Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pablo's Choice

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. - Ephesians 2:8~9

There were two friends, Pablo and Paris, who came from a province and wanted to try their luck in the big city. Paris was smarter, more confident and more ambitious while Pablo just tagged along hoping to share in the imminent success of his esteemed friend. But in return he carried most of the belongings of his friend.

While walking the two talked about the reasons of their move to the big city. 

“I want to become very rich, very famous and very successful,” Paris said. “I want to become the envy of the folks back home.”

“Me, I want to become rich too, so that I can help my poor parents and siblings back home,” said Pablo. “One I can afford, I’ll let them live with me in the big city.”

“Don’t worry Pablo. Just stick around, and do as I say. I know exactly what to do.”

As the sun got hotter, the two friends became thirsty. However, they ran out of water.

“Come I have water for you,” a voice came from a distance. Not very far from them, they saw a man standing on a hill.

As Pablo drank from a water jug offered by the stranger, he studied his face. He looked peaceful, gentle and humble which a big contrast to the anxious, temperamental and arrogant nature of his friend, Pablo. Somehow, he felt at ease in the presence of the stranger.  

“Where is the two of you heading?”

“We are going to the big city,” replied Paris.

“I know the way, and I can guide you. By the way, my name is Manny and I am from the BIG CITY.”

Paris did not say a word, and there was an awkward silence. Finally Pablo said, “Thank you for your offer Manny. If you know that way to the big city then we will come with you.” He looked at Paris for approval.

"Alright," Paris finally spoke up though looking not pleased at Pablo.

Pablo cringed.

So the three of them continued on their journey, Manny leading the way. Pablo casually chatted with Manny, but Paris who stayed a couple of pace behind remained quiet.

On the next day, the three of them reached a fork in the road. The first road was cemented with a light post on both sides and a road sign that said ‘To the big city’. The second road looked old and rough, no electrical post and no road sign. Paris lightened up when he had read the sign post of the first road, and started to run for it.

“Stop! That way is not the right way to the BIG CITY,” said Manny, interrupting Paris.

“What do you mean it’s not the right way,” replied Paris. “Can’t you read the sign? Can’t you see the cemented road and the light posts? That road is yelling at us, ‘I’m the right way!’”

“Paris, I know that way because I passed that way before,” said Manny. “Down that road there are ten more Sign Posts separated by about 10km. To reach the BIG CITY you have to follow the instruction in each Sign Post. Truthfully, it’s impossible for you or Pablo to follow those instructions. So as a friend I telling you that Pablo and you should go the other way." Manny pointed to the old, rough road.

“What’s your agenda, Manny,” said Paris. “First you tried to win our confidence by giving us water and telling us about the glory of the big city, and now you’re saying that I should trust you because you are smarter than me? No way!”

Manny just looked at Paris gently. "I have your best interest in mind."

"Why should I believe you," replied Paris. "I don't even know you. We just meet."

Manny looked at him with sadness and pity, but strangely remained quiet. He didn't try to defend himself.

“Let’s go Pablo,” said Paris. “I am smarter than him, and I can figure out the way.”

Pablo didn’t move. He was confused – though Manny was still a stranger to him, yet around him he felt at peace and accepted. And he knew so much about the big city. On the other hand, he knew Paris all his life, but he always felt stressed out and not good enough around Paris. 

After a few minutes of silence, Paris turned around and went his lonely way. Pablo had made his choice.

This short story is a metaphor of Ephesians 2:8~9.

Manny is Jesus, Paris is the person who believes he can earn his salvation through his own effort -- by being a good doer -- much like the Pharisees during the time of Jesus while Pablo is the typical person who wants to be saved, but is unsure how.

The BIG CITY is the city of the Father, heaven. This is the city of love, joy, peace, and prosperity. Death has no power there. However, only the righteous person can enter into the city of the holiest of holy. Unfortunately, no man or woman on his own or on her own is righteous.

The first road, the cemented one, is the metaphor of gaining your righteousness through your obedience to the Ten Commandments, the pristine standard of God. On this road, your righteousness and salvation depends on your own effort, so the focus here is your own effort.

The second road, the old, rough road, is the metaphor of gaining righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. On this road, the righteousness of Jesus becomes your righteousness as a gift or a favor; not an earned reward due to your effort. In here, the focus is the effort of Jesus, not yours, and his completed work of salvation for man on the cross.

So what passage says is this – your righteousness and your salvation is a gift and favor because of your faith in Jesus Christ. You cannot earn it by exerting effort to fulfill the Ten Commandments because in the first place you can never keep; your sinful nature will always sabotage your efforts. So instead of putting your faith on yourself and your effort, put your faith in Jesus and follow him.

Finally, be aware that faith has a natural enemy deep inside you – your pride. Faith says, "I can’t do it on my own, I need Jesus." But pride says, "I don’t need Jesus for my salvation; I can do it on my own." Don't be like Paris who was blinded by his pride, but be more like Pablo who opened his eyes and choose the right way.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Daily Rest

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." ~ John 3:16

Everyday life can be quite troubling and wearisome. Stress, distractions and failures can consume us easily leaving us tired, confused and discouraged. We need to find our rest to heal and rejuvenate for the long journey ahead. Here I share my resting place.

I am not afraid of the storms that come my way;
     For I rest on Jesus and His awesomeness.
I don’t let my heart be troubled by my situation;
     For I rest on His peace and faithfulness.
I don’t rely on my education and skills for prosperity;
     For I rest on the goodness of my Father and His abundance in heaven.
I don’t dwell on my feeble attempt to love God;
     For I rest on His great and constant love for me.
I don’t boast of my good works and my tithes;
     For I rest on the completed work of Jesus on the cross.
I don’t struggle by my own effort to become virtuous;
     For I rest on my relationship with Jesus to bear His virtue.
I don't condemn myself (nor others) for my inequity;
For I rest on my righteousness through faith in Jesus.
Because it’s not about me;
     It’s all about God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit –and His great love for me.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How Desperate are You for Change?

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

People are funny (me included). Every start of the year they pick up their pen and write down a list of things they wanted to change in their lives -- a New Year's resolution -- only to abandon it before the end of the first quarter. Then the same process will be repeated the next year, and the years after that. It's sad and frustrating.

Truth be told, the reason people can't change is because deep in the recesses of their heart they are not really desperate for changes. They can get by, and a person who can get by is most unlikely to commit to an uncomfortable change.

The same is true with addiction. Unless you can feel its full venom and hit rock bottom (or near it), which you will eventually, you will always find excuses not to dump it today.

The first step towards real change is seeing how dire your situation is (or will be), and consequently, desiring desperately for a change. Only then can you truly begin your journey towards real and lasting change. Before that, no amount of New Year's resolution can make you dump your addiction.

Only when you become desperate for change can God really does miracles in your life. Why? For a change to happen in your life, you have to firmly will it; God cannot do miracles in your life unless you firmly want it to happen. Your freedom to choose is a gift that He truly respects.

So instead of writing your New Year’s resolutions outright why not ponder first the reasons why you want to change. Do you want to change to be like other people or do you have a very deep personal reason -- something that makes you desperate for change? Find that reason first. Use your imagination; you don't have to hit rock bottom before you can truly commit to lasting change. Then ask Jesus to break the strong urge of your addiction for He alone can set you free, not medication. And while God is at work in you, avoid the thoughts, people, places and situations that make you vulnerable to the temptation of your addiction. Then wait patiently. You may not see it now or feel it now, but in Christ you become a new creature, slowly but surely. Just stay on your course regardless of how you feel.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Are You Depressed Today? Don't!

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” -- 1 Peter 5:7

I can still remember, although vaguely, that one day when I was very young – oops! I can’t remember anymore my exact age then – most likely a toddler or a pre-schooler – that my father put me on his broad shoulders. To my distress, he didn’t just want me to sit on there, he wanted me to stand up like a circus act. At that time, my father looked like a giant from my vantage point of standing next to him. So when I looked down from his shoulder, struggling to stand up, acrophobia  seized me. As a result, I shrieked like a slaughtered pig, kicking as if my life depended on it. For sure my father tried to reassure me, but his voice got buried somewhere between my fear and my yell.

Many years had passed.

One morning, not too long ago, my third daughter and I played mountain climbing. I was the mountain and Eleanor was the climber. She’s a twiggy, wavy haired, four-year who loved to join the Power Puff Girls someday. One major problem though, she was acrophobic, too. So when I told her to stand on my shoulder as a sign that she finally reached the summit, she refused vehemently. My fatherly words of reassurance just passed through her like a ghost through a wall without registering even a single blip in her head. Even when I held her hands firmly to give her a physical reassurance, she resisted and cried out so hard that I had to tell her that she didn’t have to stand on the summit after all.

Her reaction disturbed me. I knew that I would never allow her to fall. Why wouldn’t she believe me? After all, she’s priceless to me.

Then the scene from many years ago where I was on my father’s shoulder, terror-stricken, flashed back to me. It was a very unique experience. I saw both perspectives, the father’s and the child’s, all at the same time. Everything just connected.

This I understand now. Eleanor couldn’t trust me because she couldn’t see the depth of my love  for her; it’s an abstract reality. She couldn’t trust me yet because we haven't done it before, so she had no physical evidence where she could pin her trust. Finally, she couldn’t hear my words of reassurance because a monstrous fear stared down at her, screaming discouragements at the top of its voice.

Are you in a situation right now that’s depressing and discouraging? Are you desperately wondering where’s the end of this dark tunnel? Do you feel that it’s the end of the world for you? Don’t!

You have a Father who’s been trying to show to you how much He loves you regardless of who you are today. You have a Father who’s greater than your problems now. You have a Father who wants to encourage and guide you always.

As absurd as it may sound, only when you're facing tremendous problem that you would be able to see the Father's love for you. Only when your self-confidence crumbles to the ground would the Father have a chance to do great things in your life. Only when your self-reliance is stripped away from you would you be able to hear the voice of the Father.

It is when you become weaker that you can become stronger. It is during the low point of your life that you realize that you still need a father. Come to Him and be whole once again.