But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ Luke 18:13
They brought my father to undergo a detailed scan of his head. After his heart attack, the doctors realized he must have blood clot in his brain. To identify where the clot is, they needed to bring him to a clinic with a CT Scanner. With the scan, they specified where the clot was, and they were successful in taking out the clot. You see, without the scan, they would not have located where the unwanted clot in the brain.
Imagine if my father covered his head when inside the scanning machine, of course, they would not have found what should they have found. My father lived after the scan and the operation, eventually he succumbed due to complications after a year.
The tax collector did not cover his heart. He exposed himself to God. He allowed himself to be scanned thoroughly. Before God who is sinless and holy, he recognized the sinner and unholy in him. In contrast, the Pharisee covered his heart and soul inside the scan. He did not want to be exposed before God. He took self-righteousness as his mask. He made going to God’s scanner as a costume party, he was not himself before God.
Imagine the effect of covering yourself before God, you pretend you are whom you are not. No matter what your cover is, God sees and knows who you are. And in spite of who you are, God loves you. You don’t need to cover yourself before him. You can be yourself before him. You can allow yourself to be scanned before him. You can beat your chest and confess what you have done wrong before him he is ready to forgive and he will still accept you.
Go to the scanner without cover. Be healed. Be justified. And you will live on and on and on. Not only for a year.
Brothers and sisters : I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,… Ephesians 4:1
A scene from Grey’s Anatomy….
April’s back was against the wall. She was surrounded. The discussion of her fellow hospital residents was all about how they lost their virginity. One specified the date. Another said about a particular place. A young male doctor smiled and stated with whom. A female doctor cited the ambiance. And April? She did not want to jump in into the story telling. But she has to as they pointed all eyes on her. She had to make a script of her own. She started to search for the right words yet she was not successful. So, they concluded she is still a virgin. The scenes which came after this one portrayed her fellow residents teasing and mocking her about her virginity. April wanted to be blend in, in the end, she did not.
It is not clear if April is a Christian or not in the popular TV series. So, let’s not delved into April’s life, let’s turn to ours.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in the same scene – a Gray Anatomy.
- You are looking for news at this website and then your eyes poked at the gossip section of the site. You clicked the link and read several stories of lives of people.
- You are driving and suddenly a lady jogger with a gorgeous body cuts in your path. Instantly, your eyes feed your mind to fantasies you usually enjoy.
- You come home tired and stressed from work. Your child asked for help in her homework and you found a mistake in her math assignment. You raise your voice upon her. She is startled yet you continue to pressure her that she should know this.
- You thought about discussing a person’s life since you thought are pastorally concern. Yeah, you thought. After talking about it for some time, you still have no direction or whatever to handle matters. But you enjoyed discussing someone’s weakness and difficulties for you feel superior.
These are some of the situations where we blend in. We blend in to the situation. We blend in into our natural tendencies. We blend in into the world’s directions and standards. We recognize that there is white and black yet there is an area which is gray in our anatomy. Isn’t it clear it should be clear?
Paul is clear on this. He encouraged the early Christians and is encouraging us – to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received. The life we are called for is to live in the light. The manner we are called for is holiness. Notice Paul’s instruction doesn’t contain any time or place element. He did not say, “to live in a manner worthy of the call you received during Sundays only…”. He did not say, “to live in a manner worthy of the call you received during prayer meetings only…” He did not say, “to live in a manner worthy of the call you received during you feel like it only…” Paul’s teaching is for all times. It is for all situations where we find ourselves. It is for all places where we are at.
We are called to live a life worthy of our calling. And watch out for any Gray Anatomy.
At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 2 Timothy 4:16-17
Defense. You need five players against five players in a basketball game. Stop any of the five from taking shots. Defend the perimeter and the bottom of the post. Block the jumpers and putting hands up on the slashers. Getting near the basket is a big No. Five players need to form a solid fence to prevent the opposing players to score. But defense does not stop there. After defending the keyhole, they need to grab the ball and turn the tide on the other team. If a team wants to win a game, as they say, defense is the best offense.
Paul did not have the luxury of a team during a defensive play. He was all alone defending the turf. His team deserted him. His team filed leave of absences during the game. No one showed up for him to guard the post. He was one man defensive team. Or so he thought. He got the Lord by his side. The Lord stood his ground and by Paul’s game. The Lord put up a solid defense with Paul.
More than the fence they built, the Lord gave Paul the strength he needed to withstand the attack of the offense. The strength to block the ball, it’s from the Lord. The strength to stop the streaking shooter, it’s from the Lord. The strength to defend the quick step player, it’s from the Lord. Paul just needed to be present at the defense, the Lord supplied the strength.
Further, the Lord’s intention is to turn this defensive mode into an instant offense. Paul mentioned – so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. The Lord will turn the tide. He has a game plan for Paul to advance the ball to the other court. The Lord will forward the mission into an offensive siege.
If today, you feel all alone in your defense, think again. If you see no one has shown concern at your defense, think again. The Lord stands by your side. The Lord gives you all the strength you need. He is busy sketching play to turn the tide for your benefit. The Lord will allow things to happen so you can forward his mission for you. Maybe for now the ball is not on your hands, but it will be. Be ready for your offensive game.
If your life is on the defensive mode, look upon the Lord, he alone is our defense.
Brothers and sisters : I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:.. Ephesians 4:1-3
We should have read the following:
Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to visit me twice a day. Schedule one by one so that I have company each hour in my prison cell. Contact all connections you have, use your influence so I may be free in no time. Collect all what you can collect among the believers for the judge has set my bail to a very stiff amount. Have you heard yet from my attorney? I am having doubts about the lawyer you recommended, he is not following up the proceedings of my case and I was told he was always at the side of the defeated end at each court battle. My fellow prisoners here at the facility have been staring at me with eyes of doom just like I stared at the early believers whom I have persecuted. I don’t like prison food. I don’t like prison clothes. I don’t like prison bedding. I don’t like prison bathroom. I don’t like being in prison. Pray for me, I am losing heart and courage.
Glad we did not. Glad we saw Paul’s encouragement though he was the one who needed it. He urged them: live in a manner worthy of the call you received. He advised them: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love. He rallied them to be one: strive to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. He was the one in a dark prison cell yet he was the one who was shedding light. He was the one who was needing directions yet he showed them the path. He should have let himself all alone in one cold corner and question God about what is happening with his mission but he did not.
Huh, this is what Paul did. He requested the warden for his hands to be free from being handcuffed. He asked the prison guard for a table and a chair. He sat and reach for his bag and his hands wander for his pen and paper. And he wrote those words. Words that call the called to live the calling. Words which brings the proud to the ground and to the heart. Words that make the divided into one.
Can we be like Paul? If you are prisoner of a terminal disease, may you have the words and prayers for healing of the patient at the other room. If you are a prisoner of financial difficulties, may you continue to share what you have. If you are a cellmate of trouble in fulfilling God’s mission, may you maintain the heart for others. When you are a prisoner of life’s uncertainty, may you be quick to admonish and help friends. When you are a prisoner of pride, may you lift up the lowly and poor in spirit.
May you please finish this blog? Brothers and sisters: Your Name, a prisoner for the Lord,…….
Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
“Why is the the sea salty?”
This was the last question in my last elementary district science quiz bee. If I get this correctly, I will win. But I did not know the right answer. So I guessed, I wrote – because of the sun. I thought because the seas are exposed to the heat of the sun that it became salty just like the human skin’s perspiration. I was wrong. Someone got it right and he won. The right answer to the question? – because of the mineral deposits within. What makes the sea salty is what is within it. What is deposited within the sea allows it to taste that way. Every living thing or non-living thing inside the sea makes contributions as to why it tastes salty. It is not about what is external to it; it is about what is internal in it.
And so with us.
The Ephesians read and learned it from Paul – the power at work within us. What makes us holy is not our externalities, it is him who is within us who makes us holy. What gives us strength is the power deposited in us and not what we perceived we know in our minds or what we can do by ourselves. And Paul does not set a limit. He describes, Jesus is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine. Ask Jesus about what he can or will do for you – he is able to do far more than that. Imagine Jesus doing this and that for you – he is able beyond this and that. And Jesus is the power within us. He is in our hearts deposited. He is the one who makes us salty. He is the power within us who makes things impossible possible. Far more than we can ask or we can imagine.
Unlike the minerals under the sea who does not know what they are doing to make the sea as salty as possible, the power is at work within us and is at work with purpose. He aims for us to follow him by the power within us. He intends for us to love him and to love one another. He is at work within us for us to work for our less fortunate brothers and sisters. He stirs in our hearts the desire to spread his word of love and encouragement to your family, to your officemate, to your long lost friends. He lives within us for us to make things right not wrong.
We will not be defeated. We will succeed; we will be victorious by the power at work within us.
Prosperity will march before the Lord, and good fortune will follow behind. Psalm 85:14
Sometimes, we endure sufferings in walking with the Lord. We experience difficulties in being with him. You struggle in life offered to him. You wrestle with bad health, job loss, relationship problems and family issues when you become his follower. When you decide to be with his side, things get rough and life gets tough.
This is so true. But it’s just the half of the story. The psalmist reveals the other half.
The Lord is sandwiched between prosperity and good fortune. What are ahead of him are prosperous moments. What are behind him are good riches. When we walk with him, these things come to us. Our future is prosperous. Good destiny follows us. More than material wealth, what we must see here is we will have the grace when we needed it. We will be rich with grace. We will have the strength when we are weak. We will be filled with strength. We can’t say, we lack thus we succumb. We can’t say, there is not enough thus we surrender. We can’t say, it’s too much thus we give up marching with him. There will be enough. There will be satisfaction. There will be too much for the too much. For before him is prosperity, behind him is good fortunes. We, too, are sandwiched.
Observe when you are in traffic. You look upfront. You also look at the rear view mirror. If I am in a heavy traffic and I stare at the rear view, I’d say, “I have made it this far.” When I look at the wind shield, I’d whisper, “The best is yet to come.” Well, life is a heavy traffic (see first paragraph above). Allow the Lord to drive your life. Let him hold the wheel. Ask him to lead you. When he drives, more than a Pajero is in front of you- prosperity! When he drives, more than a Fortuner is behind you- good fortune! Stay with him in traffic. Choose to be with him in traffic. Be loyal to him in traffic.
Prosperity will march before the Lord, and good fortune will follow behind. Given this, who would not want to walk with him?
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7
Got two cents?
Indeed during his time, sparrows cost less. Yet, though they seem to be “worthless” by their value, they enjoy God’s blessings. Whether they are free or not, someone will surely feed them. When their feathers are with dirt, the caretaker brings them out to clean them up. When they are bugged by other species, the caretaker protects them. Surely, they don’t put much work. Sparrows can just stand on their branch all day. Imagine their worth – 5 sparrows divided by 2 cents. That is about $0.002 per sparrow. However, God does not forget them. God values the worthless. God treasures the less valuable. God keeps notice for the $0.002 worth package.
We have a God who one day, dropped in his two cents to claim his people. And his two cents did not match the merchandise. His Son nailed on the cross – his two cents. A people of no worth because of their sins – the merchandise.
God bought us with two cents- his valuable only Son. His only Son on the cross. His only Son walking where he should not. Jesus eating at a table where he should not. If you think you are worthless, you are. We are. I am. No action or no credential will add to our value. No skills or resume will add to our worth. No outer clothing will append our importance. No idea or wisdom can be attached to our significance. Only God through his love can procure people like us who are like sparrows. We depend on God for his grace to cope the hard day. We wait for his providence. We look for his protection. We expect his hand to heal us. Though we work, we find our strength in him alone. Our value is not anchored with what we are or what we can do but with God and his love for us.
Next time, you’ll hear someone about to share his take and say, “My two cents…” remember God shared his.