Sunday, July 18, 2010

FILLED with the SPIRIT

(The following are the gifts which delighted my spirit as the SPIRIT led me on a rambling GODventureZ bike ride to Coronado.)

Having read A. W. Tozer's Life in the SPIRIT -- i felt confirmation that i was indeed being "filled" by the SPIRIT. As a follower of CHRIST JESUS, i know that i am no longer under any eternal condemnation for the sins i've committed (and continue to commit in this flesh which my born-again spirit is housed -- the "flesh" is anything to do with the body: its material substance, heart/mind, thoughts, will, habits, actions, words, personality, ambitions). The LORD JESUS redeemed me (paid for all my sin-debts) with His own precious blood that was shed on the Cross at Calvary. All my sins -- past, present and future -- were cancelled out when i repented and turned to GOD for forgiveness and asked CHRIST JESUS to be LORD and Master of my life.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in CHRIST JESUS, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the SPIRIT. For the Law of the SPIRIT of life in CHRIST JESUS has made me free from the Law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

Such matchless gift is from the grace of GOD, which i received with utter gratefulness, knowing that i did not deserve GOD's merciful pardon; nor could i ever repay even one iota of the indescribable gift of salvation -- freed from the slavery of my sin nature -- born again of the Holy SPIRIT... a new creature in CHRIST, indwelt by the living SPIRIT.

In the past, i've prayed to be filled by the Holy SPIRIT -- having made a conscious and willful commitment of surrendering all to CHRIST. As Oswald Chambers has written, true surrender is "giving up my rights to my rights." To me, true surrender is acknowledging that "my" all is not really mine at all, but the all that i've been given were all from GOD. My very life...each breath i breathe... the very body in which my soul moves -- all are His gifts. For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. (Psalm 50:12b)

What does it mean to be "filled" by the Holy SPIRIT? It's like being a doulos to a kurios -- a slave to his master. Since CHRIST bought me with His own shed blood, redeeming me from a literal eternal Hell -- therefore, He owns me. i am His to do as He purposes. i am as clay to the Master Potter. i am as the brush to the Master Artist.

So to be filled by indwelling GOD the Holy SPIRIT is to be controlled, dominated, mastered in everything and all that i am. The SPIRIT has all the keys to all the rooms of my house -- He also owns the deed! i am His possession.

The SPIRIT is GOD... is CHRIST JESUS -- He is my Sovereign LORD. i am His child, obedient to the authority of the heavenly Father. i am His student, following the teachings of the Master Teacher. i am His slave, serving to please only Him. A student is not greater than the teacher. A servant is not greater than the master. (Matthew 10:24)

But to me -- being controlled and mastered by GOD the Holy SPIRIT is a privilege -- a priceless gift indeed.

To be owned by the Divine Designer who created the cosmos is "status" indeed.

To be instructed by the greatest Teacher and Counselor Who ever lived (and now sits at the right hand of GOD the Father) is blessing indeed. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty GOD, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

To be provided for and nourished by the infinitely abundant Provider and Giver of all good things is security indeed. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

To be empowered to overcome my human frailties by the same power that raised JESUS from the grave is supernatural strength indeed. The SPIRIT of GOD, who raised JESUS from the dead, lives in you. And just as He raised CHRIST from the dead, He will give life to your mortal body by this same SPIRIT living within you. (Romans 8:11)

To be comforted by the most tenderhearted and compassionate Comforter is peace and solace indeed. But You, O LORD, are a GOD full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. (Psalm 86:15)

To be loved by the indescribable Lover Himself, who gave up His own Son, Who gave up His very life to save such a wretch as myself (and all others who would entrust their lives to Him and follow Him wherever He leads) -- to rest in this unfathomable love is contentment indeed. For GOD so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

It is no longer difficult to surrender my all to such GOD who is Love manifest in CHRIST JESUS. This is real love. It is not that we loved GOD, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:10)

On this Saturday, as blogged in GODventureZ -- i asked to be filled with the SPIRIT, who is the SPIRIT of JESUS, who is in GOD the Father... to lead me wherever He desires. Rather than attending a Zumba master-class, i was happily persuaded to spend the day with Him -- my Constant Companion -- to just be being led, one step at a time... pedaling leisurely with no clock or agenda to follow.

The SPIRIT answered my prayer with this experience of consciously and knowingly being filled with His presence during the GODventureZome bike ride to Coronado.

The pictures above documented the real gifts that the SPIRIT generously bestowed as i joyfully obeyed His gentle leading -- the vibrant flowers that He made me see not only with my physical eyes, but also with the eyes of my heart; the bird calls that He attuned for my ears to hear, but also as music for my soul; the songs that journeyed from my heart and spilled from my lips; the constant smile that was the evidence of the joy that He shed abroad in my spirit. If you can remember your lightness of being when you first fell in love, you can identify with this fullness of joy.

And the gift that made "my cup runneth over" -- the hat to replace the one i gave away in Taveuni. The LORD is my Shepherd; i shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and i will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

SEVEN LAST WORDS And 29 Tomatoes

Most of us display our sin nature -- the far-from-perfect "old man" -- when we are not at our best (or not getting our own way). When someone on the freeway is driving at 53mph, we impatiently call him "#@%Sunday Driver!" Or when a cyclist splatters road-side mud all over our just-coiffed French poodle, we might point that very expressive finger. Or when we smash the not-so-funny funny-bone of our elbow, we might yelp out some four-letter word. Or when we are reeling with a migraine, and we just can't be bothered with putting on our social manners.

When we are hurting, whether physically, emotionally or mentally, we are challenged to exhibit our better nature... and almost always, we fail. Because we are focused on our own pain -- our mouth will usually express our "old man" nature -- with thoughtless expletives... with unkind, ungentle, unworthy words. (For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45b)

JESUS -- during His excruciating agony on the Cross -- did not sin. Not one word of unkindness or unworthiness came out of His mouth. Because JESUS was sinless, righteous through and through, Who was not tainted with man's "old man" nature, but characterized with His Father's own nature -- perfect holiness -- everything that came out of His mouth during his ultimate suffering was perfect and good.

JESUS -- as He experienced unbelievable pain -- the crown of thorns digging into His head, the gaping lacerations from the cruel scourging screaming intolerable agony as His body dragged on the rugged beam when He raised Himself up to gasp for breath, the bloody pierced hands and feet afire with indescribable pain...

JESUS -- Son of Man -- never uttered blasphemy. He did not curse His killers. He never complained. He did not blame GOD. He never sinned. CHRIST, GOD the Son, died sinless -- leaving us an example in His dying to follow in our living.

CHRIST left us seven sayings before He died on the Cross. With these seven last words of JESUS, we can follow His example of dying so that we may live, pleasing GOD, our Father in Heaven. (Below is a summary of John MacArthur's sermon on JESUS' Death Shows Us How To Live... illustrated with My Backyard tomatoes.)

The first saying of JESUS was, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) JESUS forgave those who rejected Him, who insulted Him, who did not believe Him (despite the countless miracles He did which testified to His authenticity as GOD the Son), who plotted His death, who cast their vote to kill Him, who spat on Him, who pulled the hair off His beard, who beat Him with their fists, who scourged Him to the point where He was unrecognizable, who hammered the nails in His hands and feet...He forgave His killers. He forgave -- and still forgives all who have fallen off the True Vine.

And as followers of CHRIST, we must also forgive all who have personally hurt us, however great or small the pain inflicted upon us -- 70 x 7 (Matthew 18:21-22)... for if the Master, Kurios, forgave even those who murdered Him, so must His doulos -- His slaves -- also forgive all.
The second saying of JESUS was, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) Even in His unbearable agony, JESUS kept true to His mission -- to save the lost. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10) The thief on the cross next to JESUS believed in JESUS as the Messiah, the CHRIST.

It was no accident that there were two sinners crucified with JESUS -- one to enter into paradise, the other into hell. The repentant thief recognized JESUS as sinless and undeserving the verdict of death. The unrepentant sinner continued to blaspheme JESUS. The repentant sinner acknowledged that JESUS was King and that He will rule in His Kingdom, for he said, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." (Luke 23:42) The penitent believed that JESUS will be resurrected, for a dead king cannot come into his kingdom -- but a resurrected King can.
And CHRIST, ever set on His mission to save the lost, even in His dying, was mindful to include this lost man... the repentant thief. Those who are CHRIST's own must also be zealous about reaching the lost -- no matter if rejected, mocked, or even persecuted. If JESUS is our LORD, we must do as He exemplified -- showing others the Door to eternal paradise.

The third saying of JESUS were the words, "Woman, behold your son!" "Behold your mother!" (John 19:26, 27) During this point in His physical agony, JESUS showed compassion for someone else. Even in His most intense pain, He was able to see beyond His own suffering. JESUS knew His mother Mary needed someone to comfort her when He left the physical world to ascend to Heaven, back to His Father. He didn't want to leave Mary with the yet unbelieving half-brothers and -sisters. So He gave the responsibility of taking care of His widowed mother to John, the apostle whom JESUS loved.

That's our example when we are going through our own trials and life's challenges. To not be so inwardly focused on our own problems, on our own personal needs, that we forget to help those who may be in worse shape. And even if they are not in a place of suffering as much as we believe we are -- helping others, focusing on others' needs is the Way that has been set for us to follow. If we are truly GOD's children, then we will love our brothers and sisters In CHRIST as much as we love ourselves.

The fourth saying of JESUS was, "My GOD, My GOD, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46) This was the climax of JESUS' agonizing ordeal: separation from the Father. This was the worst of the worst. This was the moment He didn't want to drink from that bitter cup at the garden in Gethsemane. As Son of Man in the flesh, He dreaded the unleashing of GOD's wrath resulting in the separation from His Father -- more than the physical torture of the Cross. JESUS knew the implication of sin -- separation from GOD.

John MacArthur aptly puts it, "Sin could do what nothing else in the universe could do. Men could not separate the Father from the Son...demons could not separate the Father from the Son...satan could not separate the Father from the Son...but sin separated the Father from the Son. It is the most devastating reality in the universe for it separates from GOD. And He experienced it... He who was in the Father and the Father in Him, He who was one with the Father and the Father one with Him, He who had enjoyed eternally uninterrupted perfect communion within the trinity is now forsaken by GOD. Why? Because He's bearing sin and sin separates. GOD is too holy to look on sin, to pure to behold iniquity, says the prophet Habakkuk. Sin alienates from GOD."

GOD's abandonment of JESUS teaches us that our sin separates us from intimate fellowship with GOD.

The fifth saying of JESUS was, "I am thirsty." (John 19:28) JESUS expressed His humanity... His need for someone to give Him a drink. This saying of CHRIST teaches us that we too must live dependently... humbly showing our human weaknesses -- to live, accepting help from others.

The sixth saying of JESUS was, "It is finished." (John 19:30) This was a triumphant declaration that the mission the Father had sent Him to do, He had accomplished. And so, we live, following this example of CHRIST. We aren't here just to run the race of life willy-nilly -- to start and fall on the wayside, or take a short-cut, or take a wrong turn -- or to just "up and die." It's not enough to say, "i ran part of the way" --or -- "i almost finished." We are here to finish the work GOD has purposed for us to do through the empowerment of the indwelling Holy SPIRIT.

The seventh and last saying of JESUS was, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46) JESUS, even at the point of death, continued to trust the Father, depending on His promise of resurrection. And that's how we must also live -- trusting our Father for everything, casting all our cares on Him. We must entrust and commit all parts of our lives -- even our death... and resurrection to Him. "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him." (Luke 12:5)

The life JESUS lived was exemplary -- He was the Master at living, and we are His students. But even in His death, JESUS gave us an example on how to live. At His most excruciating agony, He exemplified the Way to live -- to live forgiving others; to live sharing the Truth that leads to Heaven; to live doing more for others' well-being than one's own; to live knowing the destructive consequence of sin; to live humbly accepting our human frailties; to live with the single-minded focus of finishing the work GOD has purposed for us to do; and to live fully trusting and committing our lives in the hands of our almighty and ever-faithful Father -- GOD in Heaven.

Live as JESUS died...


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Saturday, July 3, 2010

The PARABLE of the TEN Tomatoes

Pastor Jim Baize of Ocean View Church told a parable about ten apples during one of his Sunday sermons. i don't have ten apples to illustrate the parable, but i do have ten, just-picked, fresh tomatoes from the backyard. (This is my take on the parable.)

As a Bible-believing follower of CHRIST JESUS, i believe that everything was created by the one true sovereign GOD -- our Father in Heaven. Therefore, since He is Creator of everything (including me...though He used the physical birth process through my earthly parents to bring me into the world -- Psalm 139:13-16), it makes perfect sense to me that GOD owns everything, including me -- my life, all that i am, and all that i have today. All are gifts from GOD.

The tomatoes in the backyard were planted by my uncle Ricardo and tended by my mom Rose...but GOD gave the increase. I have planted, Apollos watered; but GOD gave the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6)

These are the early summer bounty of tomatoes, ready for eating...GOD's gifts. (These illustrate but a portion of all the many blessings received each new day.)

These biggest three, i'll use for my grilled cheese sandwich... nothing like a hot off-the-grill cheese and tomato sandwich when famished! (These represent top priorities -- family, health, time.)

These other three, i will use for salsa...with chopped cilantro, onion, jalapeno pepper and ripe avocado. Scooped up with tortilla chips, it's fun food for the 4th of July Independence Day celebration. (These three illustrate what are also very important -- friends, art, personal goals.)

These other three beauties will be healthy snacks -- just sliced and lightly salted. (And these represent lifestyle, money, material necessities.)

Hmmm...this one is certainly not the best. Perhaps i'll give it to my next-door neighbor. It's still usable -- the spoiled part can be cut out and and the rest diced... it'll be perfect for an omelet. (The Holy SPIRIT uses the Conscience to convict: This does not put into practice JESUS' command to love one's neighbor as oneself. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39)

The story above is about giving back just a portion of what GOD has given. GOD doesn't demand our little bit, nor does He need any of it. He does deserve utmost honor and heartfelt worship, for He is the Giver of all life and all good things. And the part we offer to honor and worship Him must be the best part -- the firstfruits of our time, our talents, our money, our good works -- our very soul. Fear the LORD your GOD, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your GOD with all your heart and with all your soul... (Deuteronomy 10:12)

And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. (2 Chronicles 31:5)

Giving back to GOD is worship... it is thanksgiving... it is obedience for the child of GOD.

To me, GOD owns everything -- GOD controls everything. It is satan's lie that tells me i deserve to take the best for me, myself and i. He has pulled the wool over my eyes if i believe that the money i have is mine to use just for me, myself and i because i made it. And i would be a fool to believe that i have control over my body, my life, my destiny. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. (Psalm 39:5)

Everything i have -- my body, my daily bread, my very life -- are all from GOD. Even my salvation -- my eternal destiny -- is my most precious gift from Him. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17) By the grace of GOD, i am.

As a child of the Father, as a doulos to the Master, as clay to the Potter -- i "tithe"... i give back to GOD what He owns anyway.

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:10)

Through offerings, i give back a portion of the money He allows me to use. Through church ministries and fellowship, i give back the time He permits me to live out. Through sharing His Word (rLn art, blogs, OFF the WALL), i declare -- out of utter gratefulness and love -- that CHRIST alone is Savior and Giver of everlasting Life.

i give back to GOD what He has always owned -- my life. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for GOD loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7) After what CHRIST JESUS has done -- suffered intolerable agony on the Cross as atoning sacrifice so that sinners like me may be saved from eternal Hell -- it is but my reasonable service to offer my body, my life... a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to GOD... (Romans 12:1)