Sunday, 29 April 2012

Trust and Give Thanks

My Youth Pastor, Geoff Low, clearly pointed out: When things go wrong, the world blames God, but when things turn out great, no one even speaks about God.

This statement doesn't apply to the world alone but unfortunately, also to Christians. Ever so often we present lengthy lists asking God to fulfill the desires of our hearts, but do we thank Him when He does fulfill? In fact it might even be easier to thank Him when His answer complies to our will, but why is it so hard when He answers differently; with a 'No' or a 'May be' or a 'Wait for it'?

God is in control of all our lives; prayer is important because it acknowledges the fact that we ought to rely on Him for everything, and the fact that only He can strengthen our weaknesses. When we know our lives are in His hand, shouldn't we trust Him? Like my ODB today highlights, 'He who sees has foreseen and will not lead us astray.'
Yes, we may not always have our way, that is because God knows where our way can take us, He works all things for the good of those who love Him, we've got to overflow with trust and thankfulness, in good times and bad, when He says 'Yes' and when He says 'No'.

'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.' - Philippians 4:6
I am in no way implying that we should not ask God to fulfill our desires, He is our Father, we have to bring our requests to Him, however as Paul reminds us, we ought to present them with thankfulness, knowing that His answer may not necessarily comply with ours.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, 'In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you' - Paul doesn't say 'In good times...' or 'When prayers are answered the way you want them...', he says 'In everything...'

Life is certainly not easy, it has its ups and downs but instead of blaming God for life's valleys (where we get a 'No' or need to wait patiently) and losing hope, walk in trust and thank Him for them, only if you walk through the valleys can you see and truly appreciate the wonder of life's mountains! When you do reach the pinnacle, because you will, make sure you glorify His name above all else.

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Passion and Crucifixion of Christ

Good Friday, a time to grieve and mourn the death of our Savior.
I personally don't agree with mourning as we know Jesus reigned victorious over death itself by beating it and rising again. Instead, I believe we ought to reflect on the passion of Christ with gratitude to acknowledge its true worth and power.
That is the purpose of this post, to record my reflections and what I've learnt from a sermon by our Church elder, Derek Moon, based on Luke 23:26-43.

Christ's passion teaches and equips a Christian with the knowledge he/she requires to follow the Lord...

Following the Lord is not an easy route to heaven. He makes it clear in many places. A Christian should expect to suffer, be neglected and isolated for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus re-affirms this key point in Luke 23:31 when He says,
"For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
Jesus performed many miracles for the people, He did not harm any of them, yet 'he was despised and rejected by men'. The joyful, once grateful voices that sang, "Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!", shouted, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" If Jesus, a perfect man, without any sin, had to suffer so much, how much more we, who are filled with sin from head to toe; even our 'good deeds' are tainted with self-seeking sinfulness.
Some, lose their lives for their trust in the Savior, others, may be despised or rejected by friends and family; whatever the form, every Christian faces persecution.

However, Jesus' response to suffering and hostility is remarkable and holds a lesson for us, as Christians, to follow...

He grieves and prays for future generations who will be in greater suffering. - Luke 23: 28-31
Living life as a Christian is never easy, but a few years ago, at least in the west, it was easier. Since then, things have changed! This depicts the slippery slope our culture and society is on, towards secularization and materialism. Above all, it accentuates the detriment future generations will face and the height of persecution and opposition that will lurk - the years ahead look bleak for a Christian! Hence, as our Savior prayed, so we ought to pray and grieve for steadfast, persevering believers to arise from the generations to come.

He doesn't retaliate but grieves and prays, with love, for those who hurt Him. - Luke 23: 34
Instead of yielding to our 'human instinct' to retaliate and seek revenge, we need to forgive, I mean TRULY FORGIVE, WITH LOVE! Love is awesome! When you love someone despite the misery they cause you, you let God's love shine right through you, your life speaks and testifies to the risen Christ living in you. You never know, you might even win souls for Christ this way.
Remember, we are able to love because He first loved us, despite our resentment towards Him.

He repays evil for good.
Actions do speak louder than words! Just saying you've forgiven someone or that you love someone doesn't mean much if your life doesn't exhibit it. Jesus said "Father forgive them...", He died on the cross paying the penalty for the sins of the world, including those who hated Him. He didn't just say He loved, He exhibited it through the ultimate sacrifice. Likewise, we ought to do good to those who do us wrong, repay every hostile act with a genuine act of grace, mercy and love.
It is hard and we cannot do it as of ourselves, however, we have a God who is willing to transform, enable and equip us.

There is certainly a lot more we can learn from the Passion of Christ, I have only recorded a tiny fraction. His suffering not only warns us but also challenges and encourages us; yes, God outlines the trials and problems we will face but, He also gives us the answers and solutions to help us deal with them. We need to trust Him, persevere and put it all into practice - and its not easy!

I'd like to conclude with some further thoughts, especially for the non-Christians:

The reason why Jesus gave Herod 'no answer' in Luke 23:9, was because the time of grace for Herod had culminated. Herod did not repent of his sins even though John the Baptist repeatedly warned him. His pride eventually led him to silence the preacher completely. Yes, grace is available for us all, however, only for a period; the unrepentant sinner will not be let off, given infinite chances or even yet another chance after death. There are only two options, this is reiterated by the two thieves who are symbolic:

  1. Penitent Thief: Knew his sin, humbled himself and sought grace and mercy accepting his punishment as fair - He was offered forgiveness and was redeemed through Christ's blood.
  2. Impenitent Thief: Ignorant, prideful and didn't understand the value of the penalty paid - He faces judgement and an eternity in hell.
I pray that you are able to identify yourself with the penitent thief. There are only two options available, you need to make the right choice before it's too late. Make haste.

Finally, sorry for the long post! May this Easter turn your eyes to Calvary and help you see the power and value of the price Jesus paid for you. Happy Easter!