The month of May

A lot has gone on since my last post about a month ago. I’ll use subheadings to guide my train of thought…

May 8

What can I say? The Lord answers prayers. I sometimes half-warn myself, “Be careful what you pray for”, because the Lord takes prayers seriously — whether or not we meant them seriously. Prayers such as

My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God;
’Tis His to lead me there—not mine, but His—
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.

(full hymn here)

will cost us. The prayers I had been praying since September have cost me my pride and self-esteem, my hopes and expectations, my self-reliance and Egyptian resources. It was hard — and still is. I still need the post I wrote a while back to be more real to me than ever:

…a privilege untold
is to be His at any price…

His need

The Lord needs age-turners. That’s why He cannot let a single genuinely consecrated young person go. Sometimes I begrudge Him for always getting what He wants (see my post from September). But, after all, that’s what the deepest part of my being wants too.

His sovereignty

If His need is the motivation, His sovereignty is the procedure. I felt very distinctly that the news on May 8 was of the Lord’s sovereignty. The human tendency is to explain it away (my dad, for instance, tried to convince me of certain rather absurd explanations). But bottom line is, when I prayed, “Lord, You work it out”, He did.

His faithfulness

If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)

I told the Lord that I was afraid of a certain outcome because I feared not being able to remain faithful to Him. He knew my faithlessness, so He was faithful all the more to not allow me to be tempted beyond what I was able (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Saved in the Body

My heart broke on May 8 in more ways than one. I had to turn to the Body.

For I know that for me this will turn out to salvation through your petition and the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19).

The supply followed.

May 7

It was all over international news, so I won’t elaborate on the details, but the Lord really is kind of funny sometimes. Certainly He has a tailor-made lesson for each brother and sister through this event, but for me the lesson was doubly reinforced in being so closely timed with May 8. The lesson consisted of these:

Destroy this temple…

John 2:19 refers to the temple of Christ’s physical body (v. 21), with “In three days I will raise it up” indicating the producing of the His spiritual Body in resurrection. The physical destruction on May 7 was a reminder that God is after a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5). Perhaps we’ve been so caught up with the things seen that He had to so drastically turn us to the things unseen — which are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

His ways

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So My ways are higher than your ways,
And My thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

God has His ways of getting the spiritual house He desires, and His ways are simply not our ways (v. 8). We may see God’s acts, but do we know His ways? (Psalm 103:7). We must not stop at worshiping God — we must also worship His ways. (Read the booklet on this).

His right

I was touched afresh by Paul’s word in Romans 9:

…O man, who are you who answer back to God? Shall the thing molded say to him who molded it, Why did you make me thus? Or does not the potter have authority over the clay…? (vv. 22-21a)

Who are we to ask, “Why, Lord?”? He has the authority, the right, the prerogative. Our part is only to praise and worship Him for His mercy, for

…it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. (v. 16)

May 15

After a 75-minute phone call, I finally got the point: the outward things mean nothing. If I make it to the FTTA without the intrinsic reality of being a priest, I and God profit nothing. If I’m not able to go, yet daily live the priest’s life by drawing near to God, touching the throne of grace, opening to God, allowing the water of life to flow unto the building up of the church, I and God profit much.

God as the Father

I was reminded of a passage I read in brother Nee’s The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Chapter 6. God demands that we hold to Himself and nothing else: nothing material, nothing fleshly (portrayed by Ishmael), but also nothing spiritual — not even the promised “Isaac”. Before and after Isaac was born, God was the Father. The gifts He gives are not the source, the experiences He grants are not the source, even the things He speaks are not the source. God the Father alone is the source. We must be related directly to the Father.

May 20

So by the time my graduation ceremony (“congregation”, as UBC calls it) rolled around, the door had fully opened for me to go to one year of the FTTA. The ceremony was too long (I was procession number 366) and too short (I was on stage for ca. 7 seconds),

congregation

but it was a good opportunity for my parents to meet my companions (aka Christian Students at UBC) and a time to stop and worship the Lord for His faithfulness in bringing me through these 4 years. To Him be the glory!

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On experiencing Marah

Thursday, I cried — that is, really cried — for the first time in a long time. The reason? An unfounded judgment, an unjust accusation, an unendurable attack on my character. The 侮辱、委屈 overpowered any attempt I made to remain collected. Fortunately, the persecutor was not among my audience.

I’ve had more than 48 hours to recuperate, so the emotional tumult has largely subsided. But I still have a bit of this sentiment within me:

Strive, O Jehovah, with those who strive with me;
Battle against those who battle against me. …
Vindicate me according to Your righteousness, O Jehovah my God;
And do not let them rejoice over me. (Psalm 35:1, 24)

Quite the vengeful psalm, isn’t it? Well, what my situation immediately reminded me of was the experience of the children of Israel at Marah. The way the ministry unveils this portion is too awesome. The story is simple:

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter… And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried out to Jehovah, and Jehovah showed him a tree; and he cast it into the waters, and the waters became sweet… (Exodus 15:23-25a)

but its application is profound. At a time when I felt utterly wounded, helpless, and paralyzed by embitterment, when I could do nothing except cry out to Jehovah, He showed me a tree — the crucified and resurrected Christ as the tree of life (cf. Revelation 2:7). This One is the unique “water-changer”: He turns bitter waters to sweet.

Part of the reason this portion came to me so quickly was that it was opened up at the recent Winter Training on Exodus. Brother EM drew an unexpected link to the experience of Hannah…

And her rival provoked her bitterly to irritate her… and she wept and would not eat. … And she was bitter in soul and prayed to Jehovah and wept much. And she made a vow and said, O Jehovah of hosts, if You will indeed look upon the affliction of Your female servant and remember me and not forget Your female servant, but give to Your female servant a male child, then I will give him to Jehovah for all the days of his life, and no razor will come upon his head. … And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord. I am a woman oppressed in spirit….I have been pouring out my soul before Jehovah. (1 Samuel 1:6-15)

Her bitterness, oppression of spirit produced the prayer that brought forth the son who turned the age. How eye-opening to see that this is God’s economy! He arranges our environments, we pour out our soul before Him, and He gains through our cooperation Christ as the unique Nazarite and Overcomer in us so that His kingdom comes just a little more.

Exams: joy in pain

It’s now been a week since the end of finals: the grades are out, and stress levels are at their lowest… but if I don’t put this down (i.e. into words) now, I probably never will.

Organic chemistry. The subject that turned an otherwise mild exam load (3 finals & 1 “mid-year” instead of the 6 I had in first term) into a nightmare. Quite possibly worse than even integral calculus. Well, maybe that’s not true — but whereas I was decently peaceful about giving up on integration and conceding that I’m “just not a math person”, I couldn’t give up on o-chem. Because…1) I didn’t dislike the material — really. and 2) I felt close to “getting” the thing that would make everything click.

Well, it turned out I wasn’t so close. 2012/12/06 — about 40 hours before the exam — I was still stuck on every second reaction which supposedly follows the same “principles” as the reaction before it. I was beyond frustrated, not a little desperate, and…so tired. I opened my mouth to complain to my Lord, and what came out was “I rest my weary soul in Thee.” And so I took up my ukulele and sang the familiar song:

O Love, that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Light, that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy, that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.

(listen here)

And — just like that — the hymn became real to me. I can’t describe what happened afterward, but somehow “I give Thee back the life I owe” sustained me through another day of struggling with chemical reactions. By Friday night, I knew I’d gotten as far as I was ever going to get…… Saturday walking into the exam at noon, I could have been “walking to my doom”, but instead this was true:

Indeed we ourselves had the response of death in ourselves, that we should not base our confidence on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

I did every question on that paper. I don’t and won’t know my grade for that exam; I simply praise the Lord and remember the last stanza:

O Cross, that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.