2017 Questions: “What are you thankful for this year?”

This post is the last entry for the “2017 Questions” series, where I had intended to provide systematic answers to the relatively relevant questions I happened to encounter last year. I find that reflecting on such simple questions had been helpful on how I can view life and assess what I truly believe through introspection.

Every end of the year, our bible study group “Manly Dominion” gathers in the house of the elder who leads it for us to break bread with one another, have fellowship, and sing hymns. In between those activities, it’s also a practice that the pastor asks each member of the group the question “What are you thankful for this year?”. In God’s gracious dealings in providence, here are some of the things I was thankful for the past two years.

2017

1. Steve Lawson’s Seminar – Went to the seminar without any knowledge about the speaker aside from him being “reformed”. Before such visit, I was only expecting a refresher on what I already know and as usual, I couldn’t be more wrong. And so, like a lighting of a match in a dark room, I began to see that there was so much more in the faith I’ve come to embrace than that of what I already know [1 Peter 2:9Deuteronomy 29:29].

2. Faithful preaching of the Word – Being assigned to Cebu, a friend and I have been attending some churches but was not really committed to any, due to conviction from the truths we’ve come to know. And so, we ended up in Sovereign Grace Bible Church of Cebu where we were able to finally say that this is a people carefully handling the truths of God as disclosed in the Bible [2 Timothy 2:15].

3. Elder’s family example – This particular elder is the husband of the woman who asked me the question “so what changed?”. Seeing their family cheerfully serving the people around them made me see how practical Christian doctrine can be. And so, it gave me a desire to lead a family that will grow in such a manner [1 Corinthians 11:1;1 Timothy 3:1-7].

4. Brethren in Christ – Christian life is never without struggle. Therefore, what a comfort and such a great blessing that we are no isolated pilgrims, but a people designed to bear each other’s burdens. And so, it made me realize how the Lord graciously gave such a company here on earth [1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 4].

2018

5. Membership to a faithful local Church – Being enamored with the beauty of the church, a beauty derived from its faithfulness to Scriptures both in words and deeds by God’s grace, I went through the process of application. This included sharing my testimony earlier this year. And so, I was able to avail of the privileges such as an oversight meeting with a biblically mature elder, a duty that they have as Christ’s undershepherd [1 Peter 5:1-11].

6. Answered Prayers – Every Wednesday eve, our church gathers to pray for the concerns of other churches, our local church collectively, and its members individually. This year, the Lord had favorably granted a number of my petitions which includes Personal spiritual growth, secondment to Singapore, favors at work, having the the whole family in one room, and not to mention my dad’s recovery from his illness are just a handful of the long list of things. And so, it gave me greater confidence that the Lord is compassionate and hears His people [Isaiah 56:7Matthew 7:7].

7. Growing experiential understanding and reality of Christ’s Work on the Cross – Last June 3, after the preacher encouraged us to “Remember Him particularly on His death”,  I had a glimpse of what it means to experience a hatred for sin unlike any I had before. An “allergic” reaction to be rid of my sin-breeding flesh to the point of great anguish. And so, it allowed me to consider how infinitely greater Christ’s bearing of sins in full view for all His people on the cross was [Romans 7:24-252 Corinthians 5:21].

There are more to the list for what I’m actually thankful for, even more that I don’t know that I should be thankful for. The Lord in providence had dealt generously with unworthy creatures. May we be able to see more and more His faithfulness upon us, and commit ourselves unto such a Great King we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. For dear reader, we have not loved Him as we ought, nor will we ever. Perhaps, in that reality lies one of the greatest beauty of eternity as we come to progressively behold, without any blemish of sin, face to face the Source of all good things.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” – James 1:17

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2017 Questions: “So what changed?”

This is the 3rd part of the series “2017 Questions”, where I attempt to address memorable questions I was asked during 2017. Initially, I planned to finish the series last year but then here we are. However, I believe it’s not too late to learn, reflect, and share the lessons. Feel free to check the 1st entry here and the 2nd entry here.

Last November 13, when a brother in Christ wanted to read the “Pilgrim’s Progress”, he thought to borrow from a “reformed” family a summarized version of the book entitled Dangerous Journey, which is highly recommended for bedtime stories and for people who are fond of reading books with pictures. For the benefit of the reader, I would like to identify those on quotes and end quotes in this entry as follows:

“Pilgrim’s Progress” – a classic allegorical book written by John Bunyan during the 17th century, a story about a man whose name is Christian. The story starts with him being brought into conviction after reading a book, symbolically the Bible, and revolves primarily about his journey towards the Celestial City, symbolically heaven. A book usually recommended by the Reformed Christian group.

“Reformed” – a minority group who, by grace, have come to read, study, and faithfully-yet-not-perfectly apply the mandates of the Word in every aspect of their lives. Be it in how they conduct their weekly worship services, keeping the sanctity of the sabbath day, or even the music they listen to. This particular group is not fond of bearing the title, yet personally distinguished in this post only to inform the reader of their existence.

We then found ourselves invited to dinner in their house, which turned out to be a night of friendly interrogation, barraging us with a series of questions such as “how did you two meet?”, “how did you come to know Reformed theology?”, and “so what changed?”. To which I replied respectively, “at work…”, “from my leader…”, and “I better understood the doctrines (e.g., T.U.L.I.P.)…”. A short pause occurred after my last answer and the conversation went on merrily as expected, as it is always a pleasure to spend time with the household of faith.

After that night, I pondered on that short pause. I thought I answered every question properly only to realize that there was more to the last question than what I initially thought. Upon contemplating over the question, I found these follow up questions helpful for a more elaborate answer and personal word definitions to align my thoughts with the reader:

What changed in your mindsets?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

Mindsets refer to our predisposition on ideas, evident on our discussions on what we believe on certain topics. We know our mind is set when we cannot be convinced otherwise of other people’s opinions unless another persuades us with conclusive evidence that they are right and that we aren’t. This comes to mature overtime with our experiences and thorough study.

If you believe Jesus is exclusively the only way to eternal life, it’d be hard to believe that you also believe in Buddhism. As initially you come to believe both in luck and God’s sovereignty, when the two cannot coexist.

What changed in your values?

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26

Values refer to our heart’s core motivations, implicitly embedded in our day to day choices. We know our true values by where we intently invest the things we consider valuable (e.g., time, money, emotions, and thoughts).

The things that once excite your heart now bores you. The things that once bores you now excites your heart. The God you once hate you now love. The sin you once love you now hate. Rationally speaking, one cannot simply be at ease in saying he loves both. One shall inevitably love one and abhor the other.

What changed in your perspectives?

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” – Psalm 34:8

Perspectives refer to our worldviews, mutually influenced by our mindsets and values. These ideas and motivations progressively shape our preferences with respect to our senses and, more importantly, in how we view this life collectively – past, present, future.

The history lessons you once despised, you are now able to appreciate as it relates with current events. The isolated checklist of tasks you cross out each day, you are now able to perceive in light of eternity. The uncertainties you once had with the future, you are now able to see God’s Word to be a sure and steady guide. Through it all, with lenses of faith, one grows convinced that God’s sovereign hand is undoubtedly upon providence.

Nonetheless, to leave with claims of these internal reforms divorced from any tangible manifestation will only result to inconsistency between faith and practice, which leaves us to the next question.

What changed in your lifestyle?

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” – Romans 12:1

Lifestyle refers to our way of living out the things we’ve come to truly embrace, demonstrated in every facet of one’s life. As the saying goes “easier said than done”, it is here then where the genuineness of the person’s claims is put to test.

This primarily reflects on the time you spend reading, praying, meditating, applying the Word which includes how you approach God [Hebrews 7:24-25], how you deal with people [Galatians 6:10], how you labor [Colossians 3:23-25], how you manage your finances [Romans 13:8], how to defend the faith [1 Peter 3:15], so on and so forth [Deuteronomy 6:4-9], and yes, even how you dress [1 Timothy 2:9-10].

We live in an age where professions of faith in Christ are taken lightly. Where the great doctrines of God are held aside as though they have of little importance and no practical implication. Disheartening as it is, we find God’s reminder through Paul:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:12-13

2017 Questions: “What is your favorite bible verse?”

This is the 2nd part of “2017 Questions” series, where I plan to detail the things I learned from memorable questions I was asked this year. You can read the first installment of this series here.

When we started to take over a certain activity in our local church, we granted the attendants the permission to ask us one question per volunteer to allow them to get to know more about us. When my turn came, one of the participants asked me the question “What is your favorite bible verse?”. I had a list of verses in my head (e.g., Romans 5:8, 6:23, 8:28, 32; John 3:30, 10:10, 14:6; Philippians 3:8-9,4:6-7) But then I realized, the verse I frequently refer to is this:

“You make known to me the path of life;
    in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

Yet for some reason, at the time, I wasn’t able to recall it in verbatim. Oh well, bygones be bygones. But to end with the question “what…?” leaves to a surface-level understanding. One must be compelled to follow the Golden Circle to ask “How…? Why…?”

Golden Circle

HOW do I see my favorite bible verse?

“You make known to me the path of life” – Referring to Means. The world would offer us different paths, some leading to earthly success, some leading to failure, some leading to earthly security, others leading to danger, some leading to earthly happiness, others to despair. In this part of the verse, the psalmist suggests that his God, since He is the One being referred to in “You” (see Psalm 16:1), is the One who makes known to him the path of life, not “a path” which would suggest there is other, and most definitely not one that leads to destruction. The Unique Path that He has set for His people which in “Itself” is life.

“In Your presence there is fullness of joy” – Referring to Level. The world would again and again offer us a certain amount of joy, may it be from material blessings, lifetime achievements, or relational bliss. The psalmist, who is known as King David, has had much experience on all aspects yet finds his fullness of joy only in the presence of his Maker.

“At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” – Referring to Time. The world can only offer temporal happiness from itself, for it in itself is fleeting. An example could be that one relationship you once dreamed of, you once rejoiced in having, which you now take for granted. On the contrary, time and time again, David, who was once a young shepherd boy, have proven in every season of his life that his Creator is the Source of everlasting pleasure.

WHY is it my favorite bible verse?

It is evident in man that he longs to satisfy himself, that he pursues joy, and I being one of the populus, am too long for such. But to put up a cause for the cause’s sake is incomplete. And incomplete suggests a missing piece. Though I’ve addressed it in part, the Golden Circle lacks in it’s core the most important specific question to ask.

WHO is my favorite bible verse about?

There are two (2) individuals identified in the verse namely “You/r” and “me” which is respectively, God and David. To put it in our context, it’s God and the individual (i.e., you, me, him, or her). In this verse, the purpose of man is put succinctly by Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

And John Piper’s Christian Hedonism statement:

“God Is Most Glorified in Us When We Are Most Satisfied in Him”

Yet in the hindsight, if we’ll assess briefly, none of the “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore”  phrases will apply if we simply don’t know “what is the Means”, or more appropriately have a biblically founded relationship with “who is the Means”. And in the same Bible lies the undeniably consistent truth it professes:

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus” – 1 Timothy 2:5

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4;12

 

2017 Questions: “Why do you think people come and go?”

Our firm has started this initiative of asking better questions to get better answers, which I found applicable throughout the year from simple yet thought-provoking queries. Funny how I’m not really good with addressing questions on the spot, but have a tendency to ponder in my head better ways to address them, which unfortunately comes after all has been said and done. This post will be about the first of a series of questions I’ve encountered this year.

During the first quarter of the year, a colleague was about to resign and leave the office. When I and another colleague of mine were left to ourselves, he asked the question “Why do you think people come and go?”. Haven’t been thinking about the subject, I replied “It’s the environment”. He stared at me, from my peripheral, as if he was hoping for an elaborate description, which I gave none. I pretended to focus working on the task I had at hand since I don’t really know how to elaborate. The question just stunned me on the spot. My mind wandering how to respond to his list of queries where I only respond “it’s the environment…” with varying tones. I knew he expected a better answer and, sadly, I couldn’t give any.

Thinking about the question and how to address it left me with the three-fold answer:

Internal Environment – What is the culture in the office? Do people tend to go or stay? Do you work more than normal hours or less? Do you prefer a work that’s routine or dynamic? Do you maintain bad relationships with your colleagues or a good one? Are you poorly compensated or appropriately? Do you have a stubborn supervisor or a concerned one? Do those in authority work for their own good or for everyone else’s? Do your colleagues rant about work or appreciate it? Do you derive a sense of accomplishment with your role or none at all?

External Environment – What is offered outside? Is it aligned to your long-term career plan? What do other people say about it? What do your close friends say about it? Do you have a close friend there? Do they offer a more attractive compensation package? Is it closer to home? Will the role’s workload cater to the list of things you value (e.g., allowing more time for you and your loved ones)?

Person’s Perception of both – At the end of the day, the person is limited with the amount of reliable information he is provided, guided by his concept of “greener pasture”, and ruled by his perception of reality. If he finds favor where he spends more time doing routinary work, where he is poorly compensated, where he rants to his supervisors, where those in authority work for their own good since he knows he himself will do so as well, then no matter how ironic the reason may be, you’ll find him staying where he satisfies those in his list. Same is true if one values and is provided huge sums of money, a good working environment, has everything working for his good, yet perceives all odds against him despite the opposite being true, then regrettably you’ll eventually see him demotivated.

The sad reality is that we perceive limitedly with our thoughts aimed on the now and on ourselves, a “what’s in it for me now?” reflex-mentality founded on the very thing we complain about millennials – Entitlement. It’s so convenient to narrow it all down to short-term happiness, and dismiss that there is beauty in laboring for the glorious future as we help build other people’s lives and, in the process, ourselves.

If you work for a company that is known as a “training ground”, where employees are “poorly paid”, where associates are considered as “corporate slaves”, where people find themselves drained of “biased politics”, ask instead, who defined the metrics for what constitute “training ground”, “poorly paid”, “corporate slaves”, and “biased politics”? do they have an objective study, statistics, or comparison to back up their claim or just opinions out of ignorance? Have the context and opinions from a more inclusive perspective been accounted (e.g., do you bring in more revenue than the amount you are paid)? This is all not to say that one should definitely stay where he is, but to encourage an objective weighing of the scale.

Considering all the facts available, you have to ask yourself – do you see yourself staying? what did you consider? did you assess objectively? For what purpose? To what end? Is it worth it? What weighs heavier on your balance scale of values – Internal or External? Stay or go?

It’s a different case per individual, yes, but let not shallow perception shadow your judgment only to find yourself in places you wouldn’t be otherwise. In the meantime, be curious, ask questions, by all means explore opportunities, apply for a new job, but learn to set boundaries and to work faithfully the tasks given you now, especially to the Christian for we are admonished with this comforting truth:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” – Colossians 3:23-25

Prelude: Elect’s Woeful Beginning

Disclaimer: This is a fan made version of Christian’s background prior to the book “The Pilgrim’s Progress”, highly recommended for all readers.

As I read an ancient book of the man who once walked through the wilderness of this world, I envisioned the story of Christian before thus the author began to dream about him. And as I paused to ponder, I imagined imageries. I imagined, and behold I saw a baby born in the Town of Pestilence, held between his mother’s arms, and with a loud cry sought to appease his groaning appetite. His worldly parents, Pride and Mammon, named him Elect as with their claim that their son would be one of the greatest of all that walketh the earth [Matthew 11:11]. Little did they know that that truth beholden such to those who come to follow He whom has led Himself to slaughter [Isaiah 53].

Many were named “Elect” throughout history, thus this tale is only one of many. They were some privileged to fellow early with the same name yet others, such as the one to be described, had not had the luxury.

Conditioned in the patterns of the world, Elect grew in the knowledge of its ways. He naturally made friends with Do-Stupid, Waste-Time, Me-First, and many more for they share the same interests as he. As a fish would be unaware of the waters, so is he in the sinfulness of his environment. He knew nothing but sin. He taketh for his profit thy counsel of his companions for it is the convenient truth his fallen mind accepts. He hast not known anything about holiness until a certain man called Evangelist maketh warnings from the familiar Book he held in his hand. Like the banging of a gong, repetitive, irritating, yet purposeful, the man beseeched the crowd forthwith

“Hear ye! Hear ye! Men of Pestilence, and all who dwell in City of Destruction [Acts 2:14]. Terror is coming, and it will sweep everything dear to you unless you take heed of the warnings to take refuge [Ezekiel 30:3]. Judgment is at hand. Souls will be eternally condemned unless we repent to thy King [Mark 1:15]. What does it profit man to gain the world yet forfeit his soul? [Mark 8:36]

Now, various stories has spread concerning this man Evangelist. Most sayeth ‘he’s a fraud’ and none of his claims cameth to pass. Thus he came to be mocked by them as though he be taken a criminal. Some say ‘he’s a madman’ and true it be so, for lunacy has been defined by the common to them that has ventured to some abstract extremity by society. But a handful claim ‘he speaketh truth’ for majority of this group has already left the pack, taken heed, and embarked unto their pilgrimage.

Elect was torn, both in his heart and in mind, because of the differing opinions of such audience. “How could one man say ‘he’s a fraud’ and another say ‘he speaketh truth’?” thought he. He then approached and asked “Sir Evangelist, where thou hast known these things? and how come the majority of the crowd take you a fraud?”

Evangelist answered, “Tis for thee that I preach such words. That the flock may awaken from the dreamland they are wandering about [Romans 13:11-15]. I only speaketh words from this Book but to be a fraud is far from me. The majority have been deceived for some have submitted their minds to Limited Reasoning [Colossians 2:8] while others came to bid their souls with False Teacher [2 Peter 2:1-3]. Both fellows are attractive to the flesh for they teach that which feeds it. The Book in my hand feed thine Spirit, which is always in disarray with the flesh [Galatians 5:16-17].”

In this Elect, being a student of both Limited Reasoning and False Teacher, said to Evangelist “Pardon me sir, for I must assess thy words for such has contradicted every matter I believed in.” “I plead thee, do so, but make thy heart urgent for the matter is at hand.” Evangelist warned. And the two went their ways.

As the day comes to a close, the reality of judgment grows in Elect’s heart. ‘Death will be upon me’ he says. ‘O what a vapor! [Psalm 144:4] how fleeting this life has been and will become. Is there hope for me?’ he asks these things alone in silence. Eventually, he slides off back to the world and its practices as his contemplation’s echoes fade into nothing.

Night passed and, behold, a new day came. Elect had his day in another routine. By morn, he went to Limited Reasoning’s class, sat beside Curious, then the two went to talk. “How can a fellow believe in God and yet attend and agree with this class?” Curious curiously asked. Elect was not expecting such a question be asked as greeting so he responded “why ye ask?” Curious went on and said “The contradiction fascinates my curiosity. I find it hard why one be at ease with it.” Elect ignores thinking the idea is only Curious’ dilemma. None can be further from the truth.

Elect had always acknowledged thy Maker when asked, yet lived in vast contradiction to the profession he makes [Matthew 15:8]. He thought himself to be at ease with Thee when his works commends himself to be good. In a flip of the coin, finds himself hopeless when he falls. A mood swing determined by his hands, he finds no assurance in himself and true it be so. For if perfection was what is required of assurance, he lost any confidence in himself the moment he fell [James 2:10].

Amidst these things, he findeth comfort with weekly church compliance.  ‘Peace! peace!’ the False Teacher preaches [Jeremiah 6:14], ‘fix ye’selves on the blessings and fill thee stomachs with vanity. Surely, this is the will of Him of who awaits thee!’ with conviction to false words he persuades his hearers, and among those whom did was Elect [Matthew 24:24]. A woeful beginning indeed and indeed a beginning still.

So let beginnings be beginnings, let the unfolding of events come to reveal the whole story. As an artist would use dark shades to highlight the beauty of his work, so did He determine how all things should come to pass for His glory [Romans 11:32-36].

 

Gospel View Unlocked

During the early stages of my Christian walk, I would find the words “preach the gospel to yourself” offensive. Back then I’d consider it only as an entry point to Christianity. I couldn’t be more wrong. If one would use the same statement towards the majority of believers, they would be just as offended (I’ve tried). For it is expected somehow that a “Christian” would “know” the “gospel”. Expounding those quotes and unquotes here:

“Christian” – simply a follower of Christ. Many would claim to be a christian solely because of their religious affiliation and not mainly since it is their true belief system, that which translates itself to daily application.

“Know” – one’s understanding to a given subject. We may claim to know things, and it may be true at some level, but the depth of our comprehension varies from person to person – most commonly because of that person’s exposure to that particular subject.

“Gospel” – the good news, the foundation of the Christian faith. To some, it’s only the books of the bible called the gospels because they’re called the “gospels”. To the minority, it’s the only topic worth investing all efforts understanding that they will only fail to grasp the fullness of its riches, simply because one cannot.

I’m a fan of listening to christian podcasts but I have to be honest that I really am selective with preachers I listen to.  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one but I get bored quickly. Not that the message has to entertain, but it should engage you to a point that you wouldn’t want any distractions your way. Also, we can’t really listen to everyone especially when they don’t make sense and talk big on the peripherals rather than what is and should be preeminent.

Recently, I’ve been listening to Paul Washer’s preachings. And in so doing, found that my view of the message of the Gospel has been enhanced as most of his messages keeps the main thing, the main thing, which is God and the message of His Gospel. Here are some of the things I learned about the world’s most important message recently.

Comparing God’s effort in biblical creation and salvation

In reading the book of Genesis, one would find that creation was done effortlessly. He says “let there be” and there is! Out of nothing, the universe came to be. Nothing created into being with nothing but a breath from the Almighty. No other can do this but God Himself.

Then the infamous act of history happened, man sinned. Fast forward, Christ came to redeem the lost, Christ came to die on the cross. Christ, both God and man, entered the physical realm and endured all temptations and human-initiated afflictions set against Him towards this central event.

The pressure of the foreordained punishment made Him sweat drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane. Those mentioned only pales in comparison to the cup He keeps verbalizing. The cup of wrath, God’s holy judgment, reserved for the sins of men, that He would drink, making him sin who knew no sin, to appease His Father’s wrath on the cross. Salvation of men came at an unimaginable cost in comparison to the creation of the universe.

But why? If to die in place of your favorite pet doesn’t make sense, how much more God for His creation?

The paradox of logical-illogical

“Why is there something rather than nothing?” – Martin Heidegger, Philosophy’s greatest question.

There are many theories attempting to address the question, and I as a biased Christian would find our confidence much secured. Although, I try to be as objective as possible, it is really our platform that would appeal to the rational despite it’s logical limitations. There is something rather than nothing because of the overflow of His abundance.

But is it not also logical for it to be, humanly speaking, illogical? Since it cannot be bound by human comprehension that the God surging with holiness and love would make man only out of an overflow of His abundance. Not by the need, as we logically do, but by an express excess of His natures, naturally displaying itself for appreciation outside Himself.

In the same way, He died on the cross not because we are lovable, as we are sinful creatures only worthy of His intense full wrath, but because He is Love. And because He is the very personification of the word love, Jesus took the cup of God’s wrath on our behalf. True Love is never logical.

Still, this would sound absurd if we don’t know what sin is and who this Christ is.

Christ’s unmatched worth over all creation

A student once asked him proudly, “how does the crucifixion of Christ satisfy God’s wrath?”

Fair question. Why doesn’t the scapegoat, or any other sacrifice suffice to appease His wrath?

First is that none of us have any idea just how sinful the sinfulness of sin is. If we think about it, modern culture has so desensitized us of how terribly wrong sin is. Take into consideration how the world is continuously spiraling down its moral standards on what is right and what is wrong. It even comes to a point of pointing out the relativity of time differences without sound reasoning, as if what’s morally wrong differs from generation to generation. Our understanding has been blurred, so and so that we no longer have a clear view of how vile an act of disobedience of eating a fruit from a specially forbidden tree is just as detestable to Him.

Secondly, words would not suffice the indescribable worth of Jesus Christ. If we put all of creation on one end of the scale and Christ, God Himself, on the other, the scales would have been destroyed in His favor. The point is, why even ask the question? God is always over His creation in a manner outside fathoming. An archangel is not any closer than a randomly floating bacteria in the sewers system to His likeness. Never to suggest that that bacteria is just as clean as He is, but that He is a class on His own – therefore incomparable.

All this leads a person to worship Him in this life and the next. But is our response of worship attain such a level that we can meet the law’s requirements?

Man’s direly severe incapacity to worship God appropriately

It is new that I would know that until now I am unable to worship God as He ought to be worshiped. Just as I don’t know just how sinful sin is, just as I don’t know how valuable Christ is, and in the flesh am prone to idolatry.

Yet the Christ, always able to do, always loving the Father with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength, at all times as we ought. It is to Him the Father is well pleased. This is Him who took the place of His people to do the humanly impossible.

This leaves one back to bow himself of His awesome glory. An unlimited level of inception of sorts that enables a person by reminding him that we ought to worship more than we did at our prime.

As a friend would tell me, a story won’t appeal as much when it does not have enough roots, lacks background, or it only has a shallow context that supports it. So mine the infinite treasures of the gospel. Know everything available about it. Preach the fullness of the gospel to yourself. Be unashamed when you shame yourself for it’s advancement. Woe to us if we do not for no other message is worthy of everything.

Doxology: Father, we pray that You traumatize us with Your glory! Let the Holy Spirit’s revelation of the love of Christ compel us all that we’ll also be able overflow in Your abundance. In the matchless name of Jesus we pray, amen!

2016: My Rational Choice

“Heavy loads are not meant to put one down, but to make one stronger.”

For the longest time, I have been sheltered from what was always known as the “REAL WORLD”. The dark, miry, combustive place where people find themselves in the true test and further refinement of their character. This year was more of an official exposure. My dad had retired and I had to part ways from home, which basically means zero financial support replaced by encouragements like “you can do it!” and some friends who you can negotiate terms with. Money in, money out – nothing new with that part.

When I was younger, I’d always hear “wait until you get to the REAL WORLD”. I know I didn’t expect as much then as I am experiencing now. Circumstances only show to get harder and harder still, requiring sustained growth from individuals with no respect to preferences. That considering a car, a house, a partner or, much more, a family is not across my shoulders yet, I really need to force myself to grow. I thought I knew much only to be humbled by time and be met with more excellent companions.

Everything I see is grace – an undeserved, unmerited favor to an unqualified individual who’ve done nothing but play, judge, complain, and be pampered by ideals. Nope, I’m not saying my parents never disciplined us. If only I knew better then… but what use is that now? Only to serve as reminders for the benefits of discipline and the consequences of choices.

We all have choices to make. From the rising of the sun to its setting. From the alarm clock that wakes you in the morning to the social media you course through before sleeping. These choices, no matter how small, create ripples that our myopic perceptions fail to consider yet tends to show itself potentially even more important than the former. In convenience, we are inclined to act only in view of what’s presented in the surface when we ought to tarry in considering its effects on the more important aspects – those which take priority in our list of values.

If there’s any heavy load that I need to exercise more often, it is to opt for this rational choice – death to self and life to values. They are two yet inseparable.

Death to self

“Your arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest lesson of all – it’s not about you.” – The Ancient One, Doctor Strange

The more I learn about myself, the more I realize that I am more like a black hole, pulling in everything within its reach, into its core, yet in its most formidable attempts, it is left insatiably craving more to fill the mysterious abyss. My entitlements and my longings encroach me to make decisions fixed on feeding this emptiness in me so vast that the world itself cannot fill it. Such statements may sound exaggerated yet these are no play of words but perceived truths of the soul.

This is so that I must remind myself daily that I am not the center of this universe, therefore it does not revolve to please my tragically unstable loves. Because if it does, then how about you? How about the countless individuals who would like to think this life is all about them? There’s no comprehending such a world with infinite centers.

One must compromise self-centeredness and its vanities for truth, unless one wishes to live in illusions only to be disappointed with the world’s realities. Yet it is futile still to put self to death and with no sense of recourse to follow after.

Life to values

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” – Jesus, Mark 8:35

“To where o soul are you headed. You seek life in the things that are dead. They find not what they seek for they run from the very Answer, which is not what they hope to find. It is for the Eternal and Infinite to fill such a void and not for the fleeting, shallow, nor the narrow.”

Compromise doesn’t sound like anyone’s ready act but if we’re able to apply it in appropriate places, one finds it to be useful. To compromise pride by forgiving, to win back love, is a temporary death itself. It may be freely given, but to the expense of the giver for nothing comes without cost. The giver would have been only at loss if one finds oneself unable to gain the purpose of one’s compromise or something else that pleases one to the same degree. An exchange is expected to take place then – One’s values in lieu of oneself. Aren’t they the same? Apparently not in this text.

“Oneself” is composed of one’s pride, lusts, preferences, and entitlements. One’s “values”, on the other hand, consist those that are outside our inner self – God, family, nation, next generation, career, and on goes your list. Make sure they’re worth living and dying for and one is good to go.

The fact remains. I am a black hole yearning to be filled. In this, one finds the concept of Christian Hedonism supremely palatable, where it perceives that “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever”. In response to the Initiator’s love, it is one’s delight to search and be married to the love of his soul even at the expense of his very self. What greater can one seek than the Ultimate, the One, and True Center. Though in humble and honest seeking, one may not be keen to consider the effect of the ripples, one rests comforted for it is the Sovereign who rules over them.

If there’s one major influence in the lessons you can check out this reference. It’s a rough year with a lot of adjustments and I thank everyone who’ve helped me through it. Thank you LORD for 2016! Set our foot where your Word directs us, guide us in correcting our disciplines, and empower us to practice Your truths with the goal of our most beautiful, ever present hope, truly glorious, and incomparably worthy reward, You.