What a week it has been…

And what a study, if you’ve been doing Judges with us on Good Morning Girls!

I love how timely God always is in that, in church the Sunday that we are closing Judges, the message was from Zechariah 8, and the sermon was titled “Reasons for Hope in Times of Trouble”. Oh how troubling the times we live in can be; how troubling the times where the Jews of Zechariah’s time was too.

Zechariah writes about God’s promises to a people who were living in punishment (this is generations after Judges; generations who have rejected Him over and over until there is no other way but for them to be living under judgment for their rejection of Him). God promises to be jealous for His people (v1-17), to return to Zion (v3), to bring peace (v4-5), that He is able to do as He promised (v6), to save His people (v7-8), to make them a blessing (v9-13), and to do good for them (v14-17).

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This verse – repeated a few times throughout the book – rebuked me for being resentful and reluctant to persevere in this study. The subject matter of Judges is hard enough to dig into on one’s own; but I’ve felt discouraged, like I’m talking to myself in this study… this verse reminded me that I am ultimately accountable only to God, and I am the one who will miss out on His revelation through His Word, by doing what is right/convenient in my own eyes.

I am sorry for having skipped days and being tardy in posting. As Paul wrote, may I run the race with perseverance, and fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.

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It seems aptly ironic that chapter 17 today is about men – a Levite, particularly; a man who is meant to be set apart as a servant of God – who use and abuse a woman.

Judges is a harsher book than Joshua, as I am learning. Some days it’s so harsh that I don’t want to reflect on it (i.e., SOAK it in). Compared with the dark news of this week (the Philippine Supreme Court’s ruling to allow a dictator/thief/murderer a hero’s burial; Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections), it was darker times that the Israelites lived in during Judges – and it was because each man did what was right in his own eyes. Oh how the world is becoming more and more like that, as we see with the choices that people around the world make with their vote.

It’s with sad relief that I look at the end of this book, and yet with its end I see hope. Because after Judges come better days and better leaders (for a time). And so there is hope for our present and future too. Our God is sovereign, even when we do not understand why He allows the distasteful and horrible to happen.

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Also seems apt to look at these verses not only in application to Israel at that time, but to current world events too:

2 Chronicles 7:13-14 NIV

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Daddy’s girl

Joshua 15:19 NIV[19] She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

If your father, even in his old age, was known as the man who conquered the land of giants,  I bet it would have been hard finding a match worthy of his esteem. Brave, wise Caleb knew that, so he hatched a plan to find his daughter Aksah a husband who was as cunning and courageous as he.

Can I tell you something? My dad chose my prom date. And that did not go well. Although maybe that was according to his plan; it put me off high school boys. Ah the cleverness of fathers.

Well. It turned out that Aksah was as headstrong and bold as her father (can you imagine how Caleb’s wife must have laughed at him when Aksah came charging on her donkey to demand of her father, “give me springs of water”?). She must have seen, as she was growing up, what fearlessness can get you. She saw it first-hand from her dad.

You may not have a dad like Caleb, but we all have a Heavenly Father whose example we can look to. To be honest, it’s a challenge I have to remind myself of: I carry my Father’s name; how will the world see Him though me? 

Until it happens to you

He was an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), as was his wife, while their children were growing up, and yet they managed to raise three of the kindest, most beautiful and hardworking people I know. When he was done being an OFW, he found work in Manila as a liaison officer, facilitating between taxi drivers and their management, as well as with government agencies. That’s what he was doing at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) when he was shot dead by two assassins on a motorcycle

There are no official statements about an investigation into his murder. Personally I blame President Duterte and his lawless, inhumane war on drugs. No connection? Think about it. Because it is presidentially sanctioned to kill drug addicts and drug pushers, many have been wrongfully identified and killed. Many have been collateral damage. You can kill someone and say, “Oops, sorry, I thought I saw his name/picture on the list of druggies”, and you’d get off scot-free. And you justify the killing even more by saying, “But look at how much safer we are, how much cleaner our country is now.”

And you’d tell me, because I personally blame the president you voted for, “Well what do you know, you don’t live here anymore. You haven’t come home in years.”

But I have family there. And he was my sister-in-law’s father. And if that could happen to him who’s brave and street-smart and kind, who worked a proper job, and just buried his wife early this year after her struggle with Alzheimer’s, and cradled my baby nephew in his arms a couple of months ago… If that could happen to him, it could happen to anyone else I love who is still living in what suddenly seems like a God-forsaken city. It could happen to someone you love. Or it could happen to you.

I don’t mean to blame God. I know that His heart is breaking over this, too. But I have a question about, or maybe take issue with, obeying Romans 13:1-7 with regards to the President of the Philippines.

I confess that I did not take this Scripture seriously when, as a fool-hardy university student, I wrote against the high school dropout who was plundering our country. I was self-righteously angry, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer gave me a platform, and – to his credit – Estrada was not an inhumane man. I joined my generation when we walked out of our classes to march towards the Edsa shrine, just as my parents marched with their generation in 1986.

Who will march now? Who will join arms (kapit-bisig) and stand up to the potty-mouthed bully in Malacañang?

I called him Tito (uncle) Eddie. What happened to him could happen to anyone. Because the President of the Philippines made it open season for anything.

Tama na. Sobra na. Palitan na.

On leaders and sovereignty

They say it’s lonely at the top. And with the battles that Joshua had to fight – including, as we saw this week with Achan, within his own people – having to carry out God’s judgment, it would be easy to think that Joshua must have been a lonely leader.

It’s early days, being as we’re only 10 chapters in, but I honestly don’t think he would have been as lonely and perhaps isolated as Moses was (remember when Moses’ father-in-law counselled him to appoint assistants because he was spreading himself out too thin?). Joshua was a good apprentice; he learned well, and he learned to trust God in everything – even in what seemed like ridiculous orders (“March around the city… seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets”, for example, and “Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand”) and hard orders (“…totally destroyed…just as the Lord had commanded”). He did make mistakes – he was cocky and forgot to consult the Lord when he made a treaty with the Gibeonites – but he humbled himself, and was obedient. And he publicly testified about God’s power and faithfulness, and led his people in the reading of God’s Law.

Obviously I’m crushing on Joshua. But that’s not the real reason I’m recounting his character as a leader. Juxtapose Joshua with some of the world’s leaders today – the pompous and racist wannabe-President, the crass and murderous actual President, the world bully who refuses to respect borders – and my heart just breaks for the broken world we live in. “Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel” – I can only trust this for His people, that where there are leaders who are the opposite of Joshua, God is sovereign, and He says to us, too: “Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

On a much less serious note, here’s a world leader who won’t fill your heart with dread:

Photo courtesy Justin Trudeau/Twitter. And you must read this from The New Yorker 🙂

A soldier, a harlot, and a new generation

Why did God choose Joshua to succeed Moses?

(The short answer, of course, is that God works in mysterious ways)

We ended the first week of our study on the book of Joshua via Women Living Well with Joshua in the act of obedience to the commander of the Lord’s army (also known as the ‘captain of the hosts of the Lord’ in other Bible translations). We began the week at chapter 1, with the Lord Himself commanding Joshua: ‘Be strong and courageous.’

He was a soldier (ok, at this point, he was more likely Moses’ general). He had been a spy. He knew how to watch closely and observe. He knew to be strategic, when to be silent and listen. Most of all, he knew to follow orders, and not question his commander. After Moses died, he took his orders first hand from the Lord. At the end of chapter 5, he was face to face with the pre-incarnate Christ, the captain of the hosts of the Lord. He obeyed.

I am sure Joshua was as manly as they come, but he reminds me most of Lucy Pevensie, CS Lewis’ girl-heroine from The Chronicles of Narnia. She was the youngest one, and yet she was the one to whom Aslan appeared often. After their coronation as kings and queens of Narnia, she was called ‘Queen Lucy the Valiant’. It was to her that Aslan said: “Courage, dear heart”. Valiant is another word for courageous.

Lucy’s brother Edmund was known as a traitor before Aslan forgave and redeemed him; he became King Edmund the Just. He is the epitome of what Jesus said: “because [hermany sins have been forgiven, [s]he has loved much. (Luke 7:47)” And Rahab – former harlot turned matriarch of a great family (as her son Boaz became known for) and ancestor of Christ – reminds me of Edmund. To say that she had a tarnished reputation is putting it mildly; but she put her faith in the one, true God, and how He redeemed her!

And then there is the strange bit about circumcising the entire Israelite army after they crossed the Jordan and just before they besiege Jericho. Yes, this is to mark them as set apart for God – we know that. Why this could not have happened earlier is why this is strange, and at the same time why it is so beautiful. God wanted them to be vulnerable, to know that they could completely trust Him to keep them safe, to bring them through – and finally – to the Promised Land. And for this new generation (remember when Moses prayed, so frustrated because of his stiff-necked people, for God to just wipe them off the face of the earth and create a new people?), to be vulnerable in a strange, hostile land, they would have known this to heart:

I’m abandoned to the Captain
Of the mighty hosts of Heaven
And I pledge Him my allegiance
Till the earth beholds His kingdom

Where is the love?

I planned to write this last night, but laziness got the best of me. Or maybe not. Suddenly it’s more poignant to ask, in light of the news of yet another bombing that we woke up to this morning – this one much closer to home. Where is the love?

My third week of Hymns on She Reads Truth began with a reminder of God’s Amazing Grace, and how Great is Thy Faithfulness. On Wednesday, I was chastised to examine what my heart has its sights set on (Be Thou My Vision). Ah but Thursday and Friday I rejoiced in What Wondrous Love is This; a “love so amazing, so divine [that] demands my soul, my life, my all” (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross).

Where is the love? When I got home on Friday, my social media feed was on fire with the re-release of The Black Eyed Peas’ #whereisthelove. The world asks.

God is love. And yet the world keeps turning away from this Love, keeps denying this Love. But it’s not just the world. We who carry Love’s name, I am ashamed to say, often fail to demonstrate to the world the wondrous love and amazing grace we have been given. Sometimes, we’re even more un-gracious and unloving. Where is the love? I am humbled and called by a wondrous, amazing Love to be His hands and feet to a world that is broken right now, even as I struggle with letting Him mend my brokenness. And so I pray that I – we – can love with His Love.

This week on… Hymns

This week, as I soaked in the second round of Hymns on She Reads Truth I was reminded that Jesus put the song in my heart.

Jesus Put The Song in My Heart is a song from the fourth album of Psalty the Singing SongbookKids Praise 4: Singsational Servants. It was sung by Charity Churchmouse, after she was rescued from the evil clutches of Mousetrap Records.

Were you a Kids Praise kid? I so was. My first exposure to my home church’s children’s choir was because they needed a well-behaved toddler-aged girl to sit on a sled throughout a song in a Christmas cantata, but I became a full-fledged chorister in a Kids Praise musical. A lot of the Scripture that remains in my memory is because of Kids Praise songs. Until my teen years, I was obsessed with Psalty’s albums; they supplied my repertoire that last afternoon I sang to my grandmother as she lay comatose in her hospital bed. She would be gone the next day. I was 12.

I was so blessed to pay forward that joy of singing praises that a Kids Praise kid gets not once, but twice when I was in youth group – to a summer theatre workshop and then to my home church when we revived the defunct children’s choir.

Then becoming an adult in a foreign land happened, and I forgot how it was to be a Kids Praise Kid. Sad to say, even when I was teaching a junior children’s choir for a season. But as I prayed Be Thou My Vision, rejoiced because His Eye is on the Sparrow, learned about Thy Mercy, My God, was reminded about O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus, and called to have O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing (especially this one! – because how can I not sing about how God has warmed my heart?) throughout the week, I remembered to sing. Sing like a child. Sing from the heart. Sing, even a joyful noise. I haven’t got a thousand tongues, but I can sing a thousand songs – even at one song a day, but let’s be honest I do more than that during a karaoke party, so I can definitely do more! – to praise Him. As long as there is breath in me, for “let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6), I ought to sing.

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