The Justice of God and the Year of His Favor

(My notes and thoughts from the Sunday sermon)

Jesus, on his first sermon in the synagogue in his public ministry quoted the first two verses from Isaiah 61 – (in reference to Him as the Messiah) declaring the Year of the Lord’s favor. In my traditional blog entry every 31st of December, this was what I have declared as we ushered in 2013.  The year 2012 was a year of bondage for us – in finances of our former business endeavor, health and to some extent, to our relationships.  Two more months and we end the year, and God has been miraculously restoring what was lost, rebuilding the ruins, renewing bonds of faithfulness.  We have yet to see the end but as we wait expectantly, we receive a double portion of joy indeed!

Yesterday, in the sermon of the pastor in “The God Nobody Wants ” preaching series (know more about God’s attributes and some resources, here) , he noted that Jesus stopped at the 1st half of the 2nd verse in Isaiah 61. Yes, we have a just God who judges impartially and correctly . He is also the one who brings justice in behalf of His people.  Jesus, when he started talking in that pulpit,  proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor but didn’t declare vengeance because He took it upon Himself to be the vengeance for us. The justice of God was satisfied, once and for all, when He was hung on the cross and bled for us and for all our sins to be forgiven. Here is a Just God whom nobody wants, yet offers His life selflessly for the love of mankind.

Declare the jubilee!

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” 

-Isaiah 61:1-2a

Productivity, Fruitfulness and Faithfulness

In my Facebook post, I mentioned that I have prayed to be more fruitful these past 2 weeks. Fruitful in a sense that I will see results from what I routinely do in homeschooling and home-managing. In a way, I was actually praying to be more productive! What difference does it make? The choice of words may spell a whole lot. Strictly speaking (although I am not an expert on this, but I based it on my degree learning), “Productivity”is an economic measure of output per unit of input. It is that measurable result ,  what the world views as being “successful” for being able to accomplish something at a certain period of time with the certain amount of resources and effort. Now this is where most of us fall into an easy trap. We sacrifice our families, relationships into the altar of success. We become slaves to time and whole bunch of “to-do” lists so that we can be successful.  Don’t get me wrong. I am a person who likes to map out things for the week and ticks off anything that’s in my checklist. Funny as i prayed about being more fruitful, our local church is on a preaching series entitled “Proof”. Last Sunday, the topic was about Extreme Productivity.  Indeed, our work is a reflection of God’s grace in our lives.  Our bodies are designed to work. Adam was placed in the garden of Eden to work it and to take care of it. Work is a wonderful blessing given by God for man to be able to accomplish His greater purpose.  As I write, I think about how I measured my week in terms of productivity, and everything was accomplished as I saw fit. Not because I do it on my own, but because of the grace of God that has enabled me. Truly, productive work is a proof of His grace! But wonders of wonders, God has blessed me with even more. He has opened up doors of opportunities. He has added more friends in my circle (living in a new place these 2 months).  What’s more, He has taught me that beyond productivity, I should be “fruitful” in a way that as I do things and have that resolve to accomplish them, the fruit of the Holy Spirit should be evident in my life and in my work.

What’s the fruit? Galatians 5:22-23 says,

  ” But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

When I tried hard to finish something on schedule for my kids in their lesson tracks, am I being manipulative? Am I being patient when I see that my younger son needs more time to understand the lesson than what I thought I could spend for a single subject? Am I saying the right words to my children when I get them to work on a household chore or am I nagging? When I left the workplace to be a full time home-manager (I’d like to call it this way. God makes my home, I am His steward. I am in effect, managing it, along with my husband!) , I prayed that His peace will consume me. And true enough, each day He tells me that what I do or do not do does not define me. My security does not come from a title or position, or the perks that come along with it, nor from the business that we tried to build, but my security is from Him alone – He who has held me at the palm of His hand – where I am most secure. Or when my husband irritates me on some petty things that I shouldn’t sweat about, am I keeping my temper in check, controlling my tongue so I may not fire away those hurtful words? Each moment, I am constantly checked – what does productivity mean when I have neglected the more important things?  What’s with all the checking off the list when I hurt the people  whom I love because of my selfish goals?

Which brings me lastly to faithfulness. In our marriage, I am becoming more sensitive to the seasons that God has marked in our lives. There is a time for everything .  We have cried a lot in separate times,  in the most difficult of trials, together. We laughed at simple joys like not having money to spend for a Sunday treat for the kids and so we hied off to the nearest school’s soccerfield where they get to play for free. Priceless! Got down together on our knees to pray and ask God that we endure through the sufferings and rejoice for the things that He has allowed to happen even if we do not like it. God is faithful. In this new season in our lives, He teaches me to be faithful still. No longer as an employee or a business manager, but as the steward of my home and my children – on a full time basis. It is a daily reminder of what comes first – a priority check.  That is why when that new door opened, I cannot afford to jump into it right away. Although admittedly it was tempting at first! I have the ‘Cross filter’ in making a decision. I want to be faithful with the new responsibility that He has given me in the area of homeschooling.  I am not to please my husband nor win the approval of men. I pray to hear the applause from heaven.

***

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15

 

A Day in Homeschool

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Just a typical day, you might say.   But a single photo speaks a thousand more than what it seems to be.  Another day offered to the Lord and a prayer that He will direct it as He wanted it to be.  Along with it is a prayer that I be more understanding, patient and knowledgeable as their Teacher Mom; and they too, become wiser (and a whole lot nicer!) each day.  That they be like Daniel and his friends who were blessed with greater understanding and knowledge of all kinds of literature and learning (Daniel 1:17) and that of  the young Jesus who has grown both in wisdom and stature and has found favor in God and man (Luke 2:52).

I just want to thank you Lord, for today!

P.S.

1. My eldest daughter , a seventh grader, took the photo above while I was explaining Math (using Singapore Math  (Marshall Cavendish) , a bonus to an open curriculum!)  to my third grader.

2. WordPress has an auto-ads display that might occasionally be advertised here. I learned that I can only make my site ads-free for a certain amount. If there are some images or ads that are not appropriate, please send me a message or report to support@wordpress.com.  Thank you!

What ONE DAY Means

“One day, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and he was baptized by John in the Jordan River.”  – Mark 1:9

A momentous, single day that has been the deciding point of Jesus’ human life – to leave Nazareth inorder to fulfill the will of the Father and launch His ministry. The thirty years that has prepared him inorder to start his “real work” on Earth. I pause and think about the things that he let go in Nazareth – his family, friends, a trade maybe ( being a carpenter’s son) and everything else that are all-too- familiar with him. His comfort zone!  I can pretty well relate as we have been moving many times over. Leaving our own ” Nazareths” inorder to embrace the new places and new circumstances in our lives. As a growing child, we have moved thrice due to career decisions of my parents, sent to boarding schools in my high school and college years, and now as an adult, we have been moving  – following my husband because of new job locations.

Letting go is a learned art, I know. When I think about Jesus, how he let go of his own Nazareth, I know that everything else that I let go has an eternal reward.  That ONE , significant day that I let go of something in order to take a step into the unknown – the next step of God’s will in my life. Yes, there are inconveniences, we feel sad leaving friends and families  (or could be the other way around, friends and family, especially grown-up children,  leaving us!) , but I know that I have entrusted the unknown into the Maker’s hands.  Jesus is my Teacher in the art of letting go. He teaches me to open my hands (and my heart!) so I can hold on to something new and beautiful once again.

Grateful for that ONE DAY!

“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

  • – Isaiah 43: 18-19

The Boat is Sinking!

” The boat is sinking, group yourselves into 2..4…8..3..!” And so on it goes depending on the gamemaster until he declares the winners, most likely the last 2 left in the bunch of eager children playing in a parlor game. The game shows that when a boat is sinking, someone is in charge. In this case, the gamemaster. He can do as he pleases – call a number, 2, 4, or 8 – it really doesn’t matter even if he wants 10 in a boat, it will never sink! In the end, others are booted out, winners are declared.

This brings to mind the time when Jesus calmed the storm. (The disciple Matthew details it here). A sudden storm came up, the disciples were so afraid, thinking that Jesus was “sleeping on the job.”  Then Jesus rebuked them FIRST.  ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’  Then he stood up & rebuked the winds & waves and suddenly all was calm.  It is amazing that in the middle of the storm, Jesus rebukes them first, before He commands the winds and waves to stay still. Unlike the game, He is not a “gamemaster” who chooses who to boot out and who will stay on course to keep the boat from sinking. He wants us to stay on course. Stormy situations in life will rock us but He tells us to stay on course. Looking back, going through the “storms” in my life, He said the same to me. He rebuked me first!  He acts on me first, before He can even change the situation around me, or He may choose not to at all.  But He will act on me! He teaches me to act in faith rather than in fear!

“Why are you afraid, my daughter? You have so little faith!” And I realized, yes Lord, I shouldn’t be. You are in the boat all along, all this time. You are my Captain. You will not desert me. The “storms” may last for days, weeks, months or years,I don’t know…others may even see that You seem to be sleeping on the job, but You are not! I am confident You will ferry me safely to the other shore.

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God is not sleeping on the job!
(photo via wordpress)

Angry at Second Chance

“Give it another chance!” We oftentimes hear this line when we are disappointed – perhaps of a job done short of our standards, of a person’s limitation, of broken relationships, etc. When I read again one of the famous Bible stories that I grew up with, Jonah and the Whale (here’s the story for kids!),  I think about the times in my life when I asked for a second chance and when I also gave a second chance.

Jonah, who experienced a second chance, couldn’t quite believe that God gave the “sinful” Nineveh a second chance, too!  When we are the aggrieved party, it is really tempting to  get angry at a second chance. Like Jonah, we have those “pouting-under-the-shade-of-the-vine” moments. But like what the apostle Paul said, “we who are rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians3:17-19)  When we  experience God’s mercy and love, by His grace, we can also extend the same to others. If there was one aggrieved party that I remember well, it was Jesus, whom Peter denied not once, but thrice, on the road to His death. Yet, after His resurrection, He asked Peter again to “Follow Me.”

Why can’t we rejoice for others’ second chance? Instead of an ill thought or word, why can’t we think and speak of a blessing instead?

When faced with similar circumstances , I will remember what God said to Jonah –

“Is it right for you to be angry about this? “(Jonah 4:4).

Why, we are more precious than a short-lived plant!

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photo via biblestudyoutlines.org

Press On!

Meeting old friends of 10 years meant a lot of catching up. Our daughter Dana’s just 2 years old and the only kid then, while yesterday, five more kids were added in the bunch (we have 1 more, one family has 3, the other one has 1, plus a cute 2 yr old from an extended family)! What used to be “weekday” dinner meetings are now Sunday lunch dates/meetings. Good thing we had it at the friends’ family restaurant , Tiyo’s Cuisine by Chef and Brewer where the food’s not only great and where the one peso coffee, yes Php1, is being served all-day long, but most especially where the waiters are apparently trained to be extra patient with children (just imagine 5 kids ages 2-9 years old!)  and the other customers were pretty much tolerant of the kids’ making the place a one big playground. ( They didn’t look annoyed, in fact I think they enjoyed the scene:-)) Thank God it’s Sunday! Isn’t it that family lunches are like this? Adults talk endlessly while kids are given a break and just – well- be just kids. Look at what 10 years can do!

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It is true that as time goes by, we “press on” to know each other more. Press on means we move forward, we progress.  Our talks were no longer limited to work and politics as we often discussed then, but also of families, our marriages, child-rearing and discipline , and yes , future engagements.  We have moved on from just knowing each other’s facts and bio. We pressed on to know more of each other in a personal  way.

Pretty much like discipleship, it is not enough to know the facts about Christianity. We should know Jesus more whom we follow in a personal, intimate way as we grow in our walk with Him. That is why we are called’ to “press on” to know Him!  Then He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring “.

Press on and grow!

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“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:14