Yearly Archives: 2009

My Lover Spoke and Said to Me…

Avoiding the beauty of His eyes
I glance away and turn around,
Hiding my shame and imperfections
In the midst of shadows,
Deep and dark.

A low rumble of thunder echoes
Throughout the small confinements
Of the prayer room.
My heart cries out for Your love,
That saved me once, saved me twice,
From the shackles of sin.

My mind stuck on repeat,
I plead Him over and over again.
“Please forgive me, Lord,
I need your strength, Lord.”
I don’t expect such a wonderful God
To answer an ungrateful wretch like me.

But His love surrounded me
And cut through the darkness,
It came to save me once more.
My Lover spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
My beautiful one,
And come with me.”

So I follow in His footsteps.
His radiance surrounds us
And He smiles at me,
But I don’t shy away as before.
I lock away His smile,
A secret within my heart,
And the laughter of angels
Ring in Heaven for me.

(Song of Solomon 2:10)

The Resurrection of Jesus

As opinions about many doctrines of the Bible have become increasingly different from one Christian to another, so have the teachings of many churches on the resurrection of Jesus. But what does the Bible teach? What impact does Jesus’ resurrection have on us?

Many people have the idea that every religion teaches one to be good. Each has a human founder. No one religion should claim superiority over another. Tolerance and mutual acceptance is the way forward for all religions to co-exist. This is to minimise, or even eradicate, inter-religious conflict stemming from different sets of beliefs and values. Of those who promote or advance the above-mentioned idea, perhaps most have the good intention of achieving a global environment habitable for all.

However, if we narrow down the scope to just one religion, Christianity, we note that that there are more than two thousand denominations which are in existence today. The mutual dissension that takes place in Christendom may be as great as that amongst different religions, if not greater. Continue reading

Washing of Love

Footwashing is a sacrament of love. The Bible introduces Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet with these words, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). Jesus washed His disciples’ feet because they were His own, and He loved them to the end.

“Jesus’ own” refers to Jesus’ disciples, who were present at the last supper with Jesus. They were special. He had loved them from the first day He chose them. Now that He was departing from this world to go to the Father, He loved them once more with one final act of love.

While all the disciples were reclined at the dinner, Jesus got up, laid aside His garments, girded Himself with a towel, poured water into a basin. In the manner of a slave, He began to wash His disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel.

How was Jesus’ footwashing an act of love? By washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus granted each of them to have a part with Him. Through this sacrament, He endowed on them a share in His eternal life, His kingdom, and His glory. This spiritual effect constitutes the love of Jesus toward His own.

Today, the Lord Jesus has also declared to you His love when He washed your feet in the sacrament. He considers you His very own, and He has given you an everlasting share in Him. Ever feeling unloved and unwanted? Look once again at your feet—the feet that your Lord has washed—and remember how dear you are to His heart.

Daily Faith

I happened to watch a special episode of the television show The Biggest Loser that took a look at former contestants and gave an update on how they have been doing since their season ended. If you haven’t heard of the show, it is basically a weight-loss competition (you can read more about the show on the Wikipedia page here).

During the special, one of the trainers visited a contestant who had won his season but had since put back almost all of the weight he had lost. The former contestant confessed that he had a hard time preparing himself for the extreme exercise regimen that it would require for him to lose all that weight a second time. Presumably he had been re-playing in his mind the intense workouts that he had gone through every day for several weeks during his time on the show.

But his former trainer explained that he had already gone through the extreme training, and now that he was back to his regular life, he had to find a routine that would work for him every day. I realized that this was very good advice, and not just for people who had been on The Biggest Loser. It’s also good advice for anyone who has ever attended an extended church seminar or convocation.

Like contestants on the show, we live away from home among other people who are going through the same schedule we are, and we live a life that is very different from our daily lives. We don’t go to school or work, but spend time in classes and in prayer so that we can draw closer to God. While we are there, we experience great joy and spiritual fulfillment through the long prayers and fellowship with brothers and sisters. And when it’s over, we have high hopes of continuing our renewed spirituality at home.

Yet we often drop off quickly once we get back home and are back to our regular lives, and then we get stuck in a cycle of highs at SSC and NYTS and lows in-between. But how do we fix this? We need to understand that we shouldn’t expect to feel the exact level of spiritual highs that we find at seminars because when we are at home we are not able to spend the same amount of time in prayer or the same amount of time studying the Bible and listening to classes on the Bible. We need to figure out a way to maintain our faith within our daily lives.

It’s important to schedule our prayers and Bible study in a way that we can maintain them every day and keep ourselves close to God. That means it’s not enough to skim through a Bible chapter and pray for 5 minutes a day. We need to spend quality time in studying a chapter and meditating on it, and praying long enough so that we feel truly filled with the Holy Spirit. While the specifics of how we cultivate our spirituality will vary, what matters is establishing a routine that we can maintain long term. Instead of dreading our spiritual cultivation or giving up on it because of unrealistic expectations, we should find a way to incorporate it into our life so that we grow in faith not only during special church events but every day.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not with other men, extortionist, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ (Lk 18:9-13)

The above text presents the stark contrast between a so-called ‘pious man’ and a sinner. The former is a beholder of the Law and the latter, a religious outcast. Jesus, in the preamble of the parable, exposes the hidden ugliness of a pharisaic prayer, in which the Pharisee trusts only in himself – whose prayer reveals his indifferent attitude. He justifies himself in the sight of man (cf Lk 16:15) – so much so that self-justification becomes part of his prayer (or part of our work). He fails to realise that what is honourable in human eyes may be utterly detestable in God’s.

Jesus explicitly demarcates righteousness from self-righteousness. A righteous person would not look at others with contempt. On the contrary, he desires to see sinners turn over a new leaf and pursue after the righteousness of God. Very often, we may feel a sense of being better than others in our head, which clouds our understanding that when we are put under the spotlight of scrutiny, we can be guilty of a more serious offence when our hearts are exposed in God’s light. Examples include cursing others, being arrogant and making false allegations… The list goes on.

When Jesus talks about the parable proper, He begins by describing the common tendency of the two parties, the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer – both had a noticeable urge to worship and to pray to God – they both went up to the temple. Sadly, such a good opportunity to draw closer to God turns into a session of condemning others more than anything else. When we condemn a brother in a given situation, we need to realise at the same time, in another set of circumstances, maybe, we are found more guilty than the one we condemn (Mt 7:1-3).

Since God searches the heart of man (Lk 16:15; Jer 17:10), Jesus, being God Himself, first disclosed that the Pharisee was praying to himself. He neither addressed his prayer to, nor gave thanks to God for His providential care, not to mention ascribing any glory to Him, neither did he confess his sins nor make any effort to repent. His prayer was so self-centred that he even condemned another person to magnify his own ‘religious piety’. His religious fanaticism led him to think that he was good before God; he thought he had been fulfilling the requirements of the Law. In fact, he had neglected the weightier provision of the Law, though he may have claimed otherwise (cf Lk 11:42).

He offered a prayer which totally cast the spirit of the ‘Lord’s Prayer” aside and was contrary to it. He tossed the ‘shema’ (Deut 6:4), the spirit of the Law, out of his mind. A violation that was against the tenets of ‘God is the Lord’ and loving Him totally. A prayer that attempts to gain righteousness by religious deeds is an abomination in God’s eyes. This is a clear failure to view himself correctly before man and God.

In contrast, the guilt-stricken tax-gatherer stood at some distance, feeling unworthy to approach the Lord. He was clearly aware of his own sins. But with a contrite heart, demonstrated in the beating of his breast, he genuinely sought for forgiveness from God with repentance. He knew he could not face God, but at the same time he knew that only He could give him a chance of reconciling with Him. Shamefully, with his head bowed down, he cried out to the Lord to heal the breach. His prayer was heard.

Jesus’ conclusion of this parable was simple: “I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Humility calls for the understanding that we are not perfect yet. In this parable both were morally corrupt. Perhaps the tax-gatherer was publicly known for his corruption (he exacted Roman taxes with throat-cutting profit). The Pharisee may have been upright in the light of his own religiousness, but still sinned against God in many ways. His very self-righteous prayer was an example. Have we ourselves not been sinning against God too?

Unlike the Pharisee who used his own charity as the standard of righteousness, the tax-gatherer’s humility was demonstrated in his using of God’s righteousness to measure himself. He knew he fell miserably short of God’s standard, and thus prayed truthfully for forgiveness. Without humility, we may even condemn a sinner more than the sin itself. This is no way suggesting that we should tolerate sin or allow a sinner to go unpunished. For God is just, and will make us accountable for what we have done (Eccl 11: 9-10).

The lack of humility in prayer made the Pharisee self-righteous. The same may happen to us as we go about our Christian duties, and if we are not careful, it may even give rise to conflict – dissension, slander and hatred – to the detriment of Christ’s body, (cf Gen 4:4ff). He who always justifies himself will always think that he is righteous. However, there is none who is righteous, not even one, according to the OT scriptures (Ps 14:1-3; cf Rm 3:10-18). For righteousness, in a scriptural sense, entails the practice of God’s law and being considered right with God. Though we cannot sweepingly claim that none is righteous in the NT (cf Rev 3:4), we must not say that we have already attained to the righteousness required by God (cf Phil 3:12ff).

It is the attitude of the tax collector toward God that we are to adopt.