Heart Struggles

Hello readers and fellow bloggers!

I apologize for a one week delay in posting, especially the Part 2 of my sembreak (which ended last Tuesday). I apologize, again, because I shall postpone that short but meaningful post for tomorrow and update you on what’s happening, or should I say, wrestling, in my life right now.

Heart struggles.

Big endings start with small beginnings. So does sin and its painful consequences. Being born and raised in a Christian home, I know the famous, “great and grave” sins of this world that I should (and did) avoid: murder (except for ants; it’s self-defense, they bit me first), idolatry (in terms of really worshiping physical idols), and the like. However, as much as I’m almost immune from committing the worst of iniquities, I am not exempt from the “smaller” or as Jerry Bridges coined and titled his book, “respectable sins.” I struggle with self-control, Godly discipline, obedience, and humility just as any Christian regardless of seniority. Lately, the consequences of my little sins over the past year culminated, and I knew I needed to change. Stat.

Just like a a victim of a vehicular accident who badly injured his left leg, had it amputated, and after weeks of treatment and extreme care in the hospital, went back home, I just underwent a major heart surgery. I’m okay in a sense that  the vessels that have been blocked by layers of sin have been removed by my Jehovah-Raphah (Healer), but I still have to recover and get used to a new and pure heart which is really difficult to keep pure many times. By my God-given nature and temperament, I keep things to myself most of the time. However, I feel the need to share what I am going through right now because, as I said, I need to get used to my new heart. I need help. Ever heard of a drug addict who went to rehab all by himself? People need people.

I wouldn’t go into all the details of my crazy, unpredictable heart, but I will share with you two struggles that I have a difficult time overcoming. First is servitude. Jesus said that if anyone wishes to be His disciple, that person must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord and Savior. I am serving God in many ways as of the present, but I am not always serving Him. When I’m at home or alone, I usually serve Jenny by gratifying her desires according to her time and her understanding. Serving my worst enemy cost me my spot on the dean’s list again the previous semester. It also produced in me unwanted stomach flab, a slightly calloused heart, and an untidy thought life. I used to be so excited when serving my parents and even strangers, but as I developed a habit of focusing on what I wanted, my zeal for serving slowly diminished. I still served, but only when the service was convenient for me. Even massaging my beloved parents became a burden to me because I “wanted to sleep” when in fact, I wanted to scroll more pages on Tumblr.

Secondly, I am struggling with self-control. Food, time management, simple pleasures, you name it. At first, I justified my lack of control in eating with the freedom I have in Christ to eat whatever I want because the dietary laws are abolished. Indeed they are abolished, but that does not make fish sans scales any healthier than they were during Moses’s time. Because my desire for Jesus varied in intensity, I often opted to surf in Facebook than in my NKJV Bible. As  a result, bad words sometimes come into mind when I get angry instead of “be angry and do not sin” and “do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”

As much as I hate to admit it, I fing myself in a cycle of sin: commit to change, decide to do the same sin, confess, commit again, do wrong again, confess, and so on. At times I would succeed for a certain number of days, but after a week or two, I go back to my old ways. Until God unveiled my eyes and I saw how much I was hurting Him, I would have plunged downward to my demise. But God was not letting me go.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.

-Isaiah 49:16

No sin is too deep to make God love me less. Nothing. Nada. If an earthly mother can forgive a prodigal and mischievous child of hers, how much more the Heavenly Father! 🙂 He gives me hope and a chance to continue doing good and play the role as His servant. Unworthy yet loved, broken and yet complete.

God repeatedly whispers truth to my ear because His truth will lead me in His direction. To change for the best, for life, we need to imbibe God’s truths in our hearts and minds to keep us from straying again to falsehood, where the devil rules.

“The Lord God in your midst,

The Mighty One will save.

He will rejoice over you with gladness;

He will quiet you in His love;

He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zechariah 3:17)

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast on You,

Because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)

“…not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

“For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11)

I am so, so, utterly grateful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for picking me up, renewing me in His love, and strengthening me so that I may experience Him again. Saying goodbye to the pity parties and the pride, I look forward to an exciting and adventurous life with Jesus Christ. One of the lies the enemy whispered to me is that the Christian life is boring. Lately, I’m beginning to see and testify that it isn’t. True, it is difficult, but it’s never boring. Do you know what’s really boring? Doing the same things over and over again (such as partying and smoking) thinking it’s fun but in reality it will destroy you and in the end, you won’t profit anything. The struggle is worth the struggle because it strengthens character and builds up hope–hope that will surely be actualized and fulfilled one day.

I may be weak, but He Who fights for me is strong. If ever you’re struggling in a similar situation as mine or any struggle for that matter, hold on. Don’t lose hope. No matter how young or old you are, as long as you’re alive, there’s always hope. Jesus always extends His hand. Take it! Grasp it tightly till it hurts because guess what? Your grip does not hurt Him at all. In fact, He will take you to where He is, but in so doing, you will struggle. But that’s okay. Wait on the Lord, He shall renew your strength. (Isaiah 40:31)

Wait, I say, on the Lord. 😀

PS: Let’s pray for each other! God’s kids are meant to help each other. Email me at talamjenny@gmail.com for prayer requests and other insights. I also need your help  (but please, no philosophical advice, that’s man-made, it’s not foolproof) so if you can share with me how you overcame your heart struggles, email me too! 😀 

The Battle Between the Good and the Best

If there is one thing that will never cease to exist in a Christian’s earthly life, it is struggle–emotional, physical spiritual, you name it. The battle between the heart and the mind shall always prevail until the Creator and Lover of one’s soul weaves perfection in His beloved’s entire being. I am feeling the struggle now more than I did four, five years ago because, by God’s grace, I am willfully putting to death the evil that longs to be part of my sanctified and precious body. Sometimes the struggle is between good and evil–clear-cut black and white. Should I answer back or hold my tongue? Will I trust God and fear no evil or worry and fear everything? The Bible does not beat around the bush when it comes to  the consequences of obedience to God and disobedience against Him; blessings and curses are explicitly stated. If  you honor and obey your parents in the Lord, expect a long and happy life on earth (Ephesians 6:1-2). Refuse to believe in God and die in your sins; repent and believe in the only begotten Son of God and you will live (John 3:16-19).

But what if you have a struggle that a command or a principle in the Bible does not explicitly state or explain? What if your struggle is not exactly sinful, but a battle between the good and the best, the mediocre and the excellent? This is where the going gets tougher.

When I eat out with friends, should I order beef or chicken? (very shallow I know, but it’s hard to choose when you want to eat everything!)  When my Dad tells me he’ll buy me one book and after canvassing for an hour and a half in the bookstore and finally collecting four to five various titles in my arms, which one will I choose–romance, mystery, or humour? When my crush sits next to me and my heart tells me that having a boyfriend is not so bad an idea, should I make the first move or wait until he talks to me (even if he does not eventually pursue me)? The battle between the good and the best is harder than I thought.

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent….” -Philippians 1:9-10a, NKJV

The reason many people don’t experience the abundant life (even Christians) is that their choices are mostly good, not excellent, and the reason people would rather settle with mediocrity rather than to pursue excellence is their love is based on feelings and man-made ideas. “I’ll do anything that will make me happy. I know he or she’s the one when I’m unexplainably happy with him or her.” What is wrong with this picture? C.S. Lewis shed light on this topic in his book, Mere Christianity:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all…. In fact, the state of being in love usually does not last….But of course ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love…is a deep unity, maintained by the will, and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God.”

Why am I bringing this up? Because no matter how hard I try to repress the romantic emotions inside me, they always surface. Even if I commit to remain single until God tells both me and my future partner, “You’re ready. It’s time,” I cannot help feeling a little sad (but not depressed–no, not me!) when my girlfriends have their guy friends asking them out and acting way too close and I’m just sitting there like..

Okay, maybe that GIF which I got from Tumblr is exaggerated, but I hope you get my idea. 10% of me wants to experience her first kiss, holding hands with a guy, and receiving love letters NOW; the other 90% sincerely seeks her True Love, Agape–Christ Jesus. Elisabeth Elliot’s struggle back in 1948 remains to be same and true in me present day, 2011:

“‘Clogged with wishes.’ I was wishing that my wishes were what God wished, and if my wishes were not what God wished, I wished that I could wish that my wishes would go away, but the wishes were still there.”

When I committed to be wholly pure for Jesus for His glory, I thought that I would never yearn for a boyfriend until I’m after college or maybe even two years after that. I thought I would never feel even just a little bit insecure when a girlfriend of mine shares with me the number of guys who are courting her presently. I did not foresee the time when my own cousins, now grown-up and enjoying their jobs, would come to our family Bible study with a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Maybe Donkey’s right. At least the boulder won’t change or grow tired of me.

But I am not made to talk or associate with boulders and certainly not self-pity and loneliness. God made me for someone, and that someone is God Himself. The battle between the good and best persists because my heart that seeks for eternity often looks for permanent satisfaction in things which are carnal and temporary. I am so grateful to have a Father Who is gracious enough to understand my pettiness and foolishness when it comes to love and emotions. He’s the perfect Lover because only He understands exactly what I’m going through and when I offer up to Him my everything (which I’ve been doing slowly but surely), only He can bring good out of all of my negative emotions. What once was a battle becomes a field for a joyous celebration.

Why do we love in the first place? Paul continues in verse eleven of Philippians 1: “to the glory and praise of God.” For His Name’s sake. I need to remind myself constantly that I or my world is not about  anything else but God. For God. Because of God. Even the battle between good and evil, the good and the best, will turn out the way that He wants it to because He is the Source of everything. Man may have started sin, but God has already conquered it. For that, I am truly grateful.

So what am I to do with loneliness? With that longing to be “close but not romantically related” with my crush? I surrendered it to God so for now, it’s not in my hands. What will I do with something I don’t have? That’s right.

Nothing. 🙂

Sources:

Elliot, Elisabeth (2000). Passion and Purity: Learning To Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control. Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila: OMF Literature.

The Holy Bible: New King James Version. Thomas Nelson Inc., 1985. Biblegateway.com

Struggling With Your Thoughts? Think SPOT

You opened your eyes only to squint them a few seconds later as the sun kissed you good morning. You shifted your view outside your window and smiled as the blue sky and a small maya waved hello. “What a wonderful way to start my day,” you said. “Hey that rhymes! Wow, God thanks!” You sat up, folded your hands, and bowed your head and spent the first few minutes of your day with your Creator. After uttering an ‘Amen,’ you checked your cell phone. Without warning, out of nowhere, they entered your mind. The thoughts. Thoughts of your fight with a friend over the phone flooded your mind. You called her emotional. She called you insensitive. What once was a bright and good morning suddenly grew dim and dull. All because of thoughts that “came out of nowhere.”

Do you struggle with your thoughts? I know I do. It has been my struggle since last year. My thoughts vary from time to time: swear words (even if I don’t swear; I think they come from the movies and books), false views of God, selfish motives, and even hurtful words against others (even if I don’t actually say them). If you’re like me, you’ve probably read this command from God:

“We are destroying speculations and every  lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

You’ve probably surrendered all your evil thoughts to God, asked to be freed from the enemy’s bondage, and claimed God’s victory. (If you’re like me, all of these things took place in a Christian retreat where the enemy and his minions seemed to be on leave from duty) After your bondage breaker, you successfully counteracted almost all evil thoughts with God’s truth. For a week you succeeded.

Then came week two. The battle was on again. Satan and his mini monsters resumed their positions. The awful past, a lazy present, and an anxious future clouded your memory. Your heart followed suit. Then your hands and your feet. From a confident, joyful, and strong Christian, you turned cranky, depressed, worried, and critical. What went wrong?

One of three things usually led to the pervasion of evil thoughts in my mind:

  1. Rationalization. I entertained a half-truth, half-lie, conformed it to my lustful desire, and attached an “it’s-okay-it’s-not-that-bad” string to alleviate the pain from the bump of my conscience
  2. Complacency. Similar to exercise. Couldn’t I let my thoughts wander for just a moment every once in a while?After all, my mind is the only place where my crush comes up to me to tell me he shares my sentiments.
  3. Selfishness and Pride. Why should I apologize to her? Okay, fine, she’s authority, but she’s wrong too! Am I the only sinner here?
One word sums up these three evils: Misalignment with God. Pastor Peter Tan-chi, our senior pastor, warned us against misalignment with God: it is the root of our sin and at times, our problems. In a preaching on overcoming discouragement and depression, Pastor Peter wisely said:
“To overcome negative emotions, you need to address the root problem then align with God.”
I believe that the same principle applies to overcoming evil thoughts. Emotions, after all, are products of our thoughts.
This morning, God reminded me that I am His mirror and that He is the Source; I am to reflect His glory. Along with this wonderful truth is the harsh reality that I am utterly self-centered. He wants me to change and He wants to change me. I know that I can do nothing of myself. After addressing the root problem of self-centeredness, God revealed to me 4 steps with which I am to counteract temptation. I called it the SPOT technique.
the desire and intention to do things for myself and all my expectations. God can’t work out my problem if I won’t give it to Him, and the longer I hold on to a temptation, its pull on me will only grow stronger.
that God will replace my evil desire with His desire; that He will show me a way out of that temptation (He promised this! Check out 1 Corinthians 10:13); that He will tell me what to replace with sinning. It’s not enough to just run away from temptation. I need to do something that will actually glorify God.
The wonderful thing about God is that He speaks. Maybe not audibly, but definitely clearly. In high-definition. I just need to lend Him my ears and my heart. This step becomes easy because it is God Himself who empowers me to obey His will. And lastly…
give God the glory–He alone deserves it. I learned that I should not miss this last important step because if I did, I will trust in my own power instead of God’s. Also, I should thank God even if  I encounter disappointments because I trust Him. He is God, He knows better, and He loves me dearly. 🙂
God holds me responsible for my thought life. You, too, are responsible with your thoughts. We should not let our minds wander and underestimate our thoughts’s power to control us. Next time those nasty, demonic ideas penetrate your mind, think SPOT. 🙂 And remember: this is all by God’s amazing grace. You and I will still fail and make mistakes, but when we let Him, God promises to pick us up, take us by the hand, and lead us to Paradise. The journey with Him is a struggling adventure, but you’d rather choose that over a depressing, miserable life. Right? 😀

“Do Not Fear”

Dear child,

Do not fear; I am with you.

My plan for you is working perfectly as I expected, beginning the moment when I formed you with My very own hands. Your wholehearted obedience both in surety and in the unknown makes me swell with joy because you are living according to My design for you. Blessing you is one of my actions that I look forward to do. Continue pursuing excellence and seeking Me in everything you do.

There are certain footholds in your mountainous journey that I wish to eliminate, and you, my child, must do something about them. I am fully aware of your weaknesses and limitations, but haven’t I told you that no one can snatch you away from My hand? My hold is firm, tight, and permanent. I am the LORD God, enthroned between the cherubim, Maker of Heaven and earth. I am unequaled in strength, glory, power, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. I am before anything came to be. Is there anything too hard for me?

You say, “Father, I know that already;” do you? Because your response to your circumstances does not align with My truths. Fear lingers in your heart still; this is where your life’s footholds are founded on. Fear of the inevitability of failure, the future, the response of the people around you–these fears are not healthy. As a matter of fact, they are sinful in nature.  The greater your fears, the wider your comfort zones. My work is accomplished in the realm of divine possibility which will always seem absurd and impossible to fearful men.

There’s only one way out of fear, and it is faith. It’s always about faith and trust in Me. Always. Constant. Unchanging. If I can conquer the grave, I can also conquer your fears. Give them up. Your fear of failure will only inhibit you from trying, persevering, and eventually, succeeding. I am pleased with authenticity and faithfulness and not perfection; obedience, not heartfelt emotions; excellence, and not merely good. Besides, you don’t have to win the victory because it has already been won! Never lose sight of the goal: Christ-likeness. Let go of your fears, and let Me takeover. I’ll show you what I can do. 🙂

I am delighted with you, My child, because your heart is slowly but surely becoming more attuned to my own heart. Many times, I see you in Me. Your heart longs to be perfect and dwell in eternity. You seek joy and gratitude, which is My will for you in my begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Be patient with Me, my work is far from completion, but it’s getting there. Oh, how wonderful that day will be when I weave you into your final stage of perfection! You shall see Me and talk with Me face-to-face. 🙂

Do not fear; I am with you.

I love you.

Sincerely,

Dad

On Faith and Focus

About two weeks ago, a new show was introduced in the weekend schedule of Fox channel. The program showcased the world’s greatest magicians and tricks that could be mistaken for miracles. I enjoyed watching the pilot episode, albeit several minutes late, because it was a show that needed only my eyes and awe and not my head for analysis (unlike Criminal Minds which followed right after). Magic tricks relieve stress, but when it’s my mind who does the tricking, stress and sin are written all over it.

Most, if not all, of the reasons behind my struggle for the past three months rooted out of erroneous and sometimes utterly repulsive thoughts which turned into beliefs which translated into actions.  Instead of walking in the Spirit day after day, I boarded the roller coaster and braved the loops, plunges, and lifts on my own strength and wisdom. Living with me, you won’t realize all the nasty things going on inside my head because I often kept mum about. I shared a struggle or two to my closest Christian friends and family members, but that tidbit of information was only the cherry on top; layers of sin lay beneath it.

Last Sunday, God spoke to me in a most personal and convicting way. I wasn’t going anywhere in my walk with Him because of two things I lacked: focus and faith. I leaned more on disobeying God rather than doing His will because I did not foster a high view of Him. To me, God was always gracious and forgiving. He is always gracious and forgiving, but He is also righteous and just. He established a rule called “sowing and reaping” through which I shall bear the consequences of my wrong decisions. Through Pastor Peter’s message last Sunday and a rebuking but redemptive quiet time session earlier this morning, God brought me back to basics: faith.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

– Hebrews 11:6

Faith is a requisite to pleasing God. I did not please God on a regular basis (somehow I was still good) because of my unbelief. Instead of believing God according to what His Word says He is, I formulated an image of God that suited my plans and desires. Dear reader, beware of thinking the same way I did! God simply requires you to believe in Him for Who He says He is–nothing more, nothing less.

The lack of a proper focus also contributed to my aimless living. Your life can really be simplified by sticking to one goal. “Lord, what is this goal? What do you want me to do?” This morning God made me realize that this prayer was an incorrect one. If David knew right on that his predecessor, Saul, would grow jealous of him and hunt him down, would he entrust his life into God’s hands? God sustained him day by day, moment by moment; He revealed His plan on a daily basis as David trusted Him on a daily basis. After realizing the error in my prayer, I asked God for forgiveness and His wisdom and understanding so I could make right decisions today.

Because of my gracious, just, and patient Father, my eyes are opened once again and I am breathing and living on a renewed focus:

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

At some point in my tumultuous journey, I discarded setting goals because I thought goals would just add to my confusion. How foolish was my mindset! Why should I quit planning when Father Himself is a Planner? I would be inexistent and condemned if it not for His plan to send His one and only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the propitiation for my sins. 🙂

If you’re a Christian experiencing “theological confusion” right now, it’s time for you to go back to basics. Believe in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Humble yourself before your God and ask for His forgiveness, for “He is faithful and just and will forgive all your unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Be completely honest with God; cry out your heart to Him.

“Lord, I’m sick of going through this sin cycle. Help me love You more than I love sin.”

Recommit your life to Him and watch Him work. I know I will. 🙂

To watch the inspiring message last Sunday (it was CCF’s 27th anniversary, by the way!), click this link!

images c/o Outlaw Army and my Tumblr page