Friday, January 8, 2016

Be Loving or Be Nothing?


"If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, 'Jump,' and it jumps, but I don't love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 MSG)

I always jump to the "love is patient, love is kind..." part whenever I turn to 1 Corinthians 13. I must admit these were the verses I used to overlook before. Until something happened last year which has led me to these words... and I find them beautiful and so much on point. That was the time when I was hurt by people who are close to me with serious and below-the-belt offense.

Many times I asked, "of all the people, why them?" With the betrayal and stabs in my back, I didn't want to see them. I felt so wounded, I didn't want to talk to them. It cut deep. Questions ran through my mind about the things they did which I find hard to accept and understand, and though I tried not to pay back nor treat them bad whenever they were around, bitterness and resentment were already creeping in. I almost condemned them in my thoughts saying to myself, "Didn't the Word told us to do this and not that?" That's when God gave me those verses. I came to realize that I was also doing them the same because I allowed the negative emotions to enter and rule my heart instead of love. Thank God, He is always on the lookout to rescue me from sinning.

When we're hurt it's too easy to justify our thoughts and feelings with our knowledge of the Word that we forget God's greatest commandment is LOVE.

My painful experience has taught me so much which serve as a reminder for me until now. I'm learning how to forgive, even if my offenders do not ask for forgiveness. I'm learning how to understand and still believe the good in other people, even though they do me wrong. I'm learning to set aside my proofs of being right— if proving myself right means winning in an unloving way. For what is my faith and everything good I gained if I'm not loving? Nothing.

Are we loving enough?

Loving others is never an easy thing, but at least, doing so sets us free. And we can be free to love them genuinely... seeing past their mistakes because after all, that's how the Lord is to us.
No matter what ugly and hurtful thing the world brings, God called us to love. So, our response to anything life throws us should always be to love. No amount of pain nor gain can change the fact that since God loves us, we ought to love others as well.

We might find ourselves failing in that area as we try. But if we connect our hearts to God, who Himself is Love, there is nothing too hard for us to do. He is the one who will guide us and help us if we are willing to seek Him and obey His instructions. He is the perfect model of genuine and unconditional love. Other sources are just frail and finite imitations, therefore, we must look to Him if we want to be loving.

How do we prepare ourselves to love others? We must love ourselves the way God loves us as we cannot do something for others what we are unable to do for ourselves. Then, ask God to give us the strength to demonstrate the same kind of love towards the people around us— no matter how unlovable they are.  Pray that He grant us the desire to have a heart like His... giving others love more than anything.

For what would we rather choose? To be loving or be completely nothing?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Place of Glorious Freedom


"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV)
God's presence offers freedom. It is a place where we can enjoy His grace, mercy, justice, love, and all that He is. He is in the business of breaking the chains— of sins, hurts, doubts, selfishness, guilt, unforgivingness, bitterness, anger, insecurities, and fear, to name a few—, that hinder us from living the free life which He has planned. All it takes is for us to believe and live within that freedom which the Lord is eager to give us. But oftentimes, we are distrustful and unbelieving.

I remember how passionate God was to save the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and take them to the promised land as it is written in the Old Testament. However, the stubborn, impatient, and ungrateful attitude of these people always put them to wanting to go back into the hands of Pharaoh whenever they face uncomfortable situations on their journey— as if life as his slaves is better than life under God's power, provision, and protection. Seems familiar, right? They are so much like us.

We always tend to go back to the place God has already delivered us from.

There was a certain area of my life which the Lord has already set free, but I was always looking back to my past situation. To tell you honestly, the hurts and pains I lived in for years seemed to be my comfort zone and my heart was so used to it that I oftentimes yearn to go back... despite the fact that I know joy and peace awaits me on the other side. There were moments I missed the feeling of brokenness or the sighs and weepings— even worse, the distress. I forgot that God took me out of that pathetic situation because I wasn't meant for it.

I was distracted and had a hard time worshiping God with all that I am. It blocked the blessing of growing deeper in faith and in the knowledge of Christ because I was not willing to surrender everything completely to Him. Another thing is that I hold out on the chance for others to be free as well. Yep. I realized that people who are unfree also imprison others to themselves. Thankfully, He didn't leave me until I go back to my senses and remember that nothing compares to what He has in store for me if I just wholeheartedly let Him lead me away from the bondage I was in.

Are we living the true freedom in Christ?

When getting that freedom means stepping out of our comfort zones and letting go of things and people we held onto for so long, we tend to hold back. Perhaps, because we don't know what the process will bring and  how much we are required to give up. It scares us to choose what He has to offer. But can there be any better place than where the Lord's Spirit is? The place of abundant freedom... to run, to dance, to sing, to laugh, to serve, to love, to live, to breathe, to dream, to fly. It's such a glorious place. No matter what comes our way, still there is nothing more beautiful than the life within God's presence, promise, and will.

How do we enter that place? It's time we get down on our knees and ask God to come break the chains that rob us of the life He meant to give and grant us the desire to live in His glorious freedom.
And may the Lord give us the heart to share that freedom to the world around us.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Walking in the Light

"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105)
I did not grow up on a Christian family. All I knew about God was hearsay and tradition. Our faith never required us to open our Bible, so, I never read through its pages when I was young. I thought it was just meant for the church leaders and sinless people that if I touch it, I'll get my hands burned.

Hence, I wasn't aware that I live in the false doctrine of salvation until a good friend in college has shared her faith and let me read a certain book in the Bible. I remember, it was during the first time I experienced depression. It was crazy how distressed I was over the thought that I will be spending my eternal life in hell because my religion taught us that we can be saved through good works— and honestly those times, I saw myself as a sinful, filthy rag with nothing good in me. And while the latter was true, the teaching that we will be saved through faith and good works isn't.

I started to read the Bible ever since and slowly the truth was revealed to me and that's even how I've met the real and living Jesus (not the carved one hanging above the pulpit) who is the true source of salvation. I still went to the same church for a few years until the Lord lead me to a Christian church where I've been surrounded by people who helped me understand God's Word more and realize its importance. And my life was never the same again.

Had I not paid attention to what the Bible says, I might still be lost now or worse, have drowned in severe anxiety and depression. The Word is truly a lamp and light which leads us to the truth of God. Anywhere without it is a place abundant of darkness.

Are you walking in the light?

Walking in it means devoting our time to read the Bible daily. This generation has too much distractions that even us, Christians, tend to neglect it at times. We might often have more time on our smart phones— playing game apps, posting statuses on FB, checking out the likes on our Instagram or waiting on a text or chat from our friends—, than spending our quiet time with the Lord.

We often ask God for guidance but we rarely or never open the Bible. When we have questions or prayers, we expect answers through signs we or other people made up and believe it, instead of listening to His Word and following what it says. When we need wisdom or advice, we turn to social media quotes even more earnestly than to the scriptures. Our hearts are drawn so much to what the world tells us or what it shows us— which is more often a lie.

What do we get in return? Vain insights and dry spirit, instead.

God instructs us to take heed on His Word... to meditate on it day and night. Our desire to know God more and walk in His light shouldn't end when we got saved. In fact, it only starts there. We cannot live a successful Christian life if we don't know the God who the Scriptures tell about. And we cannot even live a Spirit-filled life with a darkness-filled heart. We need to turn to His Word to guide us in our journey on this earth until He comes again and take us to the place which He has promised to those who love Him and remained faithful in obeying His instructions.

How can we continue to walk in the light? Ask God to give us the desire to listen to His Word more than social media and other addictions. Start reading the Bible daily and spend quiet time with the Lord. Take delight in the Scriptures and let His light fill our hearts and brighten our spirits.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Breath to The Dry Bones

"Then he said to me, 'Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, 'Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.'" (Ezekiel 37:4-6 NLT)

In Ezekiel 37:1-10, we can read about the valley of dry bones where the Spirit of the Lord took the prophet Ezekiel. These bones were scattered on the valley's surface, lifeless and completely dried out. But then as the Lord commanded, Ezekiel spoke a prophetic message and they began to have sinews, flesh, and skin. There were no breath in them yet until he spoke again as instructed by the Lord and breath and life came upon them. There in that valley stood up a great army of dry bones that were brought back to life.

I can't imagine how dull and creepy the setting must have been as I think of scenes in some suspense movies involving bones of dead people. But what I know is that this biblical account is amazing and appealed greatly to my heart. Because I, myself, have dry bones in me that were awaiting for revival especially the time when I was once again stricken by depression.

Hope was almost dead. I've lost the passion I had in serving in my ministry, going to church, and even living my life. But I was desperate for the Lord. I knew what was going on and I didn't want it. I didn't want to lose my purpose, though my sense of purpose was dying. Joy was nowhere, so as peace.

I had many days and nights filled with tears, but so as desperate cries and weepings to the Lord. In that time amidst deep sorrow and anxiety, He heard my pleading and met me again. And just as He brought dry bones to life, His Word spoke to my heart and revived it's beating. Moment by moment, He breathed to all I have within that died and were dying. And what more, He restored my faith and gave me a life freer than it has ever been causing me again to praise His name for truly, He is Lord and He is good. He is the breath to my dry bones. His grace raised my calling and purpose from death. He never fails.

What areas in your life need revival?

Maybe, you lost your job, lost a loved one, struggling with mental or physical illness, experiencing rejection, stricken by bullying, at a failing marriage or relationship, suffering financially, emotionally ill, or battling with depression, etc. which causes you to lose sight of your life's purpose or direction. You might be in one of these valleys right now with all your dry bones— may it be hope, joy, love, trust, self-worth, commitment to ministry, life meaning, or whatever it is— lying down the surface... but believe that God can make those dry bones alive again. And more than that He is even able to take you off safely from that valley into the place He has prepared for you as you come humbly to His presence.

 How do we start? Admit to God that we need Him "now". Listen to His Word and see your dry bones come to life.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hope and Lessons Learned (My Life Last 2015)

Flashback to the year that just passed when I...

Got betrayed and rejected. Lost someone important. Doubted my worth. And suffered from emotional, financial, and physical struggles. These happened, one after another.

I can see lots of tears that swelled my eyes. The anxiety that woke me up from my sleep in the middle of the night. The throbs in my shattered heart that numbed my whole being.

I can clearly recall that moment when I was lying in my bed catching my breath as if I was drowning in the sea— a deep sea of depression. Helpless. Hopeless. Barely feeling the wind that hovers above and through the horizon. Huge waves of hurts and fears were swallowing all that I am. And I've lost the passion to fight the raging waters so as to see the sun and feel the warm breeze touch my skin again.

All I wanted was for the pain to end. But my clouded mind couldn't think of anything better than just pray once more for an escape.

But I wasn't given an escape.

When I lost the will to swim, God went deep down to lift me up. Nope. He didn't just throw a lifebuoy which I can easily reach for. Perhaps, He knew it wasn't the kind of help I needed.

He went through it with me. His Word held my hand and let me know that I am not alone. He encouraged me to fight as He fights for me. From there, I remembered I have all the reason to face that battle— and absolutely none to quit— because I have Him. He's got the strength I needed to carry on. So, I clung to Him as He instructed me. My Lord has been so passionate to see me reach the shore and dance in the sands of His grace and catch the rays of hope anew. He never let go of me even after I got back there. And I couldn't thank Him enough for never giving up on me when I was so weak and felt like already giving up on myself.

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My depression could've been a major setback in my life last 2015. And honestly during those dark times of my life, I didn't see myself wanting to welcome new year anymore. But here I am, writing about some of the good things my experiences the past year have taught me, which strengthened my faith and made me look forward to a better and stronger person than I ever was.

I have learned that...
* Being brave is something which trials and circumstances teach us and is also something we choose. The brave ones are those who decide to trust God and be still, not in the absence of fear but despite the existence of it.
* To love our self as we love others isn't selfish. It's freeing. In learning to appreciate who we are and see our self the way the Lord sees us, we'll be free to be who He wants us to be... and even more free to love others genuinely. 
* The people who truly love us and care for us are the ones who stay at our side to pray for and encourage us when we're at our worst. They are those who still try to understand us even when we're completely not understandable and cling to us even when we got not even a smile to offer them. We should never forget to thank God for having them in our lives.
* Doors are shut not because God wants to withhold from us the things we desire but because He wants to give us something way better than what we choose to settle for. Closed doors are meant for our protection from troubles and heartaches in disguise. 
* God is more than willing to rescue us from the surging waves of struggles and pain but we must also be willing to swim through it with Him. It's not that He cannot take us away from them with His own might. He just wants to strengthen our faith so that when the troubled waters toss us, we will not be easily moved. (Such strength can also be in the form letting go of the things or people He wants us to let go of or going to where He leads us to without doubts knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us).
* Hope is such a beautiful thing. Life without hope is never a life at all.

Learning these lessons the hard way isn't what I imagined nor how I would choose to take them up but despite how they reached my senses, what matters most is that God gave me the opportunity to learn them. I don't know what awaits me this 2016 or what's in store for me. But I got to keep reminding myself not to fear, for throughout this year and even the next years to come, God is with me. I have hope in Him that will never fail.

And to end this post, let me share some of the verses which encourage me in my faith.
1 Peter 1:6-9 New Living Translation (NLT):
"So be truly glad.There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls."
Truly, life on earth is never perfect and easy and only God can make living a joyful, meaningful, and purposeful life— despite circumstances— possible. And so whatever comes our way, may we continue to hold on to the hope that He has promised to those who trust in Him. God bless you. :)