Water thy Fire

“I said, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.’ But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue…” ~ Psalm 39:1-3 NIV

Years ago I encountered a newly Christian with a passionate desire to serve and speak of God. The fire he had within was very expressive. A friend and I enjoyed conversations we would have with him, and God used him to reveal to us a passion in serving God. Growing up in a Christian environment can sometimes make my Christian faith stay in a luke-warm path because of the same teachings I hear and my lack of motivation. But after getting to know this friend, I got excited about God for some reason. It was a new passion.

Well, it didn’t last. My fire for God died down when I returned to the States after studying in South Korea for a semester. It didn’t happen instantly. It took time. When I had come back, I searched for ways to serve God, to speak of my experience abroad, and just to speak of the Lord. I guess not many people were excited as I was, and that affected me to the point that my fire eventually distinguished. I became somewhat silenced which led to frustration which led to anger which led to judgments and an attitude to the place and people that were around me.

There are dangers into having our fire for God distinguished. We can run into an apathetic approach towards reading the Word, praying, etc. A judgmental attitude of both believers and nonbelievers can arise. Fear! Fear is a big one. Even the lack of motivation. Some people might not understand our fire for God and almost deny its power, or in other words, God’s power. Fortunately, the Lord instills in us a passion so great that not even silence can contain it. Jeremiah, who dealt with persecution, describes his passion in chapter 20 verse 9, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (NIV). The fire can stem from injustice, our love for God, our anger towards sin, from the Holy Spirit. And it cannot be contained. No matter how much we are silenced, we cannot remain silent.

Acts 4:20 says, “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (NIV). My friend whom I mentioned above was a fairly new Christian when I met him. And I could tell that what the Lord had revealed to Him gave him a fire that he could just not keep to himself. He had to share about God no matter what. Even for David in the verses mentioned above, he talks about his time of silence. He tried it, and he just couldn’t do it.

Whether we have been silenced about our faith or have chosen to remain quiet, we cannot let our fire be distinguished. What’s wrong with us wanting the fire to grow stronger and stronger? Nothing! That is what God wants. We must feed the fire with the Word, with prayer, with anything that is of God. Just as Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, I will say it to you: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (NIV).

Righteous Anger

“In the temple courts he [Jesus] found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” ~ John 2:14-15 NIV

During my adolescence, I remember struggling a lot with anger and my temper. I found it wrong of me and of others to be feeling angered over the little things. I wanted to so desperately act like Christ, being patient and kind and gentle but it was so difficult under all the frustration. I mostly based my feelings on anger from what Ephesians 4:26-27 says: “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while your are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (NIV). Yes, it is very risky to be angry because Satan can use that anger to lead us to sin. Think of when Cain killed his brother Abel; Cain was angry when he did it (Genesis 4:5-8).

For many years, my misconception of anger continued. I had in mind that God was the angry one. In Exodus 32:9-12, God was speaking to Moses about his anger towards the “stiff-necked people” or in other words, the Israelites. He even wanted to destroy them! However, Moses persuaded God and reminded Him that it was His people whom He brought out of Egypt. God had a reason to be angry, but even then, one would think that God being perfect wouldn’t get angry, right?

So if God is the angry one, then we must find someone who can mediate between us and God. 2 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (NIV). Thankfully we have one! Jesus, the one who can keep us from God’s anger. And because Jesus is perfect, He would also not get angry, right?

John 2:14-15 actually displays a human response from Jesus. Jesus was angry. Shocking! Being angry might not seem as shocking, but the fact that Jesus went on a rampage was more so. And what made Him angry was, in His words, “’How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” (NIV) Notice that He was so angry, He made a “whip out of cords” (John 2:15). Now, this was a side of Jesus I could not picture. He succumbed to anger and did what no one would have expected. It was definitely something a human would do, if they were angry. But Jesus? Inconceivable! In reality, the way Jesus responded was perfectly acceptable. Why? Because unlike our anger in most situations, Jesus was righteously angry. How dare people change the purpose of the house of God. It is not right to treat the house of God like that. Sin was the goal in the temple and that angered Jesus. Moreover, what angers God angers Jesus.

The anger that Jesus and God displayed in the two situations above is righteous anger. When you know that someone is doing wrong, it brings out natural emotions. There is a reason why anger sparks. On the other hand, our anger is a risk because we are human. We already know in Ephesians that anger can lead to sin. James also touches on anger in chapter one verses nineteen through twenty: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (NIV). The phrase “man’s anger” can be translated to “human’s anger.” There is a huge difference between human’s anger and righteous anger. Our anger is flawed, imperfect, and can be sinful. But the anger of God, the anger of Jesus, is a response to the sin and injustice in this world. They are right to be angry. Furthermore, knowing that they are perfect, they cannot sin in anger like we can.

Anger is not an evil emotion. Let us use anger in a response to the sin around the world, the injustice and the evil. Let it be an emotion to open our eyes over how we treat our Heavenly Father. And let it become a drive or motivation to get us on the right path.

The Lord knows how to speak to you.

“Then I [Daniel] heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.” ~ Daniel 10:9 NIV

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend who found it frustrating communicating with someone who wasn’t fluent in English. They had a lot of miscommunication that resulted in a lot of problems at work. Although I can understand my friend and her situation, I find it difficult to understand when two people who speak the same language still manage to miscommunicate or misunderstand each other. We each have our own language and that encompasses speech, behavior, emotions, and the heart. There is not a single person on this earth that can communicate with us 100%. The only one who can penetrate our complicated language barrier is God. He does it in a way that strikes deeply into the heart. And we may respond with pure joy, in tears, or just suddenly feel peace.

Just recently, I was searching for verses about the response of people when the Lord spoke to them. What I noticed was that He spoke to every person in different ways. A burning bush for Moses. Through Samuel the prophet for David. A blinding light for Paul. God doesn’t always use words to speak to us because He knows what kind of communication we need. Daniel, for example, was approached by God through visions. The impact of the speaker’s words in one particular vision, left Daniel with his face to the ground (Daniel 10:9). What kind of person leaves us in that position? No person, just God.

As Daniel narrates this vision he is in, he says in Daniel 10:10, “A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, ‘Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.’ And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling” (NIV). The man in the vision continues to explain to Daniel of things that happened and things to come. Yet, Daniel was still in an awe and couldn’t speak.

Then, Daniel says about his vision, “Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, ‘I am overcome with anguish because of my vision, my lord, and I am helpless. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe” (Daniel 10:16-17 NIV). Wow, to be speechless before the Lord. Now, I know this case does not occur for everyone. Like I said, God speaks to us in many ways. And with Daniel in this situation, this was an effective method.

When we are spoken to in such a way, we are not sure how or able to respond. In that case, God will and already has provided the means to communicate with Him. We have prayer, we have His Word, and we have His Son. Even more so, He grants us what we need. For example, He gave Daniel strength to go on and hear the vision (Daniel 10:19). God is not like us; He is not difficult to communicate with. He is a relationship God and desires to have a relationship with us. Of course He can communicate with us. He created us.

What should we look like?

“He [Jesus] had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” ~ Isaiah 53:2 NIV

After a year living in South Korea, I had become overly concerned about my appearance. Not that I didn’t care much about it before, but after living in a different culture for so long—a culture of fashion, money, and materialistic wealth—my mentality about what I looked like began to change. I was battling with how I wanted to look versus how I wanted people to treat me. Being casual or being respected. And at the time, I thought the appearance was the only way. Being so concerned about what I looked like didn’t leave room for me to wonder what God was thinking, what He thought about the thoughts of myself.

When I think of what Jesus looked like…I don’t think He cared about His appearance the way many of us do. I think His appearance was one of the last things on His mind. He had plenty of other things to worry about: His disciples, His ministry, the world! The Bible never mentions if He ever cared about His appearance. And yet, I’m sure the way He wanted people to treat Him would never be consistent. Imagine if He was a king. Would He get the respect He deserved? Well, the verse that comes after the verse mentioned above sadly portrays the truth: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (NIV).

For many of us, the concentration on our appearance might be because of our desire to please people. Others like to look good in the eyes of people. For others, we are influenced by society and what magazines, commercials, and even movies tell us of our image. Regardless of all that, we focus so much on the outside, on what we see. It’s not bad to look good. It’s not a sin to wear makeup. But there comes a point where we need to ask ourselves why are we trying so hard on our appearance. Ultimately, to God, He doesn’t care what we look like.

When Samuel was in search for a king of Israel, he passed all of David’s older brothers until Samuel laid eyes on the young David. Imagine a line of us, all polished and well-put together. Imagine Samuel going down the line basically rejecting every single one of us until he come to someone least unexpected: one who is more concerned about what the Lord thinks rather than man. Imagine the words that Samuel would say. They would be the same words he uttered in 1 Samuel 16:7, “’The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (NIV). We can put so much time on the outside appearance, but for what? To please people’s eyes?

Korea has taught me to look professional and being professional is not wrong. But I have made it an effort to remind myself why I want to look professional. In the beginning, I was very concerned about my appearance especially because I don’t look Korean at all. But there is no need to fear about what people think of our appearance. God’s opinion is more important. His own Son knew what it was like, and He suffered greatly.

Why put so much effort on the outer image when all of that will eventually go to waste. Eventually we will wrinkle, gain or loss weight, end up with a bad memory. The outer image won’t last. Although we should take care of ourselves for the body we were given we must take care of. But while taking care of our body, we must remember that eventually it will come to an end.