Boasting in the big C

This morning I read Paul boasting about his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33. He described himself as a fool. Only a fool (by the world’s standard) could and would brag about sufferings in life. Read all about it: vv. 23-27; 32-33
 
“been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
 
“In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.”
 
Paul’s account reminded me of my own boast – it’s a far far cry from what he went through but here’s my story.
 
I remember sharing with my BSF (Bible study fellowship) group mates that it was a privilege to have the big ‘C.’ For Christians, that’s a Yes especially when C stands for Christ, right? But nope, my big C was not Christ, actually, it’s a much smaller c than Christ.
 
C as in cancer… yes, it was a big ‘C’ when it comes to the world of dreaded terminal diseases and there are many! But in my journey with cancer, I found that this big c is beyond compare to the greatest C = Christ who conquered this c for me and with me.
 
In 2009, when I was forty-seven, I was diagnosed with Stage O, ductal carcinoma in situ. This marked the beginning of my journey with Mr. C. My treatment included a lumpectomy to remove a portion of my left breast, as well as thirty-four sessions of radiation therapy, and cancer maintenance medications that I continued to take (with all their side-effects and possible consequences) for seven years.
 
When I began going through radiation treatment, God’s Word nourished and sustained me. As I read God’s word each day, I experienced his presence and power strengthening me, and I rejoiced in his amazing grace. My prayer: “Lord, if you think my life has achieved the purpose you planned for me, then I am at peace with that. But if my mission is not yet complete, then show the way that I will continue to live according to your purpose. In the meantime, I want to make my life useful for your glory—to help my neighbours go through their challenges and any people you bring to me.”
 
When my mammography results showed suspicious cancer cells, my doctor was quite positive and encouraged me, saying, “Everything’s going to be fine. Nothing to worry about.”
 
When the biopsy results came back, his words taught me a lesson. For while it is good to look forward in hope, it is practical to accept what is with faith. The dual lens of faith is to take both the good and the bad from the hand of God.
 
For faith is not about who I am, but who God is—full of grace and mercy. It is not about me worrying less and trusting God more, but about experiencing and knowing God’s character more in the challenges of life. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6).
 
A friend used to encourage me that living life is putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. The Israelites had to step onto the Red Sea after the water parted. Then they had to step into the waters of the Jordan before the waters parted. As children of God, we need to step out in faith because we know that God is leading us—in fire by night and in cloud by day.
 
As I came to know God more through my experience with cancer, I was able to tell others who were sick and suffering about God’s amazing grace and faithfulness to me. Thus suffering opened the door for me to learn to love God and my neighbour more.
 
Friends with cancer, or those with loved ones fighting cancer, began to come to me with questions about treatment and which doctors to consult. I prayed for these friends, just as many prayer warriors prayed for me.
 
From the shy child that I used to be, I found courage to ask a young woman at the cancer centre with a big tumour on her forehead if I could pray with her. Without a second thought, she said, “Yes.” I learned this practice from a cancer survivor friend of a friend. He said that each time he went for his chemotherapy, he asked a fellow patient if he would like to pray with him. In his entire treatment journey, nobody ever said “no.”
 
Like Paul, I knew that through my journey with cancer, I could share in the gospel’s blessings: “to the weak I became weak. . . that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). Paul also said: “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.” (2 Cor. 11:29-31)
 
In each incident of suffering that I experienced, I have become bolder to share the good news to the people around me I have relationship with – my therapist, caregivers and even my masseuse. As they provide their services to me, I use the time to ask them about their lives, family, struggles, and joys. As I listen, I share the good news God has for them.
 
For all who love God are called to do his good purpose on earth, and that purpose is to make him known to all people. Through us, others will see and experience the presence, peace, provision, guidance, grace, and great mercy of our God.
 
Therefore I will boast of my weaknesses, for when I am weak then I am strong.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
I must admit that I am afraid to die a painful death. No, I am not afraid of death – or what comes after death. But I cannot say the same for the process of dying. I have seen many people dying from cancer, or just plain dying period. I have witnessed how my parents died. It was not a pleasant journey.
 
Dying is not a light joyful pain-free experience – not in body, mind and soul. It is physically painful, emotionally draining and spiritually heart-wrenching to watch your loved ones die. I could also imagine how hard it was for my mom to see me helplessly watch her dying. I do not want to be in my dad’s shoes to suffer as he did and watch my children feeling sad and tortured as they watch me dying.
 
Yet, of these things I boast. I am proud that I was privileged to journey with cancer. I count it a blessing that I was given the opportunity to accompany my parents in their journey and encounter to the end of this physical life. For when I was helpless and hopeless, God was my ever-present help and Christ was my everlasting hope because He has conquered death.
 
I boast in my weaknesses because I look forward in hope that one day, all these shall pass and I will forever live in the presence of my God and Creator, my Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ the Big C beyond compare to any ‘c’ in this world!
81uRFYpQ0zL._SL1500_.jpg
Advertisements

Enough is Enough

When I was in high school, our family of 4 lived in a small place. Our home had my parents’ bedroom and their bed, a kitchen/dining area which also served as our sleeping place (my sister’s and mine) and a small living room. The whole place was about the same size or a just a bit bigger than our (hubby’s and mine) bedroom today.

My father was a salesman for a paper manufacturing company for many years until his retirement. My mother was a school teacher for 43 years until her retirement. She helped augment the family income by tutoring and cooking lunch for students.  My sister and I had our college education at one of the top 3 universities in the country, the tuition of which was considered high compared to other universities during the early 1980’s.

We were not rich but we have what we need, and lived comfortably and securely in our home. We got a piano when I wanted to learn to play the piano. My mom bought me a stereo system when I asked for one. Following the Filipino-Chinese traditions of giving dowry to daughters, mama prepared sets of jewelries and all other stuffs expected of parents in her generation to give to me and my sister.

After almost 4 decades of living in rented apartments, my parents moved into a bungalow beside my sister’s home which she built for them. After 20 years of living in a 2 bedroom condo unit, my own family of 7 (3 children and 2 in-laws) moved into a 5-bedroom townhouse.

All material blessings are God’s amazing grace. We now have cars and drivers to take us where we need to go. My husband used to say when he got his first car: whenever he drove by the places where he used to commute, he would tell himself that he would and could do it again if needed.

In Chinese, we have a saying: 飲水思源- Think of the origin of water when drinking water. This means that we need to look back to where we come from in each stage of our life – as a reminder for us not to forget our past and be grateful for what we have become and have now. I learn that being happy in life is not about how much we have or do not have. It is all about being content and grateful for what we have. It is acknowledging that God is the giver of all things. This for me is living the prosperous life.

One prayer that comes to mind on poverty and riches is uttered by the wise Agur in Proverbs 30:7-9:

Two things I ask of You;
don’t deny them to me before I die: Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me. Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need.  Otherwise, I might have too much
and deny You, saying, “Who is the Lord?” or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God.

This prayer reminds me of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. Give us this day our daily bread. My attitude towards material things should be one of daily dependence on the provision of God. May God give me neither poverty nor wealth – but just enough so that I do not become too proud in riches nor do I shame my God in want!

bc44b08810d2e0164f960bc681ff1f07.jpg

I am not prosperous because I am rich.  I am rich because my wealth is found in God supplying all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. He calls me to give and share the riches He blessed me with – a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God (Phil. 4:18-19).

1 Timothy 6:6-10:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Three Chinese proverbs sum up the above passage. First, 知足常楽 is the way to blessed prosperity.  知 is know, 足 is contentment, 常is often, and 楽 is joy.  Know contentment and experience joy always. Secondly, 知足常足,終身不辱: Contentment brings satisfaction and spares one from disgrace. Related to Proverbs 30:7-9 is 比上不足, 比下有餘: Compare with the richer, and be found wanting. Compare with the poorer and discover there’s more than enough.

Enough is Enough… more than enough because God supplies all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

The Prosperous Life

What for you is the prosperous life? Is it a life filled with fame and fortune? Is it living the good life of success – anything that money can buy?

There are many paradoxical views in the Bible on being rich and poor. Paul exhorted the Corinthian church on the issue of being rich in poverty.  In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul described ‘servants of God as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things’ in the context of being a slave or a servant in ministry.

“Paul’s work as an apostle is called a diakonia, meaning ministry and service such as that of a slave who waits at table or acts as a messenger, a common form of labor in the economy of the time; and he sees himself as a poor man who makes many rich”[1].

He commended the churches in Macedonia for their generosity: that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord..” (2 Cor. 8:2-3). Paul wrote to make known to the Corinthians the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, this grace enables the Macedonians in their ‘extreme poverty’ to risk becoming even poorer[2].

Jesus commended the poor widow who gave all she had to live on. It is a sad reality that sometimes the poorer ones give more generously than the rich. John & Sylvia Ronsvalle studied the giving patterns of American Christians over 30 years and found that as income enormously increased, giving becomes proportionately less[3].

The perfect example of sacrificial giving in richness is that of Jesus who by His grace, “that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9).  This verse refers to the gospel’s economy of God backing up the practical issue of the collection for the Jerusalem church by a basic reformulation of the gospel[4].  It involves an exchange described in economic terms: katallage, which originally meant the exchange of money; a costly exchange that produces a ‘new sort of wealth’ also described as power perfected in weakness[5].

Jesus, gave up His riches and status as the Son of God – heir to the heavenly throne, to become a poor carpenter to identify with man. Just as He identifies with us in our poverty, we can identify with Him and become rich. The Chinese concept of Lu 祿 (Prosperity) seeks upward mobility while the kingdom of God is about downward mobility. Jesus came down to earth to reach out to the poor, the needy, the sinner, the marginalised, the disfigured, and the outcast of society. The Lu culture encourages people to climb the social ladder.

Lu is about the pursuit of wealth whereas the Bible warns us to beware of greed. The tenth commandment tells us not to covet. Hebrews 13:5 exhorts: “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.

Lu teaches that there is security in being rich while Christians are to be secure in the promise of God that He will always be with us.  For many Chinese, the love of money propels them to work hard and reap the fruit of their labor sometimes through any means good or bad.

Paul told Timothy: “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).  This verse was written about those who used godliness (religion) as a means for selfish gain.  Godliness in the true sense is great gain when there is contentment. The rationale for this is because “we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Paul further warned; “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.” (1 Tim. 6:5-9).

Contentment is not the usual trait of Chinese businessmen. How else can branch after branch of banks and malls spring up so quickly! Why do business conglomerates diversify?  In the tough world of competitive cut-throat economics, it is a rat race of survival of the fittest. You need to get ahead or you will be left behind or taken out of the race. Lu is ambitious pursuit of material possessions and the anti-thesis of contentment.

When I was in high school, our family of 4 lived in a small place. My parents’ bedroom held just their bed. We had a kitchen/dining area which also served as our sleeping place (my sister’s and mine) and a small living room. The whole place was about the same size or a just a bit bigger than our bedroom now.

My father was a salesman for a paper manufacturing company for many years until his retirement. My mother was a school teacher for 43 years until her retirement. She helped augment the family income by tutoring and cooking lunch for students.  My sister and I had our college education at De La Salle University (one of top 3 universities in the Philippines), the tuition of which was considered high compared to other universities during the early 1980’s.

We were not rich but we had what we needed, and lived comfortably and securely in our home. We got a piano when I wanted to learn how to play the piano. My mom bought me a stereo system when I asked for one. Following the Filipino-Chinese traditions of giving dowry to daughters, mama prepared sets of jewelries for me and my sister.

After 20 years of living in a 2-bedroom condo unit, our family of 7 (3 children and 2 in-laws) now lives in a 5 bedroom townhouse. All material blessings are God’s amazing grace. We now have cars and drivers to take us where we need to go. My husband used to say when he got his first car: whenever he drives by the places where he used to commute, he would tell himself that he would and could do it again if needed. In Chinese, we have a saying: 飲水思源- Think of the source of water when drinking water. This means that we need to look back to where we come from in each stage of our life – as a reminder for us not to forget our past and be grateful for what we have become and now hold in our hands. I learn that being happy in life is not about how much we have or do not have. It is all about being content and grateful for what we have. It is acknowledging that God is the giver of all things. This for me is living the prosperous life.

One prayer that comes to mind on poverty and riches is uttered by the wise Agur in Proverbs 30:7-9:

Two things I ask of You;
don’t deny them to me before I die: Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me. Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need.  Otherwise, I might have too much
 and deny You, saying, “Who is the Lord?” or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God.

This prayer reminds me of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. Give us this day our daily bread. My attitude towards material things should be one of daily dependence on the provision of God. May God give me neither poverty nor wealth – but just enough so that I do not become too proud in riches or too shameful in poverty.

Another lesson I learn that in prosperity, God wants us to be generous with the gifts and material resources that He gives us. I thank God that I learn generosity from my husband. He is generous to our company employees, to our household helpers and to the cause of giving for God’s work, for God’s servants and God’s preferential concern for the poor and the needy.

2 Corinthians 8-9 are chapters about money and basic attitudes to possessions and prosperity, but these are inseparable from the character and glory of God, the practice of faith and love in the church and the dynamic reality of grace.  Paul wrote these chapters in a Hellenistic urban society of limited goods mainly supported by agriculture where benevolence was an institution where wealth, power and influence was channelled in patron-client relationships.

The main feature of benevolence was reciprocity described further by Stephen C. Mott as: “A worthy recipient was considered to be one capable of making concrete return of gratitude.”[6]. Whatever blessings we have received from God ought to be shared with others in need as our gesture of making concrete return of gratitude to God.  According to Young, Paul also wrote against a background of Jewish tradition of teaching about possessions concerned with honesty, working for one’s living, meeting economic obligations, resisting the temptations to greed or avarice and giving as generously as possible to those in need.  The theme is that God is the giver of all good things and the encourager of generosity with what he has given.

I am a Filipino-Chinese-Christian,蒙福 (blessed with fu) called to a life of prosperity and blessings in an upside-down view from the world. The end of fu 福 blessings, happiness, luck and lu 祿 prosperity in God’s kingdom is far superior to the fu and lu of the Chinese culture. The means to fu and lu is the way of the suffering servant, Jesus Christ as He models to us a life of wisdom having a heart of wisdom that comes from obeying His Father’s will.

I am not happy because I am lucky. I am blessed because I have joy in Jesus. I have His joy in me and my joy is made full when I obey His commandment to abide in His love (John 15:9-11). I am not prosperous because I am rich.  I am rich because my wealth is found in God supplying all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. He calls me to give and share the riches He blessed me with – a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God (Phil. 4:18-19).

Two Chinese proverbs sum up 1 Timothy 6:6-10.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

First, 知足常楽 is the way to fu and lu.  知 is know, 足 is contentment, 常is often, and 楽 is joy.  Secondly, 知足常足,終身不辱。A friend translates: Contentment brings satisfaction and spares one from disgrace. A third saying is related to Proverbs 30:7-9. 比上不足, 比下有餘: Compare with the richer, and be found wanting. Compare with the poorer and discover there’s more than enough (my translation).

best life quotes pics images photos pictures  (11).jpg

Know Jesus and live the blessed, prosperous life!

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)

[1] Frances Young and David F. Ford, Meaning and Truth in 2 Corinthians. (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 169.

[2] Ibid., 243.

[3] Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. (Grand Rapids: Baker

Books, 2005), 20.

[4] Young and Ford, 170.

[5] Ibid., 175.

[6] Ibid., 177.

Faith That Overcomes

What do you do when the authority tells you to do what is against your faith? Pray that the rule will be changed? Pray that the authority will be kind to forgive? Pray that God intervene and protect?

In the Old Testament, the 3 friends of Daniel: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the golden statue King Nebuchadnezzar set up and faced the consequences of being thrown into the furnace of fire. (Dan. 3:8-12) Their action made the king ‘furiously’ angry (v.13). When the king had them brought in for questioning, their verbal response made the king even more furious that his face became distorted! Imagine the rage that made him heat up the furnace 7x more – that even those guards that threw the 3 got killed! (v.19,22)

What exactly did they tell the king? What made him so ragingly furious?

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. 17 If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

Hey, Nebu, we don’t need to explain our faith to you. If our God whom we are loyal to, can save us from you, let him do so. But even if he does not, we will not serve your gods and worship your golden statue.

Fearless loyalty that needs no explanation… these 3 men follow through with actions, they were fearless in their faith. Actions that speak loudly it made the king very angry. It is faith that needs no defense, faith that is unmovable whatever the consequence, faith that is loyal to the end.

When our faith is challenged, are we just as sure, just as firm and just as fearless and loyal to the end? Yes, we believe and perhaps we want or need to defend our faith, perhaps our defense will change the course of our fate? Or perhaps we believe God will change it for us? But what if he does not?

‘But if not, be it known to you, o king, we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the statue you set up.’

Time to think… a faith that needs no defense, a faith that is fearless and loyal to the end – no matter how God respond and no matter the consequence!

My Chatty Dad

I am amazed and often wonder at God’s humour: bringing together my mom and dad. One is hard of hearing and the other loves to talk.

I used to visit them every Saturday. One would sit on her lazy boy in the living room and the other lie on his bed in the bedroom. I would sit on the edge of her bed near the sliding door that divides the two rooms.

It was funny at times how they both wanted to chat with me – I had to tune one ear to the left and the other to the right. 😅 God’s wisdom to make two ears: one on each side of the head. Alas I only have one mouth against two of them. 😂 It’s like being interviewed by two eager journalists or two children trying to get their questions answered first.

I so miss those days talking with them. They were my sounding boards, my listening ears, my comfort, my fans, and my parents: no judgement, no barrier, no fear… just love and understanding. 😭😢 Ma and pa, I miss you so!

My mom had hearing aids. She wore them when she went out of the house. Inside, she only wore them when I visit. Why? Because my dad was often asleep. Because my mom could read lips, she did not really like putting on hearing aids at home. She put on her hearing aids when I visit because she wanted to hear what I had to say. Because she liked to listen to my conversation with my dad. Because that is the way we could talk with understanding without me having to shout and her needing to read my lips.

My dad was chatty and a good storyteller in his younger days. He had many friends with his outgoing, helpful and friendly personality. He was a good interviewer and a good listener. He could get people to answer his many journalist questions because he really showed interest in their answers when he asked them. He also had a very good memory. He remembered all the data he gathered in his interviews. 🤣 It was his way with friends – he remembered things that were important to them just as his friends were important to him.

He had a way with words – he often had the knack to calm people who were irritated or upset. One time, we went to see his cardiologist. This doctor had so many patients, we had to book weeks in advance and go early to wait patiently for our turn. That day, the doctor was grouchy and upset (perhaps tired from seeing so many patients). He was not happy that we did not have with us my dad’s complete file and checkup requirements and test results. Papa appeased him with praises – saying he was a good (yah hoh 很好) doctor – attending to so many patients because he was good (yah gaw – capable). It was not just nice-sounding flattery. He really meant what he said. The doctor was indeed capable. He said he did not want to accept new patients because he did not want to neglect his old patients. That day, because of dad’s kind words, the doctor was appeased. From that day on, the doctor was kind and more patient with my father.

I remember how he treated my father with such kind concern the visit after my mom passed away. We went to him to get a heart clearance so papa could get his peg procedure. Even though papa was quiet that day, even though the doctor did not say much that day, I can still remember his sad sympathetic face. 😭

This is hard – writing these sad memories. My body shaking, tears flowing down my cheeks..

How did i get started on these stories? Why did I write all these? What motivated me to do so?

It was all those verses in Proverbs about the tongue, about the wise speaking words of wisdom, it is all the wise sayings of Proverbs about peace-loving people who speak wise words, healing words, comforting words. The lessons this morning from Proverbs speak of living a life of wisdom – one who values relationships, one who values peace.

Friends might have the impression that my mom was the more dominant parent who influenced me greatly. In many ways, I took after my dad – except that I am an introvert where he was clearly an extrovert. We’re both happy-go-lucky people who choose to look at the positive side of things. We tend to take people at their face value – we like to take them at their word – that they mean what they say. You could say that we’re naively gullible. But we know better. Life is more complicated than that.

Let me end with these words that my 92 year old papa said to me one time when I poured out my grief to him.

He said: Bee, kang papa kong. Papa tueh di ki toh. (薇,跟爸爸講,爸爸替妳祈禱)(Tell papa, papa will pray for you.)

Proverbs 12:18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Proverbs 18
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.

The Cost of the Cross

Luke 14:25-27 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

One time at the supermarket checkout counter, a lady had in one hand, her wallet, a P50 bill and a GC, in the other hand, two chocolate bars. As the cashier scanned all her goods, her eyes were on the cash register screen. She had to take out more money from her wallet because she underestimated the chocolates.

Another time, at the gift shop where the Great Hall of the Harry Potter fame is, a boy perhaps about 7-8 years old, put his stuffs and a bunch of bills at the checkout counter. The English lady cashier took one item and said “This is 60 pounds. The teacher should be with him.” His bill 94 GBP! For me it’s Php6000! My kid, who is twice his age, hesitated to buy 12Gbp item because it would cost her P750.

Bottomline: it is all about counting the cost. Did the boy even look at the price tags of all the things he wanted? Did he think whether what he had in his hand is enough to pay for all the things he got? Perhaps, he thought he could always ask for more? Maybe, for him, it’s easy come, easy go?

Jesus taught his disciples two parables on counting the cost:

Luke 14
28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?

The first story is about finishing what was started. The second is about winning the battle. Discipleship is both about finishing and winning. What a waste of resources to start and not finish… to fight and not win!

What cost is Jesus talking about? The cost to be His disciples… What did Jesus say?

26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple…

33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

The cost to be a follower of Jesus is to put following Jesus above everything that he considers valuable or important. It does not mean that I am to hate my family, it means that I am to love God above my family, all that I have even my own life. To carry my own cross is to be like Jesus who was obedient to God, the Father even unto death… to give up my own desires, wants and my needs so I can follow Jesus more closely.

I have heard stories of Christians who were persecuted for their faith – imprisoned, killed, made to choose between denying their faith and saving their family… what a hard choice and a costly one indeed! What about you, what about me? Honestly, I do not know how I would respond to such a situation. I canonly pray that God grant me the courage to be his faithful witness till the end.

We may not be put in such a difficult situation of choosing life and death over our faith. Yet every day, we need to evaluate our choices: whether we are good mirrors as a disciple of Jesus. Are we like the lady who underestimated the cost of her purchase – thinking we have what it takes to follow Jesus only to fall short? Or are we like the boy – are we even aware of the cost of the cross that we claim we want to carry?

Billy Graham said: Salvation is free but discipleship will cost you your life.

Spend a moment to ponder: What in my life do I need to give up to follow Jesus? Who or what is keeping me from loving God with all my heart, strength and soul? What do I have to do to put away the idols in my life? What are the idols in my life? My pride? My comfort zone? What things am I striving for? Success? Popularity? Approval of others? Even my ministries.. are they my bible studies, my choir practice, my tasks and responsibilities… my busyness and productiveness in my workplace, in church, in my home?

Are these ‘good’ things taking me away from lingering in the Lord’s presence? Are these good things becoming more important than spending time alone with God, reading His word and talking with Him, listening to him? Are they drowning out the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to me – Come to me you who are heavy laden, I will give you rest. Is my yoke easy and my burden light? Do I count it all joy when I face trials of many kinds? How am I denying myself to follow Jesus?

How can I can carry my cross? What is my cross?

Dear Jesus, you have shown me the way of the cross. Help me to follow you closely no matter the cost. Amen.

 

 

 

Why I pray… why I don’t..

Why I pray… why I don’t…

I do not pray when there is nothing urgent to pray about. Aha.. this implied that I treat prayer like a spare tire. I only pray when there’s a problem to solve… when I am in trouble… when I’m at the end of my wits… when I don’t know what else to do… tsk tsk tsk..

O yes, I know prayer should be my first resource not my last one! But this is not an ideal or noble reason to pray.. although it is not wrong to pray when I need help.

So why do I pray?

I pray because when I pray, I am having a conversation with God – not just me talking but me also listening. Prayer is a two-way chat between the Father and his child. Prayer is the time for me to slow down, think and ponder upon what God is trying to tell me in His word. It is a time for me to be still and know God.

I pray because in prayer I tell God that I cannot do it alone. I need him to help me through the day – whatever that comes my way, I need his wisdom, his joy, love, patience, peace and all the fruit of the Spirit that only comes from God.

I pray because in prayer I participate in God’s amazing works in the world around me. I am amazed when I see how God answers the prayers of his children as they pray for one another, with one another, trusting each other – no judging, no shame, no fear, no anxiety, but fully confident that they all have a God who listens and answers according to His sovereign power, wisdom and kindness.

I pray because even as the Word of God is my daily bread, prayer is the oxygen that sustains me in my Christian walk.

Prayer does not have to be a formal well-crafted thing with nice sounding words to reach the Father’s ears. It does not have to be eloquent and full of doctrinal wisdom to be understood by the God of the universe. It can be moans and groans in the inner recess of my heart – beyond words that my mouth can speak and my hands can write. It can come from the dark night of the soul – when I have no word to say but only a sincere longing from my spirit to draw peace and encouragement, comfort and assurance from my heavenly Father who is the Word from the beginning unto the end.

Amen.