Thursday, August 28, 2014
Imagine being required in class to watch an awesome 3-hour epic movie, like the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) for example. Yet by some circumstance – laziness perhaps, or you’ve been so distracted with other stuff like Facebook or Instagram, etc., you didn’t have enough time to really, really watch it, I mean to truly appreciate the movie and absorb its message. Instead, you ended up fast forwarding the movie (might have rewinded on some parts), probably choosing the highlights and skipping the other parts, just so you could say you’ve watched it.
And then the next day you were suddenly called to share LOTR to a group of indigenous teenagers, with eyes expectantly looking at you, glimmering with excitement and hunger for the story you’d be sharing (a group of youth who probably haven’t seen a flat screen in their entire lives)! What would you do? Tell your little summary, probably add your own bits and pieces to cover up the parts that you didn’t watch? Without thinking that these youth would go home to their own families and most likely excitedly share your “summary” to their parents and little siblings.
I know it was a silly comparison, but just imagine if we do the same thing with our Bibles. What kind of message would we be imparting to people when we go out to share the Word of God?
This scenario came to my mind while I was thanking the Lord for inspiring me to read the Bible systematically. I remember as a young Christian, I barely opened my Bible. Those little Scripture portions featured in devotionals would be my “daily bread.” Guess how spiritually malnourished I was? I was like the LOTR person who would choose books that are action-packed, encouraging or easy-to-read and skipping the kinda-make-my-nose-bleed books like parts of Leviticus and Numbers.
But it was when, by God’s grace, I forced myself to really read the Scriptures that I begin to have a broader understanding of God’s attributes. It was then that I was awestruck by God’s massive love and that I was mind-blown by His plan of redemption for His children through Christ Jesus and how we are being made holy by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.
It was when I finally read the whole Bible that I’ve cried over my sin and spiritual depravity and ran to God in repentance. But it was also the time when I finally found my assurance that I am saved and justified through Christ and I am a truly a child of God! It was through reading and reading (or hearing and hearing, as the Scripture says) the Word of God that my faith is strengthened and have known what His promises are. It was through His Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that I am now learning how to pray and intercede, to walk in His ways, and to love God more!
Brothers and sisters, let me encourage you, join me in reading and studying the entire Bible! 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “ALL SCRIPTURE ("All," not “some”) is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God (that would be us!) may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” It may be hard at first and may require a lot of discipline on your part, but it will be such a delight as you push through with it. Use whatever strategy you deem best so long as you read the whole Bible!
Let’s know the Lord our God. Let’s know the God whom we are preaching or ministering about. Let’s read the Bible with a purpose. He is worthy!
“You will seek Me and find Me when you see Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I've known people, believers and unbelievers alike, who have questioned or doubted the sufficiency of the Bible. They would commonly say something like: "well you know, it's old, it could be outdated, there are many manuscripts being discovered out there that could be part of the Bible..." I've read articles and watched debates about this topic. But I get to know God more, as I get to know more about His attributes, as I meditate more on His Word, I ended up with this thought:
If GOD is powerful enough to inspire godly people to write the books in the Bible, (for them to be written in such a way that, even though they were hundreds of years apart, all are connected, from Genesis to Revelation) wouldn't God be powerful and sovereign enough to preserve it exactly the way we have the Bible now? Wouldn't God be wise enough to preserve only these 66 books (even after years of bloody persecutions of Christians throughout history and in spite of the manuscripts that people claim should be included) simply because the Bible IS already perfect and complete, and that in it we have all we need to know about God, and with the gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have all we need to know on how to live lives that is pleasing to our Holy King?
With everything I am, I believe in the sufficiency of the Bible simply because God says it so in His Word, and the Holy Spirit confirms it in my heart to be true. God is Sovereign!
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
I love trees! They're so relaxing to look at. I love the varying colors of leaves and how they dance with the breeze and how some branches look so sturdy and others are so awesomely twisted (not to mention their mind-boggling anatomy).
I think I remember drawing a tree to describe life when I was in grade school -- focusing more on growth. But right now I'm reminded of a more important lesson about trees: what you see on the outside - the sturdiness of the branches, the deep shade of green leaves, the colorful flowers, and succulence of the fruits -- these are results of what's going on deep down under -- where it is planted and what the roots are absorbing.
I could say that as a Christian, back then I was a pitiful little plant struggling to grow, easily swayed by a gush of wind or barely withstanding the scorching summer heat (e.g. trials and afflictions). But as my roots grew wider and deeper into the ground (through the help of the Holy Spirit) - digging more into Word of God, in prayer, in Christian discipline, in fellowship, asking the Lord for more of His grace, mercy and love in my life -- I began to grow sturdier in faith -- (worshipping God in humility) for the fruit of the Spirit that has started to manifest in my life - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).
Christians, to whom are you deeply rooted? What are your roots absorbing?
I remember the days when I'd try to pray and my mind would wander off... or I'd try to pray at night and wake up in the morning asking, "oops, did I say amen?" I would read bits and pieces of the Bible -- in colored comics when I was kid, then (embarrassingly) upgraded to Scripture portions in microscopic fonts featured in little devotional books, or whatever self-help Christian books I had in the shelf...
Reminiscing my spiritual walk - who I was and who I have become through the work of sanctification and regeneration of God through the Holy Spirit, always drives me to my knees in worship. It awes me to silence at the thought that God Himself, the Creator of all things, would love me unconditionally; would personally and patiently teach me, train me for godliness; would lovingly discipline me as a father to his child. Through Christ Jesus, my Lord and Savior, whose blood was poured out so that we could be justified, I am able to know God and to love Him back, and have the privilege of running to Him and delighting in Him.
Oh, the old days when I'd curse the morning light had been replaced with longing to fellowship with God in prayer and excitedly feast upon His precious Word - the Bread of Life! I know in my heart, that it was all Him, nothing of me. I love because He first loved me. I cling to Him because He drew me to Himself. I am like a sheep who've started to recognize the gentle voice of my Shepherd whom I trust with everything I am. And I know could only move forward, following Him. To know Him more, to learn His ways and be given grace to obey. That at the end, my heart would look like His.
Oh God, prepare me for eternity.
A friend of mine was going to China last year and asked me if I knew of some resources (e.g. gospel tracts) that they could bring. I began searching the net and found a few things about Christianity in China. During my search I also came across www.biblesforamerica.org where I found a few books by Watchman Nee being given away for free. I've read a lot of quotes/excerpts from Nee's writings when I was still in the Philippines and there were definitely hard Biblical truths in them. HARD but GODLY TRUTHS, which were kind of a slap-in-the-face, but definitely what I needed to know. I ordered my free copy of Nee's "The Normal Christian Life" tackling the book of Romans 1-8, wherein Apostle Paul plainly explained the Gospel of Christ. It was a major turnabout in my Christian life. I've realized that what I knew about Christianity was not particularly wrong but definitely incomplete. My foundations crumbled to pieces as I cried for repentance, but the knowledge of the true Gospel has given me genuine assurance that Christ has saved me and that I belong to Him. And agreeing to what Spurgeon had said, I definitely didn't understand God's love until I've grasped an understanding of Jesus' death and resurrection.
I believe with all my heart that nothing is coincidental with God. I've pleaded with Him to help me know Him more, that I didn't want to be spiritually stagnant, that I need Him to teach me how to love Him the way He ought to be loved and worshipped. God gives wisdom to those who seek His wisdom. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, Nee's book has been instrumental for me to desire to read the Bible more. It also led me to listen to preachers who teach sound doctrine, which eventually led to know the importance of prayer and intercession. Each and every day I learn more and more of God, and the more I know Him, the more I love Him and fall in reverent worship before Him.
Ah! To know the Lord and be loved by Him is more than enough! God is good!
Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek Me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart."
Monday, June 30, 2014
I’ve been there myself. Growing up in Christian faith where I’ve been taught that all I needed was to follow the ABC’s of Salvation (Accept that I am a sinner, Believe that Christ died for my sin, Confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life), say the “sinner’s prayer” and I am declared saved. It was the assurance that I held on, like a ticket to heaven. I even made gospel tracts based on that “truth.” But was it the truth?
My heart felt that there was something off because somehow, in my life as a sinner, I felt rebellious towards God. I wasn’t running towards Jesus to “accept” Him. Instead I was like Adam and Eve, I wanted to run and hide in my shame. If He could just leave me alone! BUT GOD IS SOVEREIGN. He doesn’t need “acceptance.” God sought me out even though I didn’t deserve it. He called me by my name and made me His.
As I grew in faith, I saw how God has been leading me. From being a lazy, undisciplined Christian who was content on chewing on some spiritual snacks from self-help devotionals and dozing off before I could even say my “amen,” I’ve slowly learned to feast upon the Bread of Life – digging deep into the Scriptures and be humbly led by the Holy Spirit in prayer. God has led me to follow preachers who teach sound doctrine, careful not to use Scriptures out of context, preachers who don’t sugarcoat to make me feel better but instead preach the true Gospel of Christ which showed me my spiritual depravity in contrast to the holiness of God, brought me to my knees in repentance, and let my soul sing with thanksgiving at God’s amazing grace. In Christ, I’ve found salvation and new life. Through the Holy Spirit, God continues His work of regeneration and sanctification in me. Because I am His, He will make me holy for He is holy. He will prepare me for eternity.
God has taught me to be wary, to examine everything – the pastors and the preaching I listen to, the books I read, the churches and conferences (especially the big ones) I go to, and even the worship songs I listen to – DO THEY CONFORM TO THE WORD OF GOD? I would feel the Holy Spirit’s warning, making me restless until I am driven to search and plead for discernment, and I wouldn’t have peace until God points out what was wrong. I’ve seen how God has disciplined me as a loving Father. He’s the Good Shepherd, and I am a sheep in His flock. He wouldn’t let the enemy steal a lamb from His flock.
Scriptures tell us that in the last days, many will be deceived (Matthew 24). Let’s become like the people of Berea (Acts 17:11)– EXAMINE EVERYTHING. LET’S OPEN UP OUR BIBLES and check if what was being taught conforms to what the Scriptures say. Don’t nod your heads just because the pastor is famous and has sold lots of books. Don’t go to a church just because thousands of people attend. Don’t raise your hands just because the worship team is hip. Be careful in running after what’s famous, attractive, loud, and extravagant. (2 Tim. 4:-3-4) Let’s be like the Bereans. Always examine everything and ask the Holy Spirit for discernment.
Tonight as I was singing my all-time favorite worship song to God – How He Loves – I sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit. When I came to the lines: “when all of a sudden I am unaware of my afflictions, eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me” my tears started to fall down. I closed my eyes and I saw the silhouette of the Cross against the reddish sky. I usually couldn’t sing when crying as my voice would start to tremble, but this time I couldn’t stop. My spirit has seen the Cross and it was overwhelming beautiful. I felt God’s grace and I just had to worship. With all that I am, I couldn’t stop worshipping. I don’t know how long I was singing but words just kept rushing out of my lips as my heart was filled with indescribable peace and joy! My soul couldn’t help but bless my Lord!
The Holy Spirit preached the Gospel to my heart –reminding me that indeed I was a sinner deserving of God’s just wrath. But in His great love, God has sent Christ Jesus – the Sacrificial Lamb whose blood had been poured out for our atonement and had taken in God’s wrath upon Himself in our behalf. Guilt has been taken away for in Christ we've been justified. "...that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." How great is God’s love, how great is His grace! Through Him I’ve found salvation! In Him I’ve found new life! Glory, glory to my Lord and King!