Thoughts from June 2002

June 29, 2002 - blood
Jesus had to die... had to shed blood for us. Two verses that explain this:

Hebrews 9:22, "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."

Leviticus 17:11, "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life."

Why is this true? Because the punishment for sin is death. The principle of atonement is basically "a life for a life." Up til Jesus, the way that God's children were atoned (forgiven) for their sins was by shedding the blood of goats, sheeps and bulls. The blood of these animals was symbolic of their "life" - so it was meant to take the place of God's children's punishment. A life for a life. But since those were just animals, it wasn't technically fulfilling the whole "life for a life scenario" - not completely, anyway. They needed a Perfect, unblemished Lamb. The Son of God. Yes, we needed Jesus to come and do the unthinkable - choose to be a sacrifice, shed His blood and take our place, take our punishment...

2 Cor 5:21, "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." We are righteous because of the exchange that took place at the cross. His life for our life. I am speechless for these Truths. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

June 26, 2002 - stabbing all the way through
I think the thing about Genesis 22 is that most Christians who want to follow Abraham's example always follow only halfway. They follow in the sense of raising the knife - but with all intents and purposes of waiting and wanting for God to tell them to stop as He did with Abraham. It's like they raise their arm and look around, waiting for God to say, "haha, just kidding." They are waiting, hoping to not really have to sacrifice what they know they need to offer to the Lord. That is seemingly what happened with Abraham...

But actually, that is not true. You see, the difference is that Abraham had ALL intents and purposes of obeying the Lord and killing his son. He intended to offer his son as a sacrifice to the Lord. We know this is true from Hebrews 11:17-19. He really was gonna kill Isaac - because he figured (he had this much faith) that God would raise Isaac up from the dead (even though all throughout history before Abraham's time, God had NEVER raised anyone from the dead! ~ now that's faith!). So...if we really wanna follow Abraham's example - if we really want to offer God everything, to really demonstrate to Him that we fear Him by not withholding anything, then we must stab all the way through that thing that we cherish so much. I must stab it all the way through in order to get the same effect that Abraham had in his heart. None of that hoping the Lord would stay my hand and tell me not to really sacrifice it. I must stab. And stab, I have done!

Offering to God that which you cherish most - that which comes closest to becoming an idol in your heart - is ALWAYS a good idea. What blessings we receive when we choose God as better and best .

If you're interested: here's something else I wrote a long time ago about true sacrifices...

June 25, 2002 - "The Secret to Submission"
Mark 14:32-42. Yes, in the Garden again. The moments of greatest decisions must be made alone.

Jesus really gives an amazing example right here. He was able to choose this most difficult path of submission because He knew the secret. The secret to submission is BELIEVING who God is -- really literally -- NOT "sortof" figuratively. And Jesus conveys what He knows and believes to be true about God in His prayer. "Abba Father, everything is possible for you." Jesus wasn't saying this just to say it. It wasn't a forumla for prayer. It wasn't just a formality. He said it because He really believed that EVERYTHING is possible for our Abba Father. When you believe that, you know that the One who can do ALL things will do it, if He so chooses, if it is in your best interest. Knowing and believing that anything is possible with God makes it so much easier to trust Him. And so Jesus told Abba what He wanted (i.e. "take this cup from me")... but even at the heart of telling Abba His desires, He was ready for submission (Yet, not as I will, but what you will). When you really know God, it is easy to submit. When you really believe God, it is sooo easy to submit!

So Jesus stayed up and kept watch. He spent the night praying. That is the second secret to submission. Keeping watching & praying. Because by the time the morning came, He was ready for what would come. He was more than ready, actually. "Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" We can see that the result of Him staying up and keeping watch resulted in Him actually welcoming those who would betray Him, those who would hurt Him... - welcoming, not reluctant, not dragging his feet in the sand - but welcoming! I think when we spend time with God, when we invite Him into our lives, He always reveals great secrets to us. He lets us in on His secrets (Luke 8:10)... and the knowledge of those secrets always allows us to make seemingly difficult choices. But choices that are actually not so hard because He is leading the way...

I have been spending huge chunks of time with God in the last few days really meditating on the Scriptures and exploring a lot of deep things with God. He has let me in on a whole lot of secrets and at the heart of all this intimacy that has been drawn, I have found myself coming to this all-power God in easy submission... EASY submission. In fact, I have offered Him the very thing which I have cherished so much in my heart... why? because I have been with Jesus and I have figured out that He is far better than anything I have ever known or cherished EVER in my whole life...

June 20, 2002 - stolen time
yesterday was a turning point moment for me. i made a secret choice. and if you remember my definition of secret choices (may 16), it *will* - like all secret choices - make an impact on me, my relationship with God and all my relationships with others... for the rest of my life. :) and as i was thinking, "i will remember June 19, 2002 as a turning point moment for the rest of my life", I started thinking about the date. June 19th. That date sounded so very familiar...

I thought long and hard and then remembered that it was on June 19th of 1993 that I almost died twice in the same five minutes (read my autobiography). That was the day that God convinced me that He is real and that my life is precious - and to Him! That was a major turning point for me life. Without that turning point, there wouldn't have been THIS turning point. But furthermore, that I am living on stolen time. My whole life from that day on until I die is "stolen time" --- because I'm supposed to be dead! But I'm not dead because God saved me from physical death... and then, more importantly, SPIRITUALl! Why not then give Him my whole self? Why not then live fully for Him? Why not then offer Him all of me? I am living on stolen time... so why not recklessly abandon myself for the sake of Jesus and the gospel?

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Gal 2:20. amen!!

June 18, 2002 - Earthquakes
Last night I woke up in the middle of the night - alarmed - because of a loud, disruptive sound. I immediately thought of how long it's been since we've had an earthquake and started feeling quite afraid - for my parents. What would happen if there was a huge earthquake and we all died? Their souls would be lost for all eternity (since they are not believers). I started praying frantically at first. And then calmed down as I thought of Mark 11:24 and began to pray to the God who is bigger and more powerful than the earthquakes. And then I settled to sleep.

But that was a significant moment. There was a startling realization that it's been awhile since I've prayed for my parents -- and in fact, really prayed. You see, there's a difference between those short-spurts and bursts of prayers - those few words here and there that we throw in to intercede for someone here and there, and the REAL prayer... the coming before God, the waiting in silence, the LISTENING, the REAL conversing with Him. There's a difference. And it's been a long while since I've come before Him in real prayer.

Prayer is probably one of the most difficult disciplines for me (just look at the May 5th entry). I think it has to do with the spiritual battle of it. I am pretty "dangerous" when I really get down to praying -- not only because my intimacy with God is so great that it causes me to live dangerously (i.e. dangerous to satan), but because when i pray for people, God always seems to answer. (Verses like John 16:24, John 15:7 and Mark 11:24 really do come true!!) So... it's no wonder it is the hardest discipline for me to maintain. I'm always distracted. Always hindered by feelings of "too distant" from him, the coldness and vacantness, at times. It's so weird. Anyway, after last night's experience and realization, this morning, I prayed... I entered into His Throne Room... the sense of incredible sweetness descended upon me, and I was reminded that THIS is the best place on earth to ever be. And I remembered/realized what I've been missing out on! I asked Him to make me a prayer-er again. I long to be that prayer warrior who humbly comes to Him to do battle for the saints and walks intimately with Him -- who not only knows what it's like to be in His presence but takes the greatest delight being there... It IS delightful being in His presence. It's THE most delightful thing on earth...

Yesterday morning I was completely floored by another thought. If Jesus' commands were not figurative but literal, THEN SO MUST HIS PROMISES BE!!!! I read Mark 11. Verse. 24 was striking, "Therefore, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (v. 23 says believe and don't doubt and it will be done for you). Do you know what that means?! He says WHATEVER -- that really means ANYTHING. (the watered-down interpretation has always had parameters around promises such as these, but Jesus really says "whatever"!!!) This means a world of things unfathomable to me now...! I was so overwhelmed by the thought yesterday I had to switch my brain off (and think about it later) because I didn't know what to do with all the outlandish, extravagant promises that were rushing to my mind. I have been believing these promises all these years... but hrm... it's like He's taken me to another level of understanding. Of course, I have not fully grasped ALL yet; He is revealing slowly... removing one curtain and then another... leading me on, step by step... At some point, He will show me fully what He's been leading me to.

For now, I am realizing that for me to take LITERALLY everything Jesus said and really believe the genuine REALITY of both the COMMANDS and PROMISES from Jesus means being taken somewhere I have never been... :) It is an astounding prospect for me.

June 17, 2002 - Jesus meant it Literally
The other day it occurred to me that "perhaps Jesus meant all the things He said LITERALLY." I never really considered that too deeply before; I have been too blinded by the American Christian culture interpretations of passages which allow us to live comfortably for all our days and quietly dismiss the completely radical exhortations Jesus preached. I have come across so many passages in the last four or five days that have sticken me - as I have thought of them in light of this idea. I will share with you a few:

I was first struck with the thought that Jesus really meant what He said "literally" and not figuratively, when I read the passage about the rich young ruler with whom Jesus told to go sell all his possessions (Mark 10). Every preacher I've ever heard has said, "No, Jesus did not mean for you to sell your stuff, literally..." and softened the blow of this alarming, uncomfortable command. It's okay to have your Lexus and your three tvs, I have been assured. But I stopped for a second the other day (a second which will forever change my life) and thought, "What if Jesus really meant for this man to sell all his stuff?" And the more I thought of it, the more I knew it was true. But not just true for this man, but true FOR ME too. Going along in this passage in Mark, I found Jesus saying that if anyone would leave their family, friends and fields, they will receive a hundredfold in this age and eternal life in the age to come. So in pondering the idea of Jesus being literal, I thought, "Jesus really means this!" Those who leave all that is familiar and GO FAR AWAY, will receive a 100-fold in return. Like my friend Pam who left all her friends and adoring fans behind and went to China. American Christians interpret this passage as "You've just gotta love God more than these things -- not be so attached to your stuff, not idolize them, etc." (i.e. the watered-down interpretaion is that this is just figurative speaking) But NO, I don't think so anymore. Jesus really means for us to leave all that's dear to us for the sake of Him and the gospel.

This brought me to the "take up your cross daily" & "deny yourself" and "lose your life" passage (Mark 8). Amer Christian culture-norm interpret this as just denying yourself of "stuff," little things - just things. They also interpret the "losing your life" as making Jesus Lord of your life, obeying Him, following Him, etc. But NOT physically dying though. But it struck me - it struck me! - that when Jesus said it, he really meant to die physically. He really meant it. To live so fully for Him, to forget about self so fully, to live on the edge, to not live for yourself so much that whether you are dead or alive, it is just the same... and that physical death is just a matter of course. That is what Jesus meant.

Yesterday I thought about 1 Kings 19:19-21. When Elisha was called by Elijah, he left everything to follow him. But it was not JUST that. Before he left for good, Elisha went back and burned all his things. He burned the plowing equipment and cooked up the oxen to serve up to his family & friends -- he probably threw a "going away party". He made a decision to serve God and to never turn back. He was serious about his decision. He really "burned all his bridges." There would never be the option to turn back - because the oxen & plowing equipment were the instruments by which he had been making a living. That's where his income came from. And he completely destroyed them. There was no back-up plan. He was following God; God would provide. Period, end of sentence.

Luke 14:25-35 - if you do not give up everything you have, you cannot be Jesus' disciple. Jesus does not mince words. He means business. The two examples he gives here make it soo clear. The first one (v. 28-30) says that you must sit down and consider the cost of following Jesus and then you must decide whether or not you can render that payment. Well, how much does it cost? EVERYTHING YOU'VE GOT. So the question - am I willing to give that to Him? (this is not a new question to me. but this time it is different, because we are not speaking figuratively anymore.) The second example (v. 31-32) helps you with the decision. (hehhe.) Basically, there is no option but to surrender to Him. He overrules. He reigns. I must surrender my life and everything I have on HIS terms. If I don't surrender now, I will have to surrender later, and that will cost me MORE. I MUST give everything I have!

So... what does it mean to ME to lose my life for His sake & the sake of the gospel? What does it mean to me to sell all my possessions? What does it mean to me to leave family, friends and fields? What does it mean to me to give up everything? If I take all that literally, there's a lot of actions for me to take. When? Now or later? In two months or in a year? Where do I go? What do I sell? These commands are PERSONAL now. Not a figurative idea. Not just symbolic. Not just for the next person. Jesus is calling me. I HEAR Him. Now, the questions must be answered and I must answer the call. Once He starts to clarify these things, then I will go and obey. It's coming soon. And this is the exciting thrill - the thoughts I've been mulling over - that make my heart tremble...

My friend, I really do believe He calls all of us. The question is do you wait long enough in His presence to hear? And if you do, will you listen? And will you answer the call?

June 13, 2002 - Better and Best
My screensaver at work has this phrase running across it:

God is better and best. God is better and best. God is better and best.
God is better and best. God is better and best.
Do you believe God is better and best?
Do you live like God is better and best?
Do you make choices like God is better and best?

The questions are really piercing my heart today. Here is a link to what I mean by God being "better and best".

June 12, 2002 - At Home with Jesus
Being at home with something means being completely comfortable and content with something or in someplace. Your home is your resting-place. Your home is what you naturally revert back to. Where you are inclined to go, to return to at the end of a long day or long week or a good day or a wonderful time. You naturally return there. Like your "home drive" or your "home page" on your computer/internet. Every time you go back to it, or turn it on, it goes back to your home drive or home page. Being at home with something also means that it is your "happy thought." Thinking about it makes you sigh with a content satisfaction. And you want to think about it.

We must learn how to be at home with Jesus. To find in Him our resting place, to naturally revert back to Him, to have Him always be our happy thought. How to get there? Psalm 27. Must be alone with Him, dwell in His presence, be still before Him. Be HONEST with Him. Relate to Him. Obsess over Him. Read His Word. Meditate on the Scriptures. Cling to the Promises. Labor in prayer. Pour our hearts out to Him.

When you're truly at home with Jesus, you don't need any act of service, any people, any friends, any fellowship group or club to be a part of, any status, etc, to gain significance, worth, value, happiness or love. You are just satisfied with Him alone.

It's important to be at home with Jesus because you never know where He will take you. At times, you will be surrounded by a vast majority of people who love Jesus and walk with Him and think like you do. But at other times, He may take you to a place where no one understands you, where people around you don't even know Jesus, where they just don't care about the things you do and don't even think they way you do. Lonely times. Difficult times. But if you are at home with Jesus, then outward circumstances will not rob you of your joy. You will not feel the same kind of disruptive discomfort - wherever you go, whatever you do, wherever you end up. You will always be at Home, because Jesus will always be with you. As the Lord promised so long ago, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Josh 1:5). "Do not fear for I am with you..." (Isaiah 41:10).

June 11, 2002 - Being Known
Sorry I have not been writing. You can tell the state of my spiritual health by whether or not I have a million golden God-thoughts floating around in my head or not. :) But yesterday, by His mercy, He led me back to Himself.. prostrate, on my face... gut-out honesty with the Lord. I just confessed and confessed my sins of selfishness, self-absorption and self-indulgence to Him. His returning presence was immediate. It really is a choice we make, isn't it? The choice of whether or not we want to be known by Him or not. It is not that God does not already know my sins. But in revealing (admitting, acknowledging, telling, saying) all my insides to Him, I am choosing that I want God to know me. I am inviting Him into my life. I am inviting His Words of encouragement and rebuke and challenges and convictions into my life. That is what having a relationship with someone entails. That each of you chooses for the other to know you.

I guess this thought (that Larry shared with us on a Navnite) has had such a remarkable impact on me because I am an introvert. It is not natural, nor is it second nature, for me to share with anyone anything that I am thinking. An introvert is satisfied to keep to himself his personal revelations after having come to them. There is no additional desire or motivation to share with anyone. (While extroverts looove to share almost everything they are thinking! They like to think aloud!) So when I share the things that God is teaching me or the things that I am thinking about, it is a very deliberate and conscious act of me choosing to be known by you.

So... the same goes with God. We can take it for granted that He knows everything about us - because He is "God" after all - and leave it just at that -- leaving Him to be "the Big Guy" upstairs. Or we can choose to have Him know us intimately and to know Him intimately. In order to get there, we must be willing to be openly gut-honest with Him... sharing our whole lives with Him. Telling Him things - not just taking for granted that "He knows." That's the difference between really relating to God - and not. That's the difference between a relationship and an acquaintance. And the difference between informal knowledge and intimacy. I want to really know Him... and to be known by Him!

June 7, 2002 - the significance of 12 & the worldly point of view
the woman in the Mark 5 passage had been bleeding for 12 years. the little girl who was raised from the dead was 12 years old. is there a significance in the number 12 here? as i thought about this yesterday morning, i realized that i could read a whole lot of significance into this number 12 (i.e. make stuff up). but i won't. there is one truth that comes out of it though (that I know the Bible backs up): as i thought about the two situations, i realized that it would be natural for people to see the importance of bringing a little girl back to life. but an old woman wins less sympathy. because a little girl is a little girl but an old woman is an old woman. though she's suffered for the same length of time that this little girl has been alive. but Jesus calls this woman "Daughter" and heals her with the same kindness and grace as he calls the girl "little girl" and heals her! no matter how young or old we are, when Jesus looks at us, He sees our hearts and our souls... and loves us with an intimate affection. there is none of that worldly bias or prejudice that so often causes us to love and favor some more than others...

as i think of this, i am reminded of 2 Cor 5:16. -- that we, too, should be like Jesus. we need to cease looking at people from the world's point of view. we need to see hearts and souls, and love with the overflowing abundance of Christ's unconditional love.

June 5, 2002 - Burnout
burnout sorta feels like your insides are the torn, ripped edges of a piece of paper. not quite even, not quite smooth. it really feels like you are "burnt" on the inside. a sore sort of tiredness. an ache from living, loving and serving. i feel that now. it is a dull ache, not intense or piercing. been feeling so very near to the edge of permanently dangerous & detrimental burnout almost all quarter long. i'm not sure why.

this morning after i got ready to go, i got back into my sleeping bag (been sleeping on the floor for a few weeks now) and contemplated Mark 5:21-43. The woman who had been bleeding for 12 years believed that all she needed was one touch of Jesus' clothes. After years and years of spending all her money and time on doctors, she believed that one touch of this Man would heal her. And so she touched Him. In the words of the Bible, "Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering." (v. 29) She felt it in her body. She was free. Free because she believed the impossible.

I prayed, "Lord God, I am so tired. Please help me." I layed there just feeling the dull ache on my insides. I felt Him say to me, "My daughter, my little girl, I want to heal you." And the words of Malachi floated to my mind's eye. "But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings..." (Mal 4:2) That's not an "if...then" conditional statement. It's just a truth - a matter of course. I need to revere Him (fear Him, love Him, cherish Him, praise Him, sit and adore Him) and healing will follow suit...(i.e. healing is a part of revering.) This is my next course of action... To just sit, adore... and be still.

June 4, 2002 - Change
Two things that I love. Khakis with pockets that I can rest my hands in when I walk up and down the stairs at work. And loose change that jingle in my pocket. No story behind this one. Just something that makes me smile and breathe in that full sense of I'm-happy-to-be-alive and walking-around-with-a-collosal-Inheritance-that-awaits-me-when-I-die... :)

June 3, 2002 - Alarming Check-Up Questions
Alarming questions popped up on my screen this morning when I opened my Microsoft Outlook Calendar at work. Apparently, I had written these questions in for the date of June 3rd a few months ago (I probably wrote it in the fall). So here are the questions and my answers:

Where are you now? Still experiencing much of that intense sanctification that was begun sometime last fall. There is something incredible about having parts of your unholy self uncovered and scrambling to press into those things in order to have it adjusted, changed and purified... and then to be set free! Wow.

Missions or no? At the time I wrote this question was probably during my death-of-my-dreams era -- the time when my desires for missions was obliterated (how often God wants to shatter our dreams in order to replace them with His own, better ones -- rather than have us go on and on holding onto things we created rather than holding on to Him). But things have changed in my heart by a huge margin - since then - God brought back the heart for missions... and this time, not in a dreamy-etheral-idealistic fashion. I desire to go wherever He wants me to go - as long as I am at the center of His will. Judging from my last entry, you could probably guess that the answer to this question is really "yes." For right now, I am called to UCSD as my mission field. For later? I don't know as of yet. Still waiting for direction from my King.

Trusting God or not? Yes and no. I trust Him for guidance and for my future, but a sense of worry over some little things shows me that I do not fully trust Him. I need to give up those little things and allow Him to work through them.

Walking with and worshiping Him -- or yourself? Worshiping Him. Yes, I am worshiping Him! As long as I meditate on His Word (oh, such a difference between quickly reading passages in the Bible and truly meditating on His Truths) and dwell in His presence, then all Joy is mine. This is the only place to be. Been thinking a lot today about what it means to be "at home with Jesus." I will post conclusions on that another day.

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Copyright 2002, A Lil' Ladybug Production.
Mary Ann Nguyen. All Rights Reserved.