Lenten Devotions 2015: When you feel abandoned…

Jesus Christ clearly warned his followers: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16: 33). So, today, if you or someone you know is suffering to the extent of feeling abandoned, you should not be surprised at all. Instead, we need to find encouragement from Jesus Christ who himself suffered for us. That’s why he hastened to add: “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33). How is Jesus able to encourage those who are suffering today and feel dejected? Is it through some lofty ideal or philosophical thought? Is it through a best-seller, self-help book that he penned? Absolutely not. And that is the main difference between him and many gurus of this world: unlike others, Jesus personally suffered dejection. He came out victorious from his sufferings, pain, and abandonment to show us that we, too, could overcome.
Psalmist David composed this song centuries before Jesus walked on this earth:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest…” (Psalm 22: 1-2).

We immediately recognize these words because Jesus used them as he hung on the cross of Calvary. Whatever Psalmist David was personally going through when composing it, he was also prophetically describing the coming Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ. Jesus would have read and memorized this song during his life on earth for it came so readily to his lips when he suffered on that cursed cross for you and me. When Jesus went through this rejection by his own people and was abandoned by his own disciples, it was something that he was expecting and was prepared for. However, when he realized the unbearable burden of sins laid on him at the cross, he could not take this anymore. The sins of the world brought a momentary separation between him and God the Father, which was unbearable for Jesus who had lived in a constant fellowship with God. Hence, in such an agonizing separation, Jesus cried out in a loud voice:

Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27: 46).

Nevertheless, let’s thank God that it was not Jesus’ last cry from the cross. He did not die with the feeling of abandonment on Calvary. If that was the case, you and I had no hope and no salvation. However, Jesus quickly gained back his belief that God is holy, and that holy God was his Father who would not leave him forever. That is why, the last words on Jesus’ lips were the words of love, hope and absolute confidence before he breathed his last:

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23: 46).

He knew that the greatest pain he would face on this earth was the abandonment from his Father God, so that God could assure the world that he would never abandon his people. So, my friend, if you are in pain and feeling like King David in Psalm 22— cheer up. Even when you feel God is silent or so far away from you, you can be confident that He is with you and will never abandon you. Amen.

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Lenten Devotions 2015: Laid-Off In Lent!

4169446509_6aa98da329_oMy day began today with a depressing phone call from a fellow believer who shared the bad news of his being laid off from work. He has worked for this company for over 3 years now and suddenly found himself out of work. He is the only bread-winner in his family of five and obviously quite worried as it is not easy to land a new job soon. I wish I could tell my friend and a thousand others in his situation, like some prosperity preachers, that you could have “Your Best Life Now”!

The Bible makes it very clear that God wants us to work with our hands and to earn an honest living. So if God intends us to work what does he want us to do when we lose our job? Doesn’t God know that mortgage and bills need to be paid and the family needs are to be met? I know these are difficult questions. I know what it means to be out of work. I have spent months in that situation while eagerly waiting to welcome our first child in this world. What I have learned from my personal experience and from the Word is that, of course, God knows all about us and our needs. We need to trust God to supply all our needs even during the laid-off period. This trust is very important because even when we earnestly pray, it may take a long time before one finds a well-paying job of one’s liking. While we must diligently do all we can to search for a good job, we should put our trust in God to lead us in the right direction and to open the right doors for us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3: 5-6)
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
….
I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing” (Psalm 37: 3-7; 25-26).

Secondly, God wants us to use this time of unemployment to grow spiritually and to be keenly involved in our interests and passions. Just as in our good times, God wants us to call upon him in times of our need and distress (Hebrews 4: 1). There are several psalms in the Old Testament that testify to what King David says in Psalm 18:

“I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.

Thirdly, God wants you to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (I Peter 5: 7 NIV). When you lose a job or are in some need, you normally turn to someone who cares about you. Here, the Apostle Peter clearly shows that our difficult times are not hidden from God. He not only knows but really cares about us. Therefore, we need to turn and come closer to him for help during the time of unemployment, too.

These difficult times may last longer than expected; however, in the end they will result in a better you. You will come out of this period of trial as a better person knowing God better and being able to help others who find themselves in similar situations as yourself. For this reason, let us be encouraged through the Apostle Paul’s exhortation:

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5: 3-4 NIV).

The Advent message is clear: Fear not!

fear

The Advent message is clear: Fear not!

Please Read: Luke 1: 26-38

The frightening events around the world today make us fearful. I submit that I am afraid of so many things. If you’re a news junkie like me, you may also be troubled. What kind of world are we living in today? What kind of world are we going to leave behind for our children? What kind of humans are we turning into? Has humanity always been so depraved since the Fall? If the current events are a commentary on who we are as human beings, then, I think instead of trying to be human, we better try to be just more humane! In this fearful context, we are in the midst of celebrating Advent—one of the most sacred seasons in the Christian calendar. We know that it’s a season of preparation for the coming of Christ. Yet, how do we prepare ourselves in this world that is marred by terror and distress?

I believe the sovereign God knows our predicament because fear is one of the first consequences of sin (Genesis 3: 8-10). He knows that we are scared and anxious and has a word of encouragement for us today. This comes from the mouth of angels who visited different people before the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Almost invariably, in all appearances of the angels to different people, they predicated their message with these words: “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 1: 13, 30; 2: 10; Matthew 1: 20)   I am sure situation of the people living in the period before Jesus’ birth was like ours. They didn’t have any prophets for a long time. The word of God was rare. They were ruled by a brutal Roman Empire. Their hopes of the promised Messiah and the Redeemer were fast diminishing. They were a people afraid for the future of Israel and the future of their children. Therefore, the Lord had especially instructed the angels to address the anxieties and fears of his people before they share the message of Christmas to them. The Lord wanted to assure them that He knew they were scared. He wanted to reassure them that God understands our dreads and he wants to allay our fears and fill us instead with hope and joy of the coming of his son Jesus Christ. Yes, God wants us to celebrate in the midst of our fears because the good news is also a good new for our fears. In fact, this good news is much needed in the midst of our terrors and hopelessness. It is only the good news of the coming Messiah that helps us make sense of our world. Only through the good news of the God incarnate is there some hope for a fallen and depraved humanity. Only because of Jesus Christ, we can hope for a better world at the return for Christ to this earth.

So, let’s not lose hope. Let’s not be too fearful. Let’s heed the words of the angels for each one of us: “Fear not.” God wouldn’t scare us into faith, but he also doesn’t want us to continue to live in our fears. He did come down and dwelt among us, the depraved human beings, in order to relieve us from our anxieties and fears. That’s why his name is Immanuel, i.e., God with us! No matter what your fears may be today, he knows each on of you. So, let’s focus on the words of the angels and on this divine fact: “God is with us”. Whatever you may be going through, keep calm and whisper this truth to yourself: God is with me right now. He will be with me no matter what happens around me.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus.