How to magnify Christ, whether by life or by death

If any of you have extra time on your hand, I highly recommend reading just any part of this blog: http://graceandrew.blogspot.com/

Every time I read it, I am humbled and amazed by how much a life–and a death–can glorify Christ. I started following this blog a couple of years ago, when older staff from my fellowship at UCLA asked us to pray for these two alumni. They were in their 20s, married for only a few years, yet the husband was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, reading about their faith in the midst of cancer was encouraging. Now, over two years later, I am convinced that one day, someone is going to collect and publish the writings of Grace and Andrew Mark, and it is going to become a Christian classic. Read any part of this blog, and you will walk away with a clearer vision of your Savior!

When life gives me lemons…

i hope and desire that i would choose to give thanks because those very lemons in the hands of a great chef can create so much more than i could ever do on my own. i will not “go make lemonade” as the saying so often goes. it isn’t about what i can do, rather it is about what has been done. and because of that i can…

“consider it all joy…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-4)

“rejoice always…pray without ceasing…in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

“not loose heart…for momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

i am no great chef, but i know those lemons can make a lot more than lemonade. why settle for lemonade when there is so much more to be gained from something such as trials in this temporary life? in reality these lemons are a gift, and for that i am thankful, because…

“every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above…” (James 1:17)

as you embark on your black friday adventures and all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, i encourage you to take a moment and pause to reflect on the many things we have been blessed with. here’s a great idea if you’d like to give someone a different kind of gift this year.

happy thanksgiving,

bryan

Finding that Much Needed Peace in Your Life – How to Be Content

I have been wanting to type out my thoughts and notes from this message that deeply impacted me when I heard it at Redeemer one Sunday. I did not bring a pencil so my notes were roughly from memory as well as some personal commentary. But I would love to share this with anyone willing to read it, because I really find it quite necessary to remind ourselves of these three things.

*Based on Tim Keller’s Sermon on Peace and how to achieve contentment in our lives.

1.) Thinking

2.) Thanking

3.) Loving

Philippians 4:4-12

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks for Their Gifts

10I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Thinking:

Often in this world and society, if you want to achieve a feeling of peace and contentment, people advise you to just try to ignore whatever is bothering you and not think about the things that are causing you to worry or stress. They tell you to relax and distract your brain until you feel better. However, Paul tells us to think about what is troubling us. The type of peace the world advertises to us is a shallow kind of peace that uses ignorance as opposed to seeking deeper into the situation and understanding why you should feel content even through suffering. When writing this, Paul was in prison and facing possible torture and death. Yet, he still could find contentment in the wretched circumstance he was in. Having gone through so many tribulations and hardships in life already, Paul must have finally understood God’s way of giving us peace. Paul talks about a “peace that transcends all understanding”. Even through immeasurable pain and suffering in life, God and only God alone can give you a peace that is not understandable to this world.

Thanking:

We always seem to thank God after He answers our many prayers. However, we should be thanking God already during our prayers, before the results appear. For whatever God chooses to have happen in our lives will forevermore always be better than whatever we want to have happen. He knows so much better than us. If only we knew as much as God knew about our lives, then would we fully comprehend and agree with His ultimate plans for us. We only know what is the present, but God knows beyond the present in every aspect of our lives. God is a good Father and He alone knows what is best for us. And therefore, we should trust Him and learn to accept what is to come. The key here is to honor God’s Sovereignty in our lives with the act of trusting in Him, to the point where before anything even happens, we are already thanking Him regardless of the future outcomes. With this mindset, peace will come into our lives.

Loving God:

Instead of loving success or wealth or family, we need to love God with all of our hearts. When you put your life on the shaky foundation of success or even family, there is always going to be that insecure feeling of losing it even when you gain it. Therefore, putting your life hand in hand with these worldly goals will bring instability and constant dissatisfaction in your life. Those things will come and go, but God is constant and will always love you faithfully. It is us who turn away from His loving embrace and we fall in life solely because of ourselves. When you see a big wave crash into some pillars of rock on the side of a beach and completely immerse the rocks underwater, it seems that the rocks have been demolished by the waves. However as the waves subside, the rock is still firmly standing there unscathed. God is like that rock, strong and firm in our lives. We just have to realize our own weaknesses and fragility and LOVE God and turn to Him as the sole refiner of our lives. God loves us so much that He sent His only son, Jesus, down to this earth to painfully die on the cross for us! Who are we to deserve such love and care from one so great and almighty! Think of how Jesus must have felt. He, of no sin and of perfect peace from God in His life dying on the cross for us and so suddenly feeling all the woes of the world and all our insecurities and lack of peace. It must have been pure torture, yet Jesus beared it all just so we could gain that peace and contentment from God. What a sacrifice that is! We are truly so blessed to be God’s children.

And to end…

The Hymn: “It is Well with My Soul”

Horatio G. Spafford wrote this song in 1876. He had a wife and four little daughters. One day his wife and children were on a ship sailing to England. That ship suddenly hit something and began to sink. His wife and children were separated in the waters. His four little daughters did not make it, but his wife fortunately survived and was taken to England. She sent him a message with two words: “Saved Alone”. As he was sailing to England to pick up his wife, he began writing this particular hymn. In the world’s view, the lyrics have no correlation whatsoever to how he must have been feeling. But as Paul stated in Philippians 4, God can give us a “peace that transcends all understanding”. And that is exactly what he gave to this faithful man of God who lost all four of his precious daughters.

So when any of you are feeling discontent in life, think of these things and realize that there is no need to be discontent, for God has filled our lives with already so much of His love and His grace.

Remembered

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. -Matthew 10:16

Why?

I kept my eyes on the goal. The book of Philippians tells us to rejoice in our suffering, and in my faith, I told myself that God called us to live this out, to expect this pain.

I asked myself again, why? As I jogged up and down a dirt trail in the cool of the dusk, suffering in my side for a lack of endurance, I asked, why? Why is it that the followers of Christ are expected to receive trials, when our Savior paid the price? I mean, I seek to live all out and serve and suffer for Him, but why? I tried to reason it out through my Bible knowledge as I ran aimlessly in the night. Does God test us because we aren’t worthy? Is He allowing the world to take advantage of His own followers? Why do we suffer when we have the “good news”?

I reflected on this as I was reminded of God’s Glory through His creation, trying to think about the faith that so many of us keep. I know that our lives are to be examples of our Lord, yet I had this sudden bewilderment and didn’t know how to further digest this aspect of our faith.

I am reminded through a new song, “Remember Me” by Kutless that speaks to me in a way that I can’t really explain. Through the words and music, I see how our call to persevere in Christ’s name is indeed what keeps us together with our God. We are to be set apart from this world, leaving behind the evil ways of the world, and take on the burdens in order to display the truth of Jesus Christ.

I looked in Your eyes
And saw it for a moment
The passion in Your cry
The chains of life are broken
Put to death by Your people
You came to bring us life
Only hope for the hopeless
Will You remember me?

I’ve been ashamed
I’ve been put down
Head in my hands
My life on the ground
Left heaven to save
Liars and thieves
Sinners like me
Your blood sets us free

Who am I
That You would remember me?

Spent all of my years
Stealing from the world
With everything i had
I was still so poor
You have everything to lose
But You’re dying here with me
I believe
Will You remember me?

Take what I have left my Savior
Take me with You from this cross
When I leave this life completely
Remember me

I took a step back and looked at my heart, where I stood at the moment, and I knew that  it was pride. But rather instead, that I should humble myself, to offer my heart and every single aspect of my life to God, and to follow Him regardless of pain or death.

He died on the cross when we were still lost in the evils of the world, regardless of our actions or not. But we are saved through His Grace, and we must put aside our pride and follow our Savior. He died for us, and because of that we let His will be done, and allow ourselves to be ashamed, and put down. To suffer for Him for us is to be closer to our Savior, and through that, we can see God directly working in all things through faith.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of live that God has promised to those who love Him. -James 1:12

At the end of our lives, when we leave this life completely, He will remember us.

The Pursuit of Job

Though He slay me,

I will hope in Him

Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.

– Job 13:15

In my devotions, I have been revisiting the life of Job. As I read, I can see more and more of myself in Job. After the first wave of woes hits Job, his initial response is to submit to God and praise His sovereignty (Job 1:20-22). But the hypocrisy of these words quickly sets in by chapter three, and from there he wallows for many pages about how cruel and unfair God is to place such suffering upon his life (ex. Job 10 – “I loathe my own life […]”).

Although I have never had my children, servants, land, livestock, or health swept away from me in a matter of three chapters, I could definitely empathize with the intense anguish, sorrow, lament, and helplessness, that Job felt. Thus I found his actions rather predictable and altogether very natural for a human being. Until this verse.

v. 15a: “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”

Obviously Job has not been slain by God. God basically allows Satan to perform every harmful thing to Job but slay him. In the original Hebrew and Greek, “slay” has many meanings: to smite, to strike down, to inflict disease upon, to deprive of power/destroy the strength of, to send judgement upon… and this is not an exhaustive list. When Job describes God’s dealings with him, he truly encompasses all those dealings in the single word “slay.” Job is not exaggerating or being dramatic in his lament. He feels the weight of God slaying him in its entirety.

But that conjunction “Though”! Though God sends all this iniquity upon Job, Job concludes, “I will hope in Him”!

Hope: yet another loaded word. To hope in means to expect, to wait for, to look for (the noun form also means trust and having confidence in). This means that, despite all the things that have been inflicted upon Job (in part described by the definition of “slay”), Job expects, waits for, and looks for… for what?

Job does not say “I will hope for deliverance” or “I will hope for an explanation of why I had to suffer all this.” He exclaims, “I will hope in Him.” Do you know what this means? Even though Job has lost virtually everything the world had offered him, in the end he does not desire God’s materialistic blessings, or contentment, or anything else… Job desires God Himself!!!

Finally, the verse ends by saying, “Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.” By no means should we interpret Job arguing his ways as demanding repayment from God for all that He took away or for an explanation of why it happened. Rather, it seems Job wants to tell God,  “You see! You brought me strife upon strife, but in the end, I still sought you above all else. I still love you above all else! You did not pursue me in vain! You are more than enough for me!”

When God slays us in pursuit of our love, can we confidently declare these same words to Him?