Category Archives: Devotional

High Places

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High Places

In reading the storyline of the kings of Israel and Judah, there seems to be a love-hate relationship with the Lord. For a particular period, there’d be “he did what was right in the sight of the Lord”, then there’d be a total shift to “he did evil in the sight of the Lord”. Details that would characterize the former and latter would be “did not remove the high places”, “sacrificed in the high places”, “built for themselves high places”, “removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars”…the narratives of obedience and disobedience seem to ebb and flow as the evidence of following God’s command to follow Him only appear and disappear through the course of time.

What are high places?

High places seem to be places that are literally elevated. In ancient times, as is visually obvious, high places bear a certain reverence. Shrines, pagodas, altar, pillars–these are high places where worship is drawn. While Abram, Jacob, and Joshua put up high places in honor of the only one true God, others create high places to call on to their gods.

In the time of King Josiah, an old Book of Law was found that radically changed the course of worship. No other high places was to be put up because these shift the peoples’ devotion to the real God. He “broke down and pulverized” these altars and such blatant act stressed that God detests anything that we put before Him, even the seemingly glorious ones.

God, what are my high places? What are my pseudo-worship altars? What are the pillars of my pride and joy in building a pagoda of my work? Break them down, Lord, lest they take away the true worship of the heart that no high place can contain.

Double Portion

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Double Portion

When I was working as a professional writer, I remember churning my brains out for words to fill the pages of our weekly newspaper. Hours would be spent threading words and weaving them into a web of a story. And while I struggled in my cerebration, I see my colleagues typing away as though the keypads weren’t fast enough to document their volubility. For someone who constantly feels like time is so fast and one’s actions are too slow, perhaps it’s not much to ask for a double portion of what is needed to accomplish a task.

When Elisha was asked by the prophet Elijah, who did wondrous miracles during the period of the kings in Israel, on what he hopes to be given before the latter would be taken away, Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”  Elisha was so bold to ask for a double portion, perhaps knowing that he does need the extra dose to get through the drama that the tumultuous times needed.

2 Kings 2:9 recounted the request of Elisha and I would like to ask God to do the same to me as I know full well that I am weak and He is strong, that I am easily swayed while His foundations are sure, that I succumb easily to temptations yet He will give me the grace to flee and overcome them, that my physical limits are incomparable to His enduring greatness, and in the end so that I may fulfill the task He has called me to do.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” Zechariah 4:6

 

 

Eternal Rest

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“There remains a rest, therefore, for the people of God.”

The writer of the Hebrew went on to explain that those who have entered “the rest” have “ceased from his works as God did from His”, to mean that only those who have died and moved on from the turmoils of this earth have indeed started their rest. The attainment of “rest” comes with it a prerequisite of “work”: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” It also entails an approval before “rest” is given: “So I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.'”

Reading these verses from Hebrews 4 made me think of the nature of man. Look around a typical working man and his unquenchable search for R&R (rest and relaxation), only to get tired after every vacation and coveting for more. Man has a seemingly insatiable desire to have ultimate comfort. How many times have we heard or ourselves wistfully desired, “If only I can be so and so, or I have this and that, I’m sure my life would be perfect.” Man, by nature, searches for something beyond the workings of the now. And in his continuous working, strives daily, hoping to land into that perfect place of forever. Yet no matter how seemingly perfect the situation we are in, it never seemed to last. That’s why when such times happen, we would have subtle wishes of, “I hope this would last forever,” knowing that it won’t because the steam of things would ultimately dissipate into mist.

God has placed eternity in the hearts of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11). It is that hole of “forever” that is so elusive we cannot even grab hold of it even as we try to put a cut-out puzzle piece to cover the whole. It is so pervasive, it dulls even the most active of souls.

We will never get satisfied. We will never get fully comforted. We will never attain perfect rest…at least not until we enter THE rest promised to us. And that is the redeeming value of rest, that we can have it. “And this is the promise that He has given us–eternal life.” (I John 2:25) There is a rest. There is a promise. Instead of prematurely chasing after rest (which we will attain in due time), let’s take comfort in the promise and believe that the One who has carved out that hole of eternity will one day fit His perfectly-molded piece and let us enter into His promised rest.

Honor the Builder

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There is a universal reaction when you see someone who was just beside you go ahead of you.

It’s not like you’re in a rat race. But there’s a twitching feeling in the heart when you look down at the ground you’re still on while someone else have gone up the pedestal way farther.

Call it jealousy. Call it low self-esteem. Call it pride. Whatever it is, it’s an unholy feeling.

I had that feeling recently when a classmate who self-admittedly wasn’t the most studious kind is now a lawyer holding a top post in the government. Yes, at our young age! And me, I didn’t pursue the law path, did journalism, went abroad, dabbled on creative projects, and if not for God’s sustaining grace, would have been a starving artist by now.

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On a blue morning, I was randomly flipping through my Bible when I found an unlikely verse that I never thought was even there. Hebrews 3:3, “He who built the house has more honor than the house.” It was a right-on slap-in-the-face comment for my sentiment.

How many times have we had a good meal and repeatedly shout out to the world via social media how good the food is, yet miss honoring, or at least, thanking the one who made it? How many times have we looked out into the great wilderness and gasp in awe at such magnificent rock formation yet dismiss the “maker of all things”? How many times have we credited the conspiracy of the universe for letting us be where we absolutely wanted to be instead of praising the one who has the sovereign will?

The Bible verse did more than just remind me of a God who created everything. It made me look beyond the accomplishment of other people and thank the God who was behind such achievement. Instead of letting this acid creep into my bones (“Jealousy is like cancer in the bones,” Proverbs 14:30), the wisdom of the Bible is teaching me to look up to Him who has transformed my classmate for the better and given her a very big break. And instantly, the unholy feeling dissolved in the mist. And I had added yet another praise list to an amazing and awesome God who does not settle for where we were, but brings us to where He wants us to be.

Let us worship the Creator, not the created. And that, in essence, recalibrates our wandering eyes, steadies our hearts, and puts our emotions in a good countenance.

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—June 11, 2015

Come Pilgrim, Come My Princess

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God wants us to be more than His creation. He has invited us to be a member of His family.

To be created is indeed a privilege. To be breathed life into is a gift of grace. Yet to be led to enter into the presence of the Maker and dwell in His Kingdom is privilege beyond privilege. It is a prized invitation that should set our feet into dancing, our lips into unceasing praise, our hearts into rejoicing, our minds into leaping!

The invitation is not based on past merit nor of present excitement. Just as Jesus’ disciples, having been invited to become His followers, went on to sleep when they should have stayed awake at such a precarious hour (Matthew 26). Instead, it is an invitation based on the sheer choosing of the inviter. In Love Letters from Your King by Sheri Rose Shepherd, the King empathizes with the invited: “I understand that you don’t know how it started, nor do you know how to become the who I have called you to be.”

I can’t understand it, I confess. Why God?

Him who invites bids us, “Rise, let us be going.” (Matthew 26:46) It is a call to “let the past sleep, but to let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him.” (February 18 My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers) Just as how His calling is based on His redeeming love, our future with Him is all based on His redemption. We come because we have been invited. We are able to come because His grace and mercy enable us to do so. We are coming because His love sustains us. If His grace, mercy, and love were not overwhelming, we would have fallen away from our own despair. Yet His is a well that does not run dry.

He bids us to come. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) He bid us to come, and to come as we are, not in princess clothes, but even in pilgrim sackcloths, because it is He, not us who will clothe us with the “garments of salvation” and cover us with “the robe of righteousness”.

“My princess, My child, I have chosen you, come, arise, let us get going.”

God of So Much More

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Learning last night about the “God of so much more” challenged my small brain to grasp the magnanimity of God’s exaggerated greatness, abundance, and big-ness!

In the gospel story where Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, He answered them with what we now know as “The Lord’s Prayer” or “Our Father”. He then shared a parable of a persistent friend knocking at a friend’s house at night for food. And because of such persistence–and not for the sake of friendship–the friend conceded. The lesson was “Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

My impression of the above story was that as a Christian, I should come boldly before the Lord and ask, seek, and knock–persistently as I can–and for sure my desires would be given. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:10) So oftentimes, I find myself telling God of my requests and reminding Him of those that remain unanswered.

Yet reading the following passages revealed a truth beyond what I thought I knew. Not that there’s anything wrong with asking, seeking, and knocking per se. But I realized that those aren’t the main point. Luke 11:11-13 states, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more with your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who asks Him!”

Jesus, in his very interesting way of communicating, was actually making a contrast, not a comparison! He wasn’t comparing God to the reluctant friend who gave because of annoyance nor to the father who would naturally give what the son asked for. He was contrasting them!

Jesus depicts God as a willing and generous heavenly Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children–not necessarily what they asked for, but surely what is best for them. In “The Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus said to tell God, “give us day by day our daily bread”, erasing the need to run to God late at night knocking for bread, because He would provide our daily needs. Jesus also said that our heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit, and we know that “…for we do not know what we ought to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)

The realization that God is indeed so much more than I thought He was (gives when asked and what I asked for) is shaking my brain until now. It’s confusing. Yet it’s so liberating! This God of so much more knows so much more, will give so much more, will let me know so much more what I really need…it’s beyond even asking, seeking, and knocking!

I am reminded of one of my favorite children’s illustrated book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram. Little Nutbrown Hare wants very much to make sure Big Nutbrown Hare knows how much he loves him by asking, “guess how much I love you?” He stretched his arms as wide as they could go and told his dad how much he loves him. And when Big Nutbrown Hare did the same thing, Little Nutbrown Hare realized that his dad’s arms were way wider. Little Nutbrown Hare went on to exemplify his love…”I love you as high as I can hop!” “I love you right up to the moon!” Only to be assured that his dad can hop way higher, and as he lays asleep, Big Nutbrown Hare whispers, “I love you right up to the moon–and back.”

We have a God of so much more.

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Wandering Morning

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This morning–in one of the rare moments when I woke up reminded that the first encounter I should have is not with the toilet nor a nice warm water but God–I read through Psalms 6 and 7. I had thought of just reading a chapter but I just couldn’t find anything there that spoke to me. Psalm 6 was a prayer of distress, and distress I wasn’t feeling! So I continued on to the next, until I stopped at the last verse of Psalm 7. “I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.”

I recall times in my pilgrim life when I awoke to an overwhelming sense of praise. It’s like my night’s slumber had constrained me from this bursting fountain of delight. Well today wasn’t that day.

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Despite of that dryness, I slightly decided (yes, slightly because it wasn’t like I was so adamant about it as much as I was very reluctant, actually) to make a DUTY out of my DEVOTION. I told myself that there were times that I had forced myself to eat even if I didn’t want to eat, or had a conversation with someone even if I didn’t have a voice. So there would be times that I’d really have to come to the Lord even if my whole being doesn’t really FEEL like doing so. Then I recalled something I had read a few weeks ago about meeting God as a “get to” experience, instead of a “have to”. I GET TO hang out with the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Maker of Heaven and Earth, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Adorable, Amazing, Awesome God! That thought alone should make me enthusiastic in encountering God.

The verse states, “I will praise the Lord…and will sing praises..” Nothing much of praise on my end. So I thought I’d youtube a few songs to get me started. I thought of songs that wouldn’t distract. I thought of looking up on my music library. Minutes passed. After a few tries, I was led to a song that echoed my heart’s cry. It wasn’t a cry of praise, but a bare cry of slightly wanting (yes it’s still slightly even to this point) to come to God but not really getting there.

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above.

God, please tune my heart to sing. Your mercy is never ceasing and so should my praise be. Could You please put songs in my heart and mouth pretty much what the angels sing up on high in sheer adoration? I’ve been singing songs to myself, to other people, to things that I enjoy, yet there are times when these things numb me and I miss the whole privilege of singing to You. I’m really sorry. Would You once again orchestrate my heart to strum the right strings, let my voice ride on Your melody? 

Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constraint to be!
Let Thy goodness like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart
Oh take and seal it.
Seal it for thy courts above.

Here’s me asking You once again to bind my wandering heart to Yours, seal it with a kiss. And thank You for your grace and goodness. Amen.

Your Pilgrim Princess on the morning of the 29th of January 2015