The Place of Humility

RinaPeru's photo

RinaPeru's photo

I was wheeled into our newly-refurbished kitchen for the first time in many years, and besides my delight to see our old kitchen transformed into a more modern and sleek design, I felt dwarfed by the walls and cupboards. I was looking up to them whereas before, I was eye level to them.

I could not contain my pleasure for having been able to eat again in the island (more of a peninsula) of our kitchen after many years of being in and out of illness. But the great mercies of God which I have continuously seen at work in my life drive me to that place of being bowed down low, in trials or in victories, and poised to offer a profusion of sincerest thanksgiving.

In times of great joy as what I had felt the moment I sat in our kitchen, there is only remembrance of God’s enduring mercies and unfailing goodness, and words are never enough to thank Him even as I raised my hands in praise and worship. Later on when I was in our room, I knew that the cupboards seemed to have gone higher because I was sitting in my wheelchair, whereas before, many years ago, I stood in the kitchen while I worked.

Sitting low in my wheelchair and feeling dwarfed by the things around me serve as a constant reminder to stay in the place of humility. The Lord spent years teaching me humility. Those trying years saw me really grappling to walk alongside my Savior. He walked beside me, went before me, but always, He held me when I was about to fall and raised me up when I did fall flat on my face. He allowed all that – stumbling, falling, hurting myself, raising me up – so I could learn the important lesson of humility and total dependence on Him (yes, not on my own wisdom and strength), among other things, and be partaker of His holiness (Heb. 12:10).

You see, pride and being “Ms. High and Mighty” could be a “disability”. This could make a cripple out of a follower and the Lord is determined to do away with it. So, this follower was chastened to God’s satisfaction (I hope!) and learned to make my paths straight so that my “lameness” (or disability – pride, self-sufficiency, among other things) was healed (Heb. 12:12). That’s the way I looked at the whole process of learning and healing and becoming whole.

So, I did learn humility – the hard way. Victories sometimes attempt to displace me from my posture of humility and thanksgiving, but remembrance of God’s goodness and tender mercies drive me to earnest repentance and keep me rooted in that place of humility. It is always this:

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Rom. 2:4)

The place of humility is a place of grace.

…be clothed with humility, for

“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pet. 5:5, emphasis added)

The posture of lowliness is the posture to receive grace upon grace. We received God’s amazing grace that moment when we fell down on our knees and humbled ourselves before Him. And we will receive the grace to illuminate His light and be used for His purposes as long as we stay in this place of humility, for humility precedes honor (Prov. 15:33, 18:12). I think about Mary and her exemplary life of lowliness coupled with quiet strength. This is something a servant of the Lord could emulate.

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My gratitude list ~ things I’m thankful to the Lord for:

7. Being able to eat in the dining table (peninsula) in our kitchen after many years.

8. The Lord Jesus’ faithfulness to draw me closer and remind me of His enduring mercies and goodness.

9. Precious lessons learned in my walk with my Savior-Redeemer.

10. The delights photography – lights, colors, shadows – brings!

11. The love, peace, joy, and unity in the family

12. Home improvements

13. Tidied up and decluttered cabinets – clean house!

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Journey with Jesus,

rina

The Practice of Love

The kids and I gather together this evening. I had been desiring for our family to have a gathering in the evenings to read the Bible, talk about what we have read, each give thanks for the day, then pray. But I know that my beloved husband can’t be easily invited to such. He sings praises, worships and prays every night for more or less two hours. Gathering with the family for the purposes I have mentioned is a thing he’d rather not join. This saddens me but I was determined to start with our two kids.

Hannah and I have been meeting to read the Bible and discuss, but this time, we include soon-to-be five-year-old Tim for he also needs a lot of teaching and praying over.

Lately, I have been thinking deeply on how to honour God more in my life. I felt that there must be something more to all the things that I do, something that is wrought by the Lord in and through me. I know that I lack and I err and I fail to follow through all that He wants me to  be and to do.

So the three of us gather together, forming a small circle (I don’t want any of the Lord’s words to fall to the ground). We talk about love. I point out to them that we are not loving the way the Lord Jesus wants us to. I tell them that sometimes we choose to be impatient, unkind, ungentle to one another. I point to myself. Why do I let myself speak harshly at times and snap rather than pay attention? Why can’t I completely rein in my temper and just be known for my gentleness? Why can’t I stop myself from answering back their dad when I am hurt? Why can’t I just take the pain and keep quiet? Most often, it’s my pride that gets hurt. So then, why can’t I just kill my pride? Didn’t the Lord tell us to pluck out our eye or cut off our hand if these make us sin? To have a meek and quiet spirit is still my earnest prayer.

“If I am not known for my gentleness, what am I known for? What are we known for?” I ask them, voice cracking. Why would you shove your brother to the side? I am looking intently at Hannah. Why can’t we love just like the Lord loves? Tears find their way out.

“We can’t stay like this”, I tell them. But I also tell them that I’m thankful I’m hurt and broken this way, for that means I’m not numb to God and His commandments. For if one has become numb and unmindful of God and what He thinks, one has become barren, spiritually dead. I am thankful for His tuggings at my heart for I know I am fully feeling, knowing, seeing. I am fully awake! The tears flow freely.

And I tell them more, like the Lord’s commandment (well, more like an urgent plea) to His disciples before He was taken to be crucified.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35, emphasis added)

We will be known as the Lord’s disciples by the way we love  one another.

“Can we begin to practise love, really, intentionally practise love everyday starting today? Just like how the Lord loves us?” I ask them. The Lord is not harsh nor unkind nor shoves nor shouts at us. Hannah nods sincerely.

I hold Tim’s face. His still-baby skin feels so soft in my hand. I tell him about loving by showing respect. I tell him what is love and what is not. I explain, I implore, and I am held in awe by how his beautiful eyes grow bigger and rounder. His eyes have opened and rounded to the full and I am amazed at the beauty of the faith of a child. If only we could easily open our eyes that big and round and fix them to Jesus, just like little children do. 

Maybe then we would not miss anything. Maybe then we could practise love everyday, even every moment.

We end with prayer. I pray and reach and cry out to God. I offer up our lives; we are His. For only in His light do our uglinesses vanish and we are changed. And we love Him so, with all our hearts, minds, and souls. Copious tears keep streaming down. We have been touched.

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Be Fully Awake!

Some time ago, I wrote The Lukewarm, taking heed of the Spirit’s leading and teaching at that time. Without a doubt in my heart, The Lukewarm was inspired by God, and I invite you to read it if you had missed it before as a background for this post :).

I was reminded by this post last night after I heard the testimony of a sister in Christ during Friday overnight service. She and her beloved husband are pastoral workers; the sister also sings in the Jesus Finest Generation Choir. From her testimony, I understood that her husband had grown lukewarm in his service to God. Why did I conclude that he was lukewarm and not cold? Because as I had written in The Lukewarm, the lukewarm make the effort of showing to everyone that they are still in the faith and going through the motions of serving God, but the fervor is gone.

They do it in hypocrisy, a farce, a thing which God hates.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,[a] I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Rev. 3:15-16)

So, for a long time, this brother made a show of serving God every worship service, but as his beloved wife has testified, he wasn’t really into the things of God: praising and worshiping, praying, and reading the Bible daily. When he was in the worship service, he did his menial job but spent most of the time talking with his peers. He did not worship during time of deep worship, and he did not open his Bible during Bible Study and preaching.

Many times his beloved wife admonished him, even encouraged him to open up and talk about his spiritual state, but he wouldn’t listen. Until one day, the Lord took his health and strength. He became sick of diabetes and UTI among other ailments that afflicted him. He lost a lot of weight. Then there came a time that he became very ill that he was brought to the hospital. He was struggling to live.

Because of God’s chastisement, he changed his attitude towards Him. He repented of his negligence and shortcomings. He became more fervent in worshiping with the strength he had; he read the Bible often during the day, and his prayers became earnest, agonizing.

Until today, he is still begging God to heal him and give him another chance to honor and serve Him. He and his beloved wife continue to pray and be zealous in serving Him amid the hard trial.

I am thankful to God that He is ever faithful to send us reminders for us to perfect our ways before him, either directly to us or through a brother or a sister. This is a wake-up call for all of us. We cannot hide anything from God, no, not even the deepest crevices of our hearts. He knows everything in there more than we do. Remember the apostle’s admonition:

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:13)

There is no more time to be complacent, to be lukewarm in our love and service to God. He is coming so very soon and He wants to awaken us from our spiritual stupor. We need to stop acting and faking it and going about our lives being numb to the things of God, but at last be fully awake to them!

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Rom. 13:11 NIV)

Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning… (1 Cor. 15:34 NIV)

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My gratitude list ~ the gifts I received from the hand of the Lord:

  • healing of Hannah of her stomachache and diarrhea with fever
  • late-night giggling and laughing with her about something funny that she said
  • renewed inspiration to write and photograph
  • delectable cakes from neighbor
  • luxuriating in exotic-scented bath products
  • new inspirations, new beginnings ~ change is good!

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Cause Your Face to Shine

(Meditating on Psalm 80)

I sit in front of my laptop, not really knowing what to write for Journey Through the Psalms Friday. I had planned to write about how the Lord Jesus had shown His marvellous light to the youth who had come to the Jesus Miracle Youth Crusade Freedom Concert with so much expectations in their hearts. They had heeded the call and humbly come, hundreds of them. And the Lord Jesus did not fail them. Yes, gloriously He shone forth to the hearts and souls of these young people and filled them with His love, forgiveness, and Spirit. He filled me, too.

I wanted to write about all that, but today, the Spirit seemed to be leading me to a different path. Just a few hours ago, I felt so weary and my spirit was down. Husband and kids had gone to the Planetarium and Robot Zoo, a trip which I planned, and as usual, I was home alone with the maid. I baked chocolate cookies but they didn’t come out as expected. I just wanted to cry, not just because I was left alone neither because the flourless cookies turned out to be one messy, sticky heap. I know it is something more.

Restore us, O God;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved! (Psalm 80:3)

I had thought the straying youth needed this – for God to shine on them so that they will be saved. But I realized that I needed Him to shine on me just as much as the youth did. I had been wanting and earnestly working to be freed from all personal desires and wants and dreams and plans – to die to all these – and just desire God and what He wants for my life. I need His love to complete what’s lacking in me, specifically my love. Without Him expanding, deepening, growing my love, I am just a miserable woman fighting her own daily battles and barely winning.

Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this vine. (v. 14)

They arrive. The kids run to me saying, “Thank you, Mom”. Then I know what’s filling my soul with sadness: I just want to let my life be a pleasing offering to God who gave me everything I own. I just want to let go of all the thoughts about self – unrealized dreams, unwell body – and be an unwavering light to these young people; show and give them Christ by how I live Him.

Cause your face to shine on thine servant, O God! Strip me off of all that offend and clothe me with thine righteousness and kindness.

The tears fall. I hope that I have touched heaven’s throne of grace.

The Pursuit of an Authentic Life

It happens again. My son Tim breathes hard as his cough hardens. The rapid heaving of his tummy makes him weak and brings pain to his stomach muscles. I rub his back as I start to sing praises. I sing with all that’s in me. I lift up my soul and soon, tears are leaking out from a heart that surrenders everything. I release all – fears, worries, sadness, control. But this time it’s more than all that. It is also a cry for help, not only for my son, but also for myself. Because I ache to be true in my pursuit of Him.

I’ve been carrying that pain somewhere deep within me lately. I feel that all the things that I do – praise, worship, pray, read the Bible, write to share the Gospel, care for my family, encourage, nurture friendships – are not enough. Not enough to show the Lord that I’m true in everything I do. I want to examine deeply my motives why I do the things that I do. I want to weed out any trace of hypocrisy or farce in any aspect and part of my life. I believe that only then would I know I am a joy to the Lord and my relationship with Him is free from any obstacles.

I really can’t pinpoint on which aspect of my life I am not being totally true. Sometimes I catch myself asking, Do I really care for this person’s salvation or am I just doing what I need to do? Everyday, I strive to live a life pleasing to God. But I can’t deny the tug of the Spirit at my heart, sometimes reminding me and pointing out to me the real motives behind the things that I do. And I continue to carry a heavy heart and an emptiness somewhere deep within me until I have closely looked into every single motive behind every action.

So, I cry as I beg God to heal my son and I rip my heart open to Him thinking that in that way, I’m ripping up every veil that might be separating me from the floodgates of blessings opening wide and gushing upon my life.

We can never hide anything from our God. He knows the deep crevices of our hearts more than we do. We cannot fool Him at all. God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). And the soul knows that.

The whisperings of the enemy are in fact a mirror or an indication of what and where we are weak of. He whispers that my blog is not growing by leaps and bounds unlike other devotional blogs whose followers are by the thousands. He prods me to think that I’m inferior, my writing is not pleasing and excellent, and there’s nothing I can do that could change the situation.

The enemy’s attempt to attack and bring one down can be the very thing that can make one stronger, wiser and sharper. These whisperings could actually bring one closer to God as one would be prodded to look deeper into oneself and one’s motives in the light of one’s service to God.

The enemy assays to bring our focus to ourselves and away from God. He makes us think that it is all about us – everything we do is for us, and of us, and to us, and by us. But all this brouhaha with the enemy can be completely silenced by declaring that he is a liar and the father of it (John 8:44). Nothing, absolutely nothing, that he whispers is true.

All that we are, and therefore, all that we do, is for Him, and “of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

And I do my best to stay attached to and focused on this fulcrum of truth upon which my life spins. This must be the sole gauge in all the things we do. I am His; all that I write come from Him; I set up this blog for His purposes; my life is all about Him, for His glory. Shall we dare steal some of that glory? God forbid! He saith, am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another… (Is. 42:8).

I write to win souls for Christ, not to gain fame for myself.

So, we walk this journey knowing that the eyes of God are ever upon us. Whatever we learn in Church, that should be lived wherever we go. However we live outside of the walls of our homes, it should be the same when we’re inside of them. The early apostles had a word for it. Unfeigned love. (See 2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Pet. 1:22).

Additional readings: How to Truly Seek God and Live an Authentic Life

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Working Out Our Most Important Relationship

When I read that part where the Apostle Paul told the Philippians to “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), I didn’t really understand then what it entailed. I didn’t know how to do it in a deep sense, in a very personal level. I heard a preacher in our Church exhort about it in general terms, likening our salvation with that of a precious gift, and doing our very best to hold on to it, to not let it be snatched away by the enemy. I understood that we should not be complacent but always be watchful.

Then I read what Ms. Darlene Zschech had briefly written (I think on the back of one of her CDs?), “Just work out your relationship with Jesus.” It stuck with me. For that was at a time when I was struggling to understand what was happening with my life, straining to see the light amidst the fiery trials. When you’re tested to the uttermost, you want to have at least an understanding of what is happening, where your life is leading to, if God is even with you.

Working out our own salvation as Apostle Paul implores us means as much as working out our relationship with our Redeemer. It is synonymous. When we received our salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, we entered into a relationship with Him. Our salvation then can never be apart from our relationship with Him. When we work out our relationship with our Savior King, we are working out our own salvation. (Even the quality of our other relationships is determined by how healthy or poor our relationship with the Lord Jesus is).

Why is there a need? I believe all of us who received the Lord Jesus and His salvation have experienced the struggle to maintain a fervent, faithful, and trusting relationship with Him in varying degrees. This struggle is most felt during a hard and prolonged trial. In my case, it was a combination of physical, mental and emotional suffering compounded with problems and challenges in our company and household, spelling out a F-I-E-R-Y | T-R-I-A-L no less.

During that long chilly season, my relationship with my Savior was one which ebbed and flowed, now and then marred with doubts and fears, and threatened by feelings of sullenness, discontent, disheartenment, bitterness, and a few times, even silent rebellion. It was like you want to confront the One who has control of it all and know why. Why? You just want to know why.

It was during this time that I got so intimately acquainted with Job. Talk about being kindred spirits by going through physical suffering and the mental and emotional anguish it brought. Oh friends, I know how it was to live between life and death everyday. Job wanted a confrontation with God so much; He longed to understand the meaning behind all his suffering. Oh, how I had echoed Job’s laments!

There were times that I wanted to go far away from Him just to let Him know that I was hurt by His seeming indifference. Yes, I had struggled with my relationship with my Redeemer King: sulking and having a pity party one minute, then running to His arms the next. There was battle of wills: His and mine. Why doesn’t the Lord just heal me so I can continue to manage our company seeing my husband grapples with the intricacies of a chemicals company? That was just one of my questions in the early years.

There is a struggle because our own will and wants, motivated by our own limited understanding, clash with God’s will, His thoughts and ways. Although we were called to a personal relationship with Jesus our Savior, calling Him our best friend, He is still God and there is a need for us to surrender to Him – completely. To yield ourselves to Him in total abandon.

I have learned that during trials, our relationship with our Lord Jesus is tested and threatened. Faith, trust, hope, steadfast love – all these that weave the threads of the tapestry of our relationship with Him become most vulnerable. It is during these times then that we really get to work. Work out our relationship with Him. How?

One of the keys is to know Him more. In the early part of my fiery trial and my relationship with the Lord Jesus was precariously tested (well, that was as far as I knew with my limited view of the bigger thing, but it definitely wasn’t the same with Him; He was holding me steadfastly all the time and never letting go, but I didn’t know that), my constant prayer was to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).

We can know Him more by spending much of our time reading and meditating on His Word.

Another way is to draw ever nearer to Him; seek His powerful presence through worship. My favorite worship song during this time was Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer by Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Do you struggle in your faith walk? Continue to work out your relationship with the Lord Jesus. This is one relationship that has utmost importance to us. He is our Bridegroom, we are His Bride. We look forward to His coming when we’ll be forever with Him.

Additional reading: First Love

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My gratitude list ~ the gifts I received from the hand of the Lord:

  • One whole week without maids; it was like a holiday for our family and the peace, joy and intimacy it brought were priceless.
  • Singing praises with heart full of faith and fervent love for the Lord bringing a gush of hot tears as Tim struggled to breathe due to asthma-like cough.
  • A fruit gift basket with a beautiful card.
  • Eating bunches of lanzones with family.
  • My vegetable garden coming to life now.
  • Pretty boxed cards, good pens collection, new friends, and lovely written words
I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

It’s All I Really Want to Do

(Meditating on Psalm 75)

I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. (Psalm 75:9)

I sit on our patio on a dark, chilly night. The evening breeze fans my tired body and I wish I brought a wrap with me. I sit long and silent. Alone after the enemy had attacked again, this time bringing me down to the ground, wreaking havoc to my emotional balance and giving me more than a pity party. I had stopped wondering why challenges and painful trials come and go. I’ve become used to them. I have learned that these are all part of the life of a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. But what I just realized now is the fact that we can never really achieve perfection in our life on earth. I mean, perfection in our service to God and others.

We may aim for it: a perfect day that bears the Spirit’s fruit, giving glory to God in all we do. But more often than we would like it to be, it doesn’t happen that way. Challenges and trials come to test our patience and endurance, and we succumb to them and fail miserably, our human nature gaining the upper hand.

So, I think of all these in the aftermath of yet another storm in my life, and I realize that the pain comes from my not wanting to surrender fully to God’s tests and refining. I am resisting God’s plan behind the difficulties because I don’t want to suffer any longer. Because I am thinking and believing that I don’t deserve any more of this. But I am wrong. Whatever comes, I must bow down low before God – no complaints, no discontent, no dismay, no resentments. Just a humble yielding to Him. There is a release in that.

When I choose the proper time,
I will judge uprightly. 
(v. 2)

Do not lift up your horn on high;
Do not speak with a stiff neck. 
(v. 5)

Though my whole being pulsates pain and weariness, I want to sing and give glory to Him. This is really all I want to do. For even though there are trials, His goodness is seen in my life.

And so I sing and raise my hands. The sky is becoming deeper and deeper blue. The leaves rustle.

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near. 
(v. 1)

(Photo courtesy of my friend Perla Notario Frisberg).
I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.