Out of Comfort Zone

Job 31:34   (KJV)   34 Did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of families terrify me, that I kept silence, and went not out of the door?

Job was asking a rhetorical question. He didn’t fear what people would say or how people would act towards Him—even unfavorable ones. He obviously cared for His reputation—and rightly so; we’re called to let our light shine before men—not for self-タマゴglorification, but for God’s glory. But He didn’t allow anyone to paralyze him to seclusion.

Not everyone is a people person. This is me. I’d rather be in my room or alone rather than socialize—even in party settings. I believe there are many others like me. But we don’t allow this to derail us or shun us from our responsibilities, mission, calling, and destiny. Our destiny is too great for us to allow others to steal it away from us. No, no threat from them, no amount of demeaning criticisms—truth or lies, no belittling looks, no smirks, no condemning accusations will keep us trapped in our comfort zones. We won’t be kept hiding “behind doors.” We break out of it, we grow, we broaden our horizon, and we keep moving farther, higher, deeper, bigger.

Dear God, we realize that You’ve created everyone of us differently—fearfully and wonderfully, but differently nonetheless, and that’s good; that’s very good; that’s how You operate. May we never complain about the way you designed us, rather, may we seize the strengths and the good about our personalities and use them as leverage to take us to each higher step. May we never make a “god” out of people by abdicating our future into their control. With You always being with us, may we face every situation and every person with a realistic yet faith-filled attitude about ourselves, about others, and about life as we keep progressing in our journey—facing each challenge day after day with neither fear nor intimidation, but with courage and boldness. It will take a lot for many of us to develop such attitude, but all things are possible with You and for those who believe in You.

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Healing – The Jesus Way

Mark 5:23   (KJV)   “And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.”

Jairus, whose daughter was extremely sick—to the point of death, had faith in Jesus. Interestingly, somehow he found it necessary for our Lord Jesus to lay hands on his Mark 5.23 - Healing - the Jesus Waydaughter. It was through such gesture of our Lord that he believed his daughter will be healed.

I don’t ever want to criticize anyone who does things differently in relation to their ways with the Lord. As long as the bottom-line, necessary, non-negotiable doctrine is on target, we celebrate the differences in the body of Christ. To be clear, I had spiritual traditional beliefs and practices I eventually found out were abominable to God. When I thought I was pleasing God and was getting closer to Him, I was incurring curses upon myself. But among true believers, we believe the same essential doctrines. Often, it’s only the expressions of our beliefs that vary.

The woman with an issue of blood for twelve years believed that if she could only touch the hem of Jesus’ garments, she would be healed, and she got healed after she did it. It differed from Jairus’ perceived effective method. Both of them though anchored their faith on the Person of Jesus. And none of their preferred process was anti-God or anti-Scripture.

Laying on of hands for healing–whew. We feel like if we do, we identify with a denominational persuasion where this practice is common. But why hold back? Let’s celebrate those denominations for getting there ahead of us; they’re not our competition, although, sad to say, others treat them even as enemies. Jesus spoke to sickness; He laid hands on the sick. If He did, I guess there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, many of us have done it, and we’ve witnessed people getting healed. Our faith is in our Great Physician; and we just employed the simple WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) principle in the right context.

Prison/Freedom House

Acts 28:30   (KJV)   And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him.

Acts 28.30 - Prison-Freedom HousePaul was on house arrest—it was a house he rented himself. That “prison house” also became a “teaching house.” The house had the apostle kept in it, but the apostle had the Lord and the Lord’s Word in him. The place that represented bondage also became a house where many found freedom.

No one can fully imprison those born of God’s Spirit. Our freedom isn’t rescinded by geography. We’re free wherever we are. Our ultimate mission is to tell others about the Good News of Salvation found in our Lord Jesus, and to teach His commands to everyone. No person, no place, no time, nothing can stop us from accomplishing our mission. We of course use wisdom in all these. The highest purpose and greatest profitability of our resources–love, knowledge and wisdom, strength, finances are served in living out our ultimate mission. That explains our zealous willingness to be totally “poured out” for God.

Our dear heavenly Father, thank You for the freedom you’ve given us—freedom that no one and nothing can take away. May we as Your people always be excited for the privilege, opportunity, and honor of using our resources for their highest purpose—freedom/salvation of the lost, and growth of Your people.

Love Over Freedom

Romans 14:15   (NIV)   15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.

We’re aware that fellow believers can still be distressed. And the cause of each other’s distress can be each other. To be such a cause equates to being unloving in our actions. The mandate is clear: our freedom in Jesus ought to not cause anyone to be distressed or Romans 14.15 - Love Over Freedomdestroyed. Our souls are way more precious than any food, drink, or anything this world has to offer.

Our Lord Jesus has set us free, and whoever He sets free is truly free. It is for freedom itself that He set us free; that speaks of the great value of freedom. But there’s something of greater worth than that: souls. God loves each of us tremendously, that explains the rationality of our precious Lord Jesus willingly leaving the glories of heaven to seek and to save the lost by sacrificing His life as a ransom payment for us.

We as His children understand His indescribable love—not totally—but enough to know that it’s great beyond measure. Having this set in our hearts and minds, we’re willing to sacrifice our freedom to protect others, especially our spiritual family. Sure, everything is permissible for us, but we understand that not everything is beneficial. Sure, we’re free to do anything, but we’re aware that there are things that can be destructive instead of constructive; there are things that can get us enslaved or addicted, there are things that can cause others to stumble, and there are things that just plainly don’t glorify God. Having the heart of God for His children, we willingly submit our liberty to love if a choice has to be made.

Reign

Romans 5.17 - Reign

Romans 5:17   (KJV)   17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

We look at Adam with mercy despite the fact that he ushered sin and death into the world by one wrong and sinful choice that brought devastating consequences.  I personally admit, I most probably would not have done any better.  This is a truth I can’t disregard, nor escape, although escaping it is farthest from my mind.  I humbly admit my obvious imperfections.  With that, I humbly and even more greatly praise our God for the abundance of His grace.

As in many occasions, a quick clarification is necessary.  Praising the immeasurable greatness of His grace isn’t an endorsement of irresponsible and sinful Christian living.  “Where sin abounds, grace abounds” is a true statement we as believers are immensely grateful for, but we don’t ever take those words as a rallying cheer for believers to increase sinning.  That’s a very awful, unscriptural, and ungodly understanding of a very sacred truth.

God has so generously and freely gifted us with His abundant grace and righteousness. These same wonderful gifts empower us to “reign in life.”  We live triumphantly over sin and death—all courtesy of our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It’s our heavenly Father’s pleasure to see us living victoriously, to see us living freely from the shackles of sin, to see us living above its rule and authority. He is our victorious Father; He lives in us through His Spirit, He has never lost once to the power of sin and Satan, and He never will; He wants us to enjoy the same.  When we glean the victories His weapons of righteousness open up for us, it brings great joy to His heart, and we live well before others, blessing God and His creation all at the same time.

Justified

Romans 3:24   (KJV)   24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

We all have hope of forgiveness, cleansing, and salvation—this despite the truth that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard of holiness. It’s a Romans 3.24 - Justifieduniversally acceptable cliché: “No one’s perfect.”  We don’t take that truth for granted, and it’s important to see its more serious side.  We make mistakes; that’s part of our imperfection; not all mistakes are sinful.  But we’ve all sinned, and we walk away from God when we sin—we separate ourselves from Him—knowingly or not. That’s a consequence that can lead to a terrifying eternal condition. We don’t underestimate the unimaginable horrors of such existence.

Hope—that’s what we find in our precious Lord Jesus—hope that has become a reality for those of us who have placed our full dependence on Him for our salvation, us who have surrendered to His Lordship. How blessed we are really for having our offenses not counted against us, for having our sins forgiven.  Happiness—or even joy, can’t describe what we feel in our hearts.  Imagine having the Son of God paying the ransom price for our freedom.

We can stop imagining. This isn’t a wishful thinking either.  It’s more real than many people think.  We’ve sinned; we still do, but to be counted just as if we’ve never even sinned is a blessing beyond measure.  Don’t get me wrong; the Bible never teaches a time when God ever stopped being just; He won’t ever because He can’t not be Himself.  Being just is His nature. He can justify us freely despite our sins because our precious Lord Jesus paid for all of them.  Yes, our sins didn’t go unpunished.  We may have gotten “off-the-hook,” but only through the loving-kindness, mercy, and grace of Him who took the punishment (even death) in our place.

Free and Obedient Hearts

1 Chronicles 29:18   (KJV)   18 O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:

Can our sovereign and loving God work in our hearts—people’s hearts—without violating our free will?  I guess He can.  We may not fully understand how He does it, but He can.  Otherwise, there’s no point praying for Him to make His people want to obey 1 Chronicles 29.18 - Free and Obedient HeartsHim.  We’ve seen clear examples and explicit passages in the Scriptures showing this.  God changed the heart of Saul (1 Sam. 10:9); He prophesied about giving His people a new heart (Jer. 24:7); He directs the king’s heart like rivers of water (Prov. 21:1); David prayed for God to give him a clean heart (Ps. 51:10).

Yes He can, and Yes He does work in people’s hearts.  This is not however a removal of free will, or cancelling of our responsibility.  In fact, we see clearly in the Scriptures how Saul turned away from God, how Solomon turned his heart towards the gods of his wives, how one king after another chose to rebel against God, and how His Old Covenant people repeatedly disobeyed God.  We as His people weren’t made robots when we placed our full dependence on Him to save us and surrendered our lives to Him.

We were made new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), but we still obviously have a choice whether we obey or disobey Him, whether we abide in Him or not, whether we live faithfully or not, whether we deny Him or not.  God won’t fail; if He says He’ll give us new hearts, He will. In fact, for believers, He already has.  What we do with our God-given new hearts is up to us.  As for me, and I pray my entire household, we will worship and serve Him faithfully—wholeheartedly.