the judge and the advocate

i have a bad habit that tears me up each time i give in to it. i will not spell it out here. i guess that implies that i am still dealing with it. i guess so.

my thoughts at this particular moment after meditating on some of paula’s writings are these:
1. what expression is on my fathers face as he looks down on me? disgust? anger? frustration? wrath? intolerance?
2. how can i perpetaully ask for forgiveness for the same mistake?
3. how can i be a christian, much more, a soldier when i cannot even wage war on myself?

at this moment, i am struggling against the answer that is floating around in my spirit. why? because it justifies me. it does not condemn me. personally, i don’t feel worthy – but is there any place in the scriptures that say god relates with me on the basis of feelings? i don’t feel righteous – but is there any place in scriptures that say my righteousness is dependent on my feelings? i don’t feel like i have done what god wants me to do – but is there any place in scriptures that say god will conduct business with me based on my actions on inactions?

yet, i know i have done wrong. and i look down in shame as i stand before my savior. i believe what i hear his spirit speaking but somehow i find myself reluctant to accept what he is offering me. and yet, i am reminded of romans 5v17 which says “they which have received an abundance of grace and the gift of righteoesness…”

i am gently nudged by god’s spirit that that scripture places the onus on the receiver. it is not an issue of whether god wants to give to me, it is an issue of whether i am willing and able to receive.

but how can i look my father in the face after i have stooped beneath my calling? how can i stand in the congregation of the saints after i have compromised my principles and beliefs? how can i defend my gospel after i have let down my guard? these are the questions my mind throws at me.

and simultaneosuly, my spirit continues its silent whisper: “You have been saved by grace and not by your actions”. “You are justified by faith and not by your perfections.” “You are clothed in Christ and your wrongs have been charged to his account”.

i believe all of this, yet i am reluctant to accept it, because i feel it is a consolation for my wrong. and now i notice that my reluctance is based on feelings. Where is my faith? having begun in the spirit, am i now made perfect in the flesh?

so i stand before my god and my savior. i am ashamed to look at his face because i feel condemned. i do not know what expression i will find. i am not so much afraid of his wrath. i am more ashamed to have disappointed him – again. and so i stand there, not looking up, not moving, a cloak of shame draped on my soul.

suddenly it gets quiet. i do not hear the whisper again. even my mind has stopped its barrage. i am wondering, pondering, and soon curiousity gets the better of me. i lift up my head and look. i see a judge sitted in front of me. on my left hand i see the prosecution – there is a name tag pinned to his suit that reads “satan – accuser of the brethren”. i gasp, as recognition dawns on me.

every word of condemnation, every accusation – it was from the devil. i thought it was god pointing out my wrongs. but no, god is whispering something to another guy in a suit. i strain to hear and i catch a drift. “…that’s my son, and i am hiring you to defend him for me…” I stare at my defence, and i recognise his face – he is jesus, the one who had died for my sins. i am confused, but only for a fraction of a second, then i get it.

the prosecution is the devil – accuser of the brethren.
the defence is jesus christ – the righteous one.
the presiding judge is god – my father.

“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with [hired by] the Father…

yes, i am guilty. no, scratch that. i am justified. i have done wrong, but that is why jesus came to die. my sentencing was declared and executed on calvary’s cross 2006 years ago, so i stand uncondemned before the audience of heaven.

PS: i was quite a struggle putting this entry i did some time ago up here. i pray it blesses…

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Hope Floats

*From my archives…December 2005

Another day had arrived. He could tell from the ray of light that stole through the crack up on the high wall of the prison, and lighted a strip on the cracked, damp floor. There were no windows and you could not look out; you could not see the sun rise in its majestic array, or watch it go down over the hills. For too many years he had missed the beauty of a sunrise and a sunset. Suddenly Joseph felt sad. And his sadness seemed to trigger it, as memories of the past began to unwind; memories of days when he walked the sheep out in the early hours of the morning, and sat upon the dew covered hills as the sheep grazed ahead; days when he ran and skipped through the woods, singing as merrily as the birds up on the trees, dressed in his coat of many colors; days when he sat around the fire together with his brothers and father as they told jokes and laughed. Those were good days; days he had thought would last forever; days that were better than these days.

He tried to be as happy as he could these days. There was really nothing to smile about, but he tried to wear a smile anyway. Life had been much easier as a slave; even though he was not used to the work, he had come to terms with it. At least then he had his freedom, he had his moments to himself, and Pothiphar had put him in a good position where he had some privileges. But it was slightly different now. Prison was not a very pleasant place. There weren’t the best of conditions; and carrying around the tint of a rapist wasn’t exactly a badge to be proud of. It did give him some clout among the fellow prisoners though; they thought he had guts to go after the Captains wife. She was a rather smashing lady, and she had a figure that could cause a stir in many a man’s loins. They had all wanted to hear the story, and no one seemed to believe him when he insisted it was otherwise. But they had accepted him heartily without the usual initiation they reserved for new inmates. For that Joseph was glad. He was one of the youngest around, being in his early twenties, a time of his prime when he could have done so much in life. He had always been a very virile and ambitious guy. He had big dreams, dreams that would take him places; dreams of ruling nations and calling shots. He was aiming for the tops.

But not any more. It was because of his dreams he was here; far away from familiar territory, from his family, friends, anybody that even shared his faith. He was all alone in a strange land serving a strange God whose face he hadn’t even seen; the same God who had given him all those dreams. It all seemed like mockery now. There was no way he could ever live those dreams now; rotting away in an Egyptian jail for an accusation no one had even bothered to investigate.

Yet the picture wouldn’t go; the dream wouldn’t leave him. Deep down on his inside, it seemed to get bigger, and at times like this when he just didn’t feel like facing another day, when he wished death that crept up on him in the night, when he wondered about the God father had told him about, the God whom he had come to love, the God who had given him big dreams and how that same God could allow him to be in this hell hole; when the sadness began to envelope him and despondency prepared for him a pity party; suddenly that dream leaped up on the inside of him, and the picture seemed to come alive in his eyes. He couldn’t explain it but somehow he knew, he just knew that his dream was not yet dead; that his dream was still very much in conception, and that a birthing was coming soon. He would get to the top. He would sit on a throne. It wasn’t over yet…

You know faith can be a drag. I don’t like to live by faith. No, I don’t like to live by faith. Does that shock you? It shouldn’t. If you have ever lived by faith, or are living by faith, then you would feel me. So many people think they are living by faith just because they are Christians and they go to church and they read the bible and memorize scriptures and pray and do all the right Christian things. I’ve got news for you: take a back seat. You ain’t even started yet. I know what the bible says about the just living by faith and pleasing God by faith, and still I say I don’t like to live by faith. When you’ve been there you know what I am talking about. I have been there. It’s a schooling process you go through and if God would ask my opinion, I would most willingly pass up on it. That’s why I am glad he doesn’t ask for my opinion. Because now I am a Man of Faith and I am proud of it, but I cannot boast about it. And that’s what I am talking about; if you live by faith then you are a Man of Faith and though you are proud of what you have become you don’t blow a trumpet about it because you hated every step of the way. Because to live by faith is to smile with tears in your eyes; to laugh when there’s nothing to laugh about; to get bruised and worn and yet you keep on pushing through; to not see God, to reach out for God and all you find is empty space and yet you know he’s right there; to attend lectures and write tests when you haven’t even been screened yet; to feel the brutal thrust of the rapist as he steals your innocence and yet think of God’s everlasting love(Jer.31:3); to come back home and find your house broken into and all your money gone and you fall on your knees in worship; to find out that the clipper you had used for a haircut was infected and now you had the HIV virus and still believe that God has a future and a hope for you (Jer.29:11);to echo the words of Jesus when he said: now my soul is troubled and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But this is the reason I came down here; Father glorify your name(Jo.12:27). Have you ever been to that point? If you can smile about the scenes of your life than you aren’t even on the bus yet; you don’t even know what I am talking about. To live by faith is no piece of cake; it’s hard labor; it is to experience what James Duff said in his book Flashes of Truth about china wares: the colors that are painted on china are burned into the clay. Otherwise they would easily rub off. It is said that what is to become a golden color on the finished article is a dark liquid before the fire is applied. And the first two or three applications of heat obliterate all trace of color, which has to be renewed again and again; the pain that perfects. It perfects but it hurts, and that’s why I don’t like to live by faith.

And so Joseph stirred as dawn broke. His eyes stared into the semi-darkness awaiting the wake-up call, another day of drudgery. Oh God, when will all of this end? Will all of this ever end? He closed his eyes again. And that’s when he saw the picture: the sheaves in the field, and all of the others bowing down to his. And the sun and the moon and the eleven stars bowing down to him. This was no dream Joseph knew. You don’t dream dreams like this when you are in a place like this. You only dream dreams like this when you are your father’s favorite and you were in your home country where you could work your way to the top of the ladder. Here, he wasn’t even on the bottom ring. No, this wass no dream. This was hope, the hope that had kept him so far, the hope that must keep him from now on, this divine hope. If you have come to that point where your faith is swamped by the storms of life , then you need to renew your hope. For when faith is weary, hope floats.

There is a laughter in my spirit. And that’s funny because there is really nothing to laugh about. It’s five days to Christmas, but I am stuck babysitting my mum and she is stuck dealing with illness, and the home is stuck with the drudgery that comes with looking after the sick. And the little money that would have gone into baking cakes and cooking food have gone into paying hospital bills and buying drugs. So I think it’s crazy that I should feel like laughing. Because not only has life handed me a raw deal, I feel like giving up. I feel like just walking away from everything. I feel like throwing in the towel. And that’s not funny because I am the future of my family. If I walk away, I wouldn’t just be closing the door on me, I would be closing the door on my family. And that’s why I think it’s crazy that I should feel like laughing. And that should be scary, right? Maybe the trouble is getting to me?

I don’t think so. Because I know a story of somebody else. You know the story too. He was the Man About Town in his days; owner of the multi-billion conglomerate. President of about a dozen prestigious affiliates; honorary degree holder from half a dozen universities; “Most Prized Customer” of a good number of banks across the country, and a regular of the Who’s Who column in the society mag. And besides his career success, he was the ideal family man: a gorgeous wife and admirable kids. Then one day, someone made a bad deal and everything crashed. And before the next day a storm crashed into the kids resort and went off with all of them. From the top of the ladder to the bottom of the rung. You all have heard about the story of Job. And this is the crazy part. This is the part that stumped me the day the light shone on that scripture. “And Job fell down and worshipped.” (Job 1:20) It’s still there in my bible. I marked it out with just one word: Insane. I mean, talk about bad news. Talk about a bad day. And you fall down and worship. I don’t know about you spiritual folks out there, but I know that’s not what will be going through my head if I was in Job’s shoes. (Which is funny because that’s precisely what I did when I returned home one day and saw our house broken into. I held hands with my mum and my cousins and we worshipped. Don’t ask me how I could do that, because it beats me too.)

And somehow the pieces of the puzzle seem to be making a little sense. You see, there is something that God has put in us that just can’t stay down. It’s like that upturned glass you press down into water. As long as there is air inside the glass it rises up again. It never stays down. The moment you take away your hands, it floats back up. It’s bigger than faith. In fact, it’s the life source of faith, for without it faith cannot stand. Hope. The power to rise again to the top. The driving force when faith is beaten and bruised. The seed that pushes aside the hard earth and shoots out a young bud. It’s the same thing that saw Joseph through those days in slavery and prison. It’s the same thing that kept Jesus on the road to the cross. And I believe it’s the same thing that knocked Job down in worship. The same thing that caused laughter to bubble up from within me. Hope. Not that from the pep talk of folks. Not that from the pipedream of an exhausted soul. But hope that comes from the word of God. When Joseph stirred each morning, God’s word on his inside stirred too. When Jesus hung up naked on the cross, God’s word on his inside stirred too. And when Job heard his bad news, God’s word stirred too. When the tides crash in on you, let God’s word on your inside stir up hope . Because when faith begins to sink, hope floats.

after the honeymoon

lately i have come to realise that true success and the fulfilment of god’s purpose for our lives requires more than pure passion. passion is what gets us started, but discipline is what takes us to the finish line. it is like romance; we find the object of our affection, and we are enraptured. we drink in her beauty and delight in her presence. we discover her person and determine our help mate. we pop the big question, and somewhere down the line we tie the knot. then comes the wedding night where we discover the treasure that we have dug; the gem that god prepared for us in the consumation of our love, and the songs of solomon become our song too.

a few weeks later, or months later for some of us, we wake up to reality. we discover that the object of our affection is indeed another human like ourself. indeed, this object of our affection has bad breath in the mornings like we do; they have trussed up looks as they get out of bed each day, as we do. we come to find out that beneath the cloud nine in which we walked during courtship, there is good old, solid, dusty earth. the one god prepared for us becomes the one we have to wake up to every morning and grow old with. it is somewhere in this discovery that we realise that it will take more than the passion that attracted us to each other to keep us together. but it would take the discipline to slowly live out the vows that we quickly said at the altar. it would be our commitment to each other that would bring us home each day; it would be our commitment to each other that would display the wedding band to the secretary at work in the low-cut top and short skirt. it would be discipline that would make us stay as marraige partners, not just passionate lovers. somewhere down the line, after the honeymoon is over, our passion is going to grow old and then it will take our discipline and commitemt to make the marraige work.

this simple truth carries over to every other area of life. for example, it is 5am on a Monday morning as i write this. i love to write, passionately, but there’s a long day ahead of me and i need as much rest as i can get, and my bed is indeed quite comfortable. plus christmas is around the cormer and the festive mood is already creeping up on me. only commitment to my blog readers, and the discipline to improve on my writing skills, will get me to pick pen and paper and begin to weave words together for another blog entry.

when i joined the ministry, working for the lord had all the bells and whistle. i was excited especially at the fact that i could work for god, without necessarily being a clergy. i could actually be in the ministry, bringing in souls to the kingdom, through one of my favorite things to do – programming the internet. i was passionate about my work, and i spent many days and indeed nights before my computer, convinced that god was fortunate to find a laborer like me. today, i rethink my thoughts. because ministry work has gone beyond programming the internet. it has come to involve lending a hand in putting things and places together for ministry programs and events. it has come to involve getting under the hood and helping to make sure the bandwagon of the ministry keeps rolling on. i used to think working in the ministry would give me an opportunity to be super-charged in the lord at all times. now i have come to realise that when god called me to the ministry, he wasn’t handing me a meal ticket, but an apron and a tray, to help in feeding so many lost souls. now i know that there’s a time when you come into god’s kingdom and get fed; after a while you need to move over out of your seat, pick up a tray and begin to feed others. it is at this point that you will need the discipline to stick around, the courage to do all the grunt work and the wisdom to not neglect yourself even as you give of yourself.

god gives us passion to get us into his plan and purpose for our lives. but it’s up to us to develop the discipline and commitment to that purpose. it is my lack of discipline that almost cost me my faith in these recent months. it is my lack of commitment that saw me hollering for a time-out when passion faded. i have learnt to look at jesus in a new way. it must have been a novel experience for him to take on human form and walk the face of earth. it must have been passion that drove him to perform miracles and teach the word with such conviction. but it was commitment and discipline that kept his head up when the stones were held high; it was commitment and discipline that kept him mute when the accusations and the scourgings came back to back; it was commitment and discipline that drove him to his feet everytime the weight of the cross knocked him to the ground.

my days are longer, and my nights are shorter. monday comes too soon and friday takes too long. i still love god very much; the question now is “how much?”

PS: today, 4 years ago, daddy went home. miss him much; thankful for him.

Yet

I have been through the fire
it’s flames fiery and fierce
yet i was not burned…

I have been through the waters
in the midst of the mighty raging waves
yet i was not drowned…

I have been through the desert
long and arduos, parched and devoid
yet i was not withered…

I have been in the tunnel
dark and gloomy, without direction
yet i was not lost…

I have been in the battle
the fight ruthless and menancing
yet i was not killed…

I have been over the edge
falling free down the rugged cliff
yet i was not broken…

I have been made a spectacle
reproached and ridiculed
yet i was not alone…

I have been on the race
and grown weary and worn
yet i was not faint…

I have been to that place
where i almost could’t believe
yet i was not hopeless…

I have been in mourning
crying with aches and pains
yet i was not comfortless…

I have been bent in praying
and thought God wasn’t listening
yet i was not unanswered.