Thursday, September 10, 2015

With The Crown Of Thorns, You Became A King Forever

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Jesus was anointed at Bethany by a woman in preparation of his burial. He predicted his death, and at that point, his soul was deeply troubled. He faced unbelief from the people despite the miraculous signs He had done. He predicted his betrayal by Judas, and denial by Peter. He was going to be arrested and face death in the most humiliated and excruciating painful way.

What He was, is, and will go through is anything but bodily and emotionally painful. He had more legitimate reasons than anyone to say, “No one really understands my pain”. He could stare at the face of pain feeling sorrowful, dejected and hopeless. He could choose to be alone, complain and care about His own pain. But, till the end, He continued loving, remained others centered, and submitted to the Father's will.

He washed his disciples’ feet, doing a task that was regarded as lowly since it was reserved for the lowliest of menial servants at that time. He dipped the piece of bread and offered it to his betrayer, Judas. In that time and custom, when the master dips bread and personally hand to their guest portions of what is before him, the intention was to honor and manifest good will. Jesus was indeed extending love and friendship to the very one who was going to betray Him!

Even when His heart had a cause to remain troubled, He encouraged His disciples instead, saying, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:6) Even when He couldn’t see the future and had reasons to doubt, He spoke forth in faith that, “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again, a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” Also, He declared, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” His faith remained unshaken in the Father.

In His arrest, He didn’t resist the Father’s will even though everything in Him would have screamed out to do so – to use His divine powers to somehow destroy everyone present and run away (speaking for instance). He healed the High priest servant’s ear even though he was part of the “arrest Jesus” party. Throughout these entire time, He remained steadfast and showed love till the end. His love triumphed over whatever the enemy aimed to plan – and this love is something that the enemy is never able to counterfeit forever!

With a crown of thorns, He became a king forever.

In the face of pain, whether bodily or emotionally, it is easy to humanly react by whining and wallowing in dejection and hopelessness. It is convincing to us that, “no one will ever understand my pain”. The attempts of others trying to relate with us may bring some sort of comfort, or may even seem futile because the level of pain is regarded to us as unbearable. But, take heart. Our Savior, Lord Jesus, our High Priest, understands our pain.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3

May we learn to adopt the attitude of Jesus in the face of pain - learning to be loving, remaining others centered, and submissive to the Father's will. Don't allow these good virtues to be lost in the midst of our pain.

Jaeson Ma - Glory Lyrics

This is what I pray 
There's got to be more than what seems to exist 
Cause you were born to go higher 
We were born for adventure 
So dare to dream bigger 
Because If you don't have a passion worth dying for 
You have nothing worth living for 
Don't live for the things of this world 
They are passing away 
But live for the Glory that leads to eternity 
Glory is grace perfected 
And our greatest glory is not in never falling 
But in rising everytime we fall

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hope Despite Hopelessness

Hoping for something to turn out better despite hopelessness can be tough and emotionally tiring. Everything in and around you just screams to give up on hope. But yet, it is hard to let go of hope since you know the hope you first hold on to is real. The emotional tension is real, and it is something I have been experiencing from time to time.

Upon reflection, I was reminded of a sharing I did months ago about the prophet Habakkuk. The more I read this, the more I was encouraged. So I thought I would share it here. For those who have been holding on to hope for something, I hope this will encourage and spur you on to hope again.

Habakkuk was an Israelite prophet (a messenger of God) living in the nation of Judah. In the previous events of Israel's history, Israel was split into 2 nations: Northern (10 Israelite tribes) and Southern (2 Israelite tribes) Kingdom - Judah.

The Northern kingdom had already fallen into Assyria, leaving the tiny Southern Kingdom as the remaining nation of Israel. Even though the previous king of Judah, Josiah, attempted to bring about a religious revival to get people back to worship God again, the revival did not have a lasting impact. Judah's spiritual condition was in an all time low state.

Habakkuk lived in a time when his people in Judah were living in evil strife and had no regard for their God. He longs for his people to repent, but they insisted in their own rebellion. The areas of disappointment Habakkuk faced came from 3 areas:

1) The people of Israel
The Israelites were supposed to be the people of God - a nation set apart to be the light to the world and reveal the true God to surrounding nations. But, they have turned away from God. They chose not to obey God's law anymore, but commit evil deeds and violence.

Habakkuk must have longed for the people to repent and come back to God, but the people chose their own path. The people's disobedience toward God made Habakkuk disappointed. 

2) How circumstances turned out for Israel
Habakkuk had lived through a time of great hope – There was religious revival by King Josiah, increased national importance, increased material wealth. But as he looked around him now, the nation faced destruction at the hands of the Babylonian armies, and even the fields that had previously brought prosperity, now lay barren, in a drought-ridden land - no more crops, no livestock.

There seemed to be no hope in Israel's situation. Habakkuk was disappointed at how the situation turned out for Israel - He certainly wasn't expecting his nation to go into exile.

3) The Lord's reply
Habakkuk had been waiting for the Lord to intervene in restoring the backslidden nation to Himself, but it seemed that God was not answering His prayer. Habakkuk certainly hoped that God would bring the Israelites to repentance, but the way God was going to do so was to raise up Babylon. 

Habakkuk could not take the Lord's reply - how could He allow Babylon, a nation in a worse unrighteous condition, to invade in and wipe them out? The Lord's reply must have disappointed Habakkuk, and it gave rise to his second complaint.

Presently, we are not immune to the areas of disappointments that Habakkuk faced in his time. When we have hoped for a person or a situation to happen, and it did not turn out in a way we expected, we get disappointed. Sometimes, it seemed that God is not doing anything about our situations, and we get disappointed by His 'reply' - when He does not seem to answer, or He answers in a way we do not expect.

How, then, do we hope again? Following the example of Habakkuk:

1) Be honest about your feelings
Even though Habakkuk was a prophet who knew God to a certain degree, the disappointments drove him to a point when he had to ask God, “why”. Habakkuk was honest in bringing his feelings before God, not attempting to hide and pretend that everything was okay.

If Habakkuk had not expressed his feelings to God in a real manner, he would still live in feelings of doubt, hopelessness and anger. God would not be able to reply him personally in his situation.

As long as you hide the wounds in darkness, they will never fully heal. Open up those wounds, and give the pain to Jesus so that He can heal you. Be honest before God, and find friends who can share your burden and pray alongside you. I find that having people around who can journey and fight alongside you a great comfort in times like this.

2) Wait for the Lord's reply
 Although Habakkuk was perplexed, he did not draw back in his devotion to the Lord. He was determined to stand watch and see how God would answer the 'why'. He wanted to know what the Lord had to say. (2:1)

Disappointment is not merely a feeling, but a matter of faith as well. If Habakkuk had not waited for an answer but came to his own conclusion without seeking God, he would have lost his faith and become a backslidden prophet. So, wait upon the Lord for His reply. For the Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)

3) Know that God is just and He remains in control
In every unfair treatment given to someone, there is always a desire for justice. The sense of outrage exists when justice isn't met. Habakkuk is full of outrage because it appears to him that justice isn’t being done by God in raising up Babylon to punish Israel. (1:5-11) He can’t reconcile that with the holiness and justice of God. Habakkuk’s big question boils down to, “Is God just? Can I count on Him to do the right thing?” (1:12-17)

We see that the justice of God is met when God punished Babylon in the end (2:6-8). God still remained in control. Habakkuk could only see a wicked nation overpowering one more righteous than itself (Babylon overpowering Israel). But God says Babylon will also be punished.

Habakkuk wanted to see justice done straight away. So do we. Habakkuk’s cry “How Long, O Lord” (1:2) is also our cry. God’s answer is “be patient – justice will come” (Habakkuk 2:2-3). To see God’s justice requires patience, and we have to trust that God is just and he still remains in control even when we are disappointed.

God will judge those who have wrong the righteous in His timing, and for us, we are to remain faithful because we know that God is in control - the just shall live by faith. (2:4)

4) Remember the Lord's faithfulness
As The Lord answers Habakkuk by pointing out that He is just and in control of the situation in his nation, Habakkuk looks to the good things God has done in the past, and becomes assured that God remains faithful and will come through for his nation.

He remembered how God came to their rescue in Egypt and at Sinai (3:3-7), and his defeat of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (3:15). He is reminded that God has always been faithful to his people and will continue to be faithful in the present crisis.

Disappointments absorbs our attention, and it becomes easy to focus on the few things that have gone wrong that we lose sight of the many things that have gone right. Yet, God has done great things in the past - your past.

Therefore, never allow your present circumstances to cloud your view of the future. God has done great things for you. Celebrate them, and remember the Lord's faithfulness like Habakkuk. “In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in the years gone by.” (3:2)

5) Rejoice in The Lord
The prophet Habakkuk learnt to rejoice in The Lord. After God revealed to him that Babylon would conquer and destroy his country, Habakkuk came to the conclusion that no matter what his circumstances were, He would find his joy in God. His words could, and should, be ours.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as sure footed as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (Hab. 3:17-19)

We have to always remember, that the promises God gave to us are meant to be fulfilled despite of our feelings of disappointments. While hope deferred makes the heart sick, a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12) Turn to God, and hope again.