ACTIVE STILLNESS

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

I love the song STILL by Hillsong, especially the chorus where it says “When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm. Father you are king over the flood. I will be still and know you are God.” My wife and I found a tagalog version of this song. It’s not translated word for word, but the thought of the song is expressed more accurately, in my personal opinion. The Tagalog version of the chorus goes like this “Suliranin man ay dumating (Even if predicaments come our way) Ikaw lamang O Diyos ang sasambahin (I will praise you alone O God) Panginoon ko sayo lamang, mananatili kalian pa man (Forever I will remain still in You o Lord).” I know, it’s not a very accurate translation, but the song is not the point.

Whenever I am confronted by verses that command me to BE STILL and get a grip of my anxious soul, I always think of just giving up. Most people would even say LET GO AND LET GOD and it always feels like a last resort. It’s like driving your car until it runs out of gas and then letting the momentum take you wherever. Subconsciously, I have equated being STILL to passively quitting. Que sera sera – whatever happens, happens. This was my mentality before I was confronted by a sermon preached in church just recently about INTENTIONAL GROWTH.

We Christians are saved by God’s grace alone. Our faith and understanding of God is also a gift that is made possible by the ministry of the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truths (John 16:13). We are privileged to understand spiritual things because we were permitted to understand spiritual things. When it comes to our spiritual growth, we are commanded to endure and show character in the light of hardship and persecution (Heb 12:7). Even Jesus said to love those who persecute us (Mat 5:44). So where does being STILL fit in this scenario of INTENTIONAL GROWTH?

I believe that being still is not passive in nature. Remember Jesus telling the storm to BE STILL? It required great power. Power that Jesus initially veiled as He lived His life as a human being (Phil 2:6-7). He had the power, He was just not flaunting it. In our case, we have that same power in Christ and we should recognize it. Being STILL requires an active understanding of God’s character and how He directly affects our lives. Being STILL is not giving up but pressing on and moving towards the goal that was set before us. Being STILL is a calling to pursue holiness in the midst of pain and corruption. Being STILL is our best option during times of uncertainty.

When we start to choose to be still, change is never guaranteed. Peace, on the other hand, may be attained in our STILLNESS. I love how the Apostle Paul told the believers in Philippi that God’s peace is beyond their comprehension and is able to guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ (Phil 4:7).

As my wife and I go through rivers of doubts during her pregnancy, I pray for God’s sustaining grace as we attempt to intentionally grow in Him and actively pursue being STILL.

HOLY WEAK

The end of the Lenten season is at hand topped off with a weeklong commemoration of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. The “HOLY WEEK” is anticipated by the Filipino people, not because of any spiritual undertone, but because of the long holiday weekend. It’s a chance for the working people to experience uninterrupted days of rest. So…who’s excited for a long holiday weekend? (If you’re reading this in the far future, I’m writing this during the enhanced community quarantine where everyone has been in lockdown for more than a month because of the Covid-19 pandemic.)

Celebrating Jesus should be a default for the Christian. Apostle Paul declared it best to the believers in Philippi – “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21 NIV) The life of the Apostle Paul before his encounter with Jesus in the road to Damascus was so much against God, and yet, God in His love and sovereignty pursued Paul (it was Saul back then) to live a life with a greater purpose. That is why, when the great Apostle said “For to me, to live is Christ…” it was a statement that as long as he is living, the life he is living will be in parallel to Christ. He can confidently say that, because he has nothing to lose. Even dying is gain…profit! That is why, if you only have this week to think about Christ, to honor His sacrifice, then what does that make us?

Dedicating our lives to Jesus is never easy. Even Jesus said that the world will hate us because of Him (John 15:18; Matt 10:22). We will even be persecuted because of Jesus (Matt 5:11). The Christian way of living will be hard, and the only way for us to live it out the way it should be is when we understand that our hope is in the Lord (Isa 40:31). That is why, our best shot in this world is to really stick close to Jesus. How close? Like you have “…been crucified with Christ…” (Gal 2:20). When you continue the verse, it says there that being crucified with Christ gives you a grace oriented perception that it is no longer you and I who are living, it is Christ living in us!

So let’s get to my main point.

We, who have been sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ, draw strength from the God who pursued us. We are spiritually weak and vulnerable. And it is in our weakness where God’s power is made complete and full. That is why we should never be ashamed of our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). Our capacity to comprehend the grace, mercy and compassion of Christ is all because of the power of the Holy Spirit in us who teaches us all things (John 14:26).

In conclusion, during the holiest week of the year, we have to accept the fact that we are weak. If Jesus, in all His power, decided to veil His deity and become man just to fulfill the Father’s plan (Phil 2:6-8), then we, who are spiritually weak, has no choice but to submit to God.

 

This is my first installment in my personal reflection regarding the importance of knowing who Jesus is. I hope and pray, that as we progress in our walk with God, that our ultimate understanding of His nature would radically change the direction of our goals and aspiration in life. 

PASSING OVER

The exodus account is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Seeing the faithfulness of God all through-out the narrative is a depiction of unfailing grace and renewed mercy. The temporary uprooting of Jacob and his family was pre-planned by God in eternity past so that the lineage of Christ will be preserved. It gives you a glimpse of God’s love towards His beloved. Then, the time came for the Israelites to return.

When you read the first chapter of exodus starting at verse 8, you would see that the suffering of the Israelites started when a new Pharaoh came into power without being oriented to the history and origin of Joseph’s people. Fear was somehow instilled in the mind of this new leader. A major detail to the story of the Passover.

I will not be tackling the whole story. I expect that you have come here with a basic knowledge of the Exodus story, or even the Disney adaptation – Prince of Egypt. Now, let’s fast forward to the very last plague that would be the key to the Israelite’s release.

Now the Lord had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. (Exo 11:1 NIV)

Let’s pause. You might be thinking – “Why didn’t God just jump to this plague right here? Why go through all the trouble of sending nine plagues?” Well, it’s a very valid question. I asked myself that years ago, and I came across this study on how all the plagues God sent may have been a direct contradiction to one or two specific gods of the Egyptians. Just like how the last plague hits the ultimate power of Egypt – Pharaoh! The Egyptians worshipped Pharaoh. They even believe that he is the actual son of Ra – the sun god. So, when you think about it, the nine plagues before the final one is a precursor to the ultimate knockout move God has planned out. Now that God has the attention of both the Israelites and the Egyptians, it’s time to show grace and judgment in one pass.

So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt – worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites, not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. (Exodus 11:4-7 NIV)

There’s the knock-out punch! I love how Moses wrote the last part of verse 7 – “Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. God has drawn the line and made sure that the world will know the difference between those He has chosen and those whose heart has hardened from the mere revelation of His character. Let’s move on.

The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you – so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country. (Exo 11:9 & 10)

TIME OUT! That’s not fair! Pharaoh was bound to lose in the first place! Let’s clarify. First of all, God will always judge fairly (Psa 9:8). If we understand the nature of God, it’s common knowledge for the believer (It should be) that everything God has willed and purposed is and will be good (Rom 8:28) – final and beneficial. Secondly, God is also a God of mercy, compassion, and grace (Lam 3:23). Never will God contradict His essence just to prove a point. His characteristics operate simultaneously without any contradiction. Remember what I said? GRACE AND JUDGEMENT IN ONE PASS! Now, let’s go back to my first question – Why did it take 10 plagues when it could have been finished in one? What if, it’s also a show of grace to Pharaoh to acknowledge God’s power and sovereignty over everything? I love how an article in The Gospel Coalition explained that for the first five plagues, Pharaoh hardened his heart. It was not until the end of the sixth plague (Exo 9:12) that it mentioned the Lord hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Then, then the article said this:

Well how did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? God simply revealed himself. He revealed his power, supremacy, love for his people, hatred of sin, etc.. Through the signs and wonders of the plagues. It was this revelation of God that hardened his heart.

Even before the plagues happened, in the first verse we read, the information Pharaoh decided to believe was the foundation of his heart being hardened. He did not know who Joseph was, therefore the existence of the Israelites became a threat.

We have come to the part of the story where God gave the Israelites the whole day to prepare for His visit. This part amazes me because of the way God has included specific instructions for the people to follow. The details include what meal to eat, how to prepare the meal, how to eat the meal and even what to wear during the meal. The most interesting part is when Moses said this:

“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘it is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshipped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. (Exo 12:24-28)

This was an event worth remembering. This was an event that future generations needed to hear about. It’s like God telling the Israelites – Don’t you forget that I chose you! And when I come passing through your homes, remember that I showed you grace! Grace to the Israelites. Judgment to the Egyptians. All in one passing.

So how does this story help us?

Well, dearly beloved, if you are a follower of Christ, then we should not forget that God chose us. Before the foundation of the world, we have been purposed to be In Christ. Spiritual death passed over us the moment we were reconciled in Christ. Grace pursued us the moment we were born to this fallen world. The elaborate story of the Exodus was given for us to deeply appreciate the extent of God’s faithfulness towards us. Even during the times when we fail and complain, just like what the Israelites will do after they are freed, God continued to show grace.

Now, hold on to these principles. Live life with a better perspective. Look at your circumstances through the lens of grace. Remember this fact – that through Christ’s loving mercy, He called onto death to pass over His beloved and offered Himself in our stead. The passing over of death is in itself an act of grace.

ABUNDANT GRACE

When apostle Paul complained to God the predicament he’s been having, God replied that His grace was sufficient…never did I understand what Paul was going through, but it has to be something big for him to bring it up many times. But once God answered, I never did read another word from Paul. Sometimes I wonder how I would react under those circumstances…if I were Paul, would I just shut up after an indefinite answer on how God would solve this “thorn in the flesh”? We have to look at Paul’s story!

You see, Paul was shown grace by God from the beginning of his Christian Life. Being blinded along the road to Damascus rather than being killed by God for persecuting most of Israel’s God fearing men is a big incentive to count. Paul even considered himself chief of all sinners…not a good info to put in your Facebook page, yet God used him everywhere! He was the most successful missionary to the gentiles. He expressed grace as openly as God had poured out grace to him…you might consider his letters as strong, but if you would take time to analyze it…you would sense the character of God in every word…he often pleads for his readers to reconsider doing things the right way…”I BESEECH THEE…” Paul said.

If God could extend grace to a murderer of Christians and use him for His glory…then how much more could he extend grace to us? If you think you’ve done such a sin that you are not worthy of forgiveness, think again…think about Paul…don’t belittle our God…don’t think too much of yourself. God’s integrity is so intact that He can handle any mistake we make…as long as we recognize that we need His forgiveness…I John 1:9 nails it good when it states that if we would just recognize that we have done wrong in front of God and tell it to Him directly and privately, He would always look back at what His Son has done and say “FORGIVEN!” Because that’s how God rolls…with abundant grace!

GIVING A DEFENSE

Last Sunday, we had a very interesting time at Church…well, we always do, but this time it’s different. During our life lesson’s time, the topic took a very heavy turn. It talked about conversational evangelism. Evangelism per se is the epitome of the divine directive that is given to all Christians. “GO YE THEREFORE…” is the operative phrase in the great commission of Christ to the church age believers. John Piper even said, “the good news that is not proclaimed is not a good one…it’s not even news!”

Personally, I was challenged with the drive of the message that day. I was examining myself on how I am fulfilling the great commission? What part am I doing? Am I not responding to God’s call? Is this part of the “CHANGE PROJECT” I set out to do? Are you telling me something God? These are questions that need to be dealt with in this lifetime.

To make matters even more complicated (yet affirming), I’ve just finished listening to Ravi Zacharias’ introduction to Apologetics, and I tell you, complicated is just an understatement! There are things in life that I wish I could grasp with just a phrase or two…but in reality, the things of God are too broad and infinite in character that words could barely contain their full significance. In this study, it teaches us how to “…make a defense” according to Peter’s 1st book in the New Testament. To MAKE A DEFENSE in the Greek is the word APOLOGIA which means apologetics. It is simply building a solid belief system that can be used to convey and explain itself using acquired and applied knowledge. It’s CONVERSATIONAL EVANGELISM. I think God is telling me something.

For quite some time I’ve been assessing myself in all aspects…thinking of my role in this world. Am I just a pawn of the princes of the power of this world? Or am I a new creature…armed with the mind of a deity who personally thought of me while being sacrificed for MY sins. Why am I here? What’s my DEFENSE?

REALITY OF CHANGE

I don’t like it but I need it. I HAVE to change in order for me to be able to do stuff that really matter. Life is constantly changing, and not to change will be devastating. 50, 20, 10 years ago…things ran differently. The government for one has a constant fluctuation in growth…one decade we we’re a tiger economy, then a poverty stricken country on the next. People change for the better or mutate to a Hyde-like person. We are changing.

This morning, I was browsing the internet for stuff that would satisfy my interest-seeking media conscience. I had five browsers simultaneously running with one purpose in mind; fulfill my craving for information that could benefit my career and my spiritual life. 15 minutes in to my search for media-nirvana, I stumbled upon Pastor Ed Young’s blog. Pastor Ed Young is the Pastor of Fellowship Church and his recently concluded Sunday Sermon just got uploaded. He has a series on LUST called “Leaving Lust Vegas” and preached on the lust of the flesh. I watched the 28min teaser kinda clip…the rest of the sermon was available for download for a small donation. The clip revolved around the story of Lot and his decision to pitch his tent towards Sodom (Genesis 13) during an internal conflict with his uncle Abe. We all know that Sodom and Gomorrah provided services that would bankrupt Manila’s Red Light district. Unimaginable sexual lusts are marketed in that city 24/7…and Lot was slowly drawn from the outskirts of Sodom in to the heart of Sodom.

What struck me the most with Pastor Young’s sermon was the reality of how much effort we have to exert in order to integrate biblically good change within us. I am 25, and people say I’m still young…but according to a Wii console, I’m in a 36 year old body! Now that’s one change I need to address…but for the rest of my life, what do I really want to do? What changes should occur for me to be used by God? Another question that I need to ask myself is…am I willing to change at all?

I already know that change needs to begin within. As John the beloved said that as my soul prospers, the details of life will follow. I want to succeed in life, but not according to man’s standards. I want God’s approval and hear Him in my soul say “Well done!” I think seeking God’s approval is not a lust, but a desire.

So, what do I need to do? CHANGE

How will I change? Now…that’s a question for another blog entry to answer! For now, I’ll be doing baby bite size applications and try to implement as much renovation of the mentality as possible!

BREAKING POINT

When you had enough crap from people, circumstances and things…and you feel like shouting from the top of your lungs and just curse…then my friend, you have just reached one of life’s breaking point! Yes…you read it right…it’s just one of the many opportunities to break or make a situation!

I acknowledge the fact that we are mere mortals…humans…in my language it goes like this…”sensya…tao lang!” But in reality, the fact of us being finite in being is not really an excuse. God, in His sovereign nature, has purposed in His plan for man to be weak and vulnerable…not because God is a sadist…but because He wants us to realize that if we ever reach the BREAKING POINT, He is there to show His love, mercy and grace! When Adam ate the forbidden fruit, God knew that it was the perfect time to show grace…so He called Adam. Not because he did not know where he is…but because he wants them (Adam and Eve) to acknowledge their mistake and come to Him for a divinely approved solution. But instead of going to God, they sewed fig leaves and hid their nakedness (human works).

You see…we have this opportunity to be confronted and comforted by God…the only thing we need is to restore that relationship with Him that was once lost by Adam. So if you are reading this, and you are nearing your breaking point, then assess yourself.

1) Do you have an eternal relationship with God the Father? The only way you can have that relationship is if you sincerely accept Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, as your personal Savior, and recognize that you cannot save yourself

2) if you have that relationship with God…then are you growing for the good of the kingdom? Are you taking in Biblical principles that will lead you to spiritual maturity?

Only you can answer that question…so I urge you beloved reader…search your heart!