To Fear or Not to Fear

To fear or not to fear… What are you afraid of? What makes your knee weak with fear? What shakes your composure and keeps you awake at night? Is it fear of sickness? fear of loneliness? fear of loss? fear of death? fear of rejection? fear of financial insecurities? fear of the unknown?

Psalm 112 tells the secret to a life of no fear. Fear the Lord and have no fear. The Christian life is not a pure smooth path of roses. It is not all sunshine. There will be darkness v.4 but even in darkness, light dawns for the upright -for the gracious, compassionate and righteous – these are the characteristics of those who fear the Lord. v. 6 tells us the righteous will never be shaken – they will stood firm and have no fear of BAD NEWS because their hearts are steadfast, trusting the Lord. v.7 This implies that there is bad news BUT we will have no fear even when things are bad.

Sometimes we are tossed and turned by waves of fears. It is so difficult to be steadfast – to be steady, to be secure and to ‘not be shaken’ and have no fear of the darkness, the bad news of life. What to fear? or rather Who to fear? Fear the Lord – not the kind of being afraid – but the kind of obedience – finding great delight in his commands! Turn your fear of the dark into steadfast unshakeable security by fearing the Lord of light. Even in darkness, light dawns. Even with bad news, there is no fear!

Psalm 112
1 Praise the Lord.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
who find great delight in his commands.
2 Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
5 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
7 They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.
10 The wicked will see and be vexed,
they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

#fearless #FearOfTheLord #wisdom #readthebible

The Path from Whiny to Happy.. coping with conflicts

Sulky… Grumpy.. whiny cry-baby? That’s how my fleshy human nature wanna do at times when hubby and I had our arguments. I often had to ‘storm’ out of the house to drive around to vent my anger, frustration, grief etc. I wanted to go pour it on someone – to vent on a ‘sounding board.’

The last time I had such an episode, I was tempted to check myself in a hotel and not go home that night. I also searched my mind who to go to – to cry and gripe about the incident. Sadly, I could not think of anyone I wanted to tell it too. Not even to my one and only sister. I did not want to bother her, she might be having her bible study at home.

And so I drove and drove, not knowing where to go, I parked the car and went into a restaurant to sit in the corner by myself. So alone even in a crowd of people. I ordered food and remembered a couple friends thousand of miles away. This couple is our pastor friends – hubby’s and mine. I sent them a what’s app message to tell them to pray for me. I told them how sad I felt. I narrated not the details of our conversation but the context of my hurt and why I was sad. The lady friend responded to me in understanding with kind words of encouragement. Most of all she prayed. She told me they both prayed for me right at that moment when I needed their prayers. And through the tears and the pouring of sadness and outpouring of prayers, the Holy Spirit worked in such wonderful ways that I felt peace beyond understanding… I felt better. I ate my food, paid the bill and went out and walked some more. Then I went home.

Another time, similar incident happened, again i got in my car feeling the same thing… wanted to not go home… thought of going to someone to gripe… same thing.. could not bring myself to go to anyone.. what did I do? I went to watch a chick-flick movie. After watching, I felt better coz I laughed and cried in the movie. I even learned something from the movie. “Even though our love is not perfect, it is real.” See, there is something to learn even in a romantic comedy-drama, chick-flick! And I applied it to our love story – mine and hubby’s…

What’s the point of these stories of mine – of conflicts and arguments, of being drama-crying queen?

First, this is my way of coping with the trials of marital journey. It is a reality of life. No marriage is pure bliss and no conflict. It is also human nature and woman instinct to want to get out of it asap, to sulk, to complain, and to cry. It’s either to be angry and gripe how wrong he was or to be sad and cry indulging in self-pity how wronged I was.

Second, it is good to go out or get out of the situation to clear my head. It is good to watch a movie whether to cry or to laugh – that is how it often works for me. It is my self-therapy. It is also good to sound it out to a friend who prays for me. Prayer works. It amazes me always how God sends his angels to my rescue at times when I felt like crying or even while I was crying. Either He sent them to me or He let me find them.

Third, for all the friends that I found, I am thankful that none added fuel to the fire. None of them sided with me to comfort me to make me more right and hubby more wrong. Yes, they acknowledged my sadness, they encouraged me and comforted me with prayers. Prayers work!

Bottom line… I know God works out ALL things (good and bad) for my good… so that I learn how to be more Christ-like – humble and patient…. I’m so far from perfecting it – being the submissive wife.. it is not easy. But one thing I know, God called me for his purpose – his purpose to sanctify me and show people how good He is – to glorify Him.

So dear friend, next time you and your hubby/wifey have a fight, go watch a movie or whatever it is that will bring you happy hormones… clear your mind and lift your soul!

When Silence is Gold…

Have you ever been accused of anything? I have. How did you respond? I had the need to explain myself – to defend myself. I felt wronged. I had to right myself.

Jesus too was accused. He was put on trial, accused wrongly. And what did he do? What did he say? Let’s see..

The Inquisition of Jesus
Matthew 27:11-14
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer. Then Pilate *said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.

Whoa! How did he do that? He did not answer (v. 12) He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge. (v.14) Not a word, not a sound!

So the governor was quite amazed.

Ahhhh.. Jesus’ silence amazed his accuser. Jesus did not need to explain or defend himself because he knew he did no wrong. He knew he was sent to do the Father’s will.

Bottom line: There is sense of quiet confidence in solitude, standing alone even when everything and everyone is against you. There is assurance of self-identity. Who am I? I’m the beloved Son of God. There is confidence of a purpose-driven act. What do I need to do? I have to obey my Father in heaven. In this, I rest my case. I can be quiet. No need for words.

Prosperity in Adversity

Jeremiah 29 (NASB)
11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

11 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Many of us like these verses a lot. They are assuring and give us a sense of all things positive; that our prayers will be answered. Do you know the ‘context’ of these verses? What is context?

It refers to the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect; it is also the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.: Let us beware to take these verses out of context so we will interpret them correctly.

vv. 1-4
Who wrote these words down? v. 1 Jeremiah wrote them as a letter.
To whom was the letter sent? the exiles: people God sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon including the leaders – elders, priests and prophets; king, queen mother, court officials, princes of Judah & Jerusalem; craftsmen and smiths.

How were they exiled? King Nebudchadnezzar of Babylon captured King Zedekiah of Judah and took the people to Babylon.
Who were the messengers? Elasah – son of Shaphan; Gemariah – son of Hilkiah

Who sent them? King Zedekiah of Judah
Where and to whom was the letter sent? To Babylon, to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon

Author of the letter: the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel
Addressee of the letter: to all the exiles whom ‘the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

vv. 5-10
What did God tell the exiles to do? and not to do?
1) Build and live in houses, plant and eat from the gardens, marry and become parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.. multiply.
2) Be good citizens of Babylon – seek its welfare, pray for it. When it prospers, so will you.
3) Do not be misled; do not listen to the false prophets and diviners who lie to you in My name. Do not believe them because I have not sent them.
4) Listen to me: You will be Babylon for 70 years. Then I will keep my promise to bring you back to your land.

vv. 11-13
What is the promise? God assures the exiles:
1) He knows what He is doing.
2) His purpose for them is prosperity and not calamity. His plan is for a bright future in spite of their dark past. He gives hope and not despair.
3) Then what? Then the exiles will “call upon Me, come and pray to Me.” They will seek and find God.
4) Then what will God do? He will listen. God will show Himself to them.
5) What is the condition? WHEN you search for Me with all your heart.

vv. 15-32
What follows these assuring words are words of rebuke and judgement for those who disobeyed God; those who did not go into exile; those who falsely prophesied and told lies to the people.

16 for thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your brothers who did not go with you into exile”17 thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, I am sending upon them the sword, famine and pestilence, and I will make them like split-open figs that cannot be eaten due to rottenness. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, with famine and with pestilence; and I will make them a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse and a horror and a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, 19 because they have not listened to My words,’ declares the Lord”

32 therefore thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am about to punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his descendants; he will not have anyone living among this people, and he will not see the good that I am about to do to My people,” declares the Lord, “because he has preached rebellion against the Lord.”’”

God’s plans to prosper, for a future and hope for His people are not like the plans of His people. We often think that prosperity comes in pleasant places. We have our own understanding of a bright and hopeful future – where we are most comfortable, at home and safe.

God gave words of assurance in the midst of adversity – to be exiled is to be sent to unfamiliar, hostile places, to be homeless. How tragic are the refugees, men and women, young and old, helpless children traveling to nowhere for food, clothing and shelter! For how long? They do not know. For the exiles of Jerusalem, God said 70 years. It’s a long time but better than not knowing, right?

What does suffering do to you? How do you react when life is hard? Do you assure yourself: “Oh, everything is going to be fine. This is not happening. I can do this. I will overcome this.” Or do you blame God: “Why did you allow this to happen? Where are you? I cannot see you. You are not listening.” How about “Lord, help me.”?

I have witnessed two responses people have when life is hard:
1) Turn away from God.
2) Draw closer to God.
Which is yours?

God’s plan is for His people to call to Him, come to Him, pray to Him. And He promises to listen. God promises to let His people find Him. How? Seek and search with all your heart.

Go to God, call to Him, pray to Him. Look, seek and find. He will listen and He will be found. Just search with all your heart.

A Lighthouse in the Storm

When in the storm, when shipwrecked, when hungry, when in danger, what would you do? What did Paul do? He encouraged other people.

Read Acts 27. Paul was on a boat going to Rome – to be handed over to Caesar – to be tried as a prisoner. They had been sailing for quite sometime already. Then the weather turned bad. Paul warned them that “our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion – the one in charge of Paul and fellow prisoners would not listen and followed the words of the captain and owner of the ship instead.

So they were shipwrecked. All the people in the boat were getting hopeless and hungry. What did Paul do? He encouraged them:

22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.

What an encouragement! To encourage others when – even when he needed encouragement himself. Paul could encourage others because he was encouraged by God. His close relationship with God and his firm sense of calling and deep commitment to the gospel compel him to not give up – to embolden others – even as he was strengthened by the God who called him.

When life is not easy, we too can be like Paul. We too have God who calls to us – Do not be afraid. We can emulate Paul and personalise his story into our own situation:

Do not be afraid, Marlene. You must (fill in the blanks with the things that discourage me, things that i must do for which I need courage, trials I must face for which only God’s grace can see me through). Think about what God has graciously done for me in the past.

And think how I am going to encourage others with the encouragement that I get from the Lord. And ponder upon how I am going to comfort others with the comfort that I receive from the Lord.

This my friend is the way of a follower of Jesus – to be an encourager in the storms of life.

The Gardener Sees

This new bloom from my okra plant tells me that an okra is coming soon. When I see the flower closes, I expect that with right water and sunshine, the flower will become a fruit.

Does the okra plant talk? No, it does not. Even when the plant is silent, it sends a message because the gardener sees it.

So with God… often I do not know how to pray, I am at a loss for words how to tell God what I am feeling.. I can only groan and sigh, cry and let the tears speak. I know God sees. He hears my silent groans. He listens to my unspoken thoughts and emotions.

Yesterday, when I shared my sadness and helpless feeling about the suffering and grieving friends all around, 2 friends sent me message. Their message is one and the same: God sees.

Indeed, my hope is in the Lord, the omnipresent Lord, Emmanuel, God with us, the God who sees. God sees all that’s happening in the world today. He sees the end from the beginning and works from beginning to the end for his purpose and glory.

Lord, grant me vision to see what you see… that you are our kind compassionate mighty and just heavenly Father who holds the world in your hands. You work out all things for good to do according to your perfect purpose for your glory because you love us. Thank you, Lord. Amen.