After God’s Own Heart

This has been on my mind for a long time: David’s psalm post-adultery with Bathsheba. This is what he wrote in Psalm 51:

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.

I get it when people say that they think ‘sin’ is a bit overplayed. Really? So sometimes I get angry at people when I shouldn’t. It’s bad, but do you have to go on about how serious it is and how Jesus had to die? We all get angry, we get over it, and whoever we were angry at gets over it. Or, you make a bad call, sleep with someone’s wife because they’re hot. Kill the man – because you can. (This is King David.) This is more serious, because you harmed another person. So depose the guy and give him a life sentence.

But what if Bathsheba ganged up with David, and divorced Uriah due to “irreconcilable differences” because he just wasn’t making her happy anymore? I think our society would say ,”Fair enough,” and “Get over her, Uriah, there are other women out there.” “David and Bathsheba, that was pretty low, but whatever, you have personal liberty.”

See, maybe I’ve gone on too long to make my point well, but what I’m trying to say is, sin doesn’t make sense as long as we measure the badness of ‘sin’ in our heads. “Against you, you only, have I sinned.” David knew that what he had done was bad for Bathsheba. Worse for Uriah. Pretty down and dirty. But that wasn’t the point. Even if they forgave him, it still remains that he did a terrible thing. Why? If they didn’t care, what does it matter?

God gave specific commandments not to covet your neighbour’s property. To love Him before all else – not to be mastered by anything else. And so David’s heart cries out. The world can forgive him, forget his stain, and just remember him for his young heroic victory over Goliath, but his sin will ever be before him and God. Against God, God only, did he sin. Sin by definition must recognise that the only one wronged is God; it is something we owe to God and no one else.

And such a screw-up, such a debt – who can deal with this mess but God himself?

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

And so the Spirit regenerates us, because Christ paid that amount we owe God. David did not only understand his poverty, but he understood that all he could do was helplessly allow himself to be helped by God. “Create in me,” “renew … within me,” “cast me not,” “take not,” “restore to me,” “uphold me.” God is the great initiator. God only has the agency to do anything. I have a thought about being young and being female: what a strategic learning position! You are often accepting things you don’t necessarily deserve, whether it be money from parents, or guys letting you stand first in line. It seems simple, but hey, I can see a middle-aged providing father not wanting to accept anything he didn’t earn himself – bread he did not win. Women, children, the infirm … we all have this great strategic role for understanding the blessedness of receiving. King David was patriarch of a country! He should have bossed it out and sought to have agency over solving his own problems, if we are to stereotype his manhood. That’s enough dominating masculinity to upset any feminist. But he had a humble heart that broke before God.

Instead, his heart cried: I can do nothing, Holy God. Clean me.

Taking Steps

First, I must say that it’s oddly difficult for me to blog this summer. I have not written anything really, and there may not be much else, I don’t know. I think it’s because I still have to write a certain update letter. This task is lodged in between me and the freedom to write other things. I have actually finished writing it, but have not had it read by someone else yet, so it’s not quite sent and done. Also, I wrote a whole lot of stuff while I was away from my computer and want to post it, but the moment of me really ‘feeling’ what I was writing is past. So all that stuff that was once so golden to me processing is now… also lodged. To blog or not to blog? In any case, the final reason is probably that I’m struggling with my self-will. I can tell. Some sort of (temporary?) impasse is in my heart. At such times it is very difficult to write persuasively or with any sort of dedication because you are fluttering between stances (立場). I could try and write about other things, but that would evade the point of this blog, which is to process spiritually and intellectually. If not for what’s happening in the heart as you read and write words, they are empty. Mere squiggles. The most beautiful poetry is but cardboard to me if it does not move me inside. (Ahh I see that I have come to claim my stance on literature alongside the likes of Sir Philip Sidney? Roethke?)

Anyways, the following is something I found back around March when I was thinking about life direction.

From Stepcase Lifehack (http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/how-to-create-self-help-momentum.html)

How to Create Self Help Momentum

a.k.a. practical steps in non-spiritual lingo for the person in relation to following Christ / finding your calling

For some reason this completely unspiritual guide to ‘self-help’ actually provides some key insight to spiritual growth in faith. This is when you’ve reached the place where God has revealed all he really has to reveal and it’s up to us to take a step of faith, trusting and relying on the Holy Spirit. This is not the guide to follow step by step, but parts of it are put so succintly and in such different language from normal Christian reference literature that it serves to jolt thinking a bit. If you’re serious about reading this I’d recommend skimming the original from the link above – just the 5 points – in addition to reading my ‘Christianese’ rendition below.

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Take that first step and keep stepping.

Love = obedience. We don’t understand what it is to love God if we do not put energy into obeying him. Jesus was obedient to death. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.(John 15:9-15) Certain things have prerequisites; I feel that following God is one of those things that you don’t know is ‘a right fit’ until you have walked the path. Have you ever thought, after trusting God for something no matter how small:

“I wish I had done this years ago!”

“I don’t know what I was so afraid of.”

Consider the cost of not changing.

This was the one part I liked about this point:

“Change is rarely about the right time and [is] usually about the right attitude, choices and behaviours.

Sometimes picturing what we don’t want is enough to get us moving in the right direction.”

The Cost of Following Jesus (Luke 9)

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus [7] said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Gain some clarity and certainty.

Say “no” to a “repetitive existence of habit.” Say no to the law of sin.

Stop being so ‘busy’, and listen to the “still small voice.” [The Spirit, who gives us the mind of Christ]

When we find this clarity, “it scares the crap out of us.” Think of Peter walking on water, of Jesus saying “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” of Abram told to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” of Moses told to go to Pharoah, of the voice speaking “Samuel!” or of the Lord’s words to Jeremiah:

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7 But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

What do you want and not want for your life?

Get excited. Excitement creates momentum.

I have nothing to add to this point. Only again to highlight one bit:

“If you’re not excited about your goals, you may need different ones.”

Set deadlines.

Not some time in the future, as you approach Damascus and suddenly a light from heaven flashes around you, but the next five minutes. And this is the hardest hardest part. This part engenders the most feelings of failure.

But I’d say don’t worry about it. If God has a hold of you, he has a hold of you. In short time or long, he will reel you in, herd you back.

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What an eyesore of a blog post. I’d best publish it right now.

How to see ‘god’ as ‘God’

[Because I have numerous other essays I need to write, I shall blog instead. (Contradiction intended.) Being able to write continuously and develop an idea about something else may help writing in general? Right now I am stuck, stuck, stuck like a pig in the mud.]

Job. He is the “suffering” guy in the Bible. The one who was a good man, but on whom suffering was poured. He rescued the poor and made the widow’s heart sing; was eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and father to the needy; he took up the case of the stranger, and broke the fangs of the wicked, snatching victims from their teeth. (Job 29:11-17) Job was righteous in his own eyes. (32:1) A contemporary Job might be a leftist humanitarian volunteer doctor working in a third world country.

But Elihu, the youngest among Job and the three other friends who came to console and talk to him, becomes angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He hears Job say “I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt,” (33:9) “I am innocent, but God denies me justice,” (34:5) and replies: “But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than man.” (33:12) Ultimately, Job, in his ‘goodness’ and ‘righteousness’, had become too comfortable in it. He lost his perspective of the awesomeness that is God. He was proud when he needed humility. “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders.” (37:14)

Job in his mind had begun to belittle the surpassing goodness and righteousness of God, that is beyond his imagination. God asks: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” (40:8) If God had punishes the fully righteous, then God would not be righteous. In the same way, we ask why God allows suffering in the world – it may not be our own. Would we discredit his justice? Can we condemn God in order to justify people? On a side note, are we forgetting the existence of Satan, of evil?

This is Job’s reply. “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:3-6) Job in this penultimate chapter displays Biblical wisdom: the fear of the Lord. Although he had earlier stated it himself, having heard that “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding,” (28:28) he was full of himself (to use a colloquial wording) and not full of the Spirit (literally). He had forgotten the evil still in himself. “It is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.” (32:8)

In the end, it boils down, yet again, to God-is-Holy-and-we-are-sinful. We strive towards (hunger and thirst for) righteousness, but must realise that we cannot attain that quality in and of ourselves. We are to be filled (and this is where Jesus comes in). I wish I had a better way to end this patchwork of the book of Job, but I am growing tired.

[NOTE: add from beginning of Job]

Troubled and afraid?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

I was reading some Oswald Chambers, and he mentions this verse. It resonated with something I read when I was little – a novel called Julie of the Wolves. Julie’s father had said to her “Change your ways when fear seizes, for it usually means you are doing something wrong.” (p23)

There is some simple truth to that, but now I realise that is because it agrees with what Jesus teaches here in John. He gives us peace by leaving us the Holy Spirit; if we feel troubled and afraid, we are doing something wrong. Either we do not have the Spirit, or we are pushing it away and letting other things (the world) dominate our heart.

I just mention this because I was rather on the troubled and afraid turf, and find this motivating to start changing my heart.