Wednesday, December 31, 2008
By Ramone - December 22, 2008
"The Lord your God is with you,After writing my "artist's statement" I had suddenly wondered, "What kind of statement would God make about me?" Shedding a tear, I realized that in Zeph.3:17 God had already given me His answer. As I re-read my comment about this one night, I saw this picture, my heart's reaction to knowing that He is with me, He delights in even me and rejoices over me.
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
- Zephaniah 3:17
And over you, too. Be blessed in His love.
God is with you,
He is might to save even you.
He takes great delight in you.
He will quiet you with His love.
He rejoices over you with singing.
By Ramone - December 19, 2008
Lord, the goal & my desire with any kind of prayer, worship, study, service, ceremony or spiritual exercise, is to just be in touch with You, to get aside from the waters & maze of my thoughts and feelings --or at least pierce through them-- to You, to touch You, to know You are there, to talk with You, realize You, be with You. You are always with me, but I have a short memory. I need to co ntinually touch, contact, You. I need You, not spiritual exercises! Love You, Lord.
God Who Hides
By Ramone - December 19, 2008
"Truly You are a God who hides Himself,This came about after a conversation (and letting God wrench my own guts personally) about not depending on feeling/seeing God, but letting Him reveal Himself to us by Spirit, in the Spirit, not by feelings, not by faith, not by emotions, not by sight. I "knew" the truth that we're not to depend on sight/feelings, but there is a natural part of us that longs for these touches, and that night I simply discovered a deep part of myself that longed for it which I hadn't known before. So I had to surrender it to Him. More on that in a minute.
O God and Savior of Israel." (Isaiah 45)
"We live by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)
"However, as it is written:
'No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love Him'
— but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit." (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
The picture naturally looks like a game. But God is not one to play nasty games. As He said in Isaiah, He is a God who "hides Himself". Why does He do this? Why doesn't He just appear? It's a good question, and something that goes deeper than intellectual curiosity. We have a deep, natural need in our very souls that longs for this. "Where are You, God?" is not a merely intellectual question of curiosity -- it is the demand of a pained, wounded soul. It is the cry of a separated child from his Parent. It is the cry Adam must have uttered when, evicted from Eden, for the first time he experienced being "naked", being "out in the cold", out of God's presence.
Yet it was actually God who first cried, "Where are you, Adam?" God felt the sting of separation first, the result of sin. It was not God who hid first, but Adam. Remember that "Adam" also means "man" in Hebrew? We--mankind--have hidden from God by our sins. Like Adam in the garden, we have tried to cover-up with fig leaves. Like Adam, when we sin we don't realize the consequences until later.
However, as terrible as Adam's realization (and ours) of that separation is, there was someone who felt it even worse. The Son of God took our separation upon Himself on the cross. He was crucified naked, taking our darkness, our sins, our fall, our consequences. He cried out, "My God, where are You? Why have You forsaken Me?" He cried out the words Adam did not, because Adam could not clearly see what had happened. Adam's eyes had been covered, blinded to the terrible reality of separation from God. Adam saw physical life, but his spiritual sight had died. Jesus, on the other hand, could see more clearly than any man who has ever lived. The Son of God knew exactly what was happening.
Today we still cannot "see God" (not most of the time, anyway). We must walk by faith and live by the Spirit instead of by sight, by flesh, or by physical feeling. We still live with Adam's handicap (what Paul the apostle called "the flesh"). Jesus took our separation--consequences and terrible pain we will never fully understand--but we have not received new bodies yet. We are newborn babes, born of the Spirit. We are beginning to learn to live & walk in the Spirit anew. For His sovereign reasons, God wants things to be this way. He doesn't instantly transform us (give us new bodies). He wants us to learn to walk by faith, by Spirit, not by sight, not by flesh.
Our souls still long to see God face to face. That's normal. It's a healthy, God-given longing for our Daddy. But He doesn't let us see Him (most of the time). We've got to face this struggle. We've got to get in touch with that cry in our souls. No good denying it. Better to admit it and cry out (like David in the Psalms!) than to put on a tough face and pretend like we're okay with not seeing Him.
There are likely a million reasons that God has chosen to do things the way He does, to "hide Himself" the way He does. But firstly we must understand that God is love. He has said so. He does not hide Himself out of a cruel game, a joke, or some malicious pleasure in denying us our wishes. So what are some reasons He hides Himself?
One reason, I think, is certainly that since the fall in Eden, we have a habit of creating our own "gods". In ancient times they took shape in wood, bronze, silver and gold statues. In modern times they are the products of our intellect -- ideas such as humanism, atheism, or the ways we invent our own idea of God instead of letting Him reveal Himself through His means. I quoted at the beginning from Isaiah 45, and if you read past verse 15, you'll see that one reason God has "hidden" Himself is simply because we have made "gods" that our eyes can see. What is invisible, He declares, is mightier than what is visible. What we cannot see is stronger than what our hands (or minds) have forged.
Yet another reason can be learned from the history of ancient Israel -- a people unlike any other who witnessed collosal, mighty acts of God. The parting of the Red Sea, a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day leading them. Miracle after miracle, sign and wonder after sign and wonder. Yet they turned away from God time after time, so that the 'Godless' nations around them looked more virtuous than "God's people" did. "Seeing is believing" wasn't quite true. We naturally think that if we can only see Him, we'll believe.
One night almost ten years ago I cried out to God on the streets of a small town in Japan, begging Him to show me something so I could believe. He "showed" me nothing with my eyes. But a short time after that as I sat crying on some stairs, He sent a friend to me who showed me that I had faith in Him already... I had gambled my life on God's reality (by volunteering to serve Him as a missionary). I had a grain of faith already, a small mustard seed, my friend told me. Jesus had said that was enough, and as my friend spoke those words to me and showed me proof of my faith (so to speak), I realized it was true. I did already believe. I got up from those stairs realizing I believed, I had faith. And I haven't gone back! (Thank You, God!!!) That night God awakened in me a kind of "seeing" that I hadn't known before, a seeing by faith, something deeper than sight, something deeper than my ideas or intellect. Something awakened inside. For the first time I saw by faith, not by sight.
Someone once said that when Jesus Christ returned to heaven, He left our sight so that He could live in our hearts. His Spirit has now come into our hearts, into our spirits, to live and stay and make His home. God reveals Himself to us in there, Spirit to spirit. What eye has not seen and ear has not heard, God reveals by His Spirit. He covers our eyes because He wants to speak to us by His Spirit. He covers our eyes because He wants to touch us in a deeper way than we think we need.
Like a loving father about to surprise his child, God puts His hands over our eyes because He wants to surprise us with His Spirit. In our spirit He has such a great surprise for us, by faith and spirit. Be encouraged by the words Peter wrote to us:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)One day at university I was fired from a summer job unjustly (I felt). The boss seemed to have come down on me incredibly hard, even perhaps taking some pleasure in exerting control. I didn't know why, but I was so hurt by the whole incident and was either in tears or close to it when it was happening. Afterwards, confused and hurt and not completely understanding why I was so hurt, I took my Bible up to a small park on campus and sat there reading. I came across these words of Peter, and when I read the last two verses (bolded), I burst out in tears. My grief was released, and a strange peace, relief and comfort manifested in me. (Thank You God!) I couldn't completely understand, and I think I still don't understand. It wasn't the "word" I was looking for, but somehow it was just what I needed. I had been learning about God the Holy Spirit in a prayer meeting off-campus for about half a year, and perhaps because of that this 'trial' came as an abrupt and apparently unfair shock (which I think also tapped some other previous "rejection" wounds in me). In the midst of this storm, God said I did in fact love Him and was receiving Him (my salvation is Him Himself). Somehow in that moment, God used His words to direct me back to faith, and He confirmed my faith in such a strong way that the ugly visible reality of my situation melted away. By sight, the world sucked. By faith, I was relieved and at peace.
At times we have trials, and it is during those times that the pain of not "seeing" God can be especially hard. Hold on in faith. Trust what He has said, that we will have trials, but they come in order to strengthen our faith (not destroy it). He is weaning us off of depending on sight, depending on good circumstances or physical comforts. He is doing this in order to bring us to a greater surprise -- a "rest" that is deeper, stronger, more real and of greater "substance" than anything we could have ever imagined that we wanted or needed.
At the beginning I mentioned a conversation which had served to begin birthing this picture in my spirit and heart. Near the end of that conversation, I wanted to share a comment because I had been deeply affected by what was being said---about not depending on feelings/sight, but on faith/Spirit. I had wanted to share points or ideas, but I was uncovering a part of my heart which was in pain because I too wanted to "see" God and "feel" Him more. So I began to type out a prayer in front of the others. Here is what I wrote:
I'm going to suggest putting this into different terms. I think it's easy to talk about this [not trusting God by feelings] in a sort of "should" sense... I should do this, I shouldn't do this. I should seek the Lord for this, I shouldn't seek the Lord for that, etc. The problem is that this leaves our heart out of the equation.*****
God made us with a heart that has feelings, and gave us natural longings for Him, for others, for companionship, and more. The first step into going deeper into relationship with Him (so that we're not too roughly battered by waves of emotions) is to understand and acknowledge our feelings as legitimate, and our desire for more feeling as legitimate.
Denial of our feelings isn't the way, but rather surrender of them. I'm going to model this because tonight I need to say this to God, coincidentally or not. (^_^)
God, I want to experience You. I want to feel You. I want to see You. I want to know You are near.
But yet, God, I know that I can't depend on these. I go up and down. I go around in circles. Sometimes I feel You, sometimes I don't. I want to know You more, I want to feel You more.
But I know You love me, You delight in me, You rejoice over me with singing. And more than I want to be with You, You want to be with me so much more! So if I can't feel You now, it may not be that there's anything wrong with me or that there's something in the way. You love me, and somehow You're wanting to help me hear You in a different way, at a deeper level.
I don't completely understand that deeper level, what it's supposed to look like what it's supposed to feel like. I've read the words of others about it, I've heard others' experience. And I've tried to "do the same" in my life, not set my faith and relationship on my feelings. But God, doing that is working from the outside, not the inside. I can't measure myself with their relationships with You or their advice.
So God, before I put this off any longer, I want to give You my feelings... I long to be with You, God. I long to hear You. I long to feel You near me. I want to see You, Lord! I want experience, Lord! Oh how I want it! I want never-ending experience! I want happiness, I want bliss with You. And I know You have given me these longings, Lord... You have "set eternity" in my heart, a desire to be with You, the Eternal One.
But I trust You, Lord, and I realize that until the end of this age, my feelings will go up and down, and that You want to bring me to a deeper level, a deeper trust, a deeper relationship and way of conversing with You and just BEING with You. Teach me this, yes, Lord, but first here are my feelings. Here are my desires. Here are my desires for feelings, my desires for experiences. I want them, I want You. I want more of You. I want less of me. Help me want less of me!
Jesus, I choose to surrender, to give up these feelings for You. I choose to trust Your way. If You choose not to reveal more of Yourself to me in the way that I long for right now, then I choose to accept it and believe that You are love, and it is only because You love me so much that You have something BETTER for me... You hold back only because You love me so much that what I am asking for is actually too SMALL, too LITTLE of You, and You want to give me so much MORE of You.
God, I praise You for this. I am crying, but I am releasing something, my needs, my feelings, and trusting You. And I am overwhelmed with Your presence. I am not "full" yet, no, not yet Lord. But I am emptying something out here. I'm on the doctor's table, and I know You will be operating on me again. Thank You. I know You are faithful and will teach me, lead me, and fill me with more of Yourself than I can possibly ask for or imagine, according to Your Spirit which lives within me. Thank You, dear Jesus, blessed Father, in Jesus' name, amen.
See also: "So That You May See" (at Weeping Jeremiahs)
Perspective on Grace (Kanji)
By Ramone - December 11, 2008
Just a thought I had... I broke apart the Japanese character for "grace"... or kind of saw a cross in the field of the world, and His blood as His heart poured out.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Merry Christmas? Is this right?
Merry Christmas? Yes, it's not your typical, warm "Christmas" image, because I think it wasn't so warm or nostalgic for Joseph and Mary. They went through a hard journey only to find no welcome, no hotel, no decent room, and then major surgery (birth!) on top of it.
And it was through that difficult time---one difficult thing after another---that the Savior was born. The situation just kept getting worse and worse. In circumstances that felt like "death", God carried them and brought them new *life* in His Son. Life that does not depend on circumstances, wealth, comfort, prosperity or health. His Son's Life is an eternal kind of life, not one based on the things we think we need here. Instead He gave Life that depends only on His promise and His faithfulness to fulfill every word He has spoken. When all earthly comforts pass away, His comfort will remain. His life survived death and the grave, and His life in us will do the same. We can go through anything because He has gone through everything before us.
His "fulfillment" in your life might come out a little differently than you'd expected, just like it was different than Joseph or Mary --or any other Israelite-- expected. It will bring you through "death" to your expectations, but the result will be resurrection into a new life that is better than what you had been hoping for.
Bless you in Jesus Christ, the Life!
Comments can be left on this link to original art post, where the story about the picture is posted as well.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Arms of Love
By Ramone - December 2, 2008
No matter how much you have battered and bruised yourself, no matter how dark or confused you feel or still tied to old ties, He has you. He has taken ahold of you and you belong to Him. And He will not let you go.
Last night after struggling in my own private battle, the Lord put this picture into my hands -- I felt the urge to paint it (in ink) but did not understand the lines I was making until half-way through the picture. And because of my own struggle, it was still some time before I was able to believe that this was the meaning of the picture, that no matter how 'blue' I felt about myself, He was still holding me in His loving arms. Thank You, Jesus.
"Arms of Love"
by Craig Musseau (Mercy/Vineyard)
I sing a simple song of love
to my Savior, to my Jesus
I'm grateful for the things You've done
my loving Savior, my precious Jesus
My heart is glad
that You've called me Your own
There's no place I'd rather be
than in Your arms of love,
in Your arms of love
Holding me still,
holding me near
in Your arms of love
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
By Ramone - December 1, 2008
It's the path of brokenness
The path of carrying the cross
He's calling us to follow
He's calling us to Life
He's smiling because
of the joy set before Him
(And He knows the end!)
We can't see how "far" it goes ahead
Our view is blocked by the cross and Him
So fix our eyes on Him, the Author
and Finisher of our faith.
Monday, December 01, 2008
In Your Family
By Ramone - November 30, 2008
We're in Your family, Jesus, in the family of God. In You, we're in. Always in. In You. Thank You, Jesus. Father, thank You for what You have done, what You have given, how You have adopted us. Thank You.
Bless you in Jesus' name.
By Ramone - November 29, 2008
"I'll never know how much it costAt a gospel concert last night a choir sang "Here I am to Worship" (and I sang along). During the bridge I began to see a vision. I saw my sins on red cards, one by one shooting forward, going onto the cross. One, then another, and another, and another. He has taken them all!
to see my sins upon that cross"
When I was at a missions orientation retreat ten years ago, after a morning worship the director had us write down our sins and what we wanted to confess on a red piece of paper. Then we folded it in half, took it outside to a meter-long wooden cross, and with a hammer and nail we put our sins onto the cross. I don't think any of us spoke during the whole time. After we were each finished, we came back in and took communion together. Later the red papers were removed and burned.
It was deeply moving, and perhaps it was the first time I really heard and began to understand the gospel (what Christianity is all about). The image has stayed with me all these years, and it came back in the vision I described above as I worshiped during the concert. I painted this in my seat during the rest of the concert. I didn't know how to write the 'sins' on the cards, and what He gave me was to do with with my gray pen which is running out of ink... because the 'sins' fade away and disappear there on the cross. (Thank You, Jesus)
Sometime earlier I believe I had a dream --and now I see it in a vision-- of this being a kind of "gate" that we all pass under, pass through. We leave our sins, our condemnation, our death, we leave it all at the gate, and go forward into the garden, into a new life, into intimacy with Him and healing for our wounds. In Jesus' name, amen. Thank You, God. Thank You!