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.
“… O Sovereign Lord, holy and true,…“ Rev 6:10
Lord what do I say.
The words seem stuck somewhere in the depths of my heart.
I can feel thoughts bubbling and boiling in pictures that cannot be put into words. May there should be something like a Polaroid camera, taking snapshots of my thoughts, magically linking them to words, shaping them into sentences
Holy and true.
How can anyone begin to define,
into a few pithy words the
awesomeness of all that You are.
no gap between your words, your actions, your motives.
Showing the same picture to all,
no different faces for different people.
All who come to you and seek you find you to be consistent, faithful, true.
Completely unlike any other we’ve ever known.
Not squeezable into any mould
Can’t be labelled and pigeon-holed
Constantly surprising and yet constantly consistent
Unceasingly working and yet completely at rest
Intangible, Invisible and yet Alpha Reality
Love unfeigned and unforced
Pure Light, no shadows
Wisdom clear and true
Unwavering Defender of my cause
Supreme Emperor of the Universe
because truly the universe
and all that’s in it is Yours
King who should be obeyed without a question
yet, respecting us… giving us freedom to choose
You are complete in Yourself
And yet You seek us, Your people
To be the fullness of You who fills all in all!
Yesterday I somehow ended up listening to a song from my childhood –
And one of the lines goes:
“There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
Don’t judge her yet, there’s an unfinished part”
That made me smile.
Work In Progress.
What a wonderful thing to remember when I’ve goofed up yet again to remember that God has not given up on me, that He is still working on me! What a wonderful thing to remember that it took 6 days for God to get the entire Universe together and going, but He is still working patiently on me! Its taking Him that long, because He waits patiently for me to quieten down and listen to Him. Then He waits for me to be willing to obey Him.
He allowed me to savour the joy of the moment.
Then His hands began to move again – pushing and shaping…
‘Do you love receiving My grace? Does it lift burdens from your heart?
Does it make you feel loved?
Do you know your husband, your child, your family, your church are my unfinished symphonies too? I am still working on them too, you know? I haven’t given up on them either, you know? I love them too.’
I could see what He was getting at. I want grace. I want people to remember that I am still an unfinished work. To see me with eyes of grace and compassion. I want it, to hoard it, but to give it… well, that pinches.
Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’
Hmmmm…. How often do I actually see others with the eyes of grace that I see myself?
It is so easy to get discouraged with churchanity, especially when you see people teach one thing and do another thing. It is so easy to throw up one’s hands and do the 1000m dash like Elijah did.
But God was catching me on that one.
‘Are you willing to give grace to others? The grace you have so freely and lavishly received from ME?’
Willing? Well, I am willing to learn how…
‘Lord, give me the grace to see my brothers and sisters in Christ as being complete in You. Help me not to get exasperated with them because they are still unfinished symphonies. Thank you for loving me as I am, for never giving up on me. Give me eyes to see as You see, and release my heart Lord to love as You love me. In Jesus Name. Amen’
And may the Lord make you to
increase and abound in love
toward one another and toward all, …
1Th 3:12 MKJV
The Rusty Shield Bearers are blooming once more. That’s their nickname, for all year round the trees are bedecked with sprigs of rust-coloured shield-shaped seed pods. Unlike other seed pods, they don’t droop, but are held erect, almost as if they are defending the tree.
Right throughout the year (except in winter) it is possible to find a cheerful, spunky Rusty Shield Bearer blooming in some part of the city or the other. A sudden unexpected splash of sunshine yellow to gladden the heart.
For this reason I like to call them the Trusty Shield Bearers. Their botanical name is rather more mundane. Peltophorum pterocarpum
Anyway this tree always reminds me of an unnamed hero in the Bible. There’s barely a sentence or two devoted to him, but he was an amazingly brave and trusting person of great faith.
Hidden away in 1 Samuel 14, there is a little story that is very rarely spoken of. But the sheer daring of it always takes my breath away.
This is the background:
Saul’s rejected as king, but still on the throne. Israel is overrun with the Philistines who’ve captured/killed all the blacksmiths in Israel, so the Israelites were in the peculiar position of having to turn to their enemies to get their farming instruments and weapons sharpened. And so on the day of battle none of the Israelite soldiers except Saul and his son Jonathan had swords or spears. (1Sam 13:22)
Wow! Quite an army that! I wonder what exactly they carried with them into battle! Not unnaturally the Israelites chose to camp rather than fight.
That is the setting against which this act of breath-taking daring takes place:
Jonathan takes his armour-bearer to attack a Philistine garrison which was across the valley. And this was their battle strategy: (1Sam 14:8-11)
Jonathan said, “We will go across and let them see us. If they tell us to come up the hill and fight, that will mean the LORD is going to help us win.”
One armed man against a whole garrison!
And here is the amazing part – the unarmed armour-bearer (remember only Jonathan and Saul had spears or swords) says, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul”.
We never hear of the faith of this armour-bearer. His absolute faith and trust in God, that he was willing to lay his life down on the line to support Jonathan in every way.
When I look at The Trusty Shield-bearer in bloom, I think of this young man. I think also of Samwise Gamgee in Tolkein’s ‘Lord of the Rings’. Samwise is another unlikely and unsung heroic figure, willing to support while hidden in the background, doing the mundane but necessary chores, but without him Frodo would never have accomplished his mission. Just as Jonathan would never have won his amazing victory over the Philistine garrison without the support of his armour-bearer at hand to shield him and hand him appropriate weapons at the right moment.
Another unsung hero is the ‘Twisty-tie’ – the little plastic covered wire which holds up weak-stemmed plants against the trellis and other supports. No one sees these little bits of wire. One only sees the huge blooms/fruit. Yet, without these twisty-ties the plant would trail the blooms and fruit on the ground, and the flower/fruit would spoil.
There are countless twisty-ties in our lives – people who silently lift us up in prayer. Some of them we may not even be aware of.
So today I am dedicating my post to the Trusty Shield Bearers, the Samwise Gamgees, the Twisty-Ties in our lives. The ones who support us in prayer, with counsel, with their presence, their word of encouragement. The ones who are willing to stand supporting in the background so that we may bloom…
Doesn’t that sound a lot like the Holy Spirit in fact? Working in the background, holding us up, strengthening us, setting us free to bloom as the people we were meant to be.
Here’s a song which celebrates the Trusty Shield Bearers, the Samwise Gamgees, the Twisty-Ties…
It must have been cold there in my shadow,
To never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine, that’s your way.
You always walked a step behind.
So I was the one with all the glory,
While you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.
It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
But I’ve got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.
I would be nothing without you.
Did you ever know that you’re my hero, and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle, ’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.
– Written in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley
It is God who girds me with strength and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of bronze is bent by my arms.
You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
and Your right hand has held me up,
and Your gentleness has made me great.
You have given a wide place for my steps under me,
so that my feet have not slipped.
Psalm 18:32-36 MKJV
Lord, bless the Twisty-Ties, The Trusty Shield-bearers in my life. Most of all Lord, thank you for being the wind beneath my wings. Help me Lord, to be a faithful Twisty-Tie. Amen
PS: I am indebted to my husband for the photo. He didn’t want to be named. He’s one of the Twisty-Ties in my life. Thank you God for him.
Are you thinking today, why do I feel so alone and friendless? Where are the people I counted as friends? Doesn’t the Bible say “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Gal 6:9 ESV. Doesn’t that imply somehow, that as I sow into the lives of other people there will be a time of harvest? A time when I receive from others? Why isn’t that happening? Why do I feel like piranha meat?
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim…”
Three years of giving. Sowing seed, setting captives free, turning mourning into dancing, proclaiming hope to those who were rejected by the religious leaders and thought there was no salvation for them. The blind saw, the deaf heard, the dumb sang, the lame leapt for joy, the lepers were made human again, and dead were raised. Countless lives redeemed, made whole.
One would think there would be crowds of people queuing up to pay their last respects, jostling and vying with each other to have the privilege of ministering to Jesus in His death. One would expect at least His closest friends who had shared such amazing adventures with Him to be there for Him as He was lowered from the cross.
Two relative strangers, hidden followers, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were moved by compassion to seek a humane burial for a man they admired and followed from afar.
Crowds at the funeral would have been nice. A great funeral speech and memorial service conducted by His disciples would have been appropriate. But that is purely optional. A nice touch, but purely optional.
What was needed was two able bodied men with the know-how and the moolah to conduct the funeral. And that was provided. Nothing more, nothing less.
Some years ago, I had a strange allergic condition, and it took several months for the doctors to finally pinpoint it as an allergy, and several more months before the condition was brought under control. In that time I looked for my close friends and sisters in Christ to come alongside me with encouragement and prayer support. I was rather disappointed, and for a time even bitter that people I counted on were not there for me.
In that time, God spoke to my heart and said,
“Why are you looking in the wrong direction?
Am I not your Father who knows every need that you have before you are even aware of it?
Am I not the One who has undertaken to fulfill all of your needs and carry you to your last breath on earth? Am I not the One who is Broken Bread who satisfies the deepest needs of your heart?
When you cannot pray, am I not the One who carries and interprets the groaning of your heart into the Father’s heart?
Why then are you downcast? Do you think I condemn you now because your thoughts are focused on the pain, and it is hard for you to concentrate on stringing a sentence together?
Here is my hand of friendship and fellowship. When you cannot hold on, I will hold you and lift you out the waters. I said the waters will not flow over your head, and they will not. My grace is sufficient.
Learn that I myself am the supply and filling of your needs.”
I repented of my attitude of legalism – ‘I gave you, now I am waiting for you to give back to me.’ God then showed me that He is and was and always is the Help of the helpless, the Only One who satisfies the deepest longings of my heart.
When that truth was settled in my heart, in amazing and wonderful ways He raised up two women to stand with me in prayer and send me encouraging messages. Total strangers, but sisters in Christ.
Did I need a crowd? No! Two were more than enough. His grace was and is sufficient for me.
> Again and again that has been my experience. Help does not come from the direction in which I am looking. But God NEVER leaves me without help.
> “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – is not to be interpreted as ‘I help you, at the right time you will help me.’ That is legalism. And that was the wrong interpretation I had to give up.
> God is the Lord of the harvest. It is my duty to sow. It is His part to bring forth the harvest. What He chooses to grow from my sowing is entirely up to Him.
Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
Psa 124:8 ESV
He who supplies seed to the sower
and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed for sowing
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
2Cor 9:10 ESV
My mobile phone inbox has been filled today with messages celebrating womanhood and wishing me ‘Happy Women’s Day’, telling me how strong, beautiful, yadda, yadda, yadda, we are as a gender.
And as I read them, suddenly the thought came to me, ‘What about all those women, lonely, frightened, despairing, trapped and abused as sex slaves; women caught in abusive relationships; women raped and mutilated in war zones; women struggling to get justice; struggling to get their lives together again?’
Where do they fit into the scheme of things?
It is so easy to sweep the inconvenient and ungainly under the carpet. But today let’s stop and consciously think about them, their plight. Maybe an impossible dream will be born in our hearts on how we can actually make a difference in their lives.
If you are reading this blog, would you stop and join me in a prayer for women around the world who are hurting and despairing, that they would find comfort, healing, freedom, justice and restoration.
Lord, you are the Help of the Helpless… today I lift up to you all who are feeling helpless and overwhelmed by their circumstances, may they find Your peace, presence, love, provision and protection is with them. Let each one know and see Your Hand at work in their lives changing circumstances, working all things together for good. May each one come forth stronger and as pure gold, because You are unshakeably with them to deliver them. In Jesus Name, Amen
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psa 61:2 KJV