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Passion is Not Necessarily Evil

Have you ever experienced people hating you for being so passionate about work?

In the movie The Young Victoria, Queen Victoria said, “There’s no need to apologize for being passionate.”

While there are many instances that you and I may have been misled by unbridled passions, I believe that God has created ‘passion’ for many a good reason. And we have been blindsided about its good purpose.

In his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis faintly touched this subject. The demon Screwtape rambled on his letter to his newbie tempter nephew Wormwood and said, “All the healthy and outgoing activities which we (demons) want him (the temptee) to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at least he may say [on his arrival to hell], “I now see that I spend most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.”

Isn’t passion instrumental in doing what we ought and like to do? And if we keep letting our adversary the devil manipulate us into conforming to the worldly standard of what passion is, then we may end up not achieving and not being fruitful with the time that has been given us.

Years ago, I was reprimanded by being so passionate at my job. I thought my passion for my job was a mistake. Lugging this thought in my heart, I felt I wasn’t enough and that perhaps I should resort to downplaying my enthusiasm and fire.

But this is where all the devil’s fine manipulation ends. It’s when God revealed himself to Moses, in a burning bush, ablaze but not consumed. It is the same God (on fire but not consumed by it) who uttered these promises,

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2

This fueled me and propelled me to embrace this fire I have for my work, hobby, even friends and loved ones. I don’t need to apologize for how God designed me. Without Him, I can do nothing. Without Him, I’ll get burned. But with Him, I am pretty sure the devil couldn’t stand getting mocked because even he knows that God can lead my passion into greater heights. And there is no one in this world that can stop what God has ordained and planned to do.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14

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The Dangers of Distractions

Yes, distractions can be destructive. This is one of the key lessons I learned from C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters.

Screwtape is a demon who is corresponding with his nephew Woodworm. He is giving him advice on how to win a soul for their father below.

This is what he has to say about the small distractions that keep us from knowing the one true Lord and Savior and from having a healthy prayer life and true repentance.

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy (God). It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.

Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Doesn’t the devil want to give us the biggest surprise of our life–that we’re heading to hell after all and we didn’t even have the slightest idea!

Distractions presented by social media, a good book, or a conversation, and even those late nights when you feel too uneasy to deal with a sin problem which you neither want to face nor consult God with, so you’d rather let time pass by–all these if left unchecked can prove destructive to us.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Let’s be soaked in God’s word and fulfill with all our might through the grace of God the good purpose He has for us even before the creation of the world.

A Place For Us

Do you ever feel like you have no place in the world?

You couldn’t fit in.

You feel you’re too wicked to belong in a family.

You’re a misfit, a misplaced part of a motorbike, so you fear the future and somehow you’ve accepted you are never be loved as much.

Most days I feel all this.

But here’s what gave me hope. Genesis 26:22 says,

And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land,”

The Lord will make room for me…for us misfits.

And wherever that room or place is, may our eyes be opened just like Jacob’s when he said,

“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place!” (Genesis 28:16-17)

Grace in the Wilderness

It’s one of those days. I wake up and I am all anxious and afraid of the future.

I don’t know what else is in store for me. I am so used to knowing what I want to get out of life; so certain that I have parents to support me whenever I’d quit a job.

But this time it is different. I am running out of time. I am old and yet so immature.

Reading the Bible has never been this hard. My mind is a mess.

But the good news is our God is not a mess. He is the hope atop this pile of mess that’s taking over my sanity every now and then.

On my way back to my room, there’s this song playing in my head–

Jesus, lover of my soul.

Jesus, I will never let you go.

You’ve taken me from the miry clay.

You set my feet upon the rock…

It was not that big of a deal until I read Psalm 40. My Bible reading plan is now on the book of Hebrews but I enjoyed reading the footnotes and cross-referencing verses, hence I came to read Psalm 40. Then tears start to roll down from my eyes as I discovered that part of the song’s lyrics was from Psalm 40:2:

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

With our God there are no coincidences.

I went on with my Bible study reading the verses cited on the footnotes. And little by little, my spirit became different from how it was when I woke up.

God yet again blew my mind away with his Word and promises found in Jeremiah 31:17:

“There is hope for your future,” says the Lord.

And just like that, all is well with my soul again.

The Oppression of Mood Swings

I am currently staying at my parents’ house. With no job and no idea where I am headed to next, I thought it best to have a break from it all.

But something seemed off yesterday. I felt a surge of emotions and negative thoughts welling up in my heart and mind and simultaneously a desire to just be alone with the Lord and read His word.

I was not at peace. And so I decided to go out, walked for a bit until I found a quiet cafe.

Reading through the verses and the footnotes in my study Bible, I began to feel sick and discouraged by the sudden noise around me (two waitresses were yelling at each other).

Yet in all that God was unstoppable. I was reminded by the devil’s schemes in the book Screwtape Letters. He steals your peace, puts distractions here and there and makes you focus on them.

Distraction is just one letter shy from destruction and if we aren’t careful, distractions like self-pity, anger, the little things that annoy us will keep us from having a Spirit-filled life.

So what did I learn from my unexpected quiet time yesterday?

It is said in the book of Hebrews that I am released from the oppression of sin through the blood of Jesus Christ.

That was what I was feeling at home with all those hateful thoughts taunting me to stir a fight–oppression.

Little by little, with love and gentleness, God has also been giving me nuggets of wisdom to address my struggle with finding the perfect job.

…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Hebrews 9:14

Salvation brings people into God’s service. And what service that might be?

Hebrews 12:28-29 says

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

This service is in the form of worship–acceptable worship that pleases the Lord.

They are as follows (as mentioned in Hebrews 13):

  • Let brotherly love continue
  • Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers
  • Remember those who are in prison and mistreated
  • Let marriage be held in honor among all and let the marriage bed be undefiled
  • Keep your life free from the love of money
  • Be content with what you have
  • Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have

And the list goes on.

This time that the Lord allowed me to have reminded me that knowing and focusing on who God is is the most important of all.

Relearning that God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29, Deut.4:24), that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), that we have been given a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28)–all these blew me away. Knowing God this way just fills me with awe. It recharges and fuels me so I can enjoy His presence and live to fight another day.

Through Jesus Christ then let us us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:15)

I went back home Spirit-filled and my parents and I had a great family time.

All glory and praise to my Father in heaven.

The Search for the Perfect Job

Ten years I have been looking for the perfect job. And how is that working for me? Not that good.

I am reading a book written by C.S. Lewis and this quote had me thinking:

“The search for a suitable church makes the man a critic where the Enemy (that is God) wants him to be a pupil.”

The whole book is written from the perspective of a demon named Screwtape.

Screwtape is giving his nephew tips on how to keep a person away as much as possible from having a true relationship with God.

Perhaps, this is what I have become. Not a church critic but a job critic.

Instead of having an attitude of service and gratitude, being thankful for the calling which God had specifically designed for me, I have been an ingrate, always feeling unfulfilled because most often than not I am in search for self-seeking glory and the status a job could give me.

I have taken a break from work and I do hope for a change of heart and mind so that the next time God will bless me with work, I will be in it for the long haul, abounding in joy and every good work…

Purple Haze

There is so much in life that I have yet to experience! But the thing is I got tired of life too early. And while I try to practice ‘gratitude attitude’, a few simple things would easily drag me down.

But thanks be to my heavenly Father who fashioned me in the most unique and complex way, I’ve been revived.

Yesterday I was able to enjoy watching movies again, on my own; digesting every bits of it; noting the dialogues that I liked and the scenes that were visually arresting.

It was all a product of drawing near to God and Him speaking to me. Once again I’ve experienced His love in ways like I have never felt before.

I’ve so much to learn about myself and the world and the God who created both.

In Apocalypse Now, there was too much use of haze maybe as a device to make the scene more compelling; orange haze as a visual metaphor for fire and purple haze, perhaps to intensify the action or to let the viewers feel that they will be transitioning to the next chapter of the film.

This is how life is sometimes. Clouded by purple haze. At first, you couldn’t really see past it. But that’s why it’s so comforting to be a child of God because even though you can’t see what lies ahead of the purple haze, God is holding you by the hand and guiding you every step of the way. In his own time, the haze will subside and your faith will overflow.

When You Choose Lust Over God

Beautiful things happened to me and my family last week. There were so many beautiful experiences that I should be thanking God for. But here I am choosing lust over praise. Here I am lazily choosing ingratitude over meditating on God’s word.

And being single doesn’t help. My mind would wander time and again, vacillating whether this act is indeed a sin or not.

I’m talking about masturbation.

Some days, I’d tell myself, “I’m not hurting anyone.” “My imagination doesn’t even star someone I know from the opposite sex.” “Better to do it this way than to have premarital sex, coz that surely will have regretful repercussions.” But right after the completion of sin, I am filled with shame. There is no peace. Only condemnation.

I know it in my heart that masturbation does not please

It is written in Romans 8: 5-8:

Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

It pains me that I couldn’t get out of it. I neither have the wisdom to resolve the vacillating that has exhausted my mind, nor the power to overcome these desires.

But the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child (Hebrews 12:6). In the following days and weeks, I was bombarded with messages about lust and sexual immorality. God has been so proactive in giving me the wisdom and discipline that I need.

In my Tuesday bible study group, God used the story of Joseph to firmly rebuke me.

Genesis 39 says that the LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered. When Potiphar, Joseph’s master saw that the Lord was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and his master put him in charge of his household and everything he owned, until Potiphar’s wife tried to tempt Joseph into sleeping with her. Joseph refused. He FLED. HE RAN OUT OF THE HOUSE  even without his cloak on (Genesis 39:15). And yet he was put into prison despite of his innocence. But even while in prison, the LORD was with him and Joseph found favor in the prison warden’ eyes, and so Joseph was successful in whatever he did. By the end of the story, Joseph became the second highest official in Egypt, next to Pharaoh.

So how did Joseph gain victory over lust? These are the pointers we discussed in our bible study:

  1. The man/woman of God consistently walks with God.

Galatians 5:16 says, “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Prior to this, I was in a week-long vacation with my family where I never really made an effort to meditate on His word. There was no quality time with my God, no intense Bible reading, no intimate prayer time. And when we got back home, instead of saving my time and energy for Him, I chose to waste my time watching movies, thinking lustful thoughts, and reading sexually-inciting articles online.

I was prepping myself for a sure defeat. The only way to overcome lust is to walk by the Spirit, and in order to walk by the Spirit, I should take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)

Indeed, there is a great mysterious power that comes in reading the word of God.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

  1. The man/woman of God develops a very strong fear of God.

This new revelation brought great fear in me. It made me evaluate myself. Is my fear of God lacking? Is my understanding of what fear of God means right and biblical?

There was a time when all I know of God is that He is a punishing God. I had a hard time looking at the works of His hand with awe and wonder. There was no godly sorrow in me. These was no marveling at the height and width of His great love for me. I can’t go on living with a false knowledge of who God really is.

And I don’t want to live questioning myself time and again if my faith is real. I want to bear good fruit! And someday, I want my Lord and Savior to commend me for winning the race, for standing firm against the devil, and for rising in victory with him every after struggle.

To develop a strong fear of God, read and meditate on God’s word. I must take time to know God intimately if I want to worship Him not because He requires it of me, but because of His great love for me.

  1. The woman of God is willing to lose all things rather than yield to sexual sin.

Am I willing to lose everything to please God? Joseph lost everything the moment he stepped out of his master’s house. Paul said in Philippians 3:8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”

There were consequences when I disobeyed God. Consequences that could have been God’s rewards. And I saw this at work: that in order for God to really get my attention, He would sometimes use my job to discipline me. There were accounts withheld, pitch lost, even good opportunities passed on to someone else…

But if losing career opportunities is what will take me to an everlasting path of sanctification and purity, then so be it. I am reminded of this quote I read a long time ago: God cares more about my character than my career.

But like David when his first child with Bathsheba died, he continued to pray and plea for God’s mercy, so am I in my prayers for God to spare me from the wrath of His discipline.

  1. The man/woman of God is rewarded for her victory.

The story of Joseph ends with such a motivating plot twist. Pharaoh entrusted all of Egypt to him. He was able to save his family from a 7-year famine. His life was blessed through and through. And who doesn’t want such a happy ending? Who doesn’t want to become an instrument of God’s blessings?

Surely, a few minutes of pleasure isn’t worth giving up a lifetime of God’s favour and blessing.

 

God didn’t just use our group bible study to get through me. He also used my best friend who is also a Christian to encourage me when I told her about the things that are happening at work and how they all seem like the consequences of my disobedience to God. No surprise, my best friend also used the story Joseph to pacify my heart.

At church, I was a bit startled to know that the message was about sexual immorality. Upping the ante, God also orchestrated for this same verse to come up not just in our bible study group but also at church and it totally settled all the questions about masturbation that have been bothering me all these years.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 1 Corinthian 6:18

God also used the sharer’s testimony to help me identify what triggers my desire to masturbate:

  • When I’m alone, idle, and unsure of whether to read God’s word or not
  • When I’m physically tired
  • When I’m stressing myself out over a problem that is not surrendered to God

I praise God for His mercy and grace. This has been a 360-degree approach to make sure that I will pick up His message. The world has been sinking so deep into sin that when I asked my non-Christian friends about it, they would easily tell how normal it is, and that it promotes good health, and there’s basically nothing wrong with it. But we, Christians, ought to live for a higher standard that Jesus Christ set not to cage us in but to protect us.

All of these lessons led me to recommit my life to my Lord and Savior JESUS CHRIST. Only by God’s wisdom and power will I be able to overcome lust. I praise God for His patience and for not letting me go. I pray that my life will embrace this one true great desire, that is to please GOD, and to be more and more like His one and only son Jesus Christ.

May all who read this discover how Jesus loves us, and that we were bought at a price. It cost Jesus his life just so you and I can be in heaven with him someday. Let us then honor God with our body.

 

Moon and Stars

I did something crazy. In fact, for a woman it’s an upshot of desperation and foolishness combined. It’s a mixture of not being able to stay still and my unbelief on the power and sovereignty of God. So let’s just leave it at that–I did something crazy, desperate, and stupid.

I would like to draw some inspiration from the story of Abram in Genesis 12. Abram feared for his life, so he asked his wife, Sarai to tell the people of Egypt that she is instead his sister.  To preserve his life, he was willing to sacrifice his wife. I did the same thing to someone. I lied so I can escape further humiliation and embarrassment.

I wouldn’t know how my lies had ruined God’s good plans. I fear for its repercussions. Will I suffer the same fate as that of Abram and Lot, and Abram and Hagar? How much of what I did would spiral out of control? Well, just as I finished typing the last letter of the last word of that last sentence, I knew the answer is not as important as knowing that God is in control and that His ways are higher than my ways. My friend, as she patiently peruses through my rambling messages on Facebook, wisely summed it up with this verse from Psalm 139:16Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God will never run out of love, grace, and mercy, and they are all there for the taking. I was a bit resolute to go for a short run today at the park, so I went. I was positive that running will somehow get my mind off my messes and fears. And by God’s amazing grace, under the pale light burst of the unusually big moon set on the dusty Manila sky, He reminded me of that special scene where God took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:5) 

Just 3 chapters away from whence Abram took a detour and lied about Sarai being his wife and yet God, full of grace and mercy, still chose Abram to bear and experience His amazing love and promises.

The moon, the landscape, the lights, Oh! they were so magical and mysterious and awesome, just like God’s promises for me. I know He will keep His word in spite of what I’ve done. There is no condemnation in Jesus. I know He’s not finished yet. More good is yet to come.

 

The Malcontent

It’s easier to drown ourselves with negative thoughts. We are fed with lies that tell us to expect and hope less. We’ve grown accustomed to despair, depression, and cynicism. As a result, we lose a big chunk of our joyful and peaceful self that we couldn’t live life anymore without our insecurities and fear, because we feel that without them, we are nothing.

When blessings came pouring in, we fail to recognize the works of God ‘s hand, who has pulled off amazing stunts and little miracles just so we can live inside His grace and love. We and the enemy rob treasures of joys from ourselves, until it drains us, leaving us with no vision and desire to share Jesus to others; worse, it prods us to live dissatisfied lives, as if nothing will ever go right. We become malcontents.

malcontent

noun

: a person who is always or often unhappy or angry about something

Here’s what the Bible has to say about malcontents.

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. Jude 14 – 16

And this has made me realize how important it is to have a “gratitude attitude” and to hold on tightly on the truth found in the Word of God. Where it is sometimes easier to entertain cynical and negative thoughts, the Bible calls us to “turn [our] back on the turbulent desires of youth and give [our] positive attention to goodness, faith, love, and peace.”

It is important that we remain vigilant. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We become malcontents or grumblers because we let evil thoughts linger in our minds. From thoughts, to feelings, to actions. And I have caught myself time and again a victim of this process. Sin is born within this cycle, from envy, lust, gossip, to anger and murder. Let us, then, take heed what this verse is reminding us:

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. Proverbs 4:23 NCV

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