Anchor

6927227-abandoned-shipwreck-hdThe sky is clear above me and I can feel the gentle rush of the wind. I am a ship afloat the middle of the sea… but I’m not moving.

I watch as the other ships pass before me, envious of their mobility. “What are you doing there staring?” One asks. “Join us,” says another. If only they know that I cannot move, if only I can tell them… but I can’t.

“But you can tell me,” says a voice from deep under the sea. “Tell me anything, and I will understand. Why can’t you move?”

But I don’t give answers to voices I can’t trust. I only answer to one voice. But he’s been silent for days.

“Maybe he got tired of listening,” says the voice from the sea. “But I’m here now. See, I can her your thoughts just like him. You can tell me anything that bothers you.”

“Better listen to him,” a passing ship coaxes. “He can help you. He gave us the way to the treasure island. That’s where we’re all sailing to.”

Treasure island?

“Indeed,” the voice from the sea responds. “Where all the riches of this world can be found. A place that holds the deepest desires of your heart. Tell me why you can’t move, and I’ll reveal to you the way to get there. Just like I did with the others.”

I silently plead for the first voice, the one I have always listened to, to speak and tell me what to do…but there’s no answer.

“It’s my anchor,” I reply, giving in. “It’s too heavy. It was embedded too deeply down the bed.”

“I see,” answers the voice from the sea. “And have you asked the other voice to lift the anchor?”

“I have, many times.”

“And what did he say?”

“He told me to wait until it’s safe.”

“Safe from what?”

“I don’t know, I’m not sure… I just listen to him.”

A long silence follows my response.

“Still there?” I ask.

After a moment, he replies. “If I tell you that I can lift your anchor and set you free, will you let me?”

The first voice is gone. I have to move on from here. “Please. I’ve waited long enough.”

Suddenly I feel a tugging from below, and then… freedom. I can move again with the wind. I feel myself shiver, as if I’m doing and feeling everything for the first time again. I’m free.

“Thank you,” I tell the voice from the sea.

“My pleasure,” he replies. “The treasure island is straight ahead. Just follow the ones that have sailed before you. When you see the red mountain then you’re near your destination. I’ll meet you there.”

And so I sail forward, slowly at first, testing the waters. As I gain confidence, I improve my speed  until I’m side by side with the ship that advised me to listen to the voice from the sea.

“You made it,” he says.

“I did,” I reply.

I can already see the red mountain from where I am and I focus my all my strength in getting there. I hear the other ships talking to me, but I don’t listen.

Until I hear his voice. The first voice.

“Why are you in a hurry?” He asks. His voice comes from the wind, it’s all around me. It’s impossible not to stop and listen.

“I have to get to the treasure island.”

“And what’s in the treasure island?”

“Riches… the deepest desires of my heart.”

“Who told you that?”

“The voice from the sea. The one who lifted my anchor and set me free,” I boldly reply. The one who helped me when you left.

“I didn’t leave you.”

Just as I’m about to reply, I hear a cry. “Get back!” It says. “It’s a trap!”

“Trap?”

“What do you mean?”

“Where did you come from?”

“What happened to you?”

The ships ask at once.

“There’s no treasure island,” says the ship that cries. “Only shipwreck awaits if you keep searching for it. Get back before it’s too late.”

“Don’t listen to her,” commands the voice from the sea. “She could not find the island that’s why she’s dragging you to fail with her. Keep going.”

“She’s telling the truth,” comes the quiet voice from the wind. “The treasure your heart is seeking is not there.”

It’s a choice between the one who kept me anchored for so long and the one who freed me, and I choose the latter. Ignoring the crying ship, I sail faster, and faster, and faster, never looking back…

Until I’m caught inside a whirlpool.

Down and down and down, I go.

As I circle deeper into the heart of the sea, I catch a glimpse of my anchor sinking beside me.

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A pleasing aroma

Chapters Read: Leviticus 1:1 – 7:38

“The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.”  ~ Leviticus 6:13

Leviticus is not a book that is easy to read. It starts with the Lord’s detailed and specific instructions to Moses as to how the burnt, grain, sin, guilt, ordination, and fellowship offerings of the Israelites must be presented to the altar. I admit that I was guilty of just passing through some of the verses without understanding, thinking that those instructions are not applicable to me. I actually silently thanked God that He no longer requires such practices when it comes to our offerings.

But then I realized my mistake. Leviticus wasn’t written just for the sake of recording historical practices, rather, it’s a reminder of how the Lord takes our offerings seriously. That it is not a matter that should be taken lightly.

How are we offering our time, body, gifts, talents, and resources to God? Is it in a way and a measure that is pleasing to Him? If our lives are burnt offerings presented at the altar, will it bring about an aroma that is delightful to the Lord? Or are we just giving our offerings in a manner that is comfortable and convenient to us?

We need to remember why we are giving an offering, and more importantly, to whom we are offering it to. He is the LORD. He deserves more than just what is convenient. He deserves the best.

In Leviticus 6:12 and 13, the Lord instructed that the fire on the altar must be kept burning. For me this is because offering should be a lifestyle–a 24/7 commitment unto the Lord. This is the kind of sacrifice that the Lord is requiring from us. A life surrendered in worship.

On being a stiff-necked people

Chapters Read: Exodus 16:1 – 40:38

“The LORD, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet he does not lead the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” ~ Exodus 34:6-7

“Lord,” he said, “if I [Moses] have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.” ~ Exodus 34:9

Perhaps we’re shaking our heads as we read these passages about the stubbornness and foolishness of the Israelites in the book of Exodus, and find ourselves asking how could they have done such an abominable thing—making for themselves a man-made idol to worship—against the God who rescued and delivered them from slavery? Was Moses away too long, or was their faith too shallow?

One thing I realized is that we are not too different from the Israelites— we are constantly seeking for something or someone to worship. I think this is because the Lord created us to be worshippers. However, because of our stubborn and fallen nature, we tend to create our own gods to worship, forgetting the Lord’s original design.

I had an accident a week ago, and until now I’m still recuperating from the resulting neck injury. My neck has been literally stiff. I can’t look sideways, I can’t lift my head, I can’t nod to answer a simple yes or no question. I’m sharing this because this experience made me see the condition of Israelites’ hearts differently. Instead of reading the passage with critical eyes and judging them for their disobedience, I just had this thinking that maybe they weren’t being stiff-necked by choice. Maybe it’s an injury in the heart and will that they were yet to recover from.

Let’s not even go as far back as Exodus and just look at our attitude towards other people today. When we see or hear them doing something that we know is not pleasing in God’s eyes, do we judge them right away? Or let’s just look within ourselves. Are we judging ourselves too much that we feel we’re no longer deserving of God’s love?

Yes, the Lord was furious with the Israelites for being a stiff-necked people, but as Moses appealed to the Lord for forgiveness on their behalf, the Lord listened and withheld the punishment that was meant for them.

Everyone is a “work in progress.” More than an object of judgement, our sins and failures are opportunities for God’s hand of grace to move and heal us. This, though, is not an excuse to be complacent in our obedience.