The Hidden Purpose of Suffering

I may never understand the hidden purposes of God in suffering but I don’t think that I need to. I can only understand that perfumes are made by crushing the choicest of flowers. The only way to separate gold from impurities is by making it pass through extreme heat. In the same way, Christians come out pure by passing through the fires of suffering.

Stop Chasing After Instagrammable Weddings

Few weeks ago I sat down with a couple who asked me to officiate their upcoming wedding. After talking about the ups and down of their love story, our discussion quickly turned to the rigors of wedding preparations. Since my fiancée and I are also getting married very soon, we felt like we are on the same boat facing the same sets of difficulties. We talked about the usual suspects: the challenge of coming up with a guest list, the drama of choosing the motif, the obvious gap between the dream wedding and the budget constraints, and the little things in between like fonts and chairs and table runners. Two hours into our conversation we just sat there stunned at the fact that weddings are far too complicated than we anticipated. We had to ask the obvious: what are the bare essentials of a wedding ceremony?

Continue reading Stop Chasing After Instagrammable Weddings

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

We often love to shoot ourselves in the foot. Unintentionally, of course.

We often say that Bible knowledge can lead to pride so we kind of tell one another that too much study of God’s Word is counterproductive to our spiritual health. It makes a person proud, they say. It’s useless knowledge, others argue.

Then we stumble over verses like Colossians 1:9–10 and we eat our words in embarrassment. Paul told the believers in Colossae that the way to stay solid in your Christian faith is to actually become filled with knowledge in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. That’s a lot of heavy words. Putting together knowledge, wisdom, and understanding in one sentence is mind-boggling enough for our taste. But Paul is not yet done; he was just getting started. He said that knowledge should fill us, the same way that you fill a tank with water. Why?

Because having that kind of knowledge is the only way to ever walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to live a life that is pleasing to him, to bear fruit (in evangelism and in character), to be strengthened, and to develop a thankful heart. In other words, being filled with the knowledge of God is the way to thrive and flourish as a believer. Everything we ever want to become as Christians is tied to how much we know God, and that knowledge springs from our Bible readings.

Sounds too academic and too cerebral, I know, but this is God’s ordained way for us to grow. Knowing God is knowing God’s Word, the Bible. There is no escaping it. Much of our spiritual growth boils down to a lot of Bible reading and prayer. Even obedience is simply a fruit of knowing God. Either we admit that, or we continue shooting ourselves in the foot.

Theology and Missions

Christopher J.H. Wright on the The Mission of God’s People:

“Theology, it seems is all about God. It rummages around in what (mostly dead) people have thought and written about God, God’s character and actions, God’s relationship to the world, to human society, God’s involvement in the past, present and future, and the like. Mission, in happy contrast, is all about us the living, and what we believe we are supposed to be doing in the world.

“So, in mutual suspicion, theologians may not relish their theories being muddled by facts on the ground and the challenging questions thrown up by the messiness of practical mission. Practitioners of mission, in quick riposte, may not wish to see their urgent commitment to getting on with the job Christ entrusted to us delayed by indulgent navel-gazing about obscure long words ending in -ology.

“And so the dangerous result is that theology proceeds without missional input or output, while mission proceeds without theological guidance or evaluation.

“There should be no theology that that does not relate to the mission of the church – either by being generated out of the church’s mission or by inspiring and shaping it. And there should be no mission of the church carried on without deep theological roots in the soil of the Bible.

No theology without missional impact; no mission without theological foundations.”

Love is a Double-Sided Coin

“Love is not only expressed by words of affirmation and appreciation, it can also come in the form of a rebuke. Love is a double-sided coin.

“Love is looking in your spouse’s eyes and saying, “You mean the world to me. I wouldn’t want to go on without you.” But, love could also be a protective warning. When a friend is about to engage in adultery, the loving thing to do would be to say, “STOP! Don’t do it!”— even if it means losing your friendship over it.”

Micah Fries and Robby Gallaty, Exalting Jesus in Zephaniah, Haggai, and Malachi Commentary

What Does the Bible Say About Dreams and Visions?

Last week I received a message from a victory group leader asking what the Bible teaches about dreams and visions. We know about people in the Bible having significant dreams (like Joseph and Daniel) but does God still reveal things to us that way?

One of the fascinating books I read more than a year ago was Nabeel Qureshi’s “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” where he recounted his dream of standing outside a narrow door and not being able to get into a wedding feast; a dream he later realized was taken straight out of the parable of Jesus in Luke 12:22-29. Qureshi was a Muslim who had been wrestling with the decision to accept Christ but was held back by so much intellectual doubting. Seeing a series of three dreams was his final confirmation of the divinity of Jesus. Today, Qureshi is one of the itinerary speakers at the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. (Edit: In September 16, 2017, Nabeel Qureshi died of stomach cancer). Continue reading What Does the Bible Say About Dreams and Visions?

He Is Our Grief Absorber

We know of shock absorbers.

I first came across this word in college when the seniors ahead of me wrote in their thesis acknowledgments the names of people who were their shock absorbers. These were close friends who listened patiently as they ranted about professors and thesis advisers who gave them academic hell.

Then of course there’s the shock absorbers for cars and other vehicles.

The point of shock absorbers is to lessen impact, to make collision less painful, less damaging. A bit similar to what Jesus was saying in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He offers wide open arms to those who have heavy loads to carry, those who have untold griefs bursting in their chests. Continue reading He Is Our Grief Absorber

Look Up, Christian, Look Up

Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up. *

Enough looking behind your shoulders. There’s no use looking back at something you can’t change. The past gives no hope, only lessons to help you make godly choices in the future.

Stop looking around trying to gauge whether or not people approve everything you do. It is an exhausting way to live and you will never please everyone anyway. Live for the audience of One instead, seeking only what is honorable to Jesus. In the end, his opinion is the only opinion that matters. You will be surprised that unlike our parents, peers, and bosses, Jesus is way, way more gracious.

So look up, Christian, look up. Look to Christ who loves you without stopping, not to the past that haunts without mercy or the people around you that you couldn’t please anyway.

*HT: Sammy Lopez

Exhausted Hearts

Broken people with exhausted hearts, dead tired Christians almost at the point of giving up… do not lose hope. You are loved and cherished more than you can ever imagine. Jesus cares about you.

He knows the weary road you’ve traveled. He is familiar with the pain you are going through. He walked the thorny path you are walking in. He bled before a thorn pierced your foot.

Come to him, all of you who are weary and heavily laden. He will restore your strength. He will bind your wounds. He will put soothing balm on your bruises. He will refresh you with healing waters. He will put a pillow under your head. He will give rest for your souls. Continue reading Exhausted Hearts