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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Continue the Climb

The melody of this song kept ringing inside my heart and spirit when I woke up one morning last week. Recognizing this as one of the ways God use to speak to me from past experiences, I quickly went to take a look at the lyrics of the song. Indeed, these words were like a message directly from the throne room of God! I'm reproducing the lyrics of the song below, praying that they will also speak to each one of you who reads this post. Continue the climb!

The rose climbs the highest wall
It's trying to touch the light
that keeps calling,
"Press on and look up"
There're thorns on the path ahead
where many have tried
But you will succeed
if you continue the climb

Continue the journey
Continue the climb
You will find living wells
Many never find
There is a secret place
For those who press on
Fear loses all it's power
When you stand on the wall

The rose gives its sweetest smell
When its petals are crushed
It's breaking that's calling
"Press on and keep trust"
There's testing along the path
where many have tried
But you will succeed
if you continue the climb

I'll sing hallelujah
I'll drink His new wine
Nothing can stop
the flow of God in my life
There is a secret place
For those who press on
Fear loses all it's power
When you stand on the wall

(This is a song written by Mona Johnian from her CD entitled "The Great Tea House")

Friday, May 20, 2011

When God is silent

What do we do when God seems to be silent? Firstly, before we ponder on the subject, we are in agreement that we believe in a God who speaks. In fact, the Scriptures are full of references to a God who speaks and communicates with His people. The Good Shepherd speaks and we as His sheep do hear His voice. Well, some may debate that God is not a chatterbox (as there are people who are always hearing God speaking to them every moment) whereas some may hold the notion that God is interested in every minute detail of our lives and that He does indeed speak to us on any issue that we communicate with Him. Debates aside, I sincerely believe that God speaks to us as much as we would like to hear from Him. The level of hunger and intimacy of our relationship with Christ are crucial whilst not forgetting, the Sovereignty of God. Very often, the modern Christians have failed to have a healthy perspective of the Sovereign God we serve. The Almighty God of heavens and the earth has been reduced to a year-round "santa claus" with a dispensing machine feature. The "God has to do what I asked Him to do" and "He must speak when I asked HIm to" attitudes are prevalent amongst the modern believers today.

Coming back to the subject of this post, like it or not, there are times and seasons when God seems to be silent. There may be a season where we experience the abundance of His still small voice, visions, dreams and perhaps, divine encounters. And there are times when we need very much to hear from the Lord but all that we hear is just a divine silence. It is true that divine silence can be a way that God speaks to His people. Is it not amazing that even in silence, God is "speaking" to us? Just like in a relationship between a husband and wife or a parent and a child. Before entering into an argument or in the midst of an argument, there might be a "cold war session" where a party speaks and the other party refuses to respond - just pure silence. More often than not, such silence is usually a sign of disapproval or disagreement that is being communicated by the silent party. Having said that, we do not usually experience a prolonged silence in the communication between a husband and wife or a parent and child. It would be an unhealthy sign to have a prolonged silence, which could signify a break-down in the relationship.

Therefore, in God's silence, we are also to learn what is He communicating with us and how do we respond to Him in such times. We would not want to have a prolonged silence in our relationship with our Loving Savior. Let's take a look at a couple of probable reasons that would cause God to be silent (these are certainly not exhaustive). First of all is the obvious factor of sin. Even though many would like to avoid this issue of sin but the truth is when we have sinned and failed to repent, we inevitably close the door of divine communication in our lives. God, in His great mercies, convicts us through His Holy Spirit and continues to "speak" to us in different manner to lead us back to Him. No, He doesn't condemn us for He has already provided the solution for sin through His Son but His desire is for our hearts to return to Him in true repentance. God is restoring the revelation of His holiness amongst His people in the last days and if we respond to Him, we will all catch the revelation of the splendour and majesty of the Great Jehovah God in the beauty of His holiness. If sin is the issue, let us draw near to His throne of grace in brokenness and sincerity that we may enjoy unbroken communion and fellowship with our Bridegroom again.

However, if we continue in our rebellion and refuse to repent, we are in a danger of falling into a state of deafness. In Luke 10:13, Jesus described such terrible state when He declared, "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes." Bethsaida is a place where God fed the five thousand people and performed other mighty wonders and miracles and yet despite such display of God's power, the hearts of the people refused to return and repent. Such wicked and ungrateful hearts would inevitably lead them to the folly of their sins and a place where the voice of God is no longer heard. May this verse be a constant reminder to us all not to fall into such state of rebellion leading to deafness in the spirit.

Disobedience also leads to the sad state of not hearing from God. The Bible tells us of an account when the heavens become brass and God seemed to be silent in the life of King Saul in 1 Samuel 28:6 - "And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets." This is an account where God deliberately refused to answer King Saul. God chose to remain silent. Why? At this point in King Saul's life, we have read that God has rejected him due to his continued disobedience. Hence, it is a tragic place to end up in for King Saul. It is always good to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts, especially when we feel that God is silent in our lives. As the Lord shows us our sins or disobedience, let us run to the Mercy Seat and seek His forgiveness, cleansing and restoration. Perhaps, God has given us clear instructions or commandments and we did not obey them. We will not receive another set of fresh instructions until we start obeying what we have been instructed by Him. This may also be true for many people who are asking for directions from God, i.e. we will not receive new directives until we have obeyed what we know God has asked us to do.

It must also be rightly pointed out that not all divine silence has to do with our sin, rebellion or disobedience. It could well be God's purposeful withdrawal of Himself for a season. In our walk and journey with God, there will be times when He withdraws Himself from us in love. This is a time when God desires to lead us into a new level of walk, a deeper degree of intimacy or a new season with Him. For the careful and watchful seekers and lovers of God, such silence would spur them to a renewed passion for the Lord. It is a good time to be awakened from our complacency and not to rest on our laurels. For some, the mundane has led them to a rut and such divine withdrawals are actually God's intentional drawing and wooing of His bride. With a renewed hunger and passion, we seek after Him knowing that He will not disappoint us. It can also be a season of pruning and letting go of unnecessary entanglements in our lives, which would be preparatory for us to be propelled into the next season with the Lord. Oh, how amazing and wondrous are the ways of our God!

Lastly, such times of divine silence should provoke within us a holy awe towards our God. We are to recognize the awesome sovereignty of God. Even if He chooses not to speak, we will still follow Him and love Him. When God is silent, I choose to worship Him and acknowledge Him as my Master, Lord and King. He has the prerogative not to speak when He chooses not to. My response is a loving abandonment to Him wholly. This is a time where true worship and adoration rises up within us and be poured out at His feet. We love Him not just for what He has done but for who He is.

On a practical note, whether we are in a season of God's silence or the abundance of His voice in our lives, we are to attune ourselves to the frequencies of Heaven at all times. We should never forsake the reading of His word and the private times of personal prayer and worship. These are avenues for His people to be aligned to their spiritual identity and heritage whilst living in this world. Sadly, the modern Christians today have forsaken the treasures of His Word, prayer and worship in their lives leading them to a destitute state of living. Substitutes like social networking, modern gadgets, good music, entertaining messages and social blogs fall short of nourishing our spiritual lives. Many are in deception whilst some are in ignorance or just being indifferent. It is high time to be awake and our prayer is that many hearts will be opened for the Holy Spirit to work in so that the lives of every Christian be ignited with the passion and love for His Word and to spend much time praying, fellowshipping, worshipping and communing with the Lord in greater intensity. Amen.

Rejecting God

When the people of God in 1 Samuel 8 demanded for a king to judge them and to go out before them to fight their battles like all the nations, God told prophet Samuel that, "they have rejected Me." These must have been words uttered from a grieved heart. The people whom I have delivered from the hands of the Egyptian opressors and whom I have shown My love through mighty signs and wonders are now forsaking Me and demanding for a king to rule over them. For a child of God who has experienced and tasted the goodness of the Most High God it would not be probable for him or her to wake up one morning and decide to reject God. Let us consider the early chapters in 1 Samuel and trace the decline of the spiritual state of God's people leading to their demand for a human king.

The birth of a new generation and judgement upon the priesthood
The first three chapters of Samuel introduce us to the background circumstances leading to the birth of Samuel and God's purpose for the hour. It was a time in the history of Israel where God was ushering in a new season of His prophetic voice and judgment through His chosen vessel. And the birth of His chosen vessel would not happen until God has first found a willing mother who was desperate enough to have a son to the extent she would offer the son back to the Lord. In the mysterious inter-weavings of circumstances through personal and family crises and the triumph of God's faithfulness, Samuel was born. At the same time, the birth of Samuel marked the beginning of God's judgment upon the priesthood of Eli and his wicked sons.

In the times and seasons we are living today, we are also witnessing that the Lord is raising up a new generation of faithful priesthood who shall do according to what is in His heart and in His mind. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Through trying and difficult circumstances, the eyes of the Lord are seeking mothers (His bride) who are both desperate for a son and yet willing to offer the son back to the Lord as His channel of His glorious purpose and destiny. True to His words, judgment is also beginning in His house where the beginning of the end has come upon His servants who have brought abomination to His Name.

The Ark of God captured and the departure of His Glory
The capture of the ark of God (the symbol of the Presence of God) by the Philistines marked the dawn of the dark ages of His people. In fact, His people had lost the Presence of God before the ark was captured. Many today are not aware that the churches have lost the Presence of God and yet the show must go on week after week. When they have first lost their battle in 1 Samuel 4, they thought that by having the ark of God in their camp would work like a lucky charm that would ensure them victory and success. To them, God was "used" in hope for victory in their battle.

There was loud shouting until the earth shook but this was not a sign of God's Presence in their midst. What a sad state of deception to be in believing that God can be "used" by us at our whims and fancies to achieve our selfish purposes. The Presence of God has left and we know it not. There can still be a lot of shouting in churches today but it may not necessarily mean God is in the shouting. Sadly, many churches today have become entertainment centres instead of a place to worship a holy and awesome God. How can one places his attention and focus on God when the large screens are capturing video feeds of the singers and musicians? Praise and worship have become semblence of secular music concerts?! As much as God has blessed churches with audio-visual technologies and talents, are they drawing people nearer to God or away from God? Phinehas' wife (Eli's daughter in law) gave birth to Ichabod whilst Hannah gave birth to Samuel. Samuel's name depicts the testimony of a God who has heard the cry of Hannah whilst Ichabod speaks of the departure of God's glory from Israel. Tragically, Phinehas' wife died after giving birth to Ichabod just as she also learnt of Eli and Phinenas' deaths.

Rejecting God
After the ark had travelled through a few destinations, we read in 1 Samuel 7:2, "So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD". Yes, the house of Israel longed for the Presence of God but they did nothing to bring back the Glory of God to their midst. Despite Samuel leading the people into a mini-revival in 1 Samuel 7, it had not brought a lasting change in their hearts. When they were again faced with Samuel's sons who did not walk in the ways of the Lord, their hearts were not turned towards God and to bring back His glory to their midst but instead, they demanded for a king just like every one else. (It would take a man after God's heart - Israel's second and finest king to bring back the ark of God)

Where do we stand today? Are we also guilty of rejecting God in our lives? Perhaps some of us are aware of the declining state of the churches around us. There may be even those who realized that the Presence of God is not in some of the churches anymore. What is our response today? The truth must be stated - the answer does not lie in political parties or governments. God is the answer. There is no denying that as salt and light, we uphold the principles of truth, righteousness and justice and be responsible citizens in every manner possible wherever God has placed us. However, we are not to forget that we are also citizens of heaven. Rather than being conveniently caught in the ways of the world like the Israelites did - demanding for a king - let us seek the Lord and Him alone. Many today are caught up in the danger of being too distracted by socio-economic and socio-political concerns around them. But, do we take time to be still and listen to what God would say to us in these precarious times? Is this also not the kairos time and season for the kingdom of God? Will you join me to cry out to God to bring back His Glory and Presence to our midst again? Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in You?