Sunday
Jan222017

Psalm 23 - A Beloved Psalm

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Enduring both in its beauty and simplicity, Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved Psalms of the Bible. It is one of our earliest recollections of memorizing the Scriptures.

From the outset, David, the author of this great Psalm, declares rather emphatically and confidently, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." It indicates an absolute trust in the Lord to provide for all his needs - virtually everything imaginable (and unimaginable!) in this life - from the spiritual to the physical, to the emotional and the material.

To declare such confidence boldly and convincingly speaks of David's deep, abiding, and strong relationship with God without which no one can declare and claim such kind of absolute and utmost trust in the Lord. The key lies in a healthy and abiding relationship with God marked by an authentic and unshakeable faith in Him.

Even in the midst of pain, failure, and turmoil this Shepherd provides rest, refreshment, and restoration for "He makes us to lie down in green pastures...leads us beside the still waters...restores our soul...and leads us in the paths of righteousness." In a world filled with noise and many conflicting voices, we can always withdraw to a place of quiet, clarity, and security - right in the very reassuring presence of this Great Shepherd.

As a mighty warrior who has been to ferocious battles, David has seen the face of death multiple times. Yet through all those times he is without fear. He is oozing with confidence as he boldly declares, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...for you are with me." He knows that his life is in the Shepherd's hands and come what may, he is eternally secure.

While David has many enemies that threaten his life and his people, he is assured of God's protection and preservation - a special favor that makes even his enemies wonder in amazement as they watch God at work in his life and over His chosen people. God protects. God vindicates.

David wraps up this magnificent Psalm with an affirmation of God's everlasting grace over his life, a prayer and a promise that can lift up anyone's soul: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

This beautiful Psalm points to the One who came to earth one day and walked the shores of Galilee - Jesus. He made a strong connection to Psalm 23 when He declared,
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). And indeed He laid down His life for us more than 2,000 years ago at a place called Calvary.

Yes, life can be unfair and downright cruel at times. We live in a fallen world and everyone experiences good things as well as bad things. But as we put our trust in the Great Shepherd, He will help us navigate through all the storms of life. Like a shepherd to his sheep, He will always keep us close, watching over us to make sure we make it safely home.
Sunday
Jan152017

Psalm 22 - A Vivid Prophetic Description of the Suffering King

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While Psalm 21 is all about the reigning, conquering King of the universe, Psalm 22 gives indication of the kind of suffering this King will go thorough when He appears the first time. This is something that the Jews had missed at the first advent of Jesus. They were expecting someone who would overthrow the Roman government and reestablish their own sovereign state. But alas, the promised King was uncharacteristically born to a poor family in a barn, putting a big dent to Jesus' credibility as the promised King among the Jews. To this day, many Jews are still awaiting the arrival of this reigning, conquering King.

David, in vivid prophetical description of Jesus' agonizing death on the cross, plumbs the depth of his own suffering and, aided by the Holy Spirit, gives a startling revelation of future events spanning hundreds of years. The very first words of Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" echoes Jesus' cry on the cross. Then in verse 7, Jesus' poignant experience in the hands of the Jews while on the cross was clearly depicted: "All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads, 'He trusts in the Lord,' they say, 'let the Lord rescue him...'"

When Jesus experienced excruciating pain and thirst, David, through his own experience hundreds of years before, remarkably predicted the exact agonizing pain of Jesus on the cross. This is how he described his own suffering in verses 14-18:

"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment."

Amazingly, David has just perfectly described the Savior's future incomprehensible suffering that brought about redemption to humanity's fall. One of the greatest proofs of the accuracy, reliability, and infallibility of the Word of God is its fulfilled prophecies.

With great determination and remarkable faith, in the midst of his intense suffering, David continues to hold on to the greatest hope he has - God himself. He proclaims and affirms, "But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me."

With God on his side, David emerges victorious, his faith unscathed, and now he encourages everyone to put their trust in the Lord, to fear, praise, and honor Him. He cries out triumphantly, "I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!"

Psalm 22, though it directly expresses David's own experience, is all about the future suffering and the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for our sins which is fulfilled in Calvary. His death freed us and gave life to our dying soul. As we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, submit and follow Him, we discover that there is more to this life than we have ever known. Like David this is what I proclaim and will continue to proclaim:

"They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!"
Monday
Jan022017

A Grander Vision for 2017

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After defeating the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie of 1813, Oliver Hazard Perry, commander of the American fleet, dispatched one of the most famous messages in military history to Maj. Gen. William Henry Harrison. It read: "Dear Gen'l: We have met the enemy, and they are ours..."

In 1970 cartoonist Walt Kelly famously paraphrased the statement as, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

In our quest for personal change, we will discover soon enough that the greatest foe to overcome is self. Old habits are hard to die and replace. It takes an iron-clad commitment to pursue change every second, every minute...hour and day.

But if we are going to pursue a grander vision for 2017 and live up to God's purposes...change we must. And in recognizing our need for change, we are well underway for a great New Year!

Here's something I just read (source: Philippine Star):

According to WHO Philippines, these resolutions would lead to a healthier and happier 2017:

Have a healthy and balanced diet
Quit smoking
Exercise
Drink less alcohol
Visit your local health center regularly

And if I may add, give time for proper care of the soul. It's the one thing that will last for eternity. Happy New Year!
Saturday
Dec242016

Christmas - the One Event that Shook History and Split it in Half: B.C. and A.D.!

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Galatians 4:4-5

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." (ESV)

“But when the fullness of time had come…” (v.4a)

From the eternal counsels of heaven God set in motion the plan of redemption. All the Old Testament prophecies concerning the first arrival of the promised Messiah were about to unfold. The time was ripe for the gospel to be proclaimed throughout the world. The Roman Empire was in power and they had built roads and bridges, and all the infrastructures needed for trade and commerce to prosper, which brought people closer together. These were all favorable to the gospel, which later on, the apostles, foremost of which is the apostle Paul, were able to use for the evangelization of Asia, Europe, and beyond.

“God sent forth His son…” (v.4b)

This is the very heart of Christmas - the one event that shook history and split it in half: B.C. and A.D.! When God gave up His Son, He understood the full ramifications of God being in the hands of angry sinners. A divine, pure sacrifice must be made to satisfy His righteous justice. There was no other way. No person on his own can ever atone for his sins no matter what he does. While all other religions teach that people must reach out to God and meet His holy standards to be saved, Christianity teaches that God has reached down to us and did it all on the Cross of Calvary. While other teachings say, “do” Christianity says, “done.” And Jesus did it once and for all.

“Born of a woman, born under the law…” (v.4c)

God’s answer to human suffering is not an explanation but the incarnation. He was born of a woman to indicate that while he was fully God He was also fully man who went through the full gamut of all human experiences. He felt rejection. He felt pain. He was emotionally shaken. He wept. When we are tempted to say that life is unfair, the incarnation reminds us that God “has been there, done that.” He came and identified with our sorrows, struggles, and pain. He subjected Himself to the very laws He created so that He might fulfill them - both the letter and the spirit of the law.

“So that He might redeem those who were under the Law…” (v.5a)

Through His suffering, death, and resurrection, the old covenant was abolished and a new covenant of grace was established – His unmerited favor extended to undeserved sinners. To “redeem” means, “to buy from the slave market.” We were all consigned in the slave market because of the fall of man. But Christ became our full, absolute, and final payment for sins. His death freed us from the dark slave market and gave us complete freedom that brought us into the kingdom of His light.

“That we might receive the adoption as sons…” (v.5b)

The incredible gift of sonship. It is the greatest gift that we can ever receive. The one gift that surpasses all gifts is a relationship with God through His Son. What the first Adam lost in the Garden of Eden, Jesus, the second perfect and last Adam, regained it back from the cross. Death came to all through the trespass of one man, but life came through the sacrifice of one pure, spotless Lamb of God – Jesus. In Romans 5:18 and 19, Paul beautifully sums it up for us, “Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.”

Today, as we enter the season of gift giving, why don’t we receive the greatest gift ever available to mankind? It’s free for the asking. All it takes is to receive Jesus by faith and accept Him into your heart. Surrender your life to Him and repent of your sin. Trust Him and you will never be the same person again. Merry Christmas!
Tuesday
Dec132016

Psalm 21 - The One True King

img_0083Psalm 21 is a depiction of a victorious king - undoubtedly a prophetic reference to the One true King - Jesus. If the prior psalm - psalm 20 is a prayer that speaks of the king's blessing upon his army, psalm 21 is a bestowal of blessings upon the king himself.

The author of this psalm is David, the greatest king of Israel. In it, he acknowledges that it's God's strength and power that gave him the victories he accomplished as a king. Let's listen in to him, "The king rejoices in your strength, LORD. How great is his joy in the victories you give!"

Kind David recognizes God as an answering and giving God who grants his heart's desire and has not withheld his requests. God also gave him unending blessings foremost of which is eternal life and joy in His presence. And because he trusts in the Lord, he will not easily falter. These are wonderful royal benefits that king David experienced yet they are also available to anyone who is a child of God. Just come to think of it, as sons and daughters of the King and Ruler of the universe, we have all these royal benefits in Christ for we belong to His kingdom! (read Ephesians 1).

From verse 8 till the end of this psalm, king David turns his attention to the power, strength, and might of the one true King. This King will one day appear for battle and will burn his enemies up as in a "blazing furnace...and His fire will consume them." Talk of divine retribution - while we are looking for true justice in the world today against evil atrocities it will not come until the coming of this one true King. Human justice is usually corrupt, unfair, and does not go far enough. But divine justice is perfect, fair, and swift.

And so with David we shout, "Be exalted in your strength, LORD; we will sing and praise your might."