Monday, March 26, 2018

The Hope of the Cross

“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.”

Think of it for a moment. Jesus—burdened with all the weaknesses of fallen humanity in His human nature—was in agony. His human desire shrank from the fate before Him—a cruel, torturous death at the hands of His enemies. As He knelt there in the garden, great drops of blood dripped from His forehead as He wrestled with God in prayer.

Yet, love prevailed. Love for you, love for me. As God the Father brought the picture of your face, and of my face, before Jesus, He could not say no.

And because He said yes to that great sacrifice on the cross, you and I have hope. Because of that sacrifice, every sin in our record is blotted out—under one condition! What is that condition? John 3:16 tells us the answer: We must “believe in Him.” Faith is the key that unlocks heaven’s storehouse. Everything is possible to him that believeth. And is it our own faith that we have to muster up to believe in Him? No; God has granted to each and every one of us a “measure of faith” (Romans 12:3), which will grow and strengthen as we exercise it. When Satan throws our past mistakes and failures in our face to discourage us, it is our privilege to throw Jesus’ sacrifice in Satan’s face, and remind Him that Jesus’ blood now covers us, and he (Satan) is a defeated foe.

But the miracle doesn’t stop here. If Christ had stayed in the grave, we would still have no hope. But Romans 6:4 tells us that Christ’s resurrection gives us power to walk in newness of life—to not only have a clear record covering our past, but also to maintain that clear record from now until Christ comes again. How is this possible? Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, living out Jesus’ perfect character in us. And again, this can happen only when we believe in His power and claim His promises in faith, believing that He loves us and will accomplish what He has promised. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” I John 5:4.

Will you have faith in Him today? Will you trust in His righteousness to cover you and empower you to walk in newness of life?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Christian's Wine

"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." 
Ephesians 5:18

In a sense, Paul is saying here that the Holy Spirit is the Christian's "wine". Wine has a reputation for making people happy in an unrestrained sort of way (Psalm 104:15). However, that happiness is "excessive" in the sense that, when one is drunk, it releases one's inhibitions and leads them to do all sorts of embarrassing, inappropriate things that they wouldn't normally do.

In the same way, Paul promises that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will fill us with happiness, such that we won't be able to restrain the impulse to sing and praise God in a way that wouldn't otherwise come naturally to us (Ephesians 5:19). However, in contrast with wine, the Holy Spirit will never lead us to engage in inappropriate, morally embarrassing behavior. The Holy Spirit will release our inhibitions in a good, holy way.

I love how God never asks us to give up something without providing something better in its place!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Saving Face

Saving face is very important in Asian cultures. But what does “saving face” really mean?

Each one of us has a “face”, or a mask that we like to wear—a “face” that says, “I am a good person.” Why do we feel the need to wear this mask? Why is it important for us to “save face”? Could it be that there’s something not so nice inside of us that we’re trying to hide?

The fact is, we are all sinful. Our hearts are naturally full of selfishness, pride, and ugliness. We know that this is not good, and it makes us feel ashamed. So we try to hide under a mask. We don’t want people to know how ugly and broken we are inside.

Inevitably, things will happen that cause us to “lose face”—to expose some of our imperfections and/or the ugliness of our natural hearts, and people begin to see that we are not really “good people” on the inside. We respond to this in different ways—some hang their heads and mope in silent embarrassment, wishing they could disappear. Others become violent, angrily lashing out at the one who caused them to “lose face” in front of others.

Actually, even though Asians are the most known for their cultural value of “saving face,” it is really ingrained into every human being. We all try to “save face” and make good impressions so that people will think well of us. This is not distinct only to Asians. The difference is that Asians tend to be more sensitive to each other’s feelings, not wanting to embarrass or shame anyone, whereas Western cultures tend to value self-preservation—saving our own “face”—above the feelings or “faces” of others.

Now that we have defined the concept of “saving face,” my next question is what does “saving face” mean to the Christian?

I would like to propose a novel concept: Jesus Christ came to this earth so that we won’t need to “save face” anymore.

We try to “save face” in order to preserve our masks that cover up the ugliness and brokenness inside. But Christ came to cleanse us from our ugliness and repair our brokenness. He came to give us His love, His humility, His goodness in place of our selfishness, our pride, and our sinfulness. He came to give us His “face”—which is not a mask, but a true reflection of what is inside: perfect goodness.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Ezekiel 36:26, 27

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:6, 7

When we have the face of Jesus Christ, we speak His words and do His works, motivated by His heart of love. We are no longer concerned about our reputation, about “saving face,” because we have nothing to hide anymore. (See Philippians 2:5–7.) We are the same inside as we are outside, because we have Jesus in our heart. Yes, we may still make mistakes and have imperfections; however, our desire is not that people will think good about ourselves, but that they will see Jesus in us. We live to preserve His reputation, not our own.

What kind of “face” do you have today? Do you have the face of Jesus?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Love and Long-Handled Spoons

Why does it matter so much to us what other people think of us?

I was pondering this question today. Here's the answer that came to my mind.

God created us with a desire for love and affirmation. This is not bad, in and of itself. First and foremost, He created us with this desire so that He could fill it with His love for us. However, He also gave us that desire for human love and affirmation. He made us as relational beings, to have relationships with one another that reflect His relationship with us. But problems arise when we go about seeking love and affirmation for ourselves. This is the wrong way; it's not how God designed our "love tanks" to be filled.

I am reminded of a parable which depicts Heaven like this:
In Heaven, everyone has only long-handled spoons with which to eat. The length of the handle makes it impossible to feed oneself. The only way to eat is to use your spoon to feed somebody else. 

Love and affirmation is like that. If we try to seek it from others, doing things to "impress" people, etc, it's like trying to feed ourselves with a long-handled spoon. It always leaves us unsatisfied, wishing for more. But when we use our "spoon" to feed others—when we look for ways to love and affirm those around us—the blessing comes back to us tenfold, and our "love tank" is filled to overflowing. This is God's plan.

May God help us to change our selfish mindset, for "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35.

Monday, October 12, 2015

He Knew

When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He did so knowing that they would want to go back to their fleshpots, etc.

In a similar way, God is working with me, helping me to walk away from and turn my back on the sinful habits and pleasures in my own life, knowing that at some points during the journey I will complain and balk and want to go back.

It's part of the withdrawal process (sin is an addiction), and He knows that, and He's prepared for it. He won't give up on me and leave me to what I think I want (things which will hurt me and tarnish me).

He might let me taste those things again (like the quail in the desert), just to remind me why it's bad for me and why I'm walking away from it.

And then He'll keep on leading me out, away from sinful Egypt and towards the "land of promise," where "all nations" will know that He is my God, and I am His daughter. <3

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Expect Victory

"Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them." ~Psalm 119:165

I remember when I was young, I would often hear this verse flung at one's opponent in an argument. One would say, "I'm offended that you _______," and the other would retort by quoting this verse. I even did it myself a few times.

However, when I did a word study on this verse recently, I discovered a completely different meaning—one rich with encouragement for me in my faltering walk with the Lord!

Ellen G. White says in the third volume of Bible Commentaries that this "peace" referred to in Ps. 119:165 is "harmony with heaven"! Wow! And of course, Strong's Concordance (as well as EGW's comments) reveals that "offend" simply means "to falter, stumble".

So check this out: "Great harmony with Heaven have they which love thy law, and nothing shall cause them to stumble (or fall into sin)."

But it doesn't end here. The next verse says, "Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments."

Again, Strong's helps to elucidate the meaning. "Hope" in the Hebrew means "to expect", and "salvation" means "deliverance; hence aid, victory, prosperity".

So check this out: I can expect victory if I love God's law, because I am in harmony with Heaven, which means that nothing will cause me to fall into sin. And David testifies that this was his experience: "I have. . .done Thy commandments" (verse 166).

As Christians, we claim to love God, and by extension, His Law (which is a transcript of His character). Do we expect victory?

"According to your faith be it unto you." ~Matthew 9:29

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Come and See!

            The little girl was nearly bubbling over with exuberance. “Come and see, Daddy,” she insisted, tugging at her father’s sleeve. “Come and see what I found!” Her joy is contagious.
            . . .
            Startled passersby on the dusty road move aside for the speeding man in long traditional robes.  He sprints past them, grinning from ear to ear. What good news does he carry? they all wonder. Careening around the next bend, he spots his brother and the news tumbles out: “Simon, Simon! We have found the Messiah! Come and see!”
            . . .
            Philip simply couldn’t wait for an “appropriate time” to share his news. He tramped through the dense foliage to the secret hideaway where he knew his friend was praying. Ditching formalities, he interrupted without apology. “We have found him of whom Moses, in the law and the prophets, did write—Jesus of Nazareth. . . . Come and see!”
            . . .
            Joy must be shared. It’s a natural reaction. If we’ve found something good or exciting, we want to tell someone! Even John the Baptist, when He first set eyes on Jesus, forgot the rest of his sermon in his excitement. “Suddenly…his eye kindled, his face was lighted up, his whole being was stirred with deep emotion. With outstretched hands,” he announced the presence of the long-promised One—the Messiah. DA 135
            “With the calling of John and Andrew and Simon, of Philip and Nathanael, began the foundation of the Christian church. John directed two of his disciples to Christ. Then one of these, Andrew, found his brother, and called him to the Savior. Philip was then called, and he went in search of Nathanael. These examples should teach us the importance of personal effort, of making direct appeals to our kindred, friends, and neighbors.” DA 141
            When Christ starts working in our lives, when we start to see Jesus for who He really is, when we really start to realize the amazing depth of His love for us, we won’t be able to keep it to ourselves! “No sooner is one converted than there is born within him a desire to make known to others what a precious friend he has found in Jesus. The saving and sanctifying truth cannot be shut up in his heart.” DA 141
            The Bible itself ends with an invitation to “come”—“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him that heareth say, ‘Come.’ And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

            Who have you invited?