WHEN SACRIFICE IS NOT A SACRIFICE

Sacrifice is only a sacrifice if you don’t know what you’re trading it for.

I heard the story of Migz a few weeks ago and it utterly inspired me. He live a life that was separated from God and disobedient to His will. Recently, he went through Victory Weekend after a series of meeting with one who walked him through his faith in Christ. After surrendering everything to Jesus and understanding all that the gospel provides and redeems, he made a 180 degree turn.

His friends and people close to him asked him why. It was a sacrifice to give up all that he used to do and all for what? Faith in Christ? Won’t Jesus understand? After all, we’re merely humans, right? Prone to sin. Inclined to give in.

But speaking to him after 6pm service one Sunday, he said something that hit me hard.
“Sacrifice is only a sacrifice if you don’t know what you’re trading it for.”

Jesus sacrificed His all so that I can have life and life to the full.
I owed a debt I couldn’t pay. He paid a debt He did not owe.
Because of that, I am forever grateful.

Written below is part of the story of Migz. I pray that it will bless you, inspire you and challenge you to continue to look to Jesus both as Savior and Lord.

“I’ve spent a lot of time “finding myself” and ended up in the same place as before because I was too busy searching rather than being.

Religion has always been an identity crisis for me, I knew it was part of me, I just couldn’t figure it out then. I tried being dutiful, attending church, saying prayers – though sometimes not even knowing what I was saying.

It reminds me everyday why I choose to be Christian and live in a world of organized religion and follow the path that has been set out for me. I have never in my life been this close to religion, God and Jesus. I grew up saying prayers I never even understood until just recently. I always wondered where the “Our Father” came from only to realize it was from the book of Matthew.

I believe this was all part of His plan. If I was meant to learn it then I would have.
“His timing is perfect, and his presence is constant. He is always with you!” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

He gives you struggles to overcome – not struggles to accept as part of your identity, but to shape you to be the person He created you to be.

I choose to be Christian because I now have the lens to see the better side of me, the knowledge to be better and the strength that every struggle provides blessings that I may not even know I need.

I choose to be Christian because it has helped me see my purpose; my ability to help and lead people as I have in my work, to inspire people as I do with my students and bring it to a whole new level by helping carry out His word.

I don’t believe to be perfect nor do I think I ever will be, but being Christian gives me the strength to try to be, the courage to pick up from failure and try again, to repent, to be me- the person He created me to be. This all paves way to a better life.

I choose to be Christian because He Saved me. And He always will.

 

—–

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/36590684@N05/

“WHERE ARE YOU?”

Have you ever lost or misplaced something valuable?

I have. Several times.

And when we do, we take the whole day if necessary to look for what we’ve misplaced. Why? Because it’s valuable to us. The value we place on an item will determine the extent of effort we are going to put in to search for it. If it was a mere safety pin or paper clip, it won’t bother us one bit. But if it was our wallet that had our credit cards and driver’s license, then we will search the whole house to look for it.

When God asked Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” It wasn’t because He didn’t know where they were. He was asking, “Where are you in terms of our relationship?” To this day, He still asks and to this day He is seeking. Why? It is because God is a Seeker and a Saver. Luke 19:10 says that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.

The word lost can be offensive. And there are 3 kinds of lost. First, there are those who are lost but don’t know they are. Secondly, there are those who pretend they’re not lost. (Ask husbands who drive around for hours getting in an argument with their wives and still not admitting they’re not lost.) Thirdly, there are those who don’t even care if they’re lost.

Jesus searched for Zacchaeus. Initially, Zacchaeus was curious to find out about this Jesus. Little did he know that it was Jesus that was seeking for him.

Here’s the message from yesterday’s second installment from our series entitled “Simple.”

FOLLOWING JESUS IS SIMPLE BUT NOT NECESSARILY EASY

In a social networking world, we can actually “follow” someone without actually having a relationship with them. I can tell you that Katy Perry who has the most Twitter followers in the world (about 62M) is now in Milan Italy and that she is enjoying the Italian tapas. However, that doesn’t mean I know her personally.

There are many who “follow” Jesus the way they would Katy Perry. The call to follow Him is not the twitter-follow kind. The word used was a present imperative which denotes continuity and is an ongoing command. It’s as if He’s saying, “Keep following Me. Do it on an ongoing basis to your last breath.”

FOLLOWING JESUS HAS A COST.

Someone came to Jesus and said, “I will follow You wherever You go.” He was ecstatic because he just saw 5000 people got fed with 2 fish and 5 loaves.

Jesus replied by saying, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)

In effect, He was telling the guy that it will be inconvenient. He will be pulled out of his comfort zone. We are not told if the guy continued in following Christ.

FOLLOWING JESUS WILL CHANGE OUR PRIORITIES.

After His conversation, Jesus turned to another and said, “Follow Me.”

The 2nd guy’s reply was this. “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)

Was Jesus being mean? This guy’s dad just died!

Here’s the thing.
Number 1, his dad wasn’t dead. Jewish custom requires immediate burial for the person who just passed away. Number 2, Jewish tradition tells us that mourning takes 30 days. In other words, he wouldn’t even be there if his dad was dead.

In effect, what he was saying was this, “Lord, I need to wait and bury my father and wait for my inheritance. You already said it will be inconvenient. If I get my inheritance, then at least, I have a fallback.”

Following Jesus will change our priorities.

FOLLOWING JESUS WILL REQUIRE TOTAL COMMITMENT

The 3rd guy comes and tells Jesus that he will follow Him.
Jesus says something similar and said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Jesus said that if we want to follow Him, there’s no looking back.

Responding to Christ is not a matter of emotion. It’s not a matter of an event. It’s not a matter of a momentary decision. It is total self-sacrifice… total commitment.

The following is the testimony of Vanessa who made a decision to follow Jesus. When she did, she understood that it had a cost, it will change her priorities and require total commitment.

WHEN YOU’RE SCARED TO DO HIS WILL

jump copy

Have you ever been scared to step out in faith to accomplish what God has called you to do?

I have. Many times.

I spoke to a teacher yesterday who stood up for her convictions regarding purity in front of her class. She works in a school that is extremely secular. As a result, she got severely reprimanded for voicing out what the Scriptures say. I told her that God’s authority supersedes all human authority. I prayed for wisdom and discernment so she can do what God has called her to do.

To some it’s standing for your convictions.
For others, it may mean saying no to ungodly business practices.
Or saying no to your boyfriend who wants you to go all the way.
For a few others, it’s asking for forgiveness to let go of some form of bitterness.

Whatever your circumstance might be, it is not our ability that validates the call to do His will, but the presence of God in all that we do.

Moses in Exodus gave God a barrage of questions.
“Who am I to do this?”
“What will I say?”
“How will I do this?” (Ex. 3:11-12)
But God only gave one answer, “I will be with you.”

That’s it?
Yup. That’s it.
“I will be with you.”

You see, it doesn’t matter who you are as long as you know who He is.
And it doesn’t matter who you’ll be up against as long as you know Who is with you.

May this encourage you this week as you discover, do and delight in His will.

———-

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/128130103@N07/

HOW ABOUT SMOKING OR DRINKING?

How about drinking or smoking?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question. Let me start by saying that this blog won’t tell you what to do and what not to do. If you have a relationship with Jesus, redeemed by His blood and empowered by His Holy Spirit, I pray you’ll be able to build convictions that will honor God by seeking Him.

We are all called to holiness. And this holiness has to be gospel-driven. What does gospel-driven holiness mean? It is a gripping response to His grace – that out of our gratefulness for His redemption, we respond with a heartfelt desire to please Him in every way.

Back to smoking and drinking.

Paul, the apostle, declares in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial.” (NIV84)
He is saying that because of my freedom in Christ, I can actually do anything I want. However, in the same breath, not because I can, I should. Everything may be permissible but not everything is beneficial.

Question. Can I eat my laptop computer? Technically, I can. But because I can doesn’t mean I should.

A few chapters later, Paul gives us principles that I would like to share with you. It has helped me make decisions through the years. I can’t give you a list of do’s and don’ts, rules and regulations. What that would do is to catapult us back to legalistic self-righteousness and performance orientation. My goal is to help us think through all that we do in the grid of these 3 questions.

1. Will this glorify God?

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Co 10:31)

Paul exhorts us to do everything for the glory of God.

Isaiah 43:7 (ESV) tells us that we have been created for His glory.
“Everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

The preposition “for” tells us that we were created by Someone intended for a particular purpose – for His glory.

2. Will it cause anyone to stumble?

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God. (1 Co 10:32)

It is true that everything may be permissible. But the Apostle Paul makes it clear that our freedom should not cause anyone in the faith to stumble. If what I am doing causes someone to stumble or cause their faith to weaken, then I shouldn’t do it.

3. Is it a good example to follow?

Two verses later in the following chapter, Paul declares “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

Will what I will do be a good example to follow?
If my kids see me, will it be a good thing to imitate? I realize the dichotomy in some of our statements at times to our children. “Do as I say, not as I do.” It seems that there may be a double standard somewhere. The Father that calls our children to holiness is the same Father that calls us as well.

If people who are far away from Christ see me, will it be a good example for them to follow?
I wonder how many people far away from Christ have been turned off by us because we haven’t been good examples.

I pray that these 3 questions would help us build convictions that will lead to a lifestyle of gospel driven holiness. The question is not how close I can stay by the cliff before I fall off but how far I can be from the cliff so that I don’t displease the One who gave His life for me.

Have a great week ahead.

NOT EATING A BURGER HONORS GOD?

How can not eating a burger honor God?

This week, Victory enters into a season of prayer and fasting. Every year for more than a decade now, at the first week of January, we dedicate for a time of seeking God.

Question, is it possible to seek God without skipping meals? Absolutely!
Will we get our answers to our prayers like getting our Christmas list checked by Santa because we are nice, not naughty? Well, it doesn’t work that way.

Fasting is not a magical exercise that when we do it, we log in spiritual points in heaven.

I love what Wesley Deuwel, former president of One Missionary Society once said,
“Fasting in the biblical sense is choosing not to partake of food because your spiritual hunger is so deep, your determination in intercession so intense, or your spiritual warfare so demanding that you have temporarily set aside even fleshly needs to give yourself to prayer and meditation.”

What fasting does is getting serious about connecting with God.

“When a man is willing to set aside the legitimate appetites of the body to concentrate on the work of praying, he is demonstrating that he means business, that he is seeking with all his heart, and will not let God go unless He answers.” — Arthur Wallis

Why fast?

1. Jesus fasted.

Before Jesus started His ministry, He fasted in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-4)
He was showing us an example of what it means to prepare by become spiritually strong even though one may be physically weak.

2. Fasting is an act of humility.

When we fast, we deny our physical appetites and communicate to Him that He takes top priority in our life. The Bible says that God gives grace to the humble and yet opposes the proud (James 4:6).

3. Fasting makes us sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Acts 13:2

Fasting makes us sensitive to God and His leadership.

4. Fasting has health benefits.

You will lose weight but if that’s your goal in this season, it won’t work. You’ll just gain it back after. But one of the health benefits of fasting is that it cleanses our bodies from the toxins in our digestive system that we’ve accumulated during the past year, especially during the holiday season. Medical science tells us that it has been an effective cure for allergies and certain diseases.

But most of all, the discipline of fasting illustrates to us that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

————-

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bardin/

AS 2014 COMES TO A CLOSE

I was going through a few tweets today, the last day of 2014.

One tweet particularly caught my attention and compelled me to write a quick blog about it.
“There are different ways to look back on 2014 and to look ahead to 2015. But I’ve found the best perspective is one of thankfulness.” (Joseph Bonifacio)

The Apostle Paul encourages us to
“give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
(1 Thes. 5:18)

 

GIVE THANKS

Someone said that a heart of thanksgiving is your best antidote against grumbling and complaining. And I’ve found that to be true.

At the end of every year, our family sit down together and list down everything we are thankful to God for… each and every one we can think of. Yes, this would mean we would end up with long lists because we would thank God for every item, friendship, gadget, blessing, family activity, gift, appliance, furniture, clothing… as in anything we can think of that we are thankful to God for.

Giving thanks doesn’t only honor God but it also heals our souls that are so prone to entitlement. We begin to think that we deserve something because we have worked hard or haven’t been naughty but nice.

IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES

We are told to give thanks in all circumstances not for all circumstances.

There are a lot of things that happened to us this year that we wish didn’t happen. We wish our uncle didn’t get cancer or mom and dad didn’t have to break up or got laid off from work. But giving thanks in all circumstance means that though what happened didn’t seem the most ideal, we, in faith, give thanks because of the assurance that God is able to cause all things to work together for our good. (Romans 8:28)

FOR THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD

A heart of gratefulness is what God is looking for. It is very easy to find the splotches on a white wall. We are quick to point out the negative in situations we wished worked out according to our plan.

But the will of God is for us to give thanks in all circumstances.

Here’s a practical application. Get a piece of paper and begin writing down at least 10 things you are thankful to God for. When you get to ten, just keep writing. You’ll realized there are a lot more things to thank God for than what you had listed in your mind.

Here are 7 quotes on thankfulness to fuel your desire to give thanks.

“Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now.” ― A.W. Tozer

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” ― H.A. Ironside

“It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.” ~ Naomi Williams

“If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” ~ John Wooden

“If God gave it to me,” we say “it’s mine. I can do what I want with it.” No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of – if we want to find our true selves, if we want real Life, if our hearts are set on glory.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

WHEN YOU GET WHAT YOU DIDN’T EXPECT

What do you do when God brings you to an unexpected road?

I watched a clip from a segment in the show of Jimmy Kimmel about kids who received unexpected gifts from their parents. Reactions were varied. Some were humored by it. Others threw tantrums.

Here’s the clip.

“You broke my heart.”
This was the statement the last child said after he didn’t get what he had expected for Christmas.

The Israelites were hoping for a Messiah to come that was like David – a king and a military leader who will deliver them from Roman rulership. They were looking forward to one who will rescue them from their woes. But the One that came didn’t look like a king, neither did He look like a valiant military man. Born in a manger and coming from a humble family, Jesus wasn’t who they expected.

Isaiah prophesied several hundred of years prior that a child was going to be born and the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

WONDERFUL COUNSELOR

Because this King (Jesus) is our wonderful counselor, we can rely on His infinite wisdom.
Reason? The Bible says that He is wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom. (Is. 28:29)

God’s wisdom means that God always chooses the best goals and the best means to those goals. (Wayne Grudem)

We are told that if we lack wisdom, we can ask God who gives generously without finding fault. (James 1:5)

MIGHTY GOD

The word mighty in its original is the word used for “hero”. A hero is someone who does great things and mighty acts for someone who can’t do it for themselves.

Jesus is the Mighty God who is able to do what we would be unable to do for ourselves.

You and I can trust His power for He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine according to the power that works in us. (Eph. 3:20)

EVERLASTING FATHER

This doesn’t mean that Jesus is the Father Himself. The Triune God is one God in three distinct persons. But what this tell us is that Jesus has the attributes of the Everlasting Father. He is one who gives security through His love. God is love (1 John 4:16). And His love secures us.

You can trust that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

 

PRINCE OF PEACE

The Apostle Paul says that God is not a God of confusion but of peace. (1 Cor. 14:33)

God’s peace means that in God’s being and in His actions, He is separate from all confusion and disorder, yet He is continually active in innumerable fully controlled, simultaneous actions. (Wayne Grudem)

King Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace, is in full control and is able to deliver what He said He would. Out of the 7.2 billion people in the world, He is able to orchestrate all the events in our lives in perfect order to bring about what is best for us and ultimately for His glory.

May you remember this week as we celebrate Christmas, that King Jesus is He who brings wisdom, has power, gives security and orchestrates our lives in perfect order so that ultimately He gets all glory and honor.

The world didn’t expect a Messiah in the person of Jesus.
In the beginning, we thought what we got was what we didn’t need. We ended up getting what we didn’t think we want but really, it was the very thing we actually needed.

Merry Christmas!

 

“HOW IMPORTANT AM I TO YOU, DAD?”

“Dad, let’s go back to Hong Kong!”

My daughter who was about 6 year old told me when we were looking at pictures from our trip. I asked her what about Hong Kong she enjoyed. I thought, maybe it’s our time in Ocean Park. Or was it the train ride from station to station? Or it might have been buying her tea set in the night market of Mongkok.

Her reply to my question surprised me. She said that it was when we played “Hook” in our tiny room in Shamrock Hotel. I tried to remember what the game was. It was when we were in the room and she was acting like Wendy from the movie Peter Pan. Her brother Nathan was Peter Pan and you would probably be able to guess who’s the bad guy (Hook) in the game. That would be me.

What I realized was that it wasn’t because of the shopping, nor the amusement park that she wanted to go back to Hong Kong. It was simply because of the time spent together.

When we are available for our children, it gives them a sense of importance. They feel that they are prioritized and loved. To them, love is spelled as T.I.M.E. And this would include ballet recitals, athletic events, meal times, graduation from summer workshops.

On the flip side, when we don’t make ourselves available, we communicate that yes, they are important but other things still come ahead of them. Thus, conveying that they are not THAT important.

That’s the funny thing about the discussion about quality and quantity time. I can’t tell my kids, “Alright, daddy has 15 minutes with you here in Mcdonald’s play place. Let’s make sure this is quality time. C’mon, let’s make this memorable.” It will sound conjured, manufactured and artificial. But quality time springs from quantity time. And I realize this is such a precious commodity these days.

A quick practical application to help us gauge our time with our kids is to ask them straight. “How can I be a better dad? What are things you enjoy? What do you consider fun?” Take notes and do it! There’s really no other way.

I love what Barbara Johnson said,

“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow,
you have to be in their lives today.”

———-

NOTE: This is part 4 of a 4 week series on Capturing Your Child’s Heart.
To read week 1, click here. (Affirmation)
To read week 2, click here. (Acceptance)
To read week 3, click here. (Affection)

This article, week 3 is on Affection.

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edwardmusiak/

WHERE CAN I FIND PEACE?

Blog Banners.001.jpg

 

A story is told of a painting contest. The artists were asked to render their perspective on subject of peace. There was one who painted calm waters of a brook. Another painted a man under a tree resting. But one submitted his artwork that didn’t seem to make sense at first. It was a picture of raging waters coming from the top of a mountain. The weather gloomy and it looked like the wind was strong.

But when you zoom into one part of the painting, you will see a bird with her younglings in a cleft of a rock, nestling. In the midst of the raging waters, gloomy weather and strong winds, they peacefully rest.

The Bible says that Jesus is our Prince of Peace and He is with us every moment.

Peace is not the absence of storms
but the assurance of God’s presence in the midst of it.

 

 

In Luke 2:14, the angels declared, ““Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  Jesus came to bring peace.

 

1. Peace with God.

We have peace with God through Jesus. We were at war with Him. The Bible says that, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:10)

Jesus came so that our relationship with God could be restored.

2. Peace of God.

The result of peace with God is the peace of God. Life is now lived before an audience of One. The Apostle Paul says that he lives to please only One – only his Savior Jesus.

We are told in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

3. Peace with others.

Because we have peace with God which brings about the peace of God, it is now possible to be at peace with others. If we have been forgiven of our gravest of offense, we are now empowered by His grace to forgive others.

Romans 12:18 tells us to “do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

My prayer is that we will trust God for restoration of relationships this Christmas season. Having peace with God and the peace of God should set us free from any inhibitions to attempt mending broken relationships. It no longer matters who’s wrong or right. The goal is to restore.

Remember, Jesus paid a debt He didn’t owe so that there can be forgiveness for those who owed a debt they couldn’t pay.