Thoughts from February 2003

February 28, 2003 - who do i love more?
Truly, I sin because I love my flesh more than Jesus. When I'm tempted, I must force myself to stop, to not go with impulse or "natural" inclinations. I have to pause and ask who/what do I love more? What am I saying to my Lord about Him by going through with this act? Is that what I really want to say? The answer is no. When I stop myself long enough to conclude, "I love You, Lord, more than this," then I'm able to choose wisely.

February 28, 2003 - i've been redeemed (eph 1:7)
to "redeem" is to convert to something of value. "redemption" happens when something that is worth virtually "nothing" is exchanged and replaced with something of great worth. I like to think of it as when "nothing" is converted into "something." It's in Jesus' blood that I have been converted to something of value. amen.

Feb 28, 2003 - i add to the craziness
i used to think that i was a relatively good person. i used to think, "wow, what a crazy world we live in." that statement implied a condescending disdain of others, "those dirty, wretched, sinful people!" but after spending three days examining in detail my past sins and pushing myself to ask the question "why?" -- why did i do it? what did i really desire? what was i trying to do? i began to discover that i am the worse of sinners. i am not a good person at all. in fact, i add to all the craziness!!

the defining moment for me this week was in wondering why in the world God would choose to pursue me despite all my gross sinfulness. it proved to me that God really does "forget" our sins and lawless acts (Heb 10:17). I guess I always interpreted this promise as that He would forget our sins once we accept Christ and ask for forgiveness, but the new revelation of the week is that He chooses to forgive and forget our sins way before we even receive Him. For if He didn't choose to "forget" them, there's no way that He could pursue us. (Now, I don't mean that He literally "forgets" but He acts as if He doesn't remember them; He loves us as if we never wronged Him. And He can justifiably do so through the blood of His Son Jesus.) And since He has forgotten my sins, I can walk in the dignity of one who has been redeemed. I certainly add to the craziness, but God subtracts.

Feb 27, 2003 - vision
Lord, give me a vision that is greater than my fears so that I can abandon everything to follow You.

Pastor Joe Rhodes (paraphrased), "The reason why the rich young ruler walked away sad was because he was focusing too much on what he had to sell. If he had leaned in on Jesus and said, 'Tell me about this Treasure in Heaven that you're promising', it would've been a different story."

Elisabeth Elliot, "If one must, one can."

In conversation: Me, "I don't know if I can eat crawling grubs and flying termites. How did you...?"
In response: Marilyn Laszlo, "You can. If God calls you, you can."

Lord, have you called me?

Sam's quote of a missionary, "The one who asks is the one who goes."

I am asking.

Feb 26, 2003 - guilty as charged
i'm learning these days that i am "guilty" as charged. when i entered the Kingdom, i was remotely aware that i was a sinner. i prayed the sinner's prayer. but i mostly came because i was needy. i knew my life was empty and incomplete without this Lover named Jesus. these days though, i have been thrust into a realm of shocking realization of my sinfulness, which has left me aghast, on my knees. as i have contemplated my sins, i continue to discover that the "past" is the progenitor of the repetitive nature of my ongoing sinfulness. and so in my continual efforts at renouncing and surrendering this past, i have found a cornucopia of assurances from the Scriptures of the forgiveness and redemption that is mine in Christ. daily, He's been whispering words of redemption to me through His Word. and yet, to some degree, i continue to "feel" like i am in bondage. it was the other day that i came to a new understanding of my circumstances. i realized that while He's been assuring me i'm forgiven, He's also been beckoning me to press into the past in order to understand the depths of my sin, so that i might understand deeper the depths of His forgiveness, mercy and grace. this radical invitation terrified me. i'm too weak to press into the guilt and shame (but that is exactly why He's been given me so many assurances of His forgiveness!). and i know that to face up to my past, would mean a great sense of freedom from the bondage which has continually held me. it would mean drawing deeper in love with Him. and so i've been walking through the fire of understanding the depths of my sin. it has been awful, but good.

1 Peter 3:18, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit."

Feb 25, 2003 - getting over myself
Isaiah 42:5-7 has always been a special passage of promise & commission to me from my King.

Something key from it that I realized as I read it again the other day: "I, the Lord, have called you... I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a Covenant for the people..." It's God who calls, God who leads and God who makes me into something. Yes, He DOES want to use me to make an impact on His Kingdom, but He's the one who will make it happen, not me!! So why don't I just get over myself and just let Him hold me!!? Together we can watch what He will do. The pressure is off of 'me'.

Feb 24, 2003 - when Fear enters the picture
God's design:
the man... should lead, protect, provide
the woman... should help, support, encourage

but when Fear enters the picture:
the man... is so scared and insecure, he turns passive and hides
the woman.... is so afraid of things not working out, she grapples for control and takes a leading role

when we let fear take ahold of us, we stop trusting God and live exactly opposite of what God designed. and when we do that, everything becomes a little off kilter. the woman is ugly in her aggression and the man is less admirable in his cowardice. but when man and woman trust God (even when it seems illogical), that faith becomes expressed in a beautiful, harmonious dance.

February 22, 2003 - instead of from the world
Lord, I want to search Your heart for the beauty that I am.

February 21, 2003 - simple enough
Lord, I pray that you would take me
from where I am to where you want me to be.
Cleanse me, wash me, set my guilty heart free.

Delete my deleterious iniquity.
Crush my critical spirit.
Steal away my selfishness.
Rob me of my rebelliousness.
Fight off my fears.
Nail my need for comfort

on the Cross, on the Cross,
where Victory reigns,
where Freedom dances,
where Truth triumphs,
where Life laughs in giddy overflow.

Lord, I pray that you would take me
from where I am to where you want me to be.
Cleanse me, wash me, set my guilty heart free.

February 13, 2003 - ripping God off
just because we do not know or believe in God, it doesn't mean that He doesn't exist. just because we don't exalt Him as the Ultimate, it doesn't mean that He isn't. when we worship Him, we are merely acknowledging what is already True about Him. and when we do not, we rip Him off and ourselves off of the praise and recognition that He deserves. so when we worship any other gods other than the Lord God, Creator of Heaven and earth, then we are misplacing the credit.

it would be like i created some really cool work of art, and everyone who saw it gave excessive praise... but to someone else!! since it was something i made, it would aggravate my heart since i wouldn't be getting the praise & credit. worshiping and loving something else more than God is sorta like that. it's ripping God off of the praise He deserves.

but idolatry is worse than that. it would be like me making a marriage covenant with a man and then going off with other men and having sex with them all, coming back and professing that I love him, but then the next day going off with another man again and again and again. if you were the man married to me, how would you feel? and if i was married to a man who did that to me, how would i feel? i've made a marriage covenant with God, and yet i've run off with other men, inviting them inside of my heart and not withholding any part of myself, allowing them to have their way with me. that's idolatry. awful, grievous idolatry. whether it be with material things or friendships or prizing ANYthing over prizing God, it's idolatry and it grieves my God...

Lord God, please forgive me for not seeing or understanding how much I grieve you with my ceaseless idolatrous heart. Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

Feb 12, 2003 - something better
everyone should participate in God's passion and mandate to the nations. that, to me, is the BEST choice for life-decisions. the lesser choice is not simply a matter of "staying" and "living in suburbia" as some would have it. the lesser choice is being a christian and not living boldly for Jesus. being a christian and not living BOLDLY for Jesus can be deemed as "good." it's all right. you can get by. God will bless you with nice stuff. but you've missed out on the greatest adventures and satisfaction that the God of the universe could've and would've bestowed upon you.

sometimes "staying" IS "stepping out in faith." but 'better' is always recklessly abandoning ourselves to God's mandate. always. wherever, whatever.

Feb 12, 2003 - good vs. better
as we follow Jesus, sometimes we come to crossroads in our lives where we will have to decide between "good" and "better". it's not good and bad, but one choice is "good" while the other might be "better." i think of "good" as continuing to do what's comfortable for the sake of comfort, following along with the status quo, doing what i've been used to, and not necessarily needing to TRUST God for anything in particular. but it's "good" because you're still obedient to God in the day-to-day. there's no "disobedience" there. "better" is something unknown and will probably involve a step of faith. it's "that other option." that unknown that God is possibly leading you to. it's a little risky. it's better - but oftentimes we miss that because we're satisfied and we cling to what's simply 'good'. it's not bad to live life with "good"... but sometimes there could've been better. it's a subtle choice. remember Isaac?

Feb 11, 2003 - searching for treasures
i think i have been on a treasure hunt my whole life. i searched high and wide to find treasures. through friends and memory-making and coins and scrapbooks and religions and relationships and novels and dreambooks of dreamhouses and dreamcars and dreamlovers... and I found that the most priceless Treasure is Jesus. and at that moment when i "found" Him, the search was over... but at the same time, the search had only just begun. Tozer says, "To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul's paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart." (The Pursuit of God, Ch 1) there are so many treasures that scale the ceiling, piled high - over the top - in Christ. the more i search His heart, the more i find unfathomable treasures. the search is different now - because i KNOW where to find the treasure, and i already have the Ultimate Treasure, and yet there still continues to be so much more treasures to be found and had and cherished and delighted in -- in Him!!

Feb 5, 2003 - free to experience the most excellent
when we worship God, we are doing exactly what makes sense. He is worthy to be exalted to the highest place by us. it's not that our worshiping Him makes Him more excellent. it's that we are finally recognizing Him for His excellence - the excellence that He already is. it's a duh. and the most wonderful thing is that when we worship Him, we are also in the most excellent place that we could possibly be. when we worship Him, we are brought to a "self" that is greater than greatness. really. so for these two reasons, why would we not worship Him? and why would we not be compelled to recklessly abandon ourselves to the pursuit of bringing others into this most excellent place? (these thoughts are from Perspectives)

it's this reason that compels me to "go" and leave my comfortable environs despite all my fears. what i must give up pales in comparison to this worthy pursuit. obedience to Him would mean that more people could be ushered into His satisfying presence.

Feb 4, 2003 - Jesus loved him
Mark 10:21b - we know this verse. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

But it's the 10:21a that has riveted my attention. "JESUS LOOKED AT HIM AND LOVED HIM."

Jesus really saw the rich young ruler. He saw his heart, his character, his talents, his gifts, his weaknesses, his struggles. And He loved him. Jesus tells him to get rid of his idols because He loves him. He loves him, and He knows that the only way the rich young ruler would be free to experience the most excellent is by being free of the lesser gods and, instead, worshiping the King of kings alone. Forget about what Jesus tells us to give up! Think long and hard and deeply, instead, about what He wants to give us. Treasure in Heaven.

Feb 3, 2003 - fear role call
what am i afraid of now? what makes it "scary" for me to step out in faith?

today the fear of my parents disowning me has made its attendance -- raising its hand and clamoring, making its presence known. if i told my parents i was going to go overseas - ultimately to share the gospel - would they really disown me? maybe they wouldn't say that. but i know they'd no longer be pleased with me. deep down, in my heart of hearts, i long for my parents to be pleased with what i do. not just accept my decisions grudgingly with disappointment dripping all over -- but to rejoice at who i am, what i choose, what i dedicate my life to. i want them to be proud of me! it seems like a great agony to my heart to have them think of me as a waste. i've heard what they have said about others! ...

Luke 9:59, Jesus said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." I know that excuse. It's an excuse because that man's father is not dead yet. I've made the same excuse. "Lord, why don't we wait until my parents have passed away before I go, then there won't be any trouble." The irrationality of this thinking is derived from a false belief that I would "save" them (from grief) by being obedient to them and adhering to their desires for my life. But this is only a "false" salvation -- for it may ease their minds for this present age but what about the age to come?

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who leaves home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much...and in the age to come, eternal life." Mrk 10:29-30 There is something RIGHT about obeying God. He will take care of the cost of obedience for others closest to me and for myself... I need to just obey and not worry about all the consequences...

Feb 1, 2003 - new year's
the smell of incense from the dining room table, the squeal of a child's delighted, "you're it!", and the sight of a myriad of colors and foods... means nothing else but that it is the Vietnamese New Years. the first smell is evidence of generation after generations of ceremonial prayers to ancestors for the new year. the second sound is evidence of my 8 or so little cousins. the third sight is evidence of a long morning of skewering beef, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions (in a very specific order, regulated by my sister for aesthetic purposes, i might add!!). all spells tradition.

i have long since ceased to receive "ly sy" (red envelopes which contain money for "good luck") since i am quite "old" these days. but this year was the first year that i actually gave the "ly sy" to my little cousins. and it occurred to me in those moments how much like the grace of God those red envelopes are. the reality is that none of my little cousins had done anything that would mean that they should receive a gift from me - nope!! -- and as i gave it to them, there is nothing i expect in return. it's just a free gift. :)

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Copyright 2003, A Lil' Ladybug Production.
Mary Ann Nguyen. All Rights Reserved.