Pleasant Again

She fled home with her family to escape a severe famine in the land. She became widowed as she lived among a strange people. She watched her sons die, leaving behind their widows, without a child to call their own. She was named Pleasantness – in her Hebrew tongue, the name was Naomi. After all that she had seen, who could have had the heart to contended with her when she cried, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara [Bitterness], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me”..?

Look at life through Naomi’s eyes for a minute. What do you see..? Do you see any sign of hope..? Till where the eye could see, even till the horizon.. I could see nothing that could possibly have given Naomi an incentive to take another step forward. There could have been times in that phase of her life when living seemed a pointless exercise. But even when life seemed vain, Naomi was in truth fulfilling an extraordinary purpose….

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬

Naomi though was oblivious to that extraordinary purpose. Could she have ever known that her widowed daughter-in-law – Ruth the Moabite – whom she was leading toward Judah, was a chosen vessel in the eyes of the Lord..? The woman whom God found worthy of honour above every woman in Judah in her time..? Through whom, over a millennium later, at the time appointed, the Messiah whom the people of Israel awaited, would be born..?

Or could Naomi have known that the restoration and the future that she so dearly did seek was never far from her..? When Naomi returned to Bethlehem from her tragic sojourn in Moab, she lamented, ‘I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty’. She must have considered Ruth’s presence in her life insignificant [though Naomi’s love for her could never be questioned] in light of all that she had lost. But we do know – through the Book of Ruth – how the script turned out, don’t we..? God didn’t bring Ruth to Bethlehem to remain a destitute. He exalted her in stature. And Ruth – who was once considered insignificant by Naomi – cared for her mother-in-law with such a love, that the Bible notes that she was ‘more to her than seven sons’.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

Though all these events were soon to take place, from where Naomi stood, the future was masked by the veil of time. Yet.. in the face of utter devastation and amidst the hopelessness, what did Naomi do..? In the simplest of terms, she did two things: kept living and kept loving….

Kept living..? Is that even worth mentioning..? Perhaps not for some of us. But for some, that may be a be a real challenge that we wake up with each day. The adversities may pull us down from time to time, but the worst is the ever present burden of a vacuum in our hearts where there should have been hope. To those of you I would say, JUST KEEP LIVING. The Lord who turned the bitter waters in the life of Naomi, pleasant again, and brought her out of the pit of hopelessness, can do the same with you.

And Naomi did keep the love burning bright, even in the darkest of times. There lies a challenge that is before each of us who are walking the hard road. How often do we allow the bitterness of our situations seep into our being, that we allow it to tarnish our relationships with the people around us. But Naomi could still empathize. She remained full of love and compassion. In her widowed daughter-in-laws, she saw two women who could still have a future, living far from her than with her, and she pleaded with them to leave. Imagine this.. Naomi was willing to face life all alone as an aged woman, if only her daughter in-laws could have a better future….

Our lives can at times seem to be taking us on an endless downward spiral.. sinking from one level of bitterness to the next. The search for a reason to live could seem as futile as can be, but from the life of Naomi, we can see that there is a world beyond the horizon. Our hope can come from places that we yet cannot see….

Until then, we need to ask ourselves, even as life seems like an aimless walk in a maze.. what beautiful plans are we unknowingly living out..? Who/what are the Ruth’s that God our Father has placed in our lives that we are oblivious to..? I pray to Him, that through quiet whispers He will remind you at your time of need: ‘Keep living. Keep loving.’ Trust Him – the God who makes bitter waters, pleasant again….

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

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Do you see the Church as an abode of the righteous.. or as the refuge of sinners..?

Seeking A Pure Heart

Are you facing a battle with sin..? One where you constantly face failure after failure as you wish to overcome the sin..? Are the failures hurting you.. deep down, to the very bottom of your soul..? Convicted in that soul.. you may feel a heaviness that you’d be quick to acknowledge as a nudge from your conscience. The desire may exist, to leave behind this pattern of ‘sin and repent’. Yet, you may find yourselves unable. Some of us may even feel like we have become numb to sin.. that we can’t even believe that own heart is capable of repentance.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

But trust me when I tell you, no matter how far you feel you’ve gone.. you are still capable. No matter what you’ve done or for how long you’ve done what you’ve done, your heart is not destined to stay hardened forever.. it can still return to days when it was tender.. when repentance came naturally. Despite all your failures, you can still taste victory over sin. How would I know all this, when I don’t even know you, you may ask..? Oh, I do know. I may not know you, but I do know because this battle is not about you, but the One who died for you.. who arose from the dead and is with you, even today. I do know, because I know Him.. He who is faithful, even when we are not….

Why strive against what is too powerful for you and prolong this path of pain..? How can man defeat his own nature..? Jesus didn’t die on the cross, facing all the pain in the world, to see you wrestle in futility, the burden of sin.. the consequence of our fallen nature. As He died shedding every ounce of blood that flowed through His veins, sin lost the battle over your soul, forever. No longer does your sin have the voice to utter words of condemnation against you, if you will believe. Live life in that freedom. That is the Good News for which God strived in the form of man, so that man need not strive. That is the Good News that I as a Christian am commanded to share. Believe. Live free….

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1

Now you may wonder.. what about sin from this point on..? How does knowledge of the redemptive power of the cross, work in our life..? If sin no longer condemns us, do we then have freedom to indulge freely in sin..? If not, what really is the point of it all..?

Firstly, I’ll state this – the claim I made, that ‘sin no longer condemns’, I whole heartedly believe, is true with no variation. So then, should we keep on sinning, now that through Jesus we are no longer weighed down when we do..? Logically, that can be a mind set that flows from the knowledge of the freedom we have in Christ. While the other mind set can be one of gratitude to the One who gave you that freedom, to live a life that pleases Him. Before I go on though, I will pose this question: If you suffered so much at the hands of sin, why would you want to return into it’s hands..? This is a question I wish I had asked myself, early on in my post-salvation life….

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9‬

So.. how does freedom in Christ Jesus work..? Do we go on to live without a trace of sin..? Or do we just go on sinning with no fear of the consequence..? I’ll share with you the kind of mindset I entered as I embraced the Good News….

I received salvation as I read through Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. That was a time when I read the Bible only because I believed it to be a healthy habit. Not to hear the voice of God.. who’s love for me I hadn’t yet tasted. I struggled alone with my secret sin.. one I just couldn’t share with another soul. I knew that God is forgiving in nature. I knew when I did sin, His forgiveness was a prayer away, if I repented. And I did repent. I never liked the man that I was for my dark indulgence. But, even as I saw God as forgiving, I would still fear.. what if I die before I have a chance to repent..? I knew that God could see the umpteen times I kept going back to sin after repentance. What if God decides to punish me by taking my life right in the moment when I’m yet to repent of a terrible sin..? What if I’m destined to the fire of hell..? And it was to this anxious soul that the Book of Romans spoke comfort to.. that no matter when I die, or what I do from this time till then, my salvation is secure.. that my salvation is not dependant on me living a good life nor on my pious prayers, but is dependant of my unchanging Lord who offered that hard earned prize of eternity with Him, for free.

There has never been such a moment since in my life, when I felt such happiness and joy bubble from within. I smiled. I laughed. I cried, as tears over flowed. I could not have contained such emotion even if I had been in public with the eyes of the whole world on me. What if they thought I was a mad man..? I couldn’t care less. God loves humanity so much. God loves me so much. What more do I ever need..?

You’d think I’d have been quick to choose the way of God. You’d have thought I’d have no taste for sin from then. But that wasn’t the way things turned out. I flirted with sin once again. The flirting turned into a deep affair, that in my mind, I legitimized though my knowledge of God’s grace. Now when I look back, I know that what I did then was abuse the freedom that I received. I abused God’s grace….

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17

Can such knowledge lead to anything else..? Wouldn’t man who is already broken, be lead to more sin with such a freedom granted to him..? Is any other way even possible..? That’s where the Good News finds it’s completion. You see, the Truth that sets us free is not just a statement or a verse, but the Truth is Christ Jesus. The Truth isn’t just life giving, but the Truth is living. Along with the freedom that comes with salvation comes the promise of God, that He Who Lives will live with you, forever. The Holy God will indwell sinful man; who He has atoned for with His blood. The Helper – the Holy Spirit – will actively work to transform our hearts to be able to handle that freedom that comes with His grace. And when all your thoughts fail you as you wonder how man can handle such freedom, He shows us that what is impossible with man is possible with God.

God’s love for us didn’t end at the cross. He still extends His love into our lives by transforming our hearts and minds each day as He draws us closer and closer to Him. And that is a love that I have tasted.. a love that I can testify to.. a love that patiently guided me.. me who abused the very grace that saved me, to teach me how to rejoice in the liberating Truth that I found in Him.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

1 John 2:1

Today, I am still far from being a perfect man. At times, I still sin the same sins, which in extension are against the Law of Love. But no longer do I justify my sinful thoughts or actions using the grace of God.. no longer do I embrace sin. When I am tempted, I lean on Him for strength to overcome. If through a moment of weakness I fall, I am reminded that in Christ Jesus my Lord, my sins no longer have the power to condemn me. I may live in brokenness still.. as long as I live in this body of flesh, but in the eyes of my Lord I know that even in my brokenness I am precious. I live life in the unshakeable hope that one day, all that is broken in me will be made whole. Now, I truly live free….

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