Friday, June 24, 2016

Christ's Grace Suffices

- Paul asks the Lord three times to take his "thorn in the flesh" away. Jesus does not take it away but offers His grace to bear it, instead. Christ's grace is sufficient for any affliction, trial, or hardship. His grace sustains and strengthens us. God knows what we need when we need it. Our weaknesses provide opportunities for the display of divine power. Paul boasts gladly about his weaknesses in order to show Christ's power resting on him. Paul is finally content to live with his "thorn" because he finds rest in Christ's power and grace.

- God may not always remove our problems, sufferings, sorrows or change our circumstances but He will always give us His grace to endure. Psalm 46:10a says, "
Be still ('raphah' in Hebrew means 'be weak, let go'), and know that I am God." God wants us to let go and be weak...thus lean on Him and completely depend on Him. Any hardship in life is an opportunity to showcase God's grace and glorify Him.


- God's power/strength is made perfect in our weakness. It stands out best/shines brightest when we are weak and humbly acknowledge that we need God's help and look to Him for strength. "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." (Psalm 105:4) Do you feel weak or weary? Perfect! You're in the perfect condition to receive God's grace, power, and strength. "It was the very experience of weakness which allowed Paul to discover God's strength." (Alistair Begg) When we think we are strong and can handle everything ourselves, we are actually weak because we trust and rely on selves, instead of God. When we realize we're weak, we become strong because we rely on Christ's strength. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) Be humble and admit your limitations and weaknesses before God. You will experience the benefits and blessings of God's amazing, sufficient grace.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Merciful and Faithful High Priest

"For this reason He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted." (Hebrews 2:17-18)

The purposes of Jesus being fully human (while still being fully God) include to destroy the devil and power of death, to free those who were in bondage to sin and fear of death, to be a sympathetic & trustworthy Mediator between God and us, and to make atonement for the sins of the people.

Even though Jesus Christ is absolutely perfect and sinless, He voluntarily took our sin upon Himself and suffered agonizing death on the cross in our place to pay for the penalty of our sin. This greatest sacrifice satisfied God's justice, righteous wrath, and holiness.

Jesus understands our weaknesses and intercedes for us in the presence of God the Father. Because He Himself suffered (but He never surrendered Himself to temptation) when He was tempted, He knows exactly what it's like to be tempted and He is able to help us when we are tempted. He is merciful (full of mercy, grace, love, and compassion) and faithful (we can always count on Him). "Since we have a great High Priest who has ascended into Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16) Jesus Christ is our High Priest who can empathize with us. In His humanity, Christ was familiar with our needs, temptations, and problems. Satan tempted Him in the wilderness but He didn't succumb to the temptation; He did not sin. He overcame each temptation with God's Word. We don't have to sin when facing temptations, either. "The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one." (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

We no longer need to fear dying since we know that when we leave this earth, we will live eternally with God in Heaven. Christ's death and resurrection defeated Satan & death and delivered us from slavery to sin; therefore, the Enemy, sin, and death no longer have power over us. We will be clothed with the imperishable and immortality. "The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed...'Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:52b, 54b-58) What marvelous victory all believers have in Christ!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your atonement, mercy, and faithfulness! Thank You for my eternal home with You in Heaven! Thank You for not leaving us alone to fend for ourselves here on earth! Please enable me to overcome any temptation and emerge from any trials victorious. Please give me a heart of empathy like Yours. Teach me, Lord, how to help those who struggle and suffer. Help me be a good listener and encourager. Use me, Lord, to be Your messenger of light, love, grace, mercy, and hope. Amen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Incarnation and Deity of Christ


"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14 NIV)

God's glory (divine presence) had dwelt in the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) and in the temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-3), but had departed because of the nation's sin. Now God's glory was returning to earth in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is God; He is the physical, visible image of God (Who is invisible). He reveals God in human form ("The Word became flesh"). He's fully God and fully man. Jesus is God's Expression of Himself to mankind. Jesus is God's Message to mankind. The Word (Logos) is the Son of God, Who became incarnate in order to reveal God fully! It is incredibly amazing and mind-boggling that God became a Man and made His dwelling among us (love and humility at its best) in order to reach out to us, to let us (created beings) know & understand our Creator better, and to give His life so that we could be forgiven, redeemed, and have eternal life with Him in Heaven.

Jesus is full of grace and truth. He is the Light of the World (John 1:4, 8:12, 9:5, 12:46). He illuminates/ communicates the knowledge of God to us. He is the True Light that enlightens us to see clearly our sin and our need for a Savior. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He is the Embodiment of grace and truth. In Him is perfect redemption and perfect revelation.

May we imitate Christ by embracing both grace and truth! Grace and truth must go hand in hand. Some people are all about grace but they ignore the importance of truth (ex: avoiding topics of sin and hell, compromising or sugarcoating God's Word in the name of grace for fear of offending someone, etc) while others are all about truth but they lack grace (speaking truth from the Bible but with anger, meanness, arrogance, and disrespect). Neither group is effective in drawing people to Christ.

Prayer: Abba Father, thank You for sending Jesus into our world so that we can have hope and eternal life! It's because of Christ's life, death, and resurrection that we can be forgiven and saved. Please give me the boldness to share this good news with others every chance I get. May my life always be reflection of Your grace and truth! In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sin, Consequences, and Forgiveness

"David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them." (2 Samuel 12:16-17)

Think before you act! You reap what you sow. There are consequences to sins...some are more devastating than others, such as in David's case. More often than not, the consequences of our sin affect not only ourselves but also others, including those we love. As a result of David's sin (sleeping with Bathsheba and getting her husband, Uriah killed), his family was in turmoil, filled with many troubles (death of his & Bathsheba's first son, constant bloodshed, rebellion, his daughter, Tamar, was raped by his son, Amnon, who in turn was murdered by his other son, Absalom, his wives were violated in public). Don't ever think that one little sin is no big deal and that you can get away with it. Usually, one sin leads to another and then another. Slowness to repentance causes one to be more and more insensitive to sin. Look at David's descent into sins. Lust/coveting. Adultery. Murder (plot to get rid of Uriah) to cover adultery. Blindness to his own sin and injustice (until Nathan confronted him).

There's grace and forgiveness available for us when we repent and seek God. David's remorse made him a broken & contrite man and God forgave him & graciously spared his life (David deserved the death penalty for adultery and murder according to the law). He was called a "man after God's own heart", even with all the mistakes he made. David humbly confessed, "I have sinned against the LORD." (2 Samuel 12:13) He did not try to rationalize or make light of his sin or make an excuse. Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 show David's heart of genuine repentance, of joy from receiving God's forgiveness, and of gratitude for God's unfailing love. He pleaded with God to spare his son's life but in the end, he accepted God's discipline/correction/punishment and was not bitter towards God. After finding out his son was dead, David "went into the house of the Lord and worshiped." (2 Samuel 12:20) While God forgives sin (1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness"); He doesn't necessarily remove its consequences. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8)

Finally, God gives and takes away; blessed be His Name!

Epidemic

"Most of us are guilty of perpetuating a culture that puts physical beauty on a pedestal. Despite professing that 'it's what inside that counts,' how often do our children, nieces, nephews, and students hear us praise others for their character?" (Heather Davis Nelson)

The emphasis on physical beauty/body image leads to body shame, discontent, and/or unhealthy obsession with diet (including eating disorders) and exercise, clothes and beauty products. There's no excuse for overeating and not taking care of selves. We still need to practice good stewardship and take care of the bodies (the Holy Spirit's temples) we've been given. But let's ponder this: Do we care more about our appearance than our character and/or do we praise others for their appearance more than their character? Do we tie our acceptance and approval of someone to his/her size, weight, and appearance? Do we live pressured and pressuring others regarding how we and they should look? Let us not contribute to this culture's disease!


"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Our wonderfully and intricately made bodies are meant to be used to honor/worship God, not to become a source of self-worship or other-worship.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fear Can Make You Do Crazy Things

"David took these words (of enemies) to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard." (1 Samuel 21:12-13)

Fear can make you do crazy things! Fear made David flee from Saul to seek help from enemies (the Philistines). Fear made David pretend to be insane and act like a madman. By the way, even a great warrior and king like David is not immune to fear. When you listen to enemies' words and take them to heart, you can become afraid, anxious, or ashamed. The Enemy will use fear, worry, and/or shame as a trap to keep you from your potential. Lay all your burdens at Jesus's feet and let His grace & forgiveness wash over you and set you free to be whom He made you to be & to do what He wants you to do. He will give you strength, wisdom, peace, and courage that you need. Listen to our Shepherd's voice and follow our King's lead, instead of taking matters into our own hands out of fear! Faith will overcome fear. "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, and the flame will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. You are precious and honored in My sight, and..I love you...Do not be afraid, for I am with you." (Isaiah 43:1b-5a) Fear not! God is with you and for you!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Jesus, the Shepherd of Our Souls

"I Myself will tend My sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice... You are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.'" (Ezekiel 34:15-16, 31)

Jesus is our Good Shepherd! "I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11). Jesus loves us and takes care of us, His sheep. He laid down His life for us. He helps us lie down (rest contentedly & securely). "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul." (Psalm 23:1-3a) He searches for the lost and brings back the strays. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10) "I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek Your servant, for I have not forgotten Your commands." (Psalm 119:176) He heals the injured and strengthens the weak. "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3) But He will destroy/punish "the sleek and the strong" which refer to "those with power who had fattened themselves by oppressing the other 'sheep'" (from the NIV Study Bible's commentary) This is a warning for all who are selfish, self-righteous, greedy, abusive, and oppressive.

Verse 31 shows a beautiful covenant God made to His children. It's the eternal relationship between the Sovereign Lord and His people/the Shepherd and His sheep. We belong to Him! Jesus is the Shepherd of our souls. What a blessed assurance it is to know that He watches over us, provides for us, protects us, feeds us, and guides us with a loving hand! "When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)

"The Bible, which throws the clearest light on man’s weakness and sin, exalts him to a height above all we could hope or desire. It marks out man from the rest of creation by the fact that he is capable by grace of hearing God’s voice, of following after and of loving Him. The Lord takes one of the tenderest relations of pastoral life when He says, “Ye are My flock”; and in the fulness of time we have the clear explanation of these words in those of Christ Jesus our Lord, “I am the Good Shepherd: My sheep hear My voice and follow Me.” He who believes that this world has been trodden by the human steps of the Son of God, that His prayers have ascended from it, that He shed His blood to redeem it, that He shared our humanity even unto death, and lives again at God’s right hand, can receive with joy unspeakable the marvellous promises of the destiny of those who are Christ’s. The love of God becomes a reality, life earnest, restoration to holiness possible." (D. Reith)

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for Your promises that give us peace and comfort! Thank You for being the Shepherd of my soul and taking care of all my needs! You are the Source of my life, my growth, and my strength. Help me to always rely on You, trust You, and rest in You. Please guide me to do Your will and lead me as I lead others. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

David: Youngest but Bravest

"David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father's sheep at Bethlehem." (1 Samuel 17:14-15)

David was the youngest but as we can see from 1 Samuel 17, he was the bravest among his siblings and as a matter of fact, among all the Israelites on the battlefield. David also is a responsible young man. Even though he probably preferred to be in the battlefield with the big boys (I can imagine it looked all exciting to him), he still kept up his responsibility of tending his father's sheep. The future king (already anointed by Samuel) was still willing to do such lowly tasks. That's humility, integrity, and obedience.

Since David was the youngest, his family didn't expect much from him. King Saul certainly didn't expect him to be able to fight Goliath. However, David did not let other people's low expectation of him deter him from doing what he knew as the right thing to do. David was zealous and concerned about honoring God and resented Goliath for defying the armies of the living God. Do you listen to naysayers and get discouraged? Instead, you and I must listen to our Shepherd's voice and follow His leading and His calling for our lives, regardless of what mockers or enemies say.

In the world's eyes, a shepherd boy is not equipped to fight a fierce warrior like Goliath. But God has equipped and prepared David in the fields of his everyday life for this fight. David recounted how God helped him kill both the lion and the bear in order to rescue the sheep. "The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine." (1 Samuel 17:37a) David's experiences as a shepherd were his building blocks to become a great warrior and king. More importantly, they displayed God's power and faithfulness to him upon which he would rely throughout his life. Remembering God's faithfulness in our lives is one way to strengthen our faith. Bloom where God plants you. David was overlooked by everyone else but handpicked by God! Despite how other people viewed him, David had God-confidence and that was enough.

Prayer: Lord, please give me strong faith, courage, humility, and integrity of heart like David's! Thank You for Your faithfulness in my life! Help me to overcome any giants in my life with faith and confidence in You. May You be glorified and magnified in my life, my marriage, my children, and my ministry!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Chosen by God

"He chose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of His people Jacob, of Israel His inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them." (Psalm 78:70-72)

- God chose and appointed David, a shepherd boy to be King and the shepherd of His people. An unlikely candidate! He was the youngest in his family and he was overlooked by his own family. But God picked him to be king whose lineage from which Jesus would come! God's choices may not make much sense to us but He knows what He is doing. "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b) People tend to make assumptions based on appearances. People are impressed by what they see. But God looks at the heart! "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed (loyal) to Him." (2 Chronicles 16:9a) He wants hearts that are fully committed to Him. He wants hearts with integrity. He wants leaders with a servant heart.
- Have you ever been treated as if you didn't exist, weren't wanted, or didn't matter? If so, you know the feeling. Remember this: You are chosen by God, you are loved by God, and you are treasured by God. God loves and cares for the insignificant, the overlooked, the lowly in status, and the outcast. God doesn't choose His servants for His tasks based on their resumes. The qualifications He looks for are different than what the world looks for. God uses F.A.T. people :). Faithful. Available. Teachable.

- No matter what your past/your background was, God can use you. The God who prepared David while he was tending the sheep has been preparing you and me throughout our lives. Don't discount your life experiences and skills. Psalm 78:70-72 shows that God was working in David's life from the beginning and using David's occupational skills for His glory and purposes. God equips those He calls.

- "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11) Sometimes, His plan for us involves waiting. David had to wait for 15 years from the time Samuel anointed him to the time he became king over Judah. Waiting time is not wasted time; it's time that God uses to prepare us and refine us for His divine plan/calling He has for our lives. It's God's heart-training and character-testing program. Wait upon the Lord! Have confidence in God's perfect timing!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am so glad and thankful that You have loved me with an everlasting love and have chosen me before the foundation of the world! Please use me for Your glory and Your kingdom. Please help me to be patient and to trust You & Your timing when I get frustrated with having to wait. Change my heart, O God, to be like Yours! In Jesus's Name, I pray. Amen.

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