Sunday, September 30, 2012

Make it Full not Partial

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Sometimes we may feel that God's commandments can be altered or that we can substitute other ways in following Him. Example, God challenged us to serve Him by participating in Kid's ministry but instead, we committed to ushering as we might feel that it is the same for Him, that we still serve Him and that it was just a small modification to His words. Another sample is discipleship, we are instructed to influence 3 people but we chose only one, the one who is closer to us and to whom we can also be beneficial. We have this attitude that tells us that it is the same thing, doing good and executing His commands, that it was just a small amendment but still a complete way of showing Him our obedience.

We sometimes think that we can forget those small details and instead, we are convincing ourselves that there is nothing wrong in such ways. But if we will read 1 Samuel 15:1-23, God sent a message to Samuel which must be told to Saul. He instructed Saul to destroy and attack the ENTIRE Amalekites and that nothing should be spared. But Saul took King Agag and collected fat calves, sheep and lambs - everything that was good. Since Saul did not completely carried out the instructions, he was rejected as king. It was clearly showed in these verses that we should follow ALL His commandments and words. No alteration, no modification, no substitution, not partial but in full obedience.

I was once told that partial obedience is disobedience. We can't please Him by showing what we think is a good thing just to follow Him and neglecting the true meaning of His instructions. Our wisdom only comes from Him and we should not rely in our own understanding. We should always consider the very detailed steps in fulfilling His commands. There might be challenging instructions that will also require us to get out of our comfort zone. We shouldn't be afraid and most importantly, we shouldn't improvise and we shouldn't put in our minds that our plans are better than Him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Faith and Hope

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We might be having some confusion on how to differentiate such two words. I admit that I had the same situation before I became a believer. I used to combine these two words and stating they have the same nature. But as I progress to study His words, it reveals to me slowly that they are indeed different but their goals and purposes are the. We can also identify them as two sides of a coin. It is also a good timing to better understand this since I'll be discussing this topic in our small group tomorrow. One most notable context that I read before in a book (sorry, I forgot the author) was the detailed differences of these two words; I remember it because I used an acronym to memorize it. So let's call it the FESOS list:
  • Functionality - Faith states what is to be done; it gives direction and descriptions and teaches us. Hope conditions our mind to be strong and courageous.
  • Effect - Faith is a judge, it judges errors while Hope is the soldier which fight against adversities, despair and waits for better things
  • Sources - Faith comes from understanding while Hope rises in the will.
  • Objective - Faith concentrates on the truth. Hope looks to the goodness of God.
  • Sequence - Faith is the beginning of life before suffering while Hope comes later and is born of great trouble.
We must remember that hope without faith is like taking an exam without reviewing and we are wishing that we will pass it. There should be knowledge first to better understand the hope that we have. As a Christian, we should have the insight of faith as it directs and contains the intellectual knowledge of directions and guidance so that in times of adversities, we can hold on to hope for better things. In short, by faith we begin and by hope we continue. (Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see). We can also say that Faith is the creative side of Hope since it says in Hebrews 11:6, "Without faith, it's impossible to please God".

I also read before that Hope is the blueprint of Faith. We know what we want to do in our lives, we have this vision and we already have the knowledge. Hope is the plan that faith carries out. We should learn and understand the words, base our hope in His words and not in our wishes. In Hebrews 6:19 it says there "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain". Hope described as the anchor of life since we are like a ship in this world on which we might encounter storm that can toss us up and down and even put us in the great danger. But with this anchor, our hope, we can keep steady and steadfast and looks forward for better things that will come into our lives.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Follow Him?!

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For sure we all know all the gifts and promises that He has for us. That when we reach the kingdom, there will be endless happiness and will be fulfilled with love. Of course, all we need to do is to obey Him and give Him the highest praise and continue to put our trust in Him. But let's see what are the eternal rewards that we will receive after accomplishing our tasks here on earth. As we all say, we must be strong and full of endurance in this game called life. We should never stop in doing good and spreading His words. Since we are in this game, we will also have our own medals after the race.

1. Medal of Extreme Joy. Since we have accomplished the discipleship tasks, aren't the new believers that we helped would be our greatest joy and glory?! I mean, the happiness in our heart is priceless once we see those people who were lost but now with our help, were saved and walking towards the journey of Christianity. In the presence of our Lord, these new believers will be our gift to Him and the feeling can't be compared to anything on how we succeed in the spiritual development of others. (1 Thessalonians 2:18-20 "18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.")

2. Medal of Life. Problems, trials and hardships are unavoidable in this game. During the race, we will be encountering tests that will determine the level of trust and love that we have for Him. Whether the test is an uphill climb or a rocky road, just be reminded that spiritual growth happens in adversity. We should never give up, instead continue to love and trust Him and the eternal reward will be an unending life. (James 1:12 "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.")

3. Medal of Triumph. If we are effective in our ministry, executed a perfect discipleship and victorious over sins then there is a triumph that awaits for us in the finish line. That reward will be imperishable and the light that it brings will enlighten and inspire others. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27 "25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.")

4. Medal or Righteousness. There will always be temptations, there will always be hardships, oh yes, Christian life is not easy but if we live righteously then these things are nothing. As a believer, we should always pursue godliness and should strive to meet God with a pure conscience. (2 Timothy 4:5-8 "5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.")

So after gathering all these medals, what should we do about them? Well, it will be our gift to our Lord in the time that we meet Him. Offer them into His feet as sign of appreciation for all the things that He have done to us: saved us, equipped us, guided us, protected us and loved us unconditionally.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Your Honor

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My today's devotion made me think and assessed myself on what are the good things that I did in my life that have pleased Him? I even asked myself of the wrongdoings that I have executed. We all know that our life on earth is temporary and that all material things can't be brought to another life. On the day of judgment, are we ready to face Him? Can we say, "Your Honor, here are the good things that I did…"? Let us be reminded that He takes His seat as Judge and have prepared all the rewards that we qualified for.

Yes, Jesus Christ will be our judge and not the God father. In Acts 10:42-43, it says there that "42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” I believe that this responsibility was tapped on His shoulders because He is the one who commanded us to go into the world and make disciples and He will decide how we did on such task by analyzing our mind and thoughts. Yes, I believe that after following His words and fully accept Him, trust and obey; our next primary goal is to make disciples. To testify to others how great He is and how loving our God.

As a judge, He can't be bribed. He is a just and impartial judge. In making a judgment, He doesn't put as "evidence" what others say about us. Our works will be justified based on His own standards. All the worthless things that we did will vanish and He will look only into the valuable parts of our lives. On how we did our purpose, on how we react to every situation and how we prosper and mature as a believer. In the "court room", there is no place for shame and guilt over the past sins and mistakes. It is a place where self-condemnation is not allowed, He will expose the "real" us by washing away the bad things we've done until the "man who pleased God" will remain. Let us encourage one another to do good things and be a perfect imitation of His works. Let us be the best reflections of our Lord both here in earth and in heaven.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Trials Again?!

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Many things have been discussed about the trials, faith and obedience. For sure all of us have experienced difficulties in life and faced them in different ways, in different approach and several resolutions might have been applied to them. We should be reminded that these tests are part of our journey towards spiritual maturity. Yes, we are being tested and God doesn't want us to suffer. These are like midterm or final exams on which we must give our commitment and that we will never give up and put our trust in everything He do in our lives.

The best example of that greatest test and challenge was the time when Abraham was asked by God to offer his only son, his most cherished and precious son. If you will read Genesis 22:4-18, Abraham took the life of Isaac as it was directed by God and he didn't hesitate, instead he followed what was told to him. If we will only open our hearts, don't you think it is better to call these kinds of trials as obedience rather than suffering and sacrifice? Those latter words can bring negativity and don't imply any great results for us.  But if we put in our mind that those things are way of showing our obedience, then trusting and putting our faith to Him won't be that burdening.

Now, if we think that we are ready and we are doing those good things and yet we receive another adversity, don't take it as a tragic factor. Instead, take it as a challenge as it means that God wants us to take our faith and commitment to a new level. It is also a reminder that He is faithful to all His promises and that we will be greatly blessed for our obedience. Let's commit ourselves to God and the words "give up" shouldn't be part of our Christian lives. Yes I know that most of the times, these tests are painful but if we will only focus our eyes unto Him then we will be sure that He will wrap us with unending love and will lead us to great victory. Just remember the famous quote "In God We Trust".

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Ultimate Sole Shepherd

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Last Thursday during the service in Victory Church, I was reminded of how our God is so patient, understanding and forgiving. These past few weeks, I wasn't myself, I was full of negative emotions and wrong thinkings. But despite those things, He continue to protect and bless me for which I felt that I don't deserve any of it. I was then realized that He is still guiding me, directing me to the right path, indeed the best shepherd.

The service discussed God as the true shepherd. The pastor first mentioned the characteristics of a sheep on which some of them, I believe relates to us or defines our very own traits. The list included strong, stubborn, dependent, demanding, restless, slow to learn, straying, same everywhere, unpredictable, unattractive, copycat and fools. Despite these adjectives, isn't it great that God doesn't give up on us? Isn't it a great feeling that no matter what we do, we always have the second chance? Isn't it wonderful that there is someone that provides unending love, concern, protection and guidance?

Defining how God as a shepherd can be found in several passages on which constitutes His love for us:
1. Pursues Us. In verses Ezekiel 34:11 (For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them) and Luke 19:9-10 (9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”) mention that there is no place for us to hide, He will continue to look for us, search for us and will never give up on us.
2. Protects Us. These verses state that God will be our ultimate protection against any harm and willing to give up His life for us. Ezekiel 34:12 (As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.); John 10:11 (“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.)
3. Provides For Us. As we all know, He is the Great Provider, He gives us everything that we need. No matter what we ask He will give but let's always put in our mind that God has three answers in everything we ask, (a) Yes (b) Not this time and (c) I have better plans for you. Ezekiel 34:13-14 (13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.)

The pastor then asked us to read Psalm 23, read not only by eyes but should come from the heart. That very moment, I felt His touch, the warmth of His embrace and it was like He was sitting besides me and saying "welcome back my son, its good to have you back. I've been waiting for you". I know I'm not perfect but I am blessed that I have a perfect shepherd. We just need to listen to His voice and obey Him. It will also be a good thing for us if we are surrounded by people with the same belief and encourage us towards the correct path.