- even if no fresh insights come -- something wonderful still transpires. My heart connects with His as the deepest parts of Him call out to the deepest parts of me (Ps 42:7). And I am wonderfully changed.

April 17, 2003 - second string
Lord God, please don't let me be second string or second choice or the one "that'll do", just settled for. Don't let me be the last one standing there because no one wants to pick me for their team or the girl who's never been asked to a dance... because this has been me my entire life.

April 15, 2003 - still questions?
do you still ask questions when you read the bible? i do.

i've been in jer 4 for a few days because i keep leaving it with questions that i need to ponder. God says, "put your detestable idols out of my sight...swear, 'As surely as the Lord lives...'" (v.1-2) you only swear by the highest power or authority that you can think of. to swear by the Lord means that you are proclaiming that He is the highest of the high in the land, in your heart, in your life. do i believe this? do i live this?

"Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts..." (v. 4) What is the unplowed ground in my life? Where should I be sowing that I have not been before? What does it really mean to me to circumcise my heart? What does that look like? Have I done it? Will I continue to do it?

"wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts?" (v.14) Lord, please wash the evil in my heart and the wickedness in my thoughts. I know that I'm a sinner.

"My people are fools; they do not know me." (v. 22) To not KNOW God is to be a fool. I can be a Christian and still not really know God. I am a fool every day that I don't spend with Him and dig in and dive deeper into the depths of His character.

"What are you doing...why dress yourself in scarlet..shade your eyes with paint...your lovers despise you; they seek your life..." (v.30) Don't try to put on makeup or cover yourself with fraudulent robes of righteousness, don't pretend that you are perfect or have not sinned. You are a sinner, plain and simple. Admit it and you will find life.

The thoughts are random, but all they do is beckon me to run quickly into His arms. His Words speak to my very heart. I want to know Him more and I don't want to settle any more for medicore, foolish, sinful living.

April 15, 2003 - slow cars
"Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare...his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Ps 91:3-4)

this morning i wanted to go into work early but found myself stuck behind a succession of slow cars, which blocked my goals. honestly, it was like watching a movie scene as one slow car changed out of my lane and then another slow car got in front of me. i couldn't help but think that this was a very clever plot to annoy me. but then i thought about it some more and begin to smile as i wondered how many car accidents, slippages and other horrid scenarios these slow cars were protecting me from. it was too orchestrated to be a random coincidence. it was like God handpicked their entrances into my life. perhaps the clever plot to annoy me was in actuality a clever plot to protect me. it occurred to me as i thought about this that we never usually see the numerous things that God is shielding us from, but we really ought to trust that we are... even if it means blocked goals and unexpected trials.

as i lifted my focus off of the annoying slow cars and begin to think about the unknowns God was protecting me from, i couldn't help but stand in awe of Him, completely humbled by His faithful love. it's all about perspective, isn't it?

April 9, 2003 - what fault?
This is what the LORD says: "What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves..." (jer 2:5)

It occurred to me as I read the verses following this verse that God's question is such a jab at us. What fault did you find in me? What fault? There is no fault. God has never wronged us. So why do we leave Him?

The Israelites could never legitimately ask, "Where is the Lord?" because the Lord was never far from them. He never abandoned them. They abandoned Him. He never wanted to lead them to dark, barren desert wastelands. He meant to lead them to luscious fertile land. But they rejected His way. (jer 2: 6-8)

The Israelites wanted to run to Egypt, hoping to find something to satisfy their thirst. But God reveals to them through Jeremiah that they will never find what satisfies them in Egypt. (jer 2:18-19) In fact, they will never find it in anything at all that they might try to run to. The thirst-maker comes from forsaking Him, the Spring of Living Water, and digging for themselves broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (jer 2:13)

My biggest problem is NOT that I'm NOT in the right city, the right job, the right church, the right relationship (i.e. the nonexistent one!), the right family, the right friendships... My biggest PROBLEM is that I forsake God Almighty, the Spring of Living Water, the Life-Giver, the Great Provider, the Extreme Lover. When I turn to Him and drink, I will be satisfied.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for forsaking You, for following worthless idols and therefore becoming worthless. I know that I am the best I ever am when I am worshiping and exalting You as King. Keep drawing me in.

April 8, 2003 - and this is romance
"If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers -- would you now return to me?" declares the Lord. (Jer 3:1)

I am very touched by this verse - because I think it's saying that if a woman should leave a man to marry another, the first man should not take this "defiled" ex-wife back. And if this woman only slept with one man and is deemed so "defiled" and repulsed, how even more so completely, completely shameful, dirty would a prostitute be? She SHOULD be rejected, ostracized, defamed and damned. Who in their right mind would take a prostitute back?

But God says (so quickly), "Would you now return to me?" His love and forgiveness and mercy is a shocking contrast to what's fair and what makes sense. It simply disarms me. They are such incredible words of love to a prostitute such as myself. I know that I have had many lovers, giving myself and my favors away. And that is the sinful state of my soul. And yet, and yet... there is God Almighty, the Holy One of Israel, beckoning me to His side, to have and to hold and to cherish. What manner of love is this? His tenderness melts me.

April 7, 2003 - romance
Lord God, I long for your sweet lingering presence. Please romance me as you always have.

When my heart is not solidly anchored on Christ, it gets tossed about like it's on the waves of the sea, anything goes, everyone is a "possibility" and my heart simply aches with longing.

April 3, 2003 - though my father & mother forsake me?
When I got into my silver Civic last night and embarked on the half hour drive to my parents' home, I was prepping myself up for being forsaken by my parents. I tried to bolster myself up with Ps 27:10, "Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me." Meanwhile another verse kept coming at me as well. It was a verse that I have TAUGHT before - with great conviction and passion. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother...he cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14:26). Loving Jesus most is characteristic of being His disciple. I taught this, I believe this, and this was the moment that I would have to live it. This inward conviction needed to burst into outward expression.

I'd like to say that I was brave and charged at this with no problem, no qualms, no fears -- FULL confidence. But that would be a BIG FAT LIE!!! I was tear-stained and scared. I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to be forsaken by the parents I love so deeply. The thought crossed my mind, "I wish I could just be stinkin' normal and be happy with just going to work and serving at church. Then I wouldn't have to DO this. Life could be easy. Boring, but easy." But as scared as I was and as much as I knew I didn't have the courage to do this, the reality is that I was in God's presence and I heard the call to go to the nations and I volunteered to go, and there was no turning back. God has been preparing me all my Christian life for this moment. It's been 7 years. Seven beautiful, glorious, wonderful years... There was no option in my mind but to move forward.

So there I was half an hour later, sitting in my family room all by myself. After I arrived, my parents disappeared upstairs. Lord God, I know this NEVER happens, but could you bring them both down here to sit on this couch with me -- with the TV off? Five minutes later, they were both sitting on the couch with me.

I sat down on the floor facing them and said, "I came all the way over here tonight not to do my taxes, but because I have two things I want to say to you." I did have two things. "First, I want to say that I love you. I don't think I have ever said that to you before." Then I proceeded to launch into a monologue of how I've come to understand and appreciate all that it means for them to be my parents. I couldn't do it without crying. And my mom was quite caught with tears as well. My dad was unemotional but took it all in. "I have done everything I possibly could my whole life to be obedient to you because I love you and respect you so much..."

"The second thing I want to say is that 7 yrs ago, I became a Christian. When that happened I asked Jesus to be my Lord. That means - in Vietnamese - that I asked Him to be "Chua va Chu doi cua con." Chu means Master, right? That means I do what He says. Doing what He says a lot of times means doing what you want me to do, to obey you, respect you, love you. And in these last few years I have learned how to love you so much more through Him. For example hugging you, something we had never done while growing up..." I'll spare you the details on this part. "But sometimes doing what He says means doing things that don't really match up with what you want. It's different, it's weird, it's irrational, it's confusing... But He's my Master, so I do what He says. Because not only is He my master, but He's also my God who LOVES me. So I WANT to do what He says." Pause. "So basically, I've come to a decision. I think that He wants me to quit my job. And so that's what I'm going to do."

This statement was followed by objections, thoughts, questions. Two highlights of this part of the conversation. My dad objected that sometimes when someone is too caught up in something, they don't realize that they are being completely irrational. They stop living in reality, in what is real. To which I responded by explaining that this wasn't a rash decision that I was making. (Tears flowed on this part.) "My whole life I have tried so hard to obey you and please you. And any time that I have ever considered doing anything that you might disagree with, I have thought about it twenty times more than I usually think through things. If there was ever any time that I was about to do something you disagreed with, I made sure - absolutely sure - that I KNEW God wanted me to do it. If not, I wouldn't dare do it."

Second highlight. My dad, "Just don't be so brainwashed." My response, "I'm not brainwashed." Pause. "But I was once." Dramatic pause. "I was brainwashed once when I believed everything that the world says. You see, this is what everyone says: study really hard in school so that you can get good grades and do well on your SATs so that you can get into a good college. Go to college and study really hard so that you can graduate and get a really good job and then marry a really nice person and have kids and make lotsa money and buy a nice house and nice cars..." I really got their attention here, because this is what they believe "...and SOMEWHERE along the way, all that's supposed to make you happy. But you're never really happy. You never can be. You never get there because you always have to DO something, keep doing and doing... but you never get there. And I believed all this in high school. I studied really hard, I did really well in school, I had lotsa friends, I tried to save the world through ecology, but I was never happy. I still felt empty. But then I found God. And ever since I became a Christian, I have never felt that way. I have found a happiness that is not dependent on circumstances. It doesn't matter what happens, good or bad or if everything sucks, I still have that happiness." Silence. They just sat there in silence. But they didn't put up any walls. They were REALLY listening!! So then I added, "Have you ever felt lonely, empty, depressed, unhappy...? I haven't felt that way since I became a Christian." No objections from my parents. In fact, my mom was tearing up at certain points of my statements. Amazing.

Other dad quotes, "I just want my daughters to be normal. NORMAL."

"These are just my opinions. You are an adult now. You can make your own decisions."

And then FINALLY, "Well, do what you gotta do. Just know that this house is always here. There's always a room if you want to come home and save money."

DID YOU CATCH THAT? I'm quitting my job. I'm going to China. My dad gave me his blessing. My mom held my hand. I gave them both a hug and kiss when I left that night.

"Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me." This verse has a whole new meaning to me. My father and mother will most likely NEVER forsake me. Never, never, even when they think I'm crazy off my rocker. Never, never. And if that is true, how much MORE SO is the Lord's constancy and faithfulness?

I praise the Lord today for He heard my heart's cry. I shall call on Him and follow Him as long as I live.

April 2, 2003 - fears
"When Zechariah saw him (the angel of the Lord), he was startled and was gripped with fear." (Luke 1:12)

"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps 27:1)

the only legitimate fear that we could EVER have in all of history in all of time no matter what circumstances or whatever the case may be is the FEAR OF THE LORD. all other fears are of satan. the fear of the Lord dispels all other fears. and when i know that God Almighty is with me - truly with me - i know i have nothing to fear. anytime you hear me being afraid, it's because i'm not trusting God at His word.

April 1, 2003 - same struggles
When we picture our journey with Christ, we often imagine ourselves climbing a steep mountain - heading for the cross at the top. Sometimes during our climb, we encounter an obstacle, a struggle of some sort. So we struggle, struggle, struggle... and then we have victory! And so we continue our climb. After some time passes, we find, to our dismay, ourselves facing these same struggles. We feel extremely discouraged and frustrated because it seems as though we slid all the way back down the mountain and lost all the ground we had gained. But we are different, aren't we? We've grown, haven't we? This is devastating to most of us.

The problem is that we've got the wrong picture. Yes, imagine that you ARE climbing a mountain, but instead of picturing yourself going straight up to the cross, imagine that you are making circles around the mountain toward the top. Got the picture? So as you are going around, on one side of the mountain, you encounter a crevice. It's an obstacle. So you struggle, struggle, struggle... and then you have victory! So then you continue on in your climb. After going all the way around, you suddenly encounter that same crevice. It's the same struggle... but different. This time, you are struggling through it from a higher vantage point...

You see, you HAVE grown. But God wants to take you through that struggle again in order to reveal something more wondrous about Himself to you, draw you in even deeper into intimacy with Him and refine you even further so that you become even more like Him than before. And so He will take you back around to that crevice again and again until you have learned all you need to learn from that crevice, and then He will take you to another.

Sound vicious? Not really. Why would you want to live on a plateau anyway when you can climb higher and higher heights? Yes, it's at the cost of your flesh... but what good is it for a man to retain his flesh/life if he has to forfeit his very soul -- ah, the LIFE that is truly life?? Not worth it. I'd rather keep climbing.

So don't be discouraged if you feel like you keep struggling with the same sins, the same problems, the same lies... It's the same, but different. God wants to reveal something more to you; let Him.

(i got this analogy from an article i read from Discipleship Journal a looong time ago, so don't credit me with this idea. :)

April 1, 2003 - fainthearted
i am too meek and mild and FAINThearted to be a missionary.


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Mary Ann Nguyen. All Rights Reserved.