Last weekend I drove alone to the town of Barili, which is almost 200 kms. from the city I live in. Since it was my first time to travel to this town, along the way I made a wrong turn. I had gone several kms. before realizing my mistake and had to double back. Good thing there were road signs that revealed my mistake and pointed me back to the right path.
Between Carcar city, where I momentarily lost my way, and the town of Barili are zigzag roads that skirt a mountain range. Because only a few cars were on the road, I gunned the engine of my car and sped through the twists and turns of the way. I enjoyed the drive immensely although there were a number of sharp curves with steep enbankments on either side.
I arrived safely in Barili town tired but thankful for the pleasant journey.
The journey called life, however, may not be as simple. We may get lost at times and there will definitely be twists and turns, highs and lows, rough and smooth. But we have a terrific guide that will always point us to the right direction.
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. -Psalm 119:105
Yet, it’s the zigzags of life that make the journey worthwhile, for they exercise our faith. They may look perilous and some may be easy to traverse, but it is God ultimately who is the one who will see us through.
We can be fearful so that our journey will be slow or we can be reckless and arrive quickly. Either way we will not be able to experience the abundance of sights and sounds that can enliven us. Or we can enjoy the adventure knowing that we journey with God and will see and feel things as he does.
If we treat faith as an adventure, the zigzags of life become joyful and the destination exciting.
I like buying books from Amazon.com. Many times I can get discounted books or used books of the titles I’m looking for. So far the used books were not a disappointment in that they came in good condition. And then, of course, there are the Kindle editions which I can readily download into my desktop or device.
Yet, what I like most are the reviews of the book I’m interested in. There are always both pros and cons, which can give me a fairly good idea on the quality of the book. I try to weigh the pros and cons and from there discern if the book is worth buying and reading.
Not so, however, when I come to the Bible, the Word of God. I let it, instead “review” me.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12
I like the last line, because if there are things that need to be reviewed, they are our thoughts and attitudes. Both are activities of the mind.
Our thoughts can go unrestrained. Out of them come doubt and fear, two negative impulses that feed on each other. We regret the past or worry about the future, which then affects the present. Our fear is magnified to one degree or another, so that we lose self-confidence, courage or fortitude to live the life that God intended for us to live.
This, in turn, creates attitudes of low self-esteem, cynicism, and “it must be God’s will for this to happen.”
The word of God never teaches us to cower in the darkness. It teaches us instead to “fear not,” to be excellent and to look at our challenges as a strengthening of our inner being. God created us to be overcomers through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37).
So, we allow God’s word to “review” us, not because God wants to put us down.
But because God wants to create in us a bestseller!
In 1 Kings 19 we can read about Elijah, a powerful man of God, who, after a great victory over 450 priests of Baal, suddenly succumbs to despair because he believed in a negative word. It was a threat from Jezebel, the queen of the priests Elijah defeated. His spirit was crushed because of a negative word.
Negative words can come in many forms: a threat to life or property, an insult, disparaging utterances, discouragement, etc.
In receiving a negative word, we can react the way Elijah did (1 Kings 19:3-5):
* he became afraid – Elijah was afraid and ran for his life
* he distanced himself from everyone – while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness
* he gave in to self-pity – I have had enough, Lord … take my life
* he engaged in negative self-talk – I am no better than my ancestors
* and immobilized himself – Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep
Later, he withdrew himself further by going up a mountain and into a cave. But this is where he encountered God and countered the negative words that so affected him.
First, he listened to God. God spoke in a gentle whisper. God’s power lies in his word. For us who believe, his word is already within us. It is for us to stir it up through faith that we may dispel the effects of negative words thrown at us.
You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. -Psalm 119:114
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. -Philippians 4:13
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. -Romans 15:4
Secondly, he obeyed God. God spoke to him, told him he had a purpose for him and Elijah simply obeyed.
When we know that God has a purpose for us, we can also know that his purpose will be fulfilled. No negative word or action will be able to thwart God. God is not a God of failure.
…So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -Isaiah 55:11
In moments of receiving a negative word, we need to look to God’s word for encouragement, comfort, strength and renewed purpose. It is he who leads and guides us.
No negative word can take that place.
I like coffee. No, I love coffee!
My friends, pastor and church members know this. And so it was with delight that I received a video from one of my former youth members entitled, “Life is Like Coffee.”
I share it with you below:
For the sheer love of writing, I write. For the sheer love of God, I write about spirituality. And because I follow Jesus, I write about Christian spirituality.
Is there any other kind of spirituality? Of course! But the question is, where is it leading the adherent?
This, however, does not deny the fact that in Christianity we can find charlatans, con-men and claptraps. But to genuinely practice Christianity is to gain a spirituality that can make a positive difference in this world.
How does one genuinely practice Christianity? Let’s start with a verse I hold dear to my heart:
Do everything in love. -1 Corinthians 16:14
Then, allow me to give you a popular passage of Scripture to support the one above:
If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Genuine Christian spirituality is not loud. It carries with it a quiet confidence that speaks volumes of what it means to serve.
Genuine Christian spirituality is not about intellect. It is about knowing the author of love and expressing him in all that you say and do.
Genuine Christian spirituality is not having mountain-moving faith. It’s having the compassion to care beyond “going a second mile” for others.
Genuine Christian spirituality is not the ability to live ascetically. It is the ability to bless others even when going through personal difficulties.
God is love. Love is his character. To seek to build love in one’s self brings one to the path of Genuine Christian spirituality.
We do not need to know exactly the reason why the Psalmist penned these lines: My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? -Psa 6:3 (NIV)
All we know is that it had something to do with his enemies and the writer felt it was a way by which God was disciplining him. It’s one of the saddest verses in the Bible.
Yet, further down the Psalm, we find one of the most joyous verses: The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. -Psalm 6:9 (NIV)
The cry of an anguished heart was a cry for mercy. And, for the Psalmist, God would answer it. All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame. -Psalm 6:10 (NIV)
What message can we glean from the above?
1. God is merciful. It is in His character to be merciful. So when we cry out for mercy, for whatever reason, we can be assured that we will receive it, because God is merciful!
2. The cry of an anguished heart must also be a cry of faith. What the Psalmist did was no mere wishful thinking. He knew the mercy of God because he had a relationship with God based on faith on a gracious God.
3. Our timing is not God’s timing. God always knows what’s best. So we should not spend the time in anguish. We should spend the time in prayer and in anticipation that God’s goodness will eventually break through. For, indeed, it will!
The cry of an anguished heart to God will always turn into a cry of unfathomable joy!
But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. -Psalm 52:8
David the Psalmist probably knew the healing benefits of the oil that comes from the olive tree. Because when we read the rest of Psalm 52, he is comparing himself with those who are deliberately harmful.
It is said that both the fruit and oil of the olive tree can help cure or prevent a myriad of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. They also protect the immunce system and cells. Perhaps David didn’t know about these, but I can safely conclude that the extracts of the olive tree gave well-being to the users, otherwise David would not specifically mention the tree.
But there’s an important aspect here that we must note. David acknowledged that he flourished because he trusted in God’s unfailing love.
What can this mean for us?
Without God’s love, there can be no healing. I apply this to ministry from which we can bring healing to broken relationships, loneliness, discouragement, etc. And if we can bring physical healing, that would be excellent!
Without God’s love, we can’t flourish. To flourish is to live a life of abundance where you become a never-ending supply of God’s grace and goodness to others.
Without God’s love, we can’t abide in Him. In the house of God speaks about abiding in God’s presence. It is God’s love that calls us into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. It is God’s love that showers us with grace and goodness.
Without God’s love, there can be no real purpose in life. It is God’s purpose for us to bring others into His loving embrace. But we can’t love fully without the fulness of God’s love within us.
Be planted in God’s love and be a tree of healing.