Sunday, July 10, 2011

Praise Him…at all times

I will declare Your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise You. ~Psalm 22:22

Yes. Right after writing my previous entry, I had this prompting to sincerely mean a prayer in my heart for a heart of thanksgiving and praise, no matter what the circumstances are. By His grace, I prayed that my heart will have nothing but praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, all the days of my life, all the times of these days.

For everything that comes to me happens by grace and my every response to it should be by faith in Jesus, it is only logical that I should be thanking and praising Him all the time. Because, indeed, by Jesus’ righteousness (not mine), I have been made and given better than I deserve. I read Psalm 22 and was completely moved by Jesus’ response: He was already beaten down and mocked in the cross, deserted by the Father to pay for human sin, yet, human as He was, He never lost His trust and praise for the Father.

You see, this is quite a challenge for me. Before I knew Christ and accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior, I had always been a pessimist. I still am. But it is amazing to see God’s workmanship transforming me to be a reflector of His Son in His own perfect time!

The day I prayed this prayer, something bad happened. I was already aboard a public tricycle when I realized that I lost my coin purse. Actually, there was not much in it—just some bills and loose change but for all I cared, it was my hard-earned money. And now that I am working, every single peso counts. Besides, for a young professional like me who is still new in the business, that amount of money could have bought me a decent lunch.

I really thought that I only left it in the office but after going back, carefully searching the office, and trying to retrieve my steps for what seemed like a decade, I found nothing.

By His grace and provision, I was able to pay the driver my dues and arrive home safely. But the truth remains: my coin purse, containing my hard-earned money, was lost. I could have dropped it somewhere. I could have carelessly left in some place. Someone could have stolen it when I left the office unlocked for a very short while. Someone could have picked it up from me, without my knowledge. Nobody really knows.

Knowing myself, I knew that I could have thrown in my tantrums, hate the world, and once again, question God. I did have my emotional tantrums with my friend and prayer partner but never did I blame or question God. It was really amazing. I know it was not me; it was the Holy Spirit working in my heart. I had this sweet and calming peace, knowing that everything happens for a reason—not just anybody’s reason, but God’s.

It was most fulfilling to hear my heart and mind silently pray for whoever could have stolen or found it. I prayed that he or she would use the money wisely. I prayed that by the Father’s grace and perfect will, whoever that person is, he or she will come to have the true knowledge and sincere acceptance of Christ’s death and resurrection, and His Lordship over our lives. It is nice to know that I now have someone to pray for and if this someone has not yet accepted Jesus, then, it is a privilege to pray for him or her. It is even nicer to think that Lordwilling, this person will be an addition to God’s adopted children through Jesus. Oh, how the heavens will sing and rejoice for his or her soul!

And I am totally in awe at how God is working in my heart. I didn’t quite expect that He will already give me a challenge the day I prayed for a heart full of thanksgiving and praise, whatever the circumstances. And what’s more, He did not just give me a challenge; He equipped me to conquer such challenge. He really knows best. And I am just amazed.

Thank you, Jesus! You are awesome!  

By faith

“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong.
It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given
this complete healing to him, as you can all see.” ~Acts 3:16

Every circumstance in my life—happy or sad, a source to rejoice or a source of rejection, a challenge or a problem, discouragements or encouragements, constructive criticisms or negative ones—comes from God, in accordance to His perfect plan and grand design. And every response I should have to each of these should be by faith in my Savior, Jesus Christ.

I was reminded of this wonderful truth during one of my morning devotions. The night before, I was freaking out with how things are happening in my life. I was reminded with my physical ailment and it made me worry some more. I was complaining to my Lord. I was indignant, disappointed and was full of resentment. I questioned His will. I was crying because of my failures and was crying even more because of my audacity to blame my God.

But by His grace, I was able to overcome my weakness. Indeed, I am weak but my Lord is strong, most powerful in all the earth. In the midst of all the tears and heart pains, His Spirit within me moved me to pray and show to me any hidden fault or willful sin that He wants to wash away. The Holy Spirit cried out to Him, in behalf of me, all those things that I could not express. What a great opportunity to feel the Holy Spirit praying for in my behalf!

And indeed, He revealed what He wanted to reveal to me: a past sin that I have long neglected—something I tried not to acknowledge, something I avoided, and to some extent, justified, something I tried my best to hid and cover. But my God is all-knowing. He wants to heal every rotten wound or scratch that was haphazardly bandaged by my own efforts, secretly hidden by my dirty clothes.  He wants to completely cleanse and own every inch of my body and soul. He aims to make me new every morning.

So, I confessed. I cried my heart out and asked Him to restore me once again to His saving grace. I asked Him to reconcile me to His throne through the saving sacrifice of His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ.

Oh, how the enemy tempted me! While my heart was crying out to God, the enemy was whispering lies to my mind—that I am unworthy to be God’s child, that I am too dirty to come to Him anymore, that I am hopeless, hated by God and can no longer be saved, blah, blah, blah…

But, once again, my God has proven Himself faithful, strong, unbeatable, and unshaken.

I had Jesus’ sweet peace before falling asleep. Then, I woke up early in the morning, praised God, did my prayer covenant with my Christian friend, and did healthy things for myself. I spent time with my cute three-week-old nephew. I was about to skip my devotion for fear of being late in the office but God was so good to remind me to prioritize Him in everything.
And now, I have no regrets of leaving our home 30 minutes later just so I can open my Bible and spend time with the Lord. An amazing story awaited me in the Book of Acts.

Just like the man crippled from birth at the temple gate called Beautiful, I can see myself rejoicing in the healing powers of my God Almighty. I know, with a sweet peace and a quiet confidence in my heart, that by faith in Jesus’ name, God is telling me that He has healed my spiritual wound and will heal my physical ailment. There is no longer condemnation because I have been forgiven. I no longer need to worry or suffer because He knows what He is doing and He will use my physical ailment to magnify His glory.

All these are possible by faith in Jesus’ name—that by His death and resurrection, we are given the grace to be saved, as what Peter told the people who were all astonished by what God did through him (Peter) to the crippled man at the temple gate. Later on in the following verses, Peter encouraged the people to repent and turn to God so that their sins may be wiped out and that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (vv. 17-20).

Indeed, by His grace, I am healed and refreshed! How great is our God!

As I am already healed, it is my prayer that the Lord will equip me to do His purposes for me. As I am refreshed, I should no longer look back at my past but look forward with thanksgiving and praise. Just as what Paul had written to the Philippians, I want to do one thing for Jesus: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, pressing on toward the goal of attaining the prize of eternal life in heaven in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:13-14).

My heart and my spirit shout joyfully for the Lord, my God! May I continue to remember that my life operates by God’s grace alone and my responses should only be by faith in Jesus!

Here’s to a wonderful week walking closely with the Lord!  

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Made New

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come. ~2 Corinthians 5:17

It is no longer I but Jesus.
I was once an obsessive-compulsive individual, planning every tiny weeny detail of my life. I used to rely on my Plan A, or my back-up plans, B, C, D, or sometimes, even E and F.

I was once a control freak, doing my best to control every situation that comes my way. In fact, I tried to wield control over every person I meet.
I was once concerned with how the world perceived me. I tried every effort to protect and preserve my reputation.

I was once a drama queen, wallowing in every ounce of pessimism in my mind. I loved the drama and all the attention I could get.

I was once a people pleaser, trying my very best to please both sides of the camp.

These are just a few of those attitudes I used to have. But something happened along the way when I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and allowed His gracious Spirit to overwhelm me.

I am no longer obsessive-compulsive. I still plan, yes, but I am no longer consumed by the desire to make my plan work. My heart is now fully contented and at peace to pray, “Let Your will be done, Lord.”

I have totally accepted the fact that I have no control over my life or over other people’s lives. And yes, there is sweet peace in that acceptance. There is sweet peace in knowing that my indecisive, imperfect and messy self is not in control but I can entrust the totality of my life to a Perfect God.

My reputation by worldly standards concerns me no longer. My friends have called me weird; some people may not understand the decisions that I’ve made. It seems scary not to be accepted by the world but deep in my heart I know that I should only aim for Heavenly Applause. What is important now is how my Lord sees my heart.

I still have bouts with my drama queen self once in a while. I still struggle with pessimism and discouragement. But I have seen and am continuing to see the transformative power of my Lord with my own eyes. He is always there—rebuking, convicting, reminding, and gently purging my heart and mind of these poisons of the enemy.
I used to compromise just to please both sides of the camp. But ever so gently, by His grace, He made me aware of this mistake and taught me how to conquer this sin. Of course, there are still temptations that come but He is always faithful. And at times that I was defeated by my sinful self, His loving arms are always stretched ever so wide to welcome me again.

You see, I am not perfect. In fact, none of us is. I will only be perfect when the time comes that I, together with fellow believers, am glorified with Jesus in heaven. While here on earth, I will continue being a sinner. But because I accepted the free gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit is continuing His work of sanctification within me.

And His work within me is always amazing. I am overwhelmed by His grace. My unworthy self is made new by the death and resurrection of my Savior. I am not just being repaired. No. I am not just being refurbished.

I am made new. And this is the most amazing experience in my life.