Check out this new blog post on why abstinence pays from my best friend, Jeida. ❤️
In my current phase of life, certain hymns have become a mainstay in my music library. This hymn, God Moves In A Mysterious Way, has helped me to be able to accept the things that God is doing and allowing even when they made absolutely no sense to me. When speaking to my wonderful adopted big sis Dee earlier this week, we talked about much higher God’s ways and thoughts are than ours. His thinking is on a level that we can’t even imagine. This song is a beautiful reminder to me that what I see right now isn’t the end and that God truly moves in a mysterious way. The hymn was written by William Cowper in 1774. Here is a short passage about his life from CyberHymnal.org.
Cowper often struggled with depression and doubt. One night he decided to commit suicide by drowning himself. He called a cab and told the driver to take him to the Thames River. However, thick fog came down and prevented them from finding the river (another version of the story has the driver getting lost deliberately). After driving around lost for a while, the cabby finally stopped and let Cowper out. To Cowper’s surprise, he found himself on his own doorstep: God had sent the fog to keep him from killing himself. Even in our blackest moments, God watches over us.
And the song he so beautifully penned…
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” – John 13:7 ESV
For this post, Brittany and I have decided to split chapters 2-5. She’s taking 2 and 3 and I have 4-5.
In Chapter 4, Elisabeth Elliot really starts to dig in. Like I said in the initial post, Elisabeth has a way of speaking to matters of the heart effectively and aligning scripture properly. The title of this chapter is “Unruly Affections” and I think a quote that encapsulates this chapter most appropriately is: “As I grew into womanhood and began to learn what was in my heart I saw very clearly that, of all difficult things to rule, none were more so than my will and affections. They were unruly in the extreme….”
I think her admission is not only brave, but profound. Humans are naturally prideful people. None of us are born with a taste for humble pie. We are taught that the things we desire and want in life are good and shouldn’t be scrutinized or judged. Elliot’s admission shows that there is something awry in her desires. I agree. I can honestly admit that my desires and dreams are more rampant that ever. Things I want to do, people to meet, goals, love, blah blah blah. It can feel absolutely consuming at times. Buddhists believe that ALL desire is bad, and one must divorce oneself from Desire completely to have peace and achieve Nirvana (“a state beyond sorrows; a state of freedom from cyclic existence”) I can see how that could appealing, but ultimately it feels too easy. I’m sure it is monstrously difficult to live an ascetic lifestyle at first, but humans are very adaptable beings. The whole thing feels cowardly. “Feeling weighed down by desire? Throw it all away and be a sage!” God has made all things good, but sin taints and ruins. God is calling us to pull these unruly affections in rein, not simply because it’s responsible, but because it brings Him glory as well. It will not be easy:
Bringing anything at all into order – a messy room, a wild horse, a recalcitrant child, involves some expenditure. Time and energy at least are required.
One thing that love does it toil for the object of its devotion. How can we say we love God and not toil to bring these things into submission?
One of the chief aims of this book is showing readers how to submit their love lives to Christ. God is always in the business of redemption: people, cultures, errethang. It’s always cool to pronounce belief in God, but action follows right belief. In the book Blue Like Jazz (an absolute must read by the way) Donald Miller says “but the trouble with deep belief is that it costs something.” People think it might be absurd to think that the God of Eternity and Infinity is concerned about something as trivial as our love lives. Elisabeth remarked much later in the book “Was He interested in the plight of two college kids?” I know so. God made us all with intrinsic value and worth, and any good father is concerned about the affairs of his children, for nothing is trivial. God desires intimacy with us. God not only wants us, He also wants our desires. Since he loves us, and since love isn’t soft and passive, he wants the absolute best for us and purifies us. His love toils. The book mentions how God sifts the hearts of men. My partner Brittany mentions that this is significant. She gives a baking example to explain.
Well, I think it was significant because of the way sifting works with flour. It separates the fine and course particles. When God sifts our hearts, He’s able to see what’s really there. He sifts hearts to see the real intentions and attitudes it holds and to see where He is in it.
He sifted Abraham’s heart through Issac. Jesus sifted the heart of the young ruler through his possessions. The thing(s) we hold most dear can often became the thing through which God sifts our deceptive hearts; for “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” Our abstinence doesn’t make us pure, our unyielding devotion to God does.
Sometimes it’s self-discipline, not the power of God, which brings deliverance. We don’t need a miracle to open our bibles and study, we need discipline. We don’t need angelic visitations to know God’s will, we need to stop being lazy and get to the prayer meeting. Jesus will never over-ride our laziness, that’s out of line with His character. We must rise up to the call. Deny ourselves, pick up the cross, and follow Him. Laziness is not a demon, it’s the result of ignorance.
A powerful quote shared today by Pastor Brian Williams.
And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Eben–ezer unto Ashdod. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. – 1 Samuel 5:1-4
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God… – Exodus 34:14
Have you ever lost the thing you valued most or missed out on the opportunity that you dreamed about your whole life? If this happened, I’m sure you’ve wondered why it had to happen. You probably wanted to know why it was taken away, if it had to happen in that manner and what God was up to. My friend, God wasn’t picking on you. He’s actually been in the idol-crushing business for quite some time.
I listened to quite a few sermons this weekend and one of my favorite comes from a series called “Uncompromising Life” by who is in my opinion, one of the greatest men of God on this planet, Damon Thompson. In the 2nd sermon of the series entitled, “The Idol of Self,” Damon really digs into idolatry in our lives and how we have to remove them in order to truly give God our all. He references 1 Samuel 5 where the Philistines had taken the Ark of the Covenant from God’s people and had taken it into their own camp. The Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God. When the Philistines took the Ark from Israel, they placed it in a temple and placed their Philistine god, Dagon, on top of it.
Dagon looks really interesting, but because he’s an idol made by the hands of men, he doesn’t stand a chance against almighty God. During the first night, God knocks Dagon onto the ground. The Philistines come into the temple in the morning and see that he is on the ground so they pick him up and put him back in “his place,” on top of the Ark. During the next night, God obliterates him. The Philistines walk into the room and see Dagon broken on the ground in front of the Ark again, but with the arms and head cut off. This story always blows me away and makes me think about the idols I place in God’s place in my own life.
God has taken a sanctified sledgehammer to so many idols I’ve tried to worship. For most of us, idols aren’t statues. Idols are the things we want with all our heart, the things we place before God, the things we can’t stop thinking about and the things we give all our love to. My idols have been things that I fashioned really well, took much pride in and worshiped with all my time. They are things that I would ignore Him to pursue and things that I spent all my time praying to God for although I had absolutely no desire to actually KNOW Him. And when God would knock them down, just like the Philistines, I’d pick them right back up and place them on top of Him. What the Philistines and so many of us don’t realize is, God desires to be the object of our affections. He couldn’t allow Dagon to just sit on top of Him because He is a jealous God who desires our worship. The first commandment that He gave was about having no others gods before Him. And when I say worship, this isn’t the “turn on my worship music and lift my hands ” sense. God wants us to worship Him with our life. He wants us to spend time with Him seeking Him, communing with Him and finding pleasure in Him. His love for us is so deep and He wants us to love Him back. One of my favorite vivid displays of this desire is in Hosea 3:3 which reads,
And I said unto her, ‘Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.’
God does not want to share us; He wants to abide freely in our hearts.
God desires to be the object of our affections.
I have really disliked when God knocked down my idols. So much so that just like the Philistines, I would find ways to put the idol back where I thought it belonged. I started finding ways around “no,” I’d talk to tons of people to get “second opinions” and sometimes, I’d even try to go back and re-do what God had undone. I’d even spend all my time thinking about it and make the MEMORY of the idol an IDOl! Crazy, right? Something that both the Philistines and I had to learn is that God doesn’t knock down and smash idols for us to pick them back up and put the pieces back together. God is wise. He is all knowing. He doesn’t have think about His next move because He is Alpha (beginning) and Omega (end). He already knows the future. If God takes something away, even if it doesn’t make sense to me, it is the right move. God is sovereign so even when things that don’t look or seem right from my feeble human perspective, it’s still in my best interests to trust Him anyway because there’s obviously some important reason (that will likely be revealed later) that He is doing what He’s doing. He works everything out for our good and for His glory.
God doesn’t knock down and smash idols for us to pick them back up and put the pieces back together.
During Damon’s message on idols, He said something that blew me away. He said, “Maybe you should stop trying to pick up what God’s presence is trying to eliminate.” If you’re like me, you
have control issues like to be in control. I’m being honest, but if you’re like me, you know what I’m talking about. We like to be in control of everything. We want to determine who will be in our life, where we will work, what we’ll eat, what we’ll study, how we’ll spend our money, how we’ll spend our time and everything else. But when you have a Lord, you don’t make all of those decisions. Your Lord makes them for you. We are submitted and bound to Christ. We’re under His authority and not our own because we live to glorify Him, not ourselves.
“Maybe you should stop trying to pick up what God’s presence is trying to eliminate.” – Damon Thompson
One of my favorite people in the Bible who had no problem surrendering himself to God was Paul. In Acts 20:24 he says,
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
I consider my life worth nothing to me. Those sound like the words of one who was fully submitted to the cause of Christ and not the cause of self. Serving God means that we don’t buck up against Him. It instead means that whatever He gives, we gladly receive and whatever He takes away, we willfully accept. I know that in this phase of life, I’ve had a very hard time leaving the pieces of the idols on the floor. I’ve tried to tape them, glue them, pray that He’d miraculously put them back together, etc. I’ve asked God over and over to help me be okay with what He has taken away and then I finally realized that me not being okay with what He allows is simply a lack of faith in the fact that He really has me taken care of. I want to be in control because I know that I’ll have my own best interests at heart, but I have to have faith and KNOW that my dear Father in Heaven has a better plan for me than I could ever have for myself. And unlike me, He is actually wise enough to make good decisions for me. He not only has my best interests at heart, but He has promised that everything would work together for my good because I love Him and I’m called according to His purpose. There’s no better guarantee that than. If you’re like me and have struggled with this, I pray that God gives you an extra measure of faith to believe that He’ll do what He promised and to know that He’s going to take care of you. I also pray that He’ll give you the strength and courage to leave the idols on the floor, truly let them go and move forward in worshiping Him with every fiber of your being.
If you feel that you can’t relate, ask God to show you the idols in your own life (we all have them) and help you remove them so that you can love Him and worship Him with your whole heart.
Until next time,