Monday, January 30, 2012

A Prayer

Abba Father,

If this is Yours, I trust that by Your love and sovereign grace, You will make something beautiful from this mess. If this is not Yours but merely a work of our own flesh or a trap of the enemy, You have all the rights and full authority to destroy and take this from us. Grant us Your peace to accept Your will then.

And when I say Amen, I say to mean it that I submit to Your perfect will. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. In the mighty and victorious name of Jesus Christ, my King and Redeemer, I pray.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Twenty Eight

About three years ago, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. It was only a simple act—no tear-jerking drama, no boldly-stated altar calls. I was only a mere “Yes” to the question, “Do you accept Jesus Christ to be your personal Lord and Savior?” I was merely saying what I believed in, which I believed, at that time, was the same.

But from that time on until now, Jesus Christ has been so gracious in bringing me people and circumstances that altogether drew and continues to draw me closer to Him. In the course of time, I was able to attend Bible study sessions, prayer meetings, and worship services. In no time, He allowed me to meet people who greatly shaped me according to His perfect will and purpose. By His prodding, I opened my Roman Catholic Bible, the one with Deuterocanonicals, and in the verse of John 14:6, I discovered that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. (It was only through His amazing work in me that I can say that I found Jesus and became a born-again Christian in a Roman Catholic Bible!) And in the turn of events, I was able to pray the sinner’s prayer.

Such was His faithfulness in my life that when I look back, I can only open my mouth in praise and wonder at how great my Savior is, that He even designed circumstances and events even way before I accepted Him!

Three years have passed and I am still in awe and much more in love with Jesus. Three years ago, I only called Him as my Lord and Savior. But now, He is my strength, my deliverer, my refuge, and my defender. He is the rock where I can be safe, the stronghold of my salvation. He is my King, my First and Perfect Love. He is my Wonderful Counselor, Sovereign Lord, Awesome Healer, and best friend. He is my all in all!

Such are His amazing gifts to a sinner like me. If it were based on my past, or the things that I do, I know that I am not worth any of these. Even the supposedly good deeds I did cannot reach the perfect standard of my King. But you see, that is why it is called amazing grace because it is given even if undeserved.

And because He loves me so much and His grace is evident every morning, I decided to live my life holy and set-apart for Him in thanksgiving to what He did and is continuing to do for me. I aimed to do good deeds, not to save myself because He already finished that for me, but to thank Him for His grace. In response to His love, I made the conscious decision to die to myself and totally surrender my life to Him.

But it does not mean that I have become perfect. No, I am far from being one. In fact, for the three years that I have become a Christian, I can only say that God is not finished with me yet. I am a work in progress under Christ’s grace.

Yes, I am now 28 years and 20 days old, to be exact. And the best thing that I learned for the past years that I have been in Christ’s grace is the fact that this act of dying to myself and totally surrendering all my rights to Him is not a one-time-only occurrence; instead, it should be done on a daily, minute-by-minute basis.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Created To Be Like God

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self,
 which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds,
and to put on the new self created to be like God
in true righteousness and holiness." ~Ephesians 4:22-24

Saturday morning I found myself kneeling before the Father for only God knows how long, tears streaming down my cheeks uncontrollably and incomprehensible songs of psalms and prayers of pleading quivering loudly in my mouth.

I was being persecuted for my faith and I was hurt by the insults thrown at me. My whole sense of being was shouting a violation of my human rights and I felt betrayed by my own blood. Also, I was plagued with a deep sense of remorse at the earlier motive of my heart. I was hurt and confused and the only thing I knew, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, was to fall on my knees and call upon the Lord.

In times of persecution, it is so tempting to retaliate. With all their hurtful words and physical attempts to hurt me, it was so easy to hate those who persecuted me. It was so easy to plot revenge and to give them the cold treatment like they never existed. But by His grace, in the reflection I made later that day, the Father’s Spirit reminded me that first and most important of all, I was created to be like God.

Created to be like God—this tugged at my heart. It dawned on me that even before I was born, God has anointed a wonderful purpose for my life and that is, to be like Him, to reflect Jesus.

Earlier last week, I was blessed to have been able to read a summarized biography of two great Christian women, Esther Ahn Kim and Betsy ten Boom. This time, I will focus on the story of the latter.

Betsy, together with her sister Corrie, was cramped in a concentration camp by the Nazis during the Holocaust in a flea-infested cell. It was told that in one of her days that she was weak and sick, one of the guards lashed out strongly a whip at her chest for being slow at her work. Her sister, Corrie, undignified by this act, rushed to hurt the guard for her but before anyone can notice Corrie’s violent reaction, Betsy stopped her. Corrie winced upon seeing the gush of blood oozing from the wound in her chest but Betsy serenely told her, “Don’t look at it, Corrie. Look at Jesus only.”

Look at Jesus only, this is how you can become like Me—this is what the Father is telling me, amidst the hurt and the confusion. Look at Jesus hanging on the Cross, fully knowing His imminent death at the hands of His persecutors, still having the compassion to pray to the Father for forgiveness to those who have insulted, mocked, whipped, spitted at, and crucified Him. Look at Jesus, who with so much compassion and love in His eyes, told the adulterous woman that He does not condemn her either and gently told her to go and stop sinning. Look at Jesus, who, despite knowing my sins and shortcomings, chose to woo and pursue me with His perfect love and made me a dwelling place of His Holy Spirit. Look at Jesus—His obedience, His humility, His Great Love, His Perfect Sacrifice for all of us, His Mercy, His Grace.

Even before the creation of the Earth, the Father has already designed a blueprint for my life. He already envisioned me to be like Him. But sin corrupted me and separated me from the Father. His purpose of creating me to be like Him diminished but not for long. Because this purpose materialized by the death and resurrection of His Only Son, Jesus Christ, who came in obedience and humility, to save us from sin. And because Jesus already defeated sin and I am now clothed with the Holy Spirit, I can now access the grace to be like God. And I can do that not in my own strength and righteousness, but by the grace of Jesus.

And so in all circumstances, I choose to look at Jesus only. For this is the Father’s ultimate purpose for me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Even If He Does Not

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hands, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." ~Daniel 3:17-18

            There I was, garbed in my attempt to meet the standards of the requisite corporate attire as told to me before the interview, sitting in front of four distinguished lawyer-directors in that side of government. The conversation went well; my confidence level and positivity were up to the highest ante, my confidence in my self quite high. Everything went well except for one bluff that I uttered, triggering a series of difficult questions in the process. I did promise myself that whatever happens, I will never use any bluffing statement but there I was, speaking those words even before I could properly think.

            Though I made quite a blunder, the interviewees were quite kind. But my heart was already heavy with remorse, frustration, depression, and disappointment. How could I have done that? How could I have committed such serious mistakes in one of the most important interviews in my life?

            The typical defeated me cried, complained, and sulked. I was hot-headed, hating myself and hating the world even more. I questioned my King. How could have He just abandoned me like that? I felt sad and hopeless and my sinful stubborn self wanted to wallow in self-pity. 

            But my Lord is faithful even if, at times, I am not. I know that as a Christian, I should have taken a more pro-active role in combating sin and the temptation to sin. I am just extremely thankful that I can rely on my King to save me in the most distressful moments.

            Through a book and a friend, God rebuked my initial reaction and reminded me of who I was not and who He really is.

I am not perfect. I am bound to fail. I am not worthy. I am a sinner. Given the circumstances, I cannot do anything to make myself in a better position. But He is my Lord and King. He saves. He redeems. He is sovereign and in control of all things. His love is everlasting and He has my best interests in His big heart. He is the only One who can transform the most depressing situation to a beautiful one.

But even if He does not, who am I to protest? Does the creation have the right to question her Creator? Weren’t there too many times that He did not give me what I wanted, instead He gave me His best plan and everything went well? Weren’t there a lot of times that He humbled me down with His plans, as if to tell me, My child, My thoughts are not your thoughts; My ways not your ways?

So, I remember. I remember the time that He almost ruined (based on my own worldly standards) my plans of having a smooth, hassle-free, and luxurious pre-Bar review by bringing in the circumstance of my mom’s brain aneurysm a day after my graduation. I spent almost a month living, eating, drinking, and inhaling the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital. But He was always there—providing, comforting, gently loving. And everything went well. My mom is, by His grace, back to her normal lifestyle, working in her current job.

I remember those tough times at my non-airconditioned dormitory during the pre-Bar review, with all its inconveniences. But I was contented because He was always there, His new mercies abounding every morning. I remember the fact that I did not have much time to focus and study during my Pre-Bar review but He delivered me during the four Sundays of the Bar Exams. Most of all, He allowed me to pass, despite the slim chance I had, considering my circumstances by human standards.

I remember. And I resolve. I remember more and I resolve harder. I resolve to praise my King in times of abundance and want, sickness and health, successes and failures. I resolve to praise and honor Him even if He does not do what I expect Him to.

My favorite Bible story of all times since I became a Christian and gave my life to Jesus Christ is found in the Old Testament account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—all friends of Daniel—defying the King’s orders to bow down to another god and standing firm to their faith to the one true God. Sure, there are similar stories recorded in the Bible when it comes to defending the faith, but what sets this story apart for me is what the three friends said: But even if He does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

The three friends were fully aware of who their God is and what He is capable of doing. They knew fully well that their God can save them from the fiery furnace. They knew and they believed that God is able to deliver them from harm and keep His promises. But even if God did not, they had so much peace in their hearts to honor and please Him even in their last breaths.

So I pray that by His Spirit within me, my Savior and King—Jesus Christ—will enable me to be just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I confidently hope and pray that by His sustaining grace, I will continue to honor Him and please Him with everything that I do, say, feel, or act, whatever circumstances I am in.

And I rejoice because I know that I have a great King whom I can trust.