Staying on even if….

1 Cor. 16
8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

In the final chapter of his first letters to the Corinthians, Paul informed them of his travel plans. What struck me is verse 8. Paul was a missionary preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. He established and discipled many churches in many places. Ephesus
was one of them. In the ancient world, Ephesus was a center of travel and commerce. Situated on the Aegean Sea at the mouth of the Cayster River, the city was one of the greatest seaports of the ancient world. Considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, Ephesus’ Temple of
Artemis was dedicated to the goddess of the hunt. Paul’s successful ministry in this
city was considered a threat to this very temple (Acts 19:27).
When Paul was accused of hurting the Artemis and her temple, the mob gathered together in this theater (Acts 19:23-41).

Paul planned to ‘STAY ON’ in Ephesus. Who wants to linger in a place where one is not popular? Paul encountered great
opposition in Ephesus before. He was accused and mobbed for causing harm to the business and worship of Artemis. Yet Paul stayed 3 years in Ephesus. He also
returned to Ephesus. For what?
“Because a great door for ‘EFFECTIVE WORK’ was opened to me” and there are many who ‘OPPOSE’ me.

Effective work does not mean being popular with the people in the workplace. Paul experienced great difficulties because many tried to kill him. In spite of this, he
considered the more opposition, the more effective ministry to be done.

Applications: How often we run away when we meet opposition? How do we fare when many are against the work that we do? Do we get discouraged? Do we
persevere? How do we see these obstacles? Are these opportunities for effective work? Do we not rather stay in our comfort zone? Is it not easier to be working with
and among people who are on the same page with us? Who wants to go back to a place of great opposition?

Paul was not stopped by opposition because he had good motivation. His goal was to
proclaim Christ even to people who opposed him.

What motivates you? What do you
consider effective work? How you respond to opposition determines how long you ‘stay on.’

Advertisements

The One

The choice…

Have you answered online personality tests or health-related apps where you are asked to choose from several options for each question? Is it not frustrating sometimes to read through the list and realize that your answer is all of the above or worse… none of the above?

0*wgvJNopgzNNDasyj.jpg

So my question for the day is.. which is better… to have many choices or to have no choice?

Most of my life, I enjoyed the blessing of one.. one mom, one dad, one sister, one boyfriend until he became my hubby. I am the one and only daughter-in-law, the one and only sister-in-law, the only a-kim (the wife of your mom’s brother), and the only a-ee (the sister of your mother). For someone basically an introvert, this is good – life is simple. From childhood through my teen years, I went to one school. I attended one church: United Evangelical Church of the Phils. When I graduated from high school, I applied at only one university. Imagine if my application was not accepted…

All of the above seem to imply that I had no choice or that I was simply born into it – family, school and church. But as I grow older, life is not as simple. Everyday, I am confronted with choices… decisions to make, even as mundane or trivial as which route to take to go certain places. And I often wish I had less choices or if only God would just point to me the best option to ensure that I make the right one.

The paradox of God-given freedom for man to choose is that man is given the wisdom as a rational being to discern what is right and what is wrong. But what is right and what is not has become relative in this world tainted by sin. There is also the issue of good or better, bad or worse.

So my conclusion to my rhetorical question is this: what about The One choice?

I choose to ask God for wisdom and discernment – that through the Holy Spirit I will be enabled to make the right choices that will be pleasing to Him – that will accomplish the purposes to which He calls me.

I remember when I was first diagnosed with cancer, my first thought in prayer was: Lord, if you think that my life on earth has served your purpose, then I am at peace with that. But if there is anything else that you want me to do, let your will be done as well.

So each day, each moment, as long as I remember that my life has a purpose, I have a choice to make to obey His command:

luke 10-27

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

That is The Choice – the blessing of One for me.

Praying with a purpose

Nehemiah 1-2

Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king. He was in exile serving a foreign king. Nehemiah and many of his countrymen were carried away from their homeland into captivity in Persia.  He learned that his countrymen back home were in distress and their land in ruins – their city walls broken and gates burned! Neh. 1:3 What a pitiful situation!

After mourning for several days, Nehemiah prayed to God:
1) Behind his prayers, he had God’s purpose 2:12: I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do.

2) How did he pray: He acknowledged God’s character (1:5), he asked God to listen to his prayer (v.6,11). Twice, he said ‘I beseech you’ I beg you, O God, may your ear be attentive. Please Lord, pay attention to my request. He confessed their sins – the wrongs his people did- offending God. v.6-7 Then he asked God to remember His promise to them and how He helped them in the past. v.8-10

3) What did he pray for? v.11 He prayed that God would grant him favor before the king. That the king would have compassion on him and grant his request. What were his requests?
A) Purpose: He told the king he wanted to go home to rebuild his birthplace. (2:5)

B) Protection: He asked that the king provide him safe passage. (2:7)

C) Provision: Nehemiah also asked the king to give him materials for the rebuilding project. v.8a

He acknowledged that the king granted his requests because God answered his prayers. v.8b

Truths to learn:
When I seek after God’s purpose, God surely provides.
When He gives me a task, He enables.

What is my first instinct when there is a crisis to face or problem to solve? Do I squeeze my brain juice for the solutions? Do I call a friend? Ask an expert? Before I go around asking people for help, do I ask God first?

Nehemiah went to ‘beseech’ God. He did not tell anyone about what God wanted him to do. 2:12 He was alone yet not alone because God was behind him. In prayer, I acknowledge God’s character. I confess my shortcomings and declare my dependence on Him. I pray that God listen and grant me favor to achieve His purpose. Surely, He listens.

nehemiah 2.jpg

A Defiant Faith – Fearlessly Firm

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.”

2c990bdc3d7ca04e7565138c1c4934c6--worship-god-prayer-quotes

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!

829f69aac17d72dd59e09bf243b73ece

And God is still God!

Stress free and happy

Philippians 4:4-9
Hey, do u want to be happy? Do u want to be worry-free? Do u wish for a stress-free life? Let me tell u share with u the formula Paul taught the Philippians. He told them to rejoice ‘always’ – always means good times or bad! Huh? How?
1) In the LORD! Not in success, not in security, not in money, not in fame nor popularity… But in the Lord. 4:4
2) Know that the Lord is near. v.5 He is coming soon. Let us rejoice in hope of this wonderful day.
3) v.6 tells us To worry for nothing, but in everything to pray. How? with a thankful heart, tell God all your requests. Then what? There is a promise from this exercise of worry-free, heart full of gratitude praying to God. Surely, the peace of God which gives us joy will be with us. We will experience His peace which is beyond human comprehension. People will be amazed at how this peace will keep our hearts and our minds steady in joy; steadfast unwavering in our gladness as we abide in Jesus Christ.
4) Another formula to joyful heart is found in v. 8. We are to think good things. The mind that is focused on the true, the honourable, the right, the pure, the lovely, the good repute, the excellent and all that is worthy of praise, surely when my mind is filled with these good things, my heart is filled with joy.
5) Finally, out of the heart, the mouth speaks, the hands acts and the life lives! When I intentionally practice to live a joyful life, the God of peace is mine to enjoy and experience!

Philippians 4
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

When amnesia strikes…

What do you call a person who receives kindness from another and turns his back on his benefactor and betrays his goodness?  Ungrateful!

忘恩负義 is a Chinese proverb about ingratitude. Literal translation is 忘(forget)恩(grace)负(betrays)義(justice, righteousness). It means to bite the hand that feeds you.

In Ezekiel 16, God calls judgement on Jerusalem (His chosen people – the Israelites) because of her great sin – ingratitude!

What is at the bottom of the ungrateful heart? Amnesia! The word – ‘remember’ is mentioned five times in Ezekiel 16 (vv.22,43,60,61,63).

Ezekiel 16:22 Besides all your abominations and harlotries you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare and squirming in your blood.

What about the days of her youth did Jerusalem not remember?

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Mortal, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, 3 and say, Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite. 4 As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you out of compassion for you; but you were thrown out in the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.

Jerusalem forgot where she came from – how she was in her lowly naked, unclean, disgustingly unwanted state – leaving her to bleed out.  She did not remember what God did for her:

6 I passed by you, and saw you flailing about in your blood. As you lay in your blood, I said to you, “Live! 7 and grow up like a plant of the field.” You grew up and became tall and arrived at full womanhood; your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.

8 I passed by you again and looked on you; you were at the age for love. I spread the edge of my cloak over you, and covered your nakedness: I pledged myself to you and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord God, and you became mine. 9 Then I bathed you with water and washed off the blood from you, and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you with embroidered cloth and with sandals of fine leather; I bound you in fine linen and covered you with rich fabric. 11 I adorned you with ornaments: I put bracelets on your arms, a chain on your neck, 12 a ring on your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head. 13 You were adorned with gold and silver, while your clothing was of fine linen, rich fabric, and embroidered cloth. You had choice flour and honey and oil for food. You grew exceedingly beautiful, fit to be a queen. 14 Your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of my splendor that I had bestowed on you, says the Lord God.

God looked on her with love, covered her nakedness, took her in and claimed her as His own (v.8). She was cleaned and anointed with oil (v.9), fed and clothed in splendour from head to toe (v. 10-13). She was the epitome of perfection in beauty and fame (v.14) because of God’s endowment.

How did she respond to God’s love and acts of salvation? Read vv. 15-34. She became proud and self-sufficient. She prostituted herself and was unfaithful to the One that claimed her as His own. She turned her back on and bite the hands that saved her!

So God called out his judgement on her:

35 Therefore, O whore, hear the word of the Lord: 36 Thus says the Lord God, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whoring with your lovers, and because of all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, 37 therefore, I will gather all your lovers, with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated; I will gather them against you from all around, and will uncover your nakedness to them, so that they may see all your nakedness. 38 I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring blood upon you in wrath and jealousy. 39 I will deliver you into their hands, and they shall throw down your platform and break down your lofty places; they shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful objects and leave you naked and bare. 40 They shall bring up a mob against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. 41 They shall burn your houses and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; I will stop you from playing the whore, and you shall also make no more payments. 42 So I will satisfy my fury on you, and my jealousy shall turn away from you; I will be calm, and will be angry no longer.

At the bottom of all her acts of betrayal is a heart of amnesia.

Ezekiel 16:43 Because you have not remembered the days of your youth but have enraged Me by all these things, behold, I in turn will bring your conduct down on your own head,” declares the Lord God, “so that you will not commit this lewdness on top of all your other abominations.

SO THAT – this is the goal of God’s judgement – in order for Jerusalem not to forget… so that she will not commit this shameful act of not remembering where she came from.

飲(drink)水(water)思(think)源(source) is about thinking the source when drinking water. It is drinking water with a thankful heart. It is to remember the origin of goodness. The antidote to shameful amnesia is to remember, reflect and respond with a grateful heart to the Source of goodness.

God’s goodness is magnified when He said:

“Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you (v.60).

d62caa4177f433dab413df4e3bba20c7--signal-inspirational-christian-quotes

Nevertheless… even though, in spite of the unfaithfulness of His people, God is faithful to His promises. He remembers always. What He says, He fulfils.  It is firm and established – unchanging forever. A covenant is an agreement or promise of God with his people based on His love and compassion. On this basis, God does not forget. So what then?

Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both your older and your younger; and I will give them to you as daughters, but not because of your covenant (v.61).

so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” the Lord God declares (v.63).

Then… so that…  God’s judgements on sins, God’s faithfulness to His promises – all these are for the purpose of calling His children to ‘remember’ what He did and what they did. When they remember and be ashamed… in humiliation for all the things they did… God forgives – all that they have done. In between these two verses, is the heart of God:

16-62-360x225-hs-2007-16-d-full_jpg.jpg

I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, (v.62)

The ultimate goal God wants to accomplish is to set up firmly His agreement with His people – for them to ‘know’ who He is… He is the Lord!

Every good and perfect gift… Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17).

Each gift, big or small, past, present or future comes from the generously kind and lovingly faithful God of everlasting covenant. He changes not. He forgets not. How about me? Do I remember His acts of salvation towards me? Do I take for granted His grace and gifts to undeserving me? Grace is when God extends his goodness to me even when I do not deserve it. Grace is a gift – receive freely. I cannot and do not have to work for it. Do I forget His mercy and compassion towards deserving me? Mercy is when God withholds the punishment that I deserve to get. I cannot and do not have to make up for it.

When amnesia strikes, let me beware. Let me remember with a heart of thankfulness always.

From Bitter life… to Better than Best

Lamentations – a book written by Jeremiah, the weeping prophet in the darkest times of his land when he was down in the deep depressing state of his soul. In chapters 1 & 2, Jeremiah described the desolation of the land and people he loved. He spoke of God’s fierce anger (1:12) as He inflicted on him sorrow upon sorrow. Affliction, God’s wrath, darkness, God’s hand upon him… Jeremiah acknowledged that God caused all his sufferings (3:1-16). God filled him with bitterness (v.5,15,19). Wormwood (v.15,19) is the Artemisia absinthium of botanists. It is noted for its intense bitterness ( Deuteronomy 29:18 ; Proverbs 5:4 ; Jeremiah 9:15 ; Amos 5:7 ). It is a type of bitterness, affliction, remorse, punitive suffering.

Lamentations 3

 1 I am one who has seen affliction

    under the rod of God’s wrath;

2 he has driven and brought me

    into darkness without any light;

3 against me alone he turns his hand,

    again and again, all day long.

4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,

    and broken my bones;

5 he has besieged and enveloped me

    with bitterness and tribulation;

6 he has made me sit in darkness

    like the dead of long ago.

7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;

    he has put heavy chains on me;

8 though I call and cry for help,

    he shuts out my prayer;

9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,

    he has made my paths crooked.

10 He is a bear lying in wait for me,

    a lion in hiding;

11 he led me off my way and tore me to pieces;

    he has made me desolate;

12 he bent his bow and set me

    as a mark for his arrow.

13 He shot into my vitals

    the arrows of his quiver;

14 I have become the laughingstock of all my people,

    the object of their taunt-songs all day long.

15 He has filled me with bitterness,

    he has sated me with wormwood.

16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,

    and made me cower in ashes;

(vv. 1-16 God is the one responsible for all the troubles, sorrows and bitterness in his life. Vv. 17-20, Jeremiah describes how he feels – the deepest pit of sorrow where peace and joy are missing.. the hopeless state of mind…)

17 my soul is bereft of peace;

    I have forgotten what happiness is;

18 so I say, “Gone is my glory,

    and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.”

19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness

    is wormwood and gall!

20 My soul continually thinks of it

    and is bowed down within me.

V.21 is the turning point, BUT… in spite of the sad state of his soul, he chooses to remember… his memories bring forth hope.

21 But this I call to mind,

    and therefore I have hope:

images

 

24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

    “therefore I will hope in him.”

In the midst of suffering, we need to remember one unchangeable truth – the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. God’s love is steadfast – firm and tight – holding on to us and never letting go. His love and mercies do not stop even in the midst of troubles. His love and mercies are continually renewing – unchangeably transforming and refreshing us each morning… just according to our changing needs. God’s great faithfulness gives us hope. His promises stand – what he says, he always fulfills.

\27 It is good for one to bear

    the yoke in youth,

28 to sit alone in silence

    when the Lord has imposed it,

29 to put one’s mouth to the dust

    (there may yet be hope),

30 to give one’s cheek to the smiter,

    and be filled with insults.

Out of all the bad that is happening, good is mentioned 3x (vv.25-27).

First, the Lord is good. We need to remember that the person who causes all our troubles is the same Lord who is good. He is good to those who wait for him. To wait on the Lord is to actively seek the Lord with our soul – the deep yearning of the heart. The longing that David speaks of as the deer panteth for the waters so my soul longeth after thee. You alone are my heart’s desire.

Second, it is good to wait. How are we to wait? We are to wait quietly. To wait quietly is to yield all that is within us to him… to stop struggling, to let go. What are we waiting for? For the salvation of the Lord. To wait is to be still and let God do the saving. It is an actively quiet wait – waiting with hope and in hope. Hope is not a passive verb – it is an active one because it is expecting of something good – something new, a definite action to follow – the salvation of the Lord.

Third, it is good to bear the yoke. This is the active good based on the first two good. To bear the yoke in youth, to sit alone in silence ‘when the Lord imposed it.’ God is responsible for it. To bear and to sit are synonymous to waiting. To put one’s mouth to dust – how does one talk when there is dust in the mouth? Cannot.. so then it is to be quiet… to give one’s cheek to the smiter – to turn the other cheek and take it all in. There is power in bearing, sitting, being silent, turning the other cheek. It is power in actively waiting on the Lord to do something. Because…

31 For the Lord will not

    reject forever.

32 Although he causes grief, he will have compassion

    according to the abundance of his steadfast love;

33 for he does not willingly afflict

    or grieve anyone.

FOR the Lord does not turn his face away forever. There is an end to his punishment. Because of his abundant compassion and steadfast love – that is forever, his anger is not forever. He does not delight in afflicting or causing grief to anyone.

34 When all the prisoners of the land

    are crushed under foot,

35 when human rights are perverted

    in the presence of the Most High,

36 when one’s case is subverted

does the Lord not see it?

Bottom line: Even when times are dark and we seem like prisoners oppressed and crushed under the enemies, even when human dignity and rights are deprived – the Most High is present. Does the Lord not see it all? And the answer is a resounding ‘YES!’