Thoughts from May 2002

May 31, 2002 - "And the Word Came with Power"
been reading this Wycliffe book by Joanne Shelter. (the following thought is copy/pasted from an email to a friend:)

this book has been a good (piercing yet gentle) reminder that there's a whole big wide world out there... full of people who have never heard of the name of Jesus... and are TRAPPED under fears and superstitions... making sacrifices to arbitrary, cruel spirits/gods and having lives that are "controlled" by their awful whims. they are trapped under these gods/spirits/beliefs because they have NEVER heard the Truth. how could they be set free if they've never heard the truth before? it's not that they've heard of Jesus "yada-yada"and refuse to believe; it's just that they've NEVER had the opportunity to hear of the precious Name of Jesus...

it has been good on my heart to be lifted out of my limited, shortsighted vision and be drawn once again to prayer for these who are lost in darkness. good to see God's Word so full of power. to know that His word changes lives. it really does. it alters hearts and lives so irrevocably, so wonderfully, so much so.. forever. good to see God in the realm of a whole nother people & culture, and see how He IS real. He really is real, not made up ~ because He can touch their hearts...and speak to them in ways they (and only they can) understand. good to see Him set hearts and lives free!! wowee... wow, indeed.

it's good on my heart to be reminded that God is real like this. :) (it's a really good book!)

i want to go there. i want to bring the good news to people such as these ~ who have never heard and who may live under substandard conditions (in our eyes) but who are so very precious to our Lord, and whose souls and hearts He cherishes as much as yours and mine. i want to go there...

May 30, 2002 - servants who lead
The best kinds of leaders are the types who lead by example. As I've observed, it is always the leader who sets a precedence for an entire group. Therefore, the leader must lead with honesty, vulnerability and authenticity. Those who follow will follow his/her pattern. It is amazing what kind of atmosphere is cultivated by the example that is set. If you want a community that is a true community the way Christ intended -- where wounds are healed because people feel safe enough to openly share it, then the leader must begin with being the most open and honest, to spill out his/her guts, let other see his/her struggles and how he/she lets Christ heal and change him/her. The leader must be open about his/her walk with Jesus. The leader must be willing to let his/her sheep know that he/she IS a sinner after all. Authenticity. Boy, is that key...

I think, also, there is a difference between a leader who serves and a servant who leads. I long always to be the latter. To never hold a title or authority over a group of people, but to lead others simply by being a servant, humble, honest, vulnerable and authentic.

May 29, 2002 - Sorrowful mood.
sorrow is brought on by a feeling of distance from God
the feeling of distance from God is brought on by prayerlessness
prayerlessness is brought on by too many words
too many words is brought on by an inability to be still
an inability to be still is brought on by sleepiness
sleepiness is brought on by the indulgence of the flesh.
the indulgence of the flesh is brought on by lack of self-control.

all the choices we make sure make a difference, don't they?

The one who is truly spiritually mature understands that he is not mature at all (in light of Christ). -- John R. Lillis (dean of Bethel Seminary). Yay!! That gives me hope. :) haha.

May 28, 2002 - Practicing Obedience
I keep finding that I am not as mature as I think I am. When there’s a new call to obedience, I still have to shake off fear and hesitation and practice obeying in the new realm. It’s odd to think that one must practice obedience. But that’s just what we have to do. When God calls, I struggle with it, submit and then obey. But I find that, at times, I do not obey as completely and wholeheartedly as His call prompts. I do not rise to the occasion as perfectly as one ought - one who is not afraid. So then I confess my sin of faithlessness, apologize, promise to do better?and try again. This is what I mean by “practicing obedience." Gotta do it again and again til my fears have no hold over me and I am obeying with all my heart. Gotta face the fears with faith!

And this leads us to an interesting understanding about the Christian walk and sanctification. When a challenge of obedience rises up to the surface, there are two choices that we can make: 1. push it aside as a nonissue or 2. receive it as an issue to be worked out. Truly walking with the Lord means that you choose the latter. It involves listening and obeying even when it’s troublesome, out of the way, unnatural, scary and difficult... and then doing it again and again. :) This is the BEST way to go - because it leads to maturation and growth. We must keep obeying Him in the difficult.

May 26, 2002 - Clasping His Feet
I read Mt 28 again today. Was struck by v.9 - when Jesus appeared to the women after He had resurrected, “They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshiped Him." and v. 17, “When they (disciples and others) saw Him, they worshiped; but some doubted." There will always be worshipers and there will always be doubters. Which will I be? What’s my response? Which will you be? What’s your response?

One reponse was v. 11-15: circulating lies and deception to throw other people into confusion even though the evidence was clear (i.e. Jesus rose from the dead!). The other response was v. 9: the women who clasped Jesus' feet (which I take to mean they fell prostrate and grabbed ahold of Him “for life") and worshiped Him. This latter is the reponse - the attitude - I want to adopt for all my life...

especially after considering all that He did for me between the Garden of Gethsemane and the Cross...Reviewing all my meditations from the last few days leaves me thunderstruck by Jesus' sacrifice - all of it was such a huge price...All of these gracious choices He made for a sinner like me...yes, that makes me want to fall flat on my face, clasp His feet - and worship.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for this beautiful story you wrote and for allowing me to be a “character" in it. What grace and love you have lavised on me.

May 25, 2002 - Forgiveness
Today I chose to forgive. It is not an easy thing to do when the hurts run so deep and the lies have been so intricately interwoven into the fabric of my "self." But it was easy because I know that Christ forgives me for my imperfections, weaknesses and failings. He forgives me despite the fact that all I ever did in my life was willfully hurt Him. And yet He chose to love me and forgive me by dying on the horrendous cross for all these sins just so I could be with Him. Knowing this undeserved forgiveness made me able to forgive. It wasn't at all because this person asked for my forgiveness nor that they promised to do better. I chose to forgive because God gave me the grace to do so. And in the choosing, I began to realize what it meant that Christ chose the way of the cross to forgive me. He certainly did not have to -- I had not asked Him and nor did I promise to do better (never could I get it to perfection!). No, He had just chosen. And when I chose today to follow my Lord in His pattern, something truly significant happened: I was set free! It is guaranteed that my life will alter. For that choice has drawn me deeper into the arms of my King...

May 24, 2002 - Alone But Not Abandoned
Been feeling very alone this week. There's this vastness to time and space, and I am standing in the midst of it - alone. It feels so very strange - and yet so realistic. And yet I am not so alone. There is God - He alone can meet me, He alone can stand by my side, He alone is faithful, He alone knows me fully. Only God alone in a way that no one else can. In a way, it is so very satisfying to be alone like this.

This morning as I read my Bible, I recognized how my aloneness is very different than Jesus' was at the Cross.

Jesus was abandoned by the Father - (Matthew 27:46 - because He bore all the sins of mankind on His shoulder, the Father had to look away.) - the FIRST and ONLY time EVER out of timeless eternity that the Father and the Son were separated. No human mind can possibly fathom the depths of that strange agony. (Because who of us have ever been perfectly one with the Father as the Son?) And yet this was a choice that He made. A choice He made for us. He chose to submit to death - because He was choosing us (for, really, He could've broken free at any moment, so submitting to death was something that He had to cognitively and consciously CHOOSE). He chose us. He chooses us. You and me!! He wanted us to be able to come into His presence, to be forever with Him, and never, ever have to be abandoned like He was for that brief moment at the Cross. What an amazing choice, what an amazing act of obedience... [selah]

May 23, 2002 - In Love
Today i am feeling quite in love with my Lord. before i reached chapter 26 in matthew, i had asked the Lord to please let me go there with Him - to the Garden of Gethsemane and to the Cross -- that He would again help me understand the depths of the pain, the intensity of His desires for obedience and for love, the agony of humiliation, the burden of carrying the sin of all mankind on His shoulders, and the sweetness of victory on the Third Day. I did not know that He would answer because I had spent so much time there already during Easter -- I have never understood the Crucifixion like I did this past Easter. but, amazing, the Bible never gets old. He has brought me into Gethsemane with Him... and now through the trial... and tomorrow to the Cross. This story never gets old because it is so deeply personal. How His obedience and pain and victory has significantly altered time and history... and yes, how it has turned my life upside down! For me to be with Him, He was willing to do just about anything...!! And now I long to follow suit, and do just about anything for Him...

In the aloneness with the Father, I am falling so deeply in love with Jesus. I think there's a secret in that. I am disclosing a secret: You just need to get alone with the Father.

Words to Phil 3:7-11 and the song, "Knowing You" echo in my mind. "Knowing You, Jesus, knowing you. There is no greater thing. You're my all, you're the best, you're my joy, my righteousness, and I love you, Lord...."

May 22, 2002 - Alone with the Father
(more thoughts from the Garden - Mt 26:36-46 - b/c i am still in the Garden.)

Jesus was all alone as He struggled in anguish in the Garden. He asked His friends to come and pray with Him - but they couldn't stay awake. Even if they had been awake, they would not really have understood what He was going through. In fact, their ease in slipping into slumber demonstrates their lack of understanding of Jesus' turmoil. Jesus had to be alone with the Father. Sometimes, we just must get totally alone with the Father as well. Because sometimes we are just in a place where no one else can understand the depths of our turmoil or anguish. It is often a story of just "me and God." You see, I believe that God desires to take us to a place with Him so deep, so intimate that no one else could ever go there with us. So in our anguish, we must invite Him into it. Then we will begin to know an intimacy with Him that is really quite different. No one else could even begin to fathom the wonders of it. And you know you've reached a sweet intimacy with Him when you find yourself speechless & at a loss for words as to what happened between you and Him. That is the place you want to be.

In the Garden, Jesus was with the Father struggling in His heart in a place where no one else could go with Him. And so.... there are moments when we are in turmoil, in a place where no one else can go there with us. It feels sooo lonely -- but HE is there - and so it will be good.

Interesting. Sidethought. Adam & Eve were in a Garden. Jesus was in a Garden. A choice had to be made in each place. A choice was made in each place. But the choices were so wholly different. Adam & Eve made a choice of disobedience. Jesus made a choice of obedience. Oh, the unfathomable, unreturnable debt we owe for this choice Jesus made!!!

I suppose while we are in the Garden, alone with the Father, we too have choices to make. Will they be choices of obedience or disobedience? Will I choose His will or my own? And... will I choose to uncover the depths of my anguish -- be totally honest & vulnerable with Him -- and then embrace and submit to His Truth? Pressing into the pain is painful... but I know in the end, there is sweet freedom and victory -- a breaking of old bondage. Jesus had victory! I long for that too.

May 21, 2002 - Anguish
I prayed and struggled in anguish this morning. It coincided to this morning's reading in Matthew 26. Sometimes things just don't make logical human sense, but we need to step out in faith and just follow anyway.

Mt 26:36-46 (Jesus in the Garden) -
1. Jesus felt sorrowful and troubled (v. 38).
2. He told the Father how He felt (v. 39).
3. He submitted to the Father (v. 39).
4. He still did not feel settled, so He repeated 2 & 3 (v. 42 & 44).
5. The result was obedience with enthusiasm (v. 46).

I feel encouraged because this passage tells me that I can come before my Heavenly Father and tell Him honestly how I feel and then choose to submit to Him because I recognize His sovereignty - despite how I might feel. (It's always a matter of "choice" and obedience, isn't it?) And if that doesn't settle it for me the first time (I am only human & it rarely settles it for me the first time), I can go back to Him again and again to admit my confusion and anguish and submit again and again (even if it doesn't make sense). Eventually (from the honesty and the submission), there ought to result enthusiastic obedience. We have to choose again and again to obey and submit to our Lord. It is not always easy, but it is always the best choice. This is what it means to call Him Lord, does it not? O Lord, this is what I desire!!

May 20, 2002 - Confessing Jesus
Romans 10:9-10, "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

God is gracious to us in that sometimes He gives us a new bent on a Truth, a new understanding, a fresh new revelation. I was meditating on Romans 10:9-10 during the retreat. I had already reached an understanding of why it says that you need to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. Inward conviction always calls for outward expression. In order to truly be saved, you must not only believe it in your heart but you must say it aloud also. I think this "saying aloud" though is talking about telling God that you believe. But I think also that if you really believe something, you certainly would not keep it to yourself. You wanna shout your conviction to the world. This is what I mean by "inward conviction calls for outward expression."

The fresh insight that I got though was on the word "confess." This verb in these two verses have always tripped me up. Why does Paul say that we must "confess" it? I started thinking about what it means to confess. Confession is usually admittance of something you did wrong. How does that work with confessing Jesus? And then I hit it! When you acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, you are admitting that you are not Lord, you are admitting that the way you have been living your entire life with YOURSELF on the throne is WRONG. You have been wrong all your life in living it by your own devices in accordance to your own pleasures. You are confessing that you have been living by the lies of this world "brainwashed" by the Old Tapes. And now, you are going to live by the Truth! You are now going to live by the better way. In "confessing that Jesus is Lord," you are in essence renouncing the past. And that is pretty key in becoming a new creation in Christ... =)

May 17, 2002 - Parents & Awakenings
James 1:17, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

All the gifts that we have in our lives are from the Lord. But not only so, they are His way of saying, "I love you." It is not the gift itself that we ought to exult in, because there's a reality that goes deeper than that.

In these recent weeks, I have had a strange awakening. (I say awakening because it is the sudden realization of what has always been true, always been right in front of me, and I should've known, but didn't see it!) I have been awakened to the understanding that God has given me the most wonderful parents in the world. There is a kindness and self-sacrifice to them that is completely uncalled for and unmerited. I did nothing to earn their continual, unending love. They look after me, oversee the things in my life, a step ahead of me, knowing my needs and providing for me. I never realized or appreciated it before. And in having given me these parents, I have begun to see how much God loves me. It is as if by giving me such wonderful parents, God was choosing to say, "mary ann, I love you so much. I am going to provide for you in this way. In this way, I want you to see how much I love you." He has used my parents all these years to provide for me, to care for me, to cherish me. I guess it is an especial awakening because it's not at all that my parents are perfect. If you know anything about my relationship with my parents all these years, my difficulty, my heartache, and all that, then you realize why I call this an awakening. (Read my autiobiography.) It is very special the way He's made me realize how much He loves me through them -- and what a blessing they are. It makes me feel special to God. And I think this is how He wants us all to feel - special. We just need to recognize (have these awakenings) of His hand of provision in all of our lives.

Phil 4:19, "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

May 16, 2002 - secret choices.
Jesus once said, "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." Matthew 10:26

we all have many, many moments daily when we must make choices. the majority of the choices we make are private - no one knows about them. they are "secret choices." But the Lord knows. and these secret choices you make before the Lord always becomes public. you don't think that they will ever, you don't think that they do -- but they do. what you choose in the private of your heart and mind translates into the way your walk with God is (your intimacy with Him)... and it translates in how you relate with others. did you make a choice that honors or dishonors God? are you making choices that choose Him first or yourself/your flesh? are you obeying Him or not? your secret choice will become public. and all the other choices you make after that - even if you think they are separate and distinct from all your previous choices, they are really not -- they all build on top of each other... and determine your character for your entire life. secret choices ALWAYS become public!!

sow a thought over and over again, and you reap a choice/decision
sow a choice/decision over and over again, and you reap a habit.
sow a habit over and over again, and you reap a character.
sow a character over and over again, and you reap a destiny.

I hope to always make the right choices before Him...

so, in regard to yesterday's thought. you must make the choice of renouncing your sins - the ones that no one knows about. you can make that choice - announce your abandonment of ownership of it, or you can make the choice of concealing it, cherishing it and covering it over. those are secret choices you make. and whatever secret choice you make will translate out in your life. He who conceals his sins will not prosper. Whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. And the opposite is true as well. He who conceals his sins will not find mercy. He who confesses and renounces them will prosper! make the right secret choices, it will make a difference... forever!

May 15, 2002 - Renouncing Sins
(these are my rough thoughts; i will come back to edit and explain better later.)

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13

"renouncing" - dictionary's deifnition: to retract, to announce one's abandonment of ownership of, give up, abandon. It is CRITICAL to announce your abandonment of ownership of your past (sin, habit, bondage, whatever) to the Lord. must announce it to him (i.e. confess) in order to be restored into a right relationship with Him and be forgiven, cleansed, and purified from all unrighteousness (1 john 1:9). but it is also FREEING (and i personally think, necessary) to "announce" it to someone else. if you find yourself unable to "announce" (renounce) it to someone else, then you are not truly free. because you are still living in fear ~ the fear of being looked down upon, the fear of losing respect, losing people thinking well of you, etc. you are, therefore, not really free of the SHAME. often, the actual announcing of it to someone helps to decisively set you free. totally happened for me! :) james 5:16 comes into play here too. i mean, certainly, you don't need to confess to someone to be atoned for, no other mediator is needed aside from Jesus, but there's this FREEDOM in renouncing to someone. yes, only then can you truly prosper. that brings to mind the idea about "secret choices." i'll have to explain that concept later....

May 14, 2002 - Press into the Pain
have not thought about much else but the nav's women's retreat for this coming weekend (planning and praying). Please take a moment and pray for us. I have a feeling God is going to do something huge. Thanks!

woke up this morning with a piercing pain in my spine. I talked to one of my coworkers, whose girlfriend's a Physical Therapist, and she was describing how there's a certain kind of pain in the muscle where the "cure" is to jab your elbow into it and stir it around. Sounds painful, doesn't it? Then I talked to my other coworker (older Chinese brother in the Lord), who practiced acupuncture in China for 10 years. He massaged my back and pressed into some pressure points (hand and foot). If you've never had someone press the pressure points, you don't know what pain is!!! But I found this a weird theme - note that you MUST press into the pain in order to be cured of the pain. The jabbing of the elbow and the pressing of the pressure points. Yikeso! There is definitely a spiritual truth in this too. If you want to be set free from past hurts, fears or bondage, you've gotta press into that pain. How so? By facing them and bringing them to God. Cry the tears, feel the pain and ask the Lord to heal you, ask the Lord to come with you to those places/memories/thoughts/lies that hurt so badly. And He will come and He will heal you. I have had this experience many, many times especially in these last few months as God & I worked on setting me free from past lies & hurt. (It has been a difficult but wonderful sanctification process in these last few months.) I talked a little about this here also.

You see, I think too often when our past hurts rise up to the surface, we so quickly want to move past it. We take it and shove it somewhere into the corners of our mind. In doing so, we are able to cover it up and avoid the pain for now. But we have not effectually gotten rid of it. It will resurface and resurface over and over again. It hinders us from the victorious kind of living that the Lord wants us to have - because it always resurfaces - and ALWAYS at the most inopportune times. The better option for when past hurts rise up is to face it head on. How about asking what the root of this pain is? Where did it come from? Where did it start? What is the deep, deep issue? Are there other "pains" related to this? (This is what I mean by pressing into the pain.) (This is not an easy process... it should be painful.) But bring it all to God. Tell Him it hurts. He will meet you in your pain. He will come into the painful situation with His all-encompassing, inexplicable Love. And He will relieve you of the pain, as you replace the hurts (which are usually lies) with His Truth(s). Read this. And ask me more about this if you want more clarification.

May 13, 2002 - One Thing
We sang "Singleminded" on Sunday. And you know, it's true - the more I live life, the more I become more and more certain day by day that all of life really does come down to just one thing, and that's to know Jesus and make Him known. (Yes, the Nav vision!) And, yes, it really is "one thing." When you know Jesus, it immediately follows that you just MUST make Him known. It flows naturally out of you; in fact, you can't even help it. To know Christ is to make Him known. Where there is an inward conviction, there is always outward expression...

Knowing Jesus - knowing that He is indeed God, Sovereign, wondrous, wondrous, beautiful in all ways - makes me long to tell the world about Him. He is the Lover of my soul! Do you know Him? Do you know my Jesus? Do you know Him like I know Him? If not, you're missing out, my friend. And I'd like to introduce you...

This is My Father's World
I've just finished memorizing two stanzas to this wonderful hymn. You can listen to the midi and read the rest of the hymn at . I really like the melody. And there is just something about these words... There is just something about hymns in general - always brings me back to the Center.

Here's what I memorized:

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

May 12, 2002 - Flowers
There is just something about flowers... I'm not sure what it is, but I was trying to find a bouquet for my mom and there were so many beautiful flowers all bunched together, I just couldn't decide which one to get for her! So beautiful!!! It made me think of two things:

1. A hymn:
"For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth,
over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
this our hymn of grateful praise."

The earth and all that is in it that the Lord has given to us is so beautiful and wondrous! What blessings He has lavished on us!! Let us give thanks and praise to Him!

2. 1 Peter 1:24-25, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever."

Despite all the beauty of the earth, none of it will last. Only God's Word and His promises (the promise that Jesus conquered death and is the Giver of Life) will last FOREVER!!! So...yes, let's enjoy His gifts while we're here... but most of all, let us give praise to the Giver... and choose to fix our gaze on Jesus, the epitome of Beauty. I can't even begin to fathom what the Creator of all this beauty looks like... but I will devote my whole life in seeking to worship Him. amen.

May 11, 2002 - Schemes & Manipulation
"Undoubtedly," replied Darcy..."there is a meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation." (from "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen)

In this quote, Mr. Darcy is commenting on Miss Bingley's observation about women scheming in order to "recommend themselves" (i.e. catch a man). And I would have to agree with Darcy that what women are far too often guilty of (scheming and manipulating situations in order to captivate) is not only "mean" but, further, just simply baaaaaad!!!! amen, Jane Austen, amen!!! [Wonder if I will see her in heaven??]

Sidethought -- I guess Jane Austen observed long, long ago what I have just observed in the last few months of my life... haha. There truly is nothing new under the sun!!

May 10, 2002 - Biblical answers.
I think what I was really asking yesterday was whether or not it was okay for a sister to initiate things with a brother if she only has a friendship in view.

Background: For 4 years, I lived by a "stay-away" policy with brothers. Basically, no-touch, no-talk, no-friendships, no-nothing. Last fall, God made me realize that it was okay, I could be friends with my brothers. The key was "discretion" - as long as in my heart, there was no manipulation or scheming; as long as on the inside, there was pure motives in my interactions. (I needed to, in essence, not fall into the vice that I was prone to as described in my testimony.) God wants us to be pure in our hearts, and then we are permitted to do "whatever" in our action (given we understand 1 Cor 10:23-24).

But in thinking, "hey, my heart is totally free from manipulation and scheming now," I came to treat all my brothers as if they were my blood brothers, talking to them freely, initiating emails with them, etc. But the other day I started to wonder if I had perhaps taken a gracious freedom and ran too far with it. Just because I felt free in my heart, did it justify acting so freely? Although I knew biblically, I was free to love my brothers like this, but what of people who don't know where my heart is on this? What did the Bible have to say about that? What does biblical friendship look like betweeen brothers and sisters? Is it wrong (sinful) for a sister to initiate with a brother if she only has friendship in view? (That's where May 9's thoughts came from.)

On the drive home yesterday, I thought about Prov 11:22. It is good to be a woman of discretion. So what does a woman of discretion look like? Well, she makes choices not to do certain things simply because it might appear "shadey." She chooses to refrain from certain pleasures and abstain from certain freedoms (not because there's anything necessarily "wrong" with it but) - in order to maintain integrity, in order to be blameless and above reproach. [selah] Good thought.

But I was not fully satisfied with this answer, because it seemed that to opt to refrain from "shadey things" like this was to still try to live by some form of man-made (Christian-culture) standards of what is right and wrong. But what are the biblical standards??

This time I looked at Prov 11:22. "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion." Suddenly, I realized that the verse is not saying that a woman who doesn't show discretion is sinning, but the verse makes the comparison that it's like a gold ring in a pig's snout. In every culture, gold rings are valued and treasured as beautiful. In every culture as well, pigs are repelled as "dirty" - but even more so, in Jewish tradition. The Israelites identified pigs as "unclean" and so detested and disdained them and avoided them as if they had "cooties" - or worse!! Therefore, a gold ring that is supposed to be treasured would be repelled as revolting if it was stuck in a pig's snout. Similarly, a woman who is supposed to be beautiful and beloved would be absolutely repulsive if she shows no discretion. She may not have sinned (oh, what freedoms we have in Christ!), but she may not be "appealing" either.

So my conclusion - I have erred in the last few months in how I've initiated with my brothers. (I suppose this is a public confession of my errors. Sorry guys!) Sure, I have the freedom in my heart and it would not be sinful to treat them so freely, but it is better (and biblical) to use more discretion by not initiating. Things just go wrong when the woman initiates anyway. =) But it would not be inappropriate or be lacking in discretion to accept invitations from brothers. And so... this is how the world ought to go on the way the Lord designed... Men, initiate with integrity!!! Women, use discretion!! (Lord, forgive me for my lack of discretion in these recent times!!! )

One last, I don't think my freedoms are being "stifled" in deferring to having brothers initiate. Because in desiring to obey biblical exhortations, I believe there is always MORE freedom experienced - because in doing so, I am free from blame or censure, and free to feel the Lord's delight. When my heart is not perverse and my ways are blameless, the Lord is pleased. Prov 11:20. amen.

May 9, 2002 -- Thought #2
Maybe what it comes down to is in trying to consider acting on what is biblical vs. acting on what is appropriate vs. acting on what is integrity. Integrity is a huge deal to me...

May 9, 2002 -- Questions - Thought #1
Something I realized. There is a difference between secular, worldly thinking, Christian culture thinking and Biblical thinking. The difference between secular, worldly thinking and Biblical thinking is obvious. What's not so obvious is the difference between what the Christian culture deems as "right" and "good" and what the Bible actually says is "right" and "good." Sometimes I think we really need to stop ourselves and ask, "Wait, so do I think this is inappropriate/appropriate because the Bible actually says so or because the church (or mainstream American Christian culture) says so?"

I think Christ gives us a lot more freedom than Christian culture allows for. But at the same time, the freedom is determined by the condition of our hearts. We should be able to exercise these freedoms when our hearts are truly free from worldly possessiveness, idolatry and flesh-cravings. That means we must truly die to ourselves just as the Bible says. Gal 2:20, 2 Cor 5:14-17, Romans 8:1-11, 2 Cor 3:17, Luke 9:23.

But what if you have the understanding that the Bible gives freedom in such things that Christian culture does not. Should you follow Biblical thinking even at the risk of stumbling those who live by Christian culture rules?

Here's another question I have in relation to all this: what is the appropriate way for guys and girls to relate with one another in a healthy manner? I ask this question because when it comes to courtship and marriage, I believe that the man should pursue the woman - the man should intiate, the woman should respond. Ok, that's a given in my mind. But what about friendships? I do believe the God wants us to relate to each other as brothers and sisters. It is healthy for us to have input from both sides of "God's image" - says everyone I know (most notably, Larry Bauer, my spiritual daddy). But how do you do that? What does a biblical friendship between a man and a woman look like? Is it only appropriate in group settings? Can they hang out alone? Can they talk on the phone? email? and if email? is it all right if the woman "initiates" - they are only just friends, and as such, I would imagine that it would be okay because they are just friends, but does that infringe on the premise that the man ought to pursue/initiate? or is the male "initiating" only related to the courtship relationship? Does that principle spill over to the "just friends" category? I really want to get to some biblical answers for all this (biblical, remember, not Christian culture answers). I think this is definitely a season where God really wants me to learn how to relate to brothers in a healthy manner, and so I want to be able to KNOW what this "healthy manner" is. What is biblical? I want to act on that. Please email me if you've got some input - Thanks.

May 8, 2002 -- Jesus is my Life!!
Contrary to what I've been saying all these years, ministry is NOT my "life." Christ is. Jesus is my life. May I live each day growing in the grace and knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and growing in faith each and every day (2 Thess 1:3). Yes, the one who is spiritually alive because of being born again but is NOT spiritually growing is living a life of mediocrity!! Oh Lord, deliver me from the lukewarm, tepid 20-somethings norm of American Christian culture. I want to seek after You day after day after day... and find in You my greatest satisfaction. I believe that you truly are Better and Best. amen.

Let me expound on the thought of May 6th: i've always thought of mediocrity as a state of being of someone who does not make an impact on the kingdom. but in thinking so, i've focused on the "ends" not the means. the reality is that mediocrity is lived out by the one who does not seek after God. i can try my very best to make an impact for His kingdom in order to avoid mediocrity, but i have not truly been delivered from it if i am not seeking after Him. to seek after His heart, to seek after His love... to bask in His love... ah, yes, to remain in the vine, that is to truly live a "dangerous" (non-mediocre) life for God.

May 6, 2002
A life of mediocrity is lived by those who do not seek after God.

May 5, 2002 -- Unwillingness to Pray
realized this weekend why most people are unwilling to pray. three reasons:
1. there is no recognition, fame or glory that goes with praying. you pray in the private of your own room for people, and most of the time you don't say, "hey, i prayed for you!" most of the time you cannot and need not tell people that you have prayed for them. as you pray, you will get to see lives changed, and your faith is strengthened, but there is no self-glory in that. usually no one to praise you or thank you. for those who seek to be recognized and affirmed for their righteous deeds, this concept does not seem very appealing.

2. praying is laborious. real prayer is difficult. i have found myself avoiding true intercession for others because i am afraid to enter into that place where i must feel the heartache and pain of others. i have skirted around it these last few days - knowing there are people and things to pray for, but i don't pray the real prayers that need to be prayed because i am afraid to press into the heaviness of really considering where these people are at. when you truly enter into God's presence, you begin to see things as God sees and feel things as God feels. and that can be too much for a mortal to bear at times! or at least, i have been skirting pressing into His presence because i have been believing the lie that it would be too much for me to bear (too painful?) -- and that of course is selfish.

3. in true prayer, you enter into God's presence and you MUST be vulnerable before Him, you must lay yourself out there - naked & uncovered. That is the hard part. You simply cannot get before a Holy God and avoid coming face-to-face with your ugly, sinful self. most of us dread such a prospect. that is why we avoid entering His presence.

I think I am guilty of all three. All three hinder me from actually pushing on into God's presence. But why should this be so? Three arguments against the above problems: 1. my significance should not be in what others think of me, in how much praise or recognition I can attain. my worth is in what the Lord thinks of me. and in fact, the best part of prayer is the gain in intimacy with the Lord of heaven and earth ? not in what material/tangible returns that I can gain. 2. it is worth it to labor on behalf of others. to feel as they feel, to pray and serve them in this manner. 3. it is good to see my sinful self, so that I can offer it up to Him to be sacrificed and crucified. only in the dying of self can there spring forth new life. new life in me - a holier more sanctified self that is more similar to my Holy Lord ? as well as new life in others. John 12:24, right?

Seriously, though, there is nothing more worth it in heaven or earth than going deeper with God. And if that means painful yet unrecognized toil (in the eyes of men), then so be it! The gain is worth the cost - when the gain ricochets off the walls of eternity. the gain is worth the cost when the gain is Christ and cost is merely "self." i need to pray more. amen.

May 3, 2002 - Pure Pleasure in His Presence
had a good talk with a friend last night. we were able to clear up a lot of things as we discussed things that we had been thinking and feeling for awhile now. it's funny how many messages are sent even when you don't say anything at all. it's really good to talk these things out. one person could say or do one thing meaning one thing and another person could read it as something totally different. the same goes with actions. amazing how many things are communicated and misinterpreted. mental note: need to make sure to talk out everything with future mate. =)

got really sick between yesterday and this morning. whenever I get sick, I'm always reminded of Brother Lawrence's comments from "Practice the Presence of God." He basically said that all pleasure is pure punishment if it be in His absence and all punishment can be pure pleasure if it be in His presence. I think that is true. As long as you are in His presence, the worst thing in the world can actually be joyful - just knowing He is there. And even the best things in the world can be just awful without Him. So - even in sickness, we ought to be asking the Lord to be present with us in the midst of it, asking the Lord to teach us something in the midst of it, rather than just asking Him to quickly deliver us from it. Life isn't about the destination but the journey, right? I already know where I am going (Heaven), now is just the awesome time of sanctification - of being made more holy - so I need to submit myself to Him and learn as much as possible, and be made more like Him (& more fit for Heaven) as much as possible.

You know, it is waaaay awesome to be at the center of His will - wherever that may be, in whatever circumstance that might be - as long as you're at the center of His will, then all is good. I long for that! To be at the center - whether that means working as a researcher for 20 years - or suffering for His name. I believe it will be pure pleasure because when you have your gaze fixed on the God of the universe and you know that you are exactly where He wants you to be, everything is just wonderfully -- well, inexplicable. If you've never been there, you've gotta try it. I don't think I can explain it in words. There are some wonders that words can never adequately portray. Experiencing God, being at the center of His will, delighting in His presence - all things too wonderful to describe... Push on into His presence, my friend. He longs for you to revel in Him there!

May 2, 2002 -- Been Stripped
Been stripped of everything I treasure. This past weekend, I realized again that marriage and missions (things I had always dreamed of all my life) are not the ultimate happiness. Interesting. These things ARE wonderful things, but they are not wonderful if they are not God's will for my life. You see, I've always dreamed of some idealistic version of these things, but no matter how great it might've been for someone else in some other time (that I've read about in biographies/missionary books), if it is not what He has ordained for my life, then it won't be as wonderful for me. What I really want is to be at the center of God's will. Wherever that might be -- even in the least idealized of places -- I wanna be there. Because I know that is where I will be happiest.

Another thing that was stripped away was friendships. I guess I had always had this half-hope that I could partner up and serve the Lord with one of my best friends. But in the past few days, I started realizing that that just may not happen. All my best friends have different passions and are driven by a different bent on how they might want to serve the Lord - even though we are all looking to full time ministry. I think Sam really getting her Wycliffe application rolling and being accepted to ORSIL for this summer was the clincher for me. So what does that all mean for me? Just that having to let go of the hope that I could partner up with one of my best friends but having a hard time "letting go" shows that I had been holding on to the hope and security of having the buffer of going out into the world with a best friend a little too much.

And now, here I am and here I stand, realizing that I cannot hope to have my friends catch my fall. I offer myself up to the Lord. Just me - by myself. I stand by myself, and I trust that wherever He takes me in this world, He will shield me, protect me and be my beloved companion. This is sweet comfort & impenetrable protection. And to follow Him like that alone in the world takes greater faith and a greater dependency than if to have an earthly companion by my side to lean on (I guess I was really leaning on that!). I want to step out in faith believing that He will care for me, and then finding that it is true - finding a deeper depth of Him than I've ever known, with greater intimacy than I've every imagined. Ah, and this declaration of leaning, trusting, following, and stepping out in faith has brought me to dependence on my Lord like I've not felt in a long time.

Being stripped of things I've hoped in (those broken cisterns! jer 2:13) opens my eyes and allows me to see that I need to depend on Him and trust in Him alone, the Living Water, who quenches and satisfies my thirst.

Been stripped of everything - and now finally feeling more "myself" today than all these last few weeks. We all need to get to a place of desperation for Jesus to be truly "ourselves" - the fullness of ourselves that He meant for us to be.

Been stripped of everything - and you know, I remembered that when I began this journey with Christ, it was in that I had known with great intensity that nothing else (no one else!) in this world could satisfy. When I started this journey, it was in knowing that no other loves in this world compared to the Love of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was no one else when I first began this journey. It was just me and the Lord. And now... we are back to that. How easily it is for us to love the blessings more than the Blesser. But it is such unfullfilling foolishness when we allow ourselves to worship and seek after those unsubstantial substitutes to fill the void we all feel...

May 1, 2002 -- Holding Loosely
I first got the idea of holding loosely from Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Hold onto Jesus." It's true, isn't it? That as believers, we MUST hold loosely to the things that are fleeting but hold on (tightly) to Jesus "for life." The idea "for life" has two meanings in my opinion: 1. for all of our lives (for all of the time here on earth) and 2. in order to have LIFE (the true abundant, full, real type of life that Jesus speaks of in the Gospels).

So what things are fleeting? Just about everything in this world. Tozer tells us that as humans, we have this innate desire to "possess" things. We want to own things. Dwight Hervey Small says that God created people to be loved and things to be used, and the world gets messed up when we reverse His natural order of things by using people and loving things too much. For myself, I find that what Tozer says is true. I have this habit of wanting to hold onto things too much. But not material things like most people. I have a really hard time holding loosely to other things. Always, it has been my dreams. So God has always had to point His finger on dreams that I have that I love greater than Him, and I've had to give them up. But yesterday and today, it hasn't been about the dreams. It's been about friendships. I love my friends. I find it so hard to hold loosely to friends... And yet the best way to live life is by holding loosely to all these gifts from Him and hold tightly only to Him. Do you agree? Email me... More on this later...

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Mary Ann Nguyen. All Rights Reserved.