When it is easy and when in a pit

July 28, 2010

Last Sunday, our pastor preached about being thankful. As usual, my family discussed the sermon on the drive back home. My husband, son, and I agreed that we are very thankful. We feel very blessed and we thank God in our prayers daily. It’s easy for us to thank God.

The other day, I happened to catch a part of a TV show (can’t even remember what show it was) that interviewed an elderly couple. Their son was murdered. What the woman (the dead man’s mother) said struck me.

Before the murder of their son, the woman said, she was a Pollyanna. Her life was wonderful. She was raised by loving parents, had a happy childhood, loved school and her friends, had a rewarding career, loving husband, and a son who was her joy. She said it was easy to thank God.

When her son was killed, she felt like she was in a dark pit. And she realized God was in the pit with her.

If you are a believer who had been in a dark pit, you know what she’s talking about. Although I can’t say my pit was as horrible as the one this woman went through, I certainly could relate to being immersed in a hopeless dark pit and aware of God’s presence. I stumbled around and made mistakes. But God was there with me, and He didn’t let me fall completely. God is the reason why I became a stronger person through the
experience, instead of crumbling. God deserves the credit for guiding me so that I didn’t do something stupid (you know, the kind of mistake that you regret for the rest of your life) that would have messed up the lives of the people I loved.

When my heart was grieved
      and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
      I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
      you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
      and afterward you will take me into glory.
Psalm 73:21-24

So now, I am a Pollyanna. Having experienced dark times in the past, I’m very thankful for the blessings in my life. Loving husband, delightful son, rewarding job, etc. It’s easy to thank God when everything is wonderful, like right now. But I also know to hang on to God if I’m ever in a dark pit again.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
      And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Psalm 73:25

Advertisements

“The truth will set you free.”

May 21, 2010

I hear these words of Jesus quoted a lot, and it always makes me wonder if the speaker knows from what we’re being set free. I tend to think most people refer to the removal of mental and/or emotional burdens from hiding the truth, or living with misunderstandings. But that is not the intended meaning.

Just so we understand the context, here are the verses where the quote comes from:

John 8: 31-32 (NIV)

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

From this text, I can conclude two requirements of being Jesus’ disciple.

1)      we must believe Jesus

-AND-

2)      we must hold to His teaching

Then, we will know the truth.

By the way, we receive the love of the truth from God through faith.

2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 (NIV)

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

But let’s return to the original question. Free from what? After all, we’re not slaves who need to be freed. Jesus’ audience had the same question.

John 8: 33 (NIV)

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus then explains his meaning in the following verses.

John 8: 34-36 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Notice Jesus equated Himself to be the truth. (The truth will set you free = If the Son sets you free)

All of us sin. That makes us slaves to sin. Sin masters over us. But when we humbly come to Jesus, repent, and believe His word (that He died to redeem us from the penalty and power of sin), we are set free. God removes the penalty of sin from us and gives the Holy Spirit so that the believers could live under His influence and not be slaves to sin anymore.

What God requires of us (repentance and faith) is very little, compared to what He offers us in return. I am a new creation, a living testimony of His work.


Test? What test?

April 19, 2010

Matt 10:37

(NAS)  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

When I read this chapter with my son the other day, I explained to him that we are to love Jesus more than anyone or anything else in our lives.

I could see the concern in my 12-year-old’s face. He said, “I respect Him the most, but I’m not sure I love Him the most. How do you know you love Him the most?”

My heart delights when I’m reading and studying God’s Word. My son agrees he enjoys reading God’s Word with me, too. But we also enjoy spending time with other people and doing other things. So maybe that doesn’t prove that we love Jesus above all else.

I believe this is why God tests us. To give us an opportunity to choose Him over what we love or want, so that we may know (He already knows) that He is our # 1. Just the way He tested Abraham by having him give up his son, Isaac.

Of course, God telling me to sacrifice my son is highly unlikely. My tests so far has been about giving up my selfish desires to obey God. However, I do see famous Christians watering down their message to appeal to the mass. And I wonder . . . if God gave me a huge platform, would I have the courage to speak the truth?


Christ-Exalting Sermons

November 30, 2009

Whenever my faith needs encouragement, I read John Piper’s sermons on Desiring God.

His messages express what I believe better than I ever could. I appreciate that Mr. Piper always points to Jesus as the whole of our hope, which, one would expect from sermons, but unfortunately I find such single-focused, Christ-exalting messages rare.

Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

This verse is just one example. Jesus spent much of His time teaching people about who HE was. Shouldn’t we Christians be about His agenda?

 


We’re Not Alone

November 3, 2009

I co-lead a weekly inductive Bible study for women at our church. After class, one of the ladies (I’ll call her Emma*) asked me if I searched for a new church.

I was surprised by the question because Emma* and her husband are very involved in our church. They are leaders of a couple of ministries. So I’m thinking maybe she’d heard about my disagreement with what was being taught at another Bible study, not suspecting she’d been thinking of leaving our church.

I answered that I haven’t actively searched. Then she shared with me her frustrations with people not pursuing the truth in the Word, and actually discouraging all discussions regarding doctrinal issues. Several of her friends already left our church.

While I’ve felt the same frustrations, I decided that my church was my mission field. God had not told me to leave. And as long as the opportunity is here to teach the inductive Bible study where we can dig into the truth and train others to accurately divide the Word, I see the value in staying.

But we agreed, at times, it feels like we are all alone in seeking Jesus. What an encouragement to know that we’re not alone!


Grateful

October 28, 2009

One evening, my twelve-year-old son said, “I have a charmed life.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“In class, when our teacher asked us about the most difficult thing that happened in our lives, I couldn’t think of anything. No one I love died. Grandpa had cancer, but he recovered,” my son explained.

I should point out that my son is the most optimistic person I know. I love that about him. My husband and I joke that our son would get a box of poop as a gift and holler, “With this much poop, there’s got to be a pony!!”

“During prayer time, I never can think of a prayer request. God already gave me everything,” he continued. “I have loving parents, grandparents, family, and friends. I have a good life.”

What a blessing, as a parent, to hear my child say these things. Makes me praise God.

We agreed that since God bless our lives, he and I can spend more time praying for others.


Who is Jesus?

October 2, 2009

Jesus claimed to be equal to God, and people wanted to stone Him for blaspheming.

Having grown up as a Jehovah’s Witness, I know they don’t believe that Jesus is Jehovah God. Even though Bible backs it up. Here is one of many references in the Bible about who Jesus is.

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Knowing the verse does no good if we don’t acknowledge its truth, believe, and worship Him accordingly.