Behind locked doors
Fears shake and rattle hearts.
What does the future hold
Persecution? Death? Trials?
Peace be unto you!
I, the Lord
Who holds the keys
Of death and hell,
Stand among you and say –
Peace be unto you!
Within locked hearts
Questions seethe and rage
Who am I? Where do I fit in?
What is my calling now?
Peace be unto you!
I called you by name
Before the world was made
To be my witness faithful and true;
As my Father sent me
So send I you.
Within locked minds
The pendulum swings
To trust or not to trust
Where can my mind find rest?
Peace be unto you!
Touch My wounded side and hands
Be at rest in the Truth
Abide in My love
Come alive in My Spirit
Peace be unto you!
Our God is merciful and tender.
He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us
to shine from heaven on all those who live in the dark shadow of death,
to guide our steps into the path of peace.
I give you peace,
the kind of peace that only I can give.
It isn’t like the peace that this world can give.
So don’t be worried or afraid.
May the Lord himself,
who is our source of peace,
give you peace at all times and in every way.
The Lord be with you all.
2 Thess 3:16
Why do I feel like I want to walk in a garden
Draw in the elusive fragrance of dew soaked earth
Haunting perfumes of fresh open buds
Wisping and weaving intangible rainbows
Blown in on teasing zephyrs
Caressing and lifiting the locks for a careless moment
Light as a butterfly
Then drifting on to invigorate another weary heart.
Today my heart rebels against being in a concrete jungle. True, as I look out of my windows I see more greenery and flowers than most urbanites are privileged to see. True, in my life I have been privileged than many people to visit beautiful gardens. I am trying hard to be satisfied. I am trying hard to be grateful. I am trying hard to be contented.
Whispers of past gardens
Steal out of dusty memory boxes
Stored sunshine and smiles
Teasingly tweak the toes of discontent
And ruffle longings awake.
Eden – perfect, complete, perfect shalom
Flaming swords blocking the path
Nebuchadnezzar’s famed hanging gardens
Pride, pleasure-seeking, luxury
Cloaking bitter oppression and tyranny.
Gethsemane – sleeping friends,
Gnarled olive trees bear mute witness
Drops of blood, a gut-wrenching act of worship
Father, Your will…
The garden of tombs, a stone rolled away
An empty tomb, a weeping woman
A Saviour who pauses and turns
To comfort, for in the heart of a worshipper
He found a garden
To delight and refresh His heart.
One thing I love about Munich is its hidden gardens. When one walks down the streets, it often seems one is walking past continuous blocks of buildings, without even a gap to separate them. Quite dull, regular and boring. Till the summer showers arrive. Then suddenly the air is full of elusive perfumes of flowers and herbs. In the beginning I was really puzzled how that could be since there was not a single flower in sight. Then I discovered that those sternly beautiful facades hid courtyards which housed lawns and gardens. Private. Hidden. For the secret pleasure and delight of the residents. Others are shut out. Till the rain and breezes reveal the hidden gardens beguiling and delighting the passerby.
Sanctified. Set apart. Consecrated. For the Master alone. Yet perfume spills forth to bless others.
My bride, my very own, you are a garden, a fountain closed off to all others.
Let the north wind blow, the south wind too!
Let them spread the aroma of my garden, so the one I love may enter and taste its delicious fruits.
Song of Solomon 4:12, 16
Broken alabaster jar
Perfume wisps and wraps
Blessing One who is to be
Broken and poured forth.
Abandoned water pitcher
Feet run to proclaim
Living Waters that drench
The parched and weary soul
Lifegiving Fount who would soon cry
The Promise Keeper
The Mystery of God revealed
Stands before me
Why indeed should I seek
The Living among the dead?
The Saviour calls my name
Rabboni, Master, King
My heart makes reply
My spirit hears the homeward wooing
And whispers back
‘Lord, I am Yours’
not my will
Yours be done’
A voiceless longing rises
Deep calling to deep
In emptiness and brokenness
My heart stretches out to you
My Creator, Healer, Restorer
Face down I call Your Name
Sweet Balm of Gilead
Humble at heart
You stoop to lift me up
Your gentleness makes me ‘great’
Sun of Righteousness
You wrap me in Your healing warmth
Your very Name is as ointment
Fragrant and soothing
Cascades of love
My parched heart rejoices
Spill forth joy
Bursting with rainbows of grace
My dancing soul in sweet rest
Bows down and cries
‘Father Your will
Not mine be done’
What is worship? Declaring the worth of God? Bowing our knees to honour Him? Rejoicing with singing, dancing and clapping?
What is worship? Mystic union – the moment when gazing into His face, touched afresh by the knowledge of His grace, all flesh is stilled, the soul acknowledges His goodness and His worth by saying – ‘Father, I am yours to command, send me’?
While each of us may have our own understanding of what worship is, one thing we cannot dispute that God our Creator and Saviour is worthy of worship.
People disappoint. Sad truth. No matter how close they are, and how much they love you, they disappoint. No one can truly be sufficient to meet the needs of our hearts, and so there is always a feeling of having been let down at some point or the other in time.
Some years ago, I was struggling with anger and loneliness. It was the strange kind of loneliness, loneliness in a crowd, loneliness in the midst of intense people contact and conversation. It is the loneliness that comes when the interactions seem to be superficial and one-sided, where the person talking to you is not really interested in you except as a forum to talk about themself.
At that time I came across this verse, “You are expecting _____ to help you, but that would be like using a reed as a walking stick—it would break and would jab your hand. That is what the ______ is like when anyone relies on him.” Is 36:6
True isn’t it?
We look to people for comfort, help, strength, support and they invariably break under our weight at some point or the other, because no one is equipped to be there unstintingly for another.
As I prayed about this verse, a picture formed in my mind of me standing under a clean, pure waterfall. A limitless supply of water. Refreshing, cool and clean. Yet, I had a small cup in my hand and was trying to fill my cup from a rusty tap that stood on the banks of this joyous, unceasing waterfall. A few drops fell occasionally from this tap, and I was trying to fill my cup from this tap, and I was getting frustrated because I couldn’t get enough to quench my thirst.
Looking at that picture, I felt rather silly.
Why would I turn to a rusty tap
When I stood under the waterfall of His love and grace?
Why do I seek crumbs from the table
When He anoints my head with oil at His banqueting spread?
Why do I lean on a reed that’s easily broken
When the Rock of Ages holds me by His mighty hand?
I think probably it is the lie that a human being is more tangible, and therefore what we receive from a human is more real.
What a terrible lie.
John, in exile on the island of Patmos encountered the Lord who would stoop to lift him up and reassure him. In his loneliness, he discovered the fullness of the reality of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ in a way that he probably could not have experienced in a prayer meeting.
Paul, left alone in the midst of his trial found that the Lord stood with him and encouraged him. It was in his loneliness that he discovered the fullness of the sufficiency of the Grace of God.
Is satan attacking you with this lie that there is no brother, sister of Christ to come alongside you, listen to your story, speak an encouraging word to you? Rebuke that lie.
God has not forgotten you, and will never abandon you. He is at work in the midst of your circumstances to work all things together for good. He is ALWAYS with you. His Spirit can speak to your heart as no human can.
His love, His grace comes down like a mighty lavish waterfall – richly, joyously – satisfying, refreshing, healing, strengthening, restoring, comforting…
Jesus still invites you to come to the waters and drink freely…
whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.
The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
During the last few months, I felt God placed in my heart a series of pictures in my heart to shape and direct my prayers in praying for the church.
In the first picture, I saw a beautiful plush museum/art gallery style room- you know the kind I mean – mood lighting, red carpets, exotic artificial plants, gold link guard rails… Arranged around the room were glass coffins, each containing a comatose person with a little baby sitting at the foot of each person. The children were crying and needed to be fed, but when others (who were not comatose) picked up the children to feed them, they too ended up comatose in a coffin with a child of their own.
And I felt that what God was revealing through this picture is that there are a number of people with the Church who are hurt and carrying bitterness in their hearts. The crying child represents their need for comfort and nourishment. Yet, at the same time, bitterness defiles others too. Bitter and offended hearts become comatose, unable/unwilling to receive or give love. Bitterness causes us to walk away from the purposes of God and seek to do our own will and get justice by our arm of flesh.
There has been a lot of talk in certain Christian circles about the Absalom spirit. Many pastors/teachers have written about it warning against carrying bitterness, getting offended, or discussing one’s hurt feeling with others. Yes, such teaching is needed, and yes, we need to guard our hearts against getting defiled by bitterness and defiling others with our pain.
However, all this is dealing with surface issues. One needs to look at the climate which allows the ‘Absalom’ spiritsto flourish. One needs to make it impossible for these ‘spirits’ to operate in the first place.
The story of Absalom and the lasting repercussions of his rebellion can be found in 2 Sam 13 onwards. It begins with the tragedy of Tamar. She was raped by her half-brother Amnon who subsequently rejects her and casts her out. Absalom is angered by what is done to his sister. David too is angry, but does nothing to either discipline Amnon or comfort Tamar. Two years pass by. Absalom invites David to his house. David refuses. Absalom asks permission for Amnon and the other brothers to visit him. There he kills Amnon. David cries bitterly when he hears of Amnon’s death. A further 3 years pass with Absalom in exile. David misses him. Has Absalom brought back to Jerusalem but refuses to meet Absalom…. And the sad story of hardening hearts, deepening wounds continues till it culminates in Absalom undermining David’s authority, his outright rebellion and death.
As I read through these chapters, I kept wondering how events would have turned out if David had taken steps to establish justice for Tamar… how things would have turned out if he had taken the time to talk things through with Absalom – explain his reasons for not tackling Amnon, listened to Absalom’s grievances…
As I thought about Absalom & David, and thought about the way the ‘spirit of offense’ operates within the church, I felt that God placed these points in my heart on how to pray against the ‘spirit of offense’.
We need to pray for-
• Protection for our hearts against being easily offended.
• For each of us to grow in union with Christ.
• Discernment to know which offenses must be overlooked and forgiven and which offenses must be dealt with by open dialogue in a spirit of reconciliation.
• Willingness to share hurts and offenses not in an accusatory tone, but with love, and with a desire for reconciliation.
• Grace to freely forgive, and the love to make sure that those who are hurt are comforted and restored.
• An openness to the Holy Spirit revealing to us the ways in which WE may have hurt someone, and the willingness and humility to go and ask for forgiveness. “If you … are about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge/grievance a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” Matt 5:23-24 (MSG)
• Clarity of vision to be able to see the true enemy. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of darkness. In the love of the Holy Spirit, we should learn to link arms against the onslaught against the unity of the Church. It is only when we – leadership and laity begin to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, that this attack will be broken.
• Wisdom and freedom from apathy for leaders. An unwillingness to rock the boat and tackle issues can actually lead to serious rifts and schisms within the Body from which it would be hard to recover.
If we say that we are in the light,
yet hate others,
we are in the darkness to this very hour…
we walk in it and do not know where we are going,
because the darkness has made us blind.
God is light, and there is no darkness at all in Him.
If, then, we say that we have fellowship with Him,
yet at the same time live in the darkness,
we are lying both in our words and in our actions.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Whoever says “I know Him”
but does not keep His commandments is a liar,
and the truth is not in him,
but whoever keeps His word,
in him truly the love of God is perfected.
… whoever says he abides in him
ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1 Jn 2:9,11; 1 John 1:5-7 1 John 2:4-6
“This is my commandment,
that you love one another as I have loved you.
I am sure all of you have learnt valuable lessons over the years of walking with the Lord on how to overcome the Spirit of Offense. I would be honoured if you shared your experiences and insights – it would help me to gain a deeper understanding of how to pray for the Shalom of the Body of Christ.
Today morning this verse leapt out at me.
For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and He has not hidden His face from Him, but has heard, when He cried to him. (Ps 22:24)
Or as the Message translation puts it –
He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening. (Ps 22:24)
The last several months have been challenging. Nothing serious. Just me – wrestling with various issues and trying to make sense of certain people and issues, wondering what really God wanted me to do – I guess you could say I was going through an existential crisis of sorts.
One thing I learnt with absolute clarity through these months is that God NEVER despises my doubts and wrestlings. In fact, He delights to bring truth and settle foundations.
Others may trivialise your pain/ wrestlings but God never does. Others may distance themselves from you in your moments of weakness, but God enters into your pain and pours His strength into your emptiness and lack.
I don’t know where you are at (for that matter I don’t know where I am at) but today I know with certainty that God does not hide His face from us, but He offers us His right hand of fellowship and strength to lift us up and strongly support us.
Incidentally this is the Psalm Jesus quoted from on the cross. It begins ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me.’ But it has this beautiful reminder midway, that God does not turn His face away from the afflicted one but hears his prayer.
It carries a beautiful promise –
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! …(Ps 22:26)