Spelling out integrity

integrity
More often, integrity could be hardly spelled out.

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

Integrity is a tough word. It calls for purity, devotedness, faithfulness, and unwavering commitment. To be a man of integrity is a tough virtue.

In today’s environment, there are very few people we can find to be as such. One reason is that the people who were once men of integrity fell away from the virtue when great temptation came. And, the same could be said for the remaining few – many of them would fall away from the narrow road of integrity once tested big deal.

For the students, staying away from copying could never be easy. Do an honest survey and a very small number would dare to claim they have never copied during exams. Copying is just one thing. Not to say stealing intellectual and material properties – in different proportions and ways. Virtually everyone is guilty.

In the government, how much resources in different forms should have been given to the right people but sadly went into the pockets and hands of the few greedy? Our nation is known as one of the most corrupts in the world.

Even families are experiencing corruption. Unfaithfulness between married couples are becoming rampant. Siblings betray each other, or protect each other even at the expense of dishonesty. And in other ways the list could go on.

The Christian Church is not exempted – no. Many of the world’s systems that are anti-biblical have been popularly embraced by the Church for the sake of marketing, acceptance, and power. Many believers have also denied the simple Gospel in exchange for money, entertainment, prestige and honor.

God is looking for a people who are willing to offer their lives for the sake of righteousness. God wants to see devout lives that are fully surrendered to His ethical principles of justice, mercy, and uprightness. With these kind of people, God could do wonders of societal transformation. God desires for holy vessels whom He can use to change the world. Sin brings reproach, righteousness exalts – individually and corporately.

Without the Ministry I am Lost

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
Jesus’ reason to live was to obey His Heavenly Father by the means of selfless service.

There are many things that could keep any Christian away from the ministry for a certain point of time.

One of the most common is sin. Sin destroys the strength and the credibility of any servant of God. It also renders him/her powerless – he or she is stripped of the miraculous empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Another factor is the busyness of secular life. Though everything should be spiritual for the saint, but much of the activities that comes from the world takes away some precious time that should be set aside for God alone.

Yet to avoid the ministry is a suicide for the growing Christian. In fact a Christian could never grow without being involved in the ministry. The ministry does not need Christians who think they don’t need the ministry. Rather, these proud Christians could never survive without the ministry.

I am saying this out of Scriptural truth and experience. The ministry is not just important in the life of the believer. It is also essential.

God bless His hard-working servants in the vineyard.

The Good Thing About God

Grace-for-all
Grace conquers all our deficiencies.

Actually the title isn’t so good. Upon finishing reading this short reflection, the reader will come to see that there are countless reasons to prove that God is so good.

For one thing, who in the earth could say that he or she deserves God’s Grace? Of course there are many out there who would dare to claim so. These are the people who have missed altogether the true meaning of Grace. For them grace is earned, which is at once at odds with its real definition. Grace, Biblical grace is unmerited favor. Favor is for the obedient, but Grace is given even to the disobedient.

The forgiveness of God comes close to the list. God is so merciful and forgiving, that to forgive and forget a multitude of sin could be seen as part of His character. Yes I am emphasizing forgiveness here, and not His wrath to come at the day of Judgment when He recompenses every man for his or her evil deeds in hellfire.

The sweet sovereignty of God is another one. If not for His sovereignty, there could be no miracles or other stories that defy physical and natural limitations imposed by nature. Because of this many lives are saved – not in the natural means. And even problems, the insurmountable ones are overcomed. Thanks to His omnipotent power.

There are still a lot more, but let me tell now my story. For the past two weeks I have been down and could not move. I really feel unworthy. But God told me to act as a leader in an outreach – yes, He tells me to act – unworthy though that I am.

The Endless Pursuit

Jesus

Sin always finds its way in me. No matter how much I try to avoid it, in so many subtle ways it could always reach out to me. God’s Grace however, catches me for restoration.

Matt Redman sings in his new album, Your Grace Finds Me, that God’s Grace is the same for the saint and for the sinner. Yeah, yes. There is grace for the righteous and for the sinner, or in other words, for the saved and the unbeliever. But also, no. There is a special kind of grace that is exclusive only for the saved. In God’s eyes, the saved are forever righteous. They have been justified. And, in great contrast, the good works of the unsaved are like filthy rags. Strong comparison. Heart-flattering for the saint, condemning for the wicked.

Sin damages my heart, and God’s Grace is always there to heal me. After committing the most hideous sins, i would bow down in prayer and ask for cleansing and forgiveness. Yes, immediate cleansing I receive, but it should not stop there. True repentance always calls for the changed mind and heart, and of course ways of life. Period. Anything less than that is not true repentance but only confession.

It is indeed an endless pursuit. Running away from sin, being taken by sin, and being catched and snatched away by God’s grace.

As long as a saint is on earth, the pursuit is endless. In heaven, this pursuit cannot happen. How I long to be with Jesus!

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The Delight of Teaching God’s Word

English: ESV Study Bible Hardcover Cover
ESV Study Bible – the Study Bible I often use when studying the Bible.

Teaching the Word of God is truly a delight. It is one of the few things in life that truly brings pleasure to my soul.

Teaching requires that we study the teaching material first. In the endeavor to teach the Bible, in any form, in preaching, Bible Study, evangelism, or others, studying it first gluttons my heart to high spiritualities. It is one of the wonders any Bible teacher experiences from time to time. It is in fact listening to God.

A true teacher of the Scriptures will do his or her best to live out what he or she is preparing to teach. This, again, fulfills the deepest longings of the soul. Any true obedient disciple of Christ knows that trying to live in the perfect will of God is one sure thing to live a meaningful, fulfilled life. It is the highest achievement any human can achieve.

Then comes the blessed task of teaching it. If we have tried our best to study and live the Message, then the act of teaching is really in a sense a completed task. It has its own duties, but once we have tried to study and live the Word, then we can be assured that God will bless also our work of teaching to others what we have experienced ourselves.

The Fear of Failure

Adaptation of above image illustrating an Inte...
The thought of failing is already fearful.

Who is not afraid to fail?

They say that the above-average intellectual people have low frustration tolerance. I cannot say that I belong to this group of smart people, but I could admit that I can barely tolerate frustration. I am so weak in handling failure. I am afraid to fail.

Failing again a quiz in Linguistics this early morning is making me nuts for the whole day. I know I have not given my best – of course, but still there is no excuse, no justifications – ever. Failure is failure. If I have only listened well in our former class and reviewed my notes, things for sure would not have been this way. I could have not attained a high grade, but still I could pass it.

Being a BSEd student is really a challenge. Eighty-five should be the lowest grade in all subjects. Getting lower than that in even a single subject is a heavy load already. It could never be. But it happens.

My last semester last school year was just a test for me. I didn’t know until now, why I did pass. God gave me a rating of 1.83 for the whole semester, and I take that as a sign that maybe, He wants me really to study again. Ouch. Thanks, I am really grateful, but a part of me says I am already tired of studying all these years.

Am I a people pleaser? Many are looking upon me, so I could not fail. But of course I am much more capable of failing than succeeding – on my own. I could be a winner, but that would only be by God’s Grace. His grace alone.

Criticism or Love?

English: Christians in Action, Parkview Road. ...
Often, in the Church we find judgement and judgemental people.

Humanly, it is very easy to judge, especially in a Christian community. I have observed again and again that Christians are more prone to judge than the others.

And why?

Christians know better. We have a lot more of the moral values at our disposal. We know a lot regarding the right and wrong, the high standards of acceptable ethical living. But these things, no matter how good they are, are being used by the devil to bring discord to relationships and the brethren. Our knowledge of morality is being used by Satan to our destruction.

We easily become backbiters, when we discover that some of the brethren has certain weaknesses that we do not have. Or, when we are criticized, admonished, or corrected, we become super self-protective that we deny them and criticize them in return – all because we are self-righteous. These devilish attitudes are very common and observable in the Christian community. We see seldom see mature Christians who are able to face correction and criticism in humble ways.

On the part of those who give criticisms, very few of them are correcting their brethren for the sake of love. Very, very, rare. More often they simply do it out of self-righteousness too, to exalt the selves by degrading others. Their ways of correction easily reveal the inner motives of their heart.

One good example of what I am saying can be observed during the meeting of leaders. When one leader is accused by another leader, the accused one retaliates by pointing out the weaknesses of the one who corrects him or her. There is no real acceptance or acknowledgement of the mistake, only refusal and self-protection. This example is very common. There are many others which strongly illustrate my idea.

What is happening to the Christian churches? Where is the love? It is very good to return to the exhortation of Paul to the Galatians:

 (Gal 6:1-5) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

We should bear one another, and not fight or pull down the other. We should not think lofty of ourselves, for we are accountable ourselves to the Lord. Looking too much onto others diminishes our real examination of the self.

The Applause of the Crowd

Any ministry, especially those that exposes one in front of a crowd, like preaching calls for a great test of character. One temptation that is always present is vanity for there will be always a crowd that will applaud you.

Of course while in front you try yourself to be bold – or else you will not be convincing and powerful. A timid preacher or a song leader will be a contradiction of terms.

But to be bold pulls the heart also to be proud – this should be overcome, or the motive and the purpose of the ministry will be overthrown.

Yet to be bold while doing the blessed task of preaching isn’t the hardest part – I find it too often that the most challenging area is the afterwards – returning to your seat and to be soon acknowledged and praised for the beauty of the content and the power of the delivery of the sermon. Wow, tough issues indeed.

For my part I try to be silent. I very rarely ask anyone after the preaching how good or powerful it was. I think this act of asking calls for pride more often rather than the genuine sincerity of humble asking. Sometimes I would only ask other mature Christians if my exegesis and interpretation of the Text is right.

The more important part is God’s act – God’s way of continuously changing my heart for the better – to be humbled down. He does this in many ways. Internally, He gives me a new heart, externally, He uses people and circumstances.

Praise be to God only, no matter how unworthy I am, He blesses His Word as I preach it to the crowd.

 

All Things New

"Forgiveness 3" by Carlos Latuff.
Forgiveness – an essential element in starting anew.

We do not naturally want bad endings. We do not want to be hurt, and when we do, if we could only turn back time, we would have corrected it. But for us the only sure available option is to start anew.

To begin again, however, is not that always easy. Often it is harder than we thought. Being dreamers in nature, we are always in the illusion that it would be better this time – that we are capable of doing better while exercising the least of efforts. Wrong.

As we strive to be better, there are many things that would pull us downward. The thoughts of past failures are always there. The inward weaknesses, the fleshly desires which are often undealt, would shake our determination to succeed. Noteworthy to mention – the judgement of the people around – those people who have marked out how filthy you are based from your past mistakes and sins – always play insurmountable forces to hold you back.

The only incentive then is to look upward and realized that there is Someone who is capable of ‘forgetting’ your errors and would not judge you, seeing that you are truly repentant and really try to change. Your forgiveness and shame could be deeper than the sea, but His forgiveness is even deeper than the abyss. You may have not felt real love, but His embrace is wider than the sky.

His Person and love alone are great motivations for each one of us to be hopeful that as long as He grants us to live another day, there would always be hope for genuine change.

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Prayer Request:

A God-glorifying ending of the semester.

The Epic Battle

Armor of the condottiero Roberto da Sanseverin...
Let us wear on our complete spiritual armour and engage in battles!

The Christian life is a fight. A fierce battle. Every side could be at odds, every corner could be a battleground. Of course many are your friends, but many still could act as your enemies, no matter how much you befriend them.

Do not give up! Heads on toward the battle! Put on your helmet, wear your armour and sandals, carry your shield, raise up your sword! This is another combat! An epic battle!

Strike hard! Aim best! Shoot ahead! There are many witnesses – the saints of the past are all watching, watching and expecting that every Christian would share the same victory they had.

Every unnecessary weight should be removed – excess burdens. Sin should be dealt and buried and burned. Run the race without those filth! Just run with freedom in Christ!

Yes, look unto Jesus – the Author and Perfector of everything that we have as Christians! Just look and reflect unto His Glory, and in the process be the more transformed into His blessed likeness. The more we look at Him, the more peace we gain, the greater is our focus, and increasing is our strength!

That is the way to our epic battle! That is the Christian Life! Turn away from baggage and filth, and focus on the Holy. This way, we could win this. Like the countless saints before us, we will win this too!

 

Prayer Concerns:

Family relationship and the ministry. My preaching this Sunday at Calapan Bible Church, with Acts 16:1-5 as the Text. Wisdom in studies, especially in Math, I am really weak in this subject.

Thanks!