Thursday Tune #39: Clear the Stage by Jimmy Needham

“I want to hear Your voice. Lord, I only want to hear Your voice.”

I whispered this to God while I was sobbing one morning this week. I reached a point in my life where decisions and pressures have been terribly overwhelming. Not to mention the additional stress I put on myself and the various opinions and ideas that I receive from others who sincerely mean well. I’m at a crossroad in almost every aspect of my life and it really hasn’t been a breeze for me.

Yet, in my distress and confusion, I could see how God is still allowing me to develop a hunger for Him and His Word. By God’s grace, this chaos in my mind and heart is bringing me to my knees; helping me dig deeper in His promises and truths; and inspiring me to know and trust Him more.


A few hours ago, I had the privilege of studying Psalm 42 and this song struck a chord in my heart. The Psalmist expressed the struggles in his life and reminded himself of the hope that he had in God. I usually remember some of the verses in this Psalm because of an old song we used to sing at church which includes the lines, “Why so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God!” But, as I was reading this chapter, another verse caught my attention. In verse 8, it says: “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.”

In the middle of the Psalmist’s lament, he acknowledges God’s love by day and decides to sing in the evening. He sang not just any song, but a prayer to the God of his life! What a humbling moment that was! But then again, isn’t this what the Lord desires from us? To seek Him with all of our hearts, to worship Him even in the difficult moments of our lives, and to trust our Father God, as we lay our requests before Him?


I like how Jimmy Needham expressed what worship is through his song, “Clear the Stage”. I pray that you and I will be able to spend undivided, quality time with Jesus each day. I pray that more than anything or anyone else, we will hear and listen intently to His voice. Lastly, I pray that the words of our mouths and meditation of our hearts would be pleasing to Him (Psalm 19:14).

“Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister”

 

I Touched a Poisonous Mushroom

It was a pleasant pop of white color in a patch of green grass near our office. The gardener in me got intrigued by the mushroom as I wondered, “What if this is poisonous? Hahaha. Nah.” With much joy, I uprooted it from the ground and brought it back to my desk. I already imagined how I would preserve it at home because it was such a rare find! I took photos of it and even allowed my colleagues to touch it too! Everything was lovely until I began to search what poisonous mushrooms look like.

To my surprise, the first articles that I saw described the exact physical appearance of the mushroom that I just harvested. The type is called “Death Cap” which is responsible for 90% of the deaths caused by poisonous mushrooms. (Disclaimer: I am not a mushroom expert. So, it is possible that the mushroom I got was a “Destroying Angel”, which is another type with very similar appearances and deadly effects.)

At first, I was still in denial, but the truth slowly crept in me as my other colleagues realized it too. I found myself staring at the poisonous mushroom, thinking if it was still worth preserving. After a few hours, I decided to throw the bag away so I could prevent myself, my colleagues, and those at home to touch or mistakenly eat it. At that moment, I felt the Lord affirm me with this statement: “Good job for throwing it away! Isn’t it a lot like sin, Nic?”

Through the poisonous mushroom, the Lord taught me object lessons on the dangers of lingering in and / or loving sin.

FIRST: Death Cap mushrooms have a pleasant taste and a beautiful appearance.

I wrote this statement based on the articles of Mushroom Appreciation and Times Colonist. Of course, I did not plan to eat the wild mushroom, but, I clearly was intrigued by its beauty. When I realized that it was poisonous, I felt so deceived. It was fun to play with! It looked so pure, friendly, and harmless on the ground, and yet, this poisonous mushroom can kill someone.

In the same way, Hebrews 11:25 shows us that “…the pleasures of sin is fleeting” too. If we do not know this or take this into heart, we may end up being deceived by the beauty and temporary satisfaction that sin gives us as well.

SECOND: A single Death Cap mushroom, when eaten, can start damaging the liver and kill the body.

Based on this article , 6 to 24 hours after the Death Cap mushroom is eaten, the first symptoms of being poisoned are stomach pains, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. After 1-2 days, the body will seem like it has improved. But, by this time, the poison already caused serious damages to the liver, which eventually results to death. In order to survive, the victims may try to go through liver transplants.

Also, according to François Durand and Dominique Valla (2013) , Amatoxins (which are in Death Cap mushrooms), are so stable that heating or freezing it will not destroy its poison. So, even if the mushroom isn’t eaten, it is still important for one to immediately wash their hands after touching it.

It is a lot like sin. It says in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” Even if it is just one sinful act, it still leads to death (in this case, the eternal separation from God or “Second death”).

THIRD: Lingering in sin has its consequences not only in my life but in the lives of others too.

It’s sad to believe that when we commit sin, we are only risking ourselves in the process. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people around us are also exposed to the risks and consequences of our sins. Sometimes, we may not even realize it but we also end up causing others to sin in the process. I saw an analogy in the way I handled the mushroom. Instead of identifying first if it was poisonous or not and doing the necessary precautions, I allowed the mushroom to sit on my desk and I even showed it around, risking the lives of some of my colleagues.

Similarly, I’ve seen and experienced the consequences of my own sins and the sins of others and I cannot emphasize enough how heartbreaking it is to go through those moments. As I was pondering on this earlier today, I remember telling God, “I hate sin! I hate sin and its consequences!!” But, at the same time, I also remembered the moments in my life when I liked it; when I intentionally lingered in sin and enjoyed the temporary pleasures it brought me — even though I knew that it was breaking God’s heart too.

There is an intense need to break away from this, to have a distaste for sin, and to allow our desire for God and His Word to grow in our hearts. This will not be done by our own willpower, but by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says, “…Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Before going home yesterday, I remember panicking in my heart because I started to think that although I washed my hands, some of the toxins might still be on it. I regretted my decision of harvesting it and questioned why God allowed poisonous mushrooms to grow on earth in the first place! God then humbled me with the ff. truths:

 

HE IS OUR SOVEREIGN GOD

The same indescribable God who made the galaxies, our complex human bodies, and the wonders on this earth is the same God who allowed these types of poisonous mushrooms to exist. I can question and complain all I want, but, I will never fully know and understand how and why God created the things that He did. It says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.” Instead of grumbling about the hassles of the evil in this world and the temptations of sin, I am reminded to seek Him and His wisdom, knowing that He is sovereign over everything.

 

HE IS OUR SECURITY

Many years ago, God showed me that my sinful self needed to be saved from eternal separation from Him. God, in His great love and mercy, made a way through His Son, Jesus, who died on the cross to pay for our sins and rose again to show us that the victory is already His. I repented and accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior and my eternity in Heaven was secured since then (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If ever I was indeed poisoned and was going to die in the next few days, I knew I was going to Heaven because of His grace. If we can trust Him with the biggest problem of our life, sin, then we can surely trust that He is able to work in and through us and our decisions, even if these include regrets, mistakes, and weaknesses. Even if we touch poisonous mushrooms or linger in sin again.

By God’s grace, I pray that when He does work in us, we will choose to immediately throw the poison away, seek Him and His Word, and let Him speak life and truth into our hearts instead.

I touched a poisonous mushroom. I hope you won’t do the same thing too. :O

Thursday Tune #38: Natutulog Ba Ang Diyos by Gary V

Two of the many things that I thank the Lord for today are my Bible study group with colleagues and the huge trees that protected me from getting wet. I was on my way back from the park to the basement parking when it started to rain. I didn’t have an umbrella with me and the nearest shaded area was quite far from where I was. So, I quickly walked towards the closest tree and stayed under it until the rain softened.

It was just me and a huge snail in that small area under the tree. I couldn’t help but thank the Lord for His provision even for that moment. Who knew that leaves and branches could give you such a relief! But, the main reason why I loved that moment so much was because our Bible study group just studied Psalm 121 tonight. In this chapter, we were encouraged by God and reminded of how He: 1) is our Creator who is greater than our problems, and 2) continues to watch over us.

My colleagues and I enjoyed our time sharing both our highlights and hurdles for the past week. We also learned new trivia on the stars, the sun, moon, earth, and galaxies, as we studied Psalm 121. I remember looking at the faces of my colleagues as we pondered on how amazing and indescribable God is. Even though we are just a speck here on earth, He chooses to love and pursue us still. One of my colleagues even shared: “Oh wow! If this is how great our God and Creator is, then this problem that I’m facing right now is very tiny! Why should I worry and stress about this knowing that He sees and knows everything; that I can trust in Him?”

Another colleague mentioned that through Psalm 121 and Isaiah 40:28-31 (another passage we read), she learned that we can never comprehend or fathom how God thinks or works. And this humbled her deeply. To which my other colleague responded, “It’s good that God IS our God, right? And not someone else.”

I still can’t believe that I get to spend one night a week with my colleagues outside the office where we get to learn who God is and who we are in Him. This is really by the grace of God and I can’t express the joy in my heart for rainy nights like this. For the past two months, we finished our “True Identity” series (as seen in the photo collage above). If it’s the Lord’s will, I’ll be facilitating a new Bible study series with them again starting next week. Please do continue to pray for us as we dig deep in His word and seek Him.

For this Thursday’s tune, I decided to share a Tagalog song sung by Gary V. It’s one of the songs that reminds me of Psalm 121.

Thank You, Lord, that we can find rest in You knowing that You created us, You care for us, and You will continue to watch over us forevermore.

Will This Bring Me Closer To You?

I always tell my siblings how much our pomeranian, Copper, likes me. Whenever I get the chance to bond with him, he stays beside me and licks me continuously! Also, 99% of the time, he comes to me when I ask him to. But, my all-time favorite moment with him happens during our walks at the park. Whenever he’s more than a meter away, he would look back at me, see me squat on the ground, run towards me, and pounce his tiny bear-like body on my legs. Afterwards, he would sit under me like a baby penguin sits under its parent.

Most of the time, his clinginess is adorable. But, there are moments when I just want him to stay still or stay at a distance from me. For example, yesterday, I brought him to the groomers so he could have his overdue haircut. Instead of sitting on the passenger’s seat, he jumped to me and attempted to sit on my lap for the whole ride. I knew I could get in trouble for this because it was a distraction while I was driving. So, I did my best to softly push him to sit still on the chair beside me.

After his grooming, I picked him up and drove back home. Again, he wouldn’t stop going near me. So, I thought of a compromise. I allowed him to sit on my left leg as I leaned it on the driver’s door. This made him feel at ease and I was still able to turn the wheel without him blocking me. However, in the future, I would need a better plan.

Nonetheless, I do enjoy hanging out with Copper. Even if there are other spaces on my bed, whenever he’s on it, he positions his body beside mine. Whenever I lay down on the floor, he would go out of his “cave” (a.k.a. the space below my bed) and sit beside me. It warms my heart to know that he trusts me and chooses to be close to me.

This scenario reminded me of how the Lord is pleased when I choose to draw near to Him too. It says in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Also, contrary to how I sometimes feel towards Copper’s clinginess, the Lord will never push us away when we seek Him. In fact, James 4:8 shows us that God will draw near to us when we draw near to Him.

In a way, this was a timely reminder for me because I have been dealing with a lot of major decisions lately. But by God’s grace, He has been helping me process my concerns with His Word, godly counsel, and prayer. Also, as I was pouring my heart out on my journal last night, I found myself writing these down:

“When faced with a difficult decision, Nicole, ask yourself this question: ‘Will this decision bring me closer to Jesus or farther away from Him?’”

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Because your love is BETTER than life, my lips will glorify you.” -Psalm 63:1,3

Can I honestly say these verses from my heart?

Do I enjoy God’s presence in my life?

Does my heart yearn for him, thirst for Him, run to him, trust him, and abide in Him and His word in every season of my life?

Do I like what God likes? Do I hate what He hates?

Do I pursue what He wants me to prioritize now?

Do I seek and love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?

Or do I give him my leftover minutes in a day? And linger in my doubt, laziness, distractions, pride, worry, and desire for treasures that will fade away?

If I think about choosing a decision, no matter how big or small, that will take me or others farther away from the Lord, I would immediately need to have my heart and motives checked and renewed by Him. Because it just wouldn’t make sense. WHAT OR WHO COULD BE BETTER THAN JESUS?

NOTHING! NO ONE!

Copper chooses to be as close to me as possible all the time. If my dog can do that to me, how much more should I have the desire and will to draw closer to Jesus? It boils down to making a choice… and choosing Him every single time will only be by His grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit in me.