Of Christ’s Fullness

I was glad when, a few days before Christmas, I arrived at the Book of John in my daily Bible reading and journaling. This is what I do: I read one book from the OT Beginning at Genesis, then one book from NT, beginning at the Book of Matthew, back and forth. What preceded John was Deuteronomy, so it was law to grace. Unlike Luke, John doesn’t retell the birth of Jesus, but it is equally rich in powerful promises. Walking through the Book of John is like walking through a diamond mine.

GRACE. My original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Serah Loud via IG).

GRACE. My original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Serah Loud via IG).

Full of bright expectations, I was on the lookout for God’s riches in the form of words and promises. And they came, like precious gems sparkling in a dark cave.

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17)

Of Christ’s fullness we have all received. 

His truth. His grace. His forgiveness. His salvation. His healing. His life.

Yes, because,

…As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:12)

the right

to become

children of God

As the Lord Jesus is, so are we in this world (part of 1 John 4:17). . Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (part of Romans 8:17).

But sometimes, it just doesn’t seem that way. We fall ill. We suffer. We become destitute – of food, of strength and courage, of healing, of deliverance from problems. Dreams are not fulfilled. Longings are not satisfied. We groan. Tears fall.

But all these don’t change the truth: To those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ and who believe on His name, they are the children and heirs of God. We have that unseen treasure, treasure that neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (part of Mat. 6:20)…

neither death nor life

nor angels nor principalities nor powers

nor things present nor things to come 

nor height nor depth…

Nothing and no one shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:38-39).

So we suffer tribulation, but in essence, in truth, in reality – we are good. We will be fine.

It is well with our soul.

We are not left behind. We are not forsaken. We are not poverty-stricken. The Lord Jesus said in Rev. 2:9: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)…” Yes, heirs-of-the-kingdom-of-God rich. 

A beloved preacher in our church and his wife came from a wake an hour after Christmas Eve. They were going home to their place knowing that they didn’t have any food prepared for noche buena. So, when they passed by Mini Stop, they realized they were hungry, so they entered and had each a siopao (Chinese steamed bun). The beloved preacher told his wife cheerfully, “So, this is our noche buena.”

While the rest of the Philippines celebrated Christmas Eve with tables laden with food, gifts piled up under the Christmas trees, and carols and laughters ringing out, the beloved preacher and his wife enjoyed their siopao. And they were perfectly fine.

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

When we maintain a “kingdom of God” perspective, we wouldn’t know or see lack. We only know what we have in Christ.

It would have seemed in my last post that all I desire is to go to places I’ve never been and fill up my senses with the things I would see and experience. But that is not what is foremost in my mind. My desire is to do the will of God. I already have a plan set in place: When I’m already well, I will go wherever the Lord sends me to – to testify and win souls.

At the beginning of 2016, I set my life’s theme based on Isaiah 6:8: “Here am I! Send me.”  Throughout the year, every prayer I prayed for my healing, I ended it with, “Here am I, Lord, send me!”

I wasn’t sent anywhere except to my painting table or the patio. Still, it is well with my soul.

A MOST BLESSED, PROSPEROUS, VERY NEW YEAR TO US ALL!

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Finding Life

A Facebook friend commented after I posted photos of In-Cosmetics Asia 2016 held in Bangkok, Thailand, which my husband attended, “You must miss it!” She was referring, of course, to the life I lived before in the world of cosmetic ingredients – glamorous and exciting. And I burst out what I had been hiding in my heart these many years, for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, “I super miss it. Sometimes I still feel a painful pinch in my heart when I see photos like this.” That was a portion of my reply.

"GRAPEVINE". My watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper.

“GRAPEVINE”. My watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper.

Later, I thought about the exchange and examined it. Was I really still longing for that old life? Do I still want to go back to it? The answer I got was “No”. I feel a longing when I see photos of the world I used to inhabit, not because I am desiring to go back to it, but because I know the happiness and thrill it brought.

How can one go back to a life in the distant past (13 years) when one is a new person?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

It’s like putting a new wine to old wineskins which the Lord Jesus Himself spoke of.

Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. (Mat. 9:17)

I have always wrestled with this verse. What is the Lord talking about? But now I get a glimpse of it: A new wine like myself cannot thrive in the old life I used to live, the old wineskin, for after 13 years of walking closely with the Lord, I no longer know how to walk otherwise. Not that that world would be ruined because of the new me, but because I cannot be unequally yoked with it after the Lord has called me for His purposes. I can go, when all this sickness is over, not to work, but to tell of the wondrous salvation from the Lord. To win souls.

But why the longing? Somewhere in the deep recesses of my heart is this wish: I wish that I had known the Lord Jesus while I was at the peak of my career, that I had surrendered my life to Him even then. Maybe then, I wouldn’t have been taken out of it.

If I had known the Lord then and walked in His ways and didn’t make the bad decisions that I made, would I still be there today, working, healthy and strong?

But the saddest thing is – that wasn’t the case. That wasn’t my life. I was successful by the world’s standards, living my dreams, but l was dead in the eyes of God. Let the dead bury their dead.

How deplorable it is to think that there are many people in the world who put up multimillion businesses and have stellar careers, but do not know how to really live.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

No matter how much we deny it – we do not know how to live apart from Christ.

I knew how to live by the world’s standards – competition,  excellence, devising, etc. But with the way I led my personal life – important relationships like marriage and family, and most of all, a right relationship with the Savior – I was the biggest fool. In business, I made the wisest decisions. But in private life, I acted like I had no brains at all.

I didn’t live in virtue; I lived in selfishness. I was just one of millions who walk this earth in selfishness. The world needs a Savior, and indeed, He has come.

That’s why now, I have life. I live. Because of Him. Now, I can honestly echo the apostle Paul’s words:

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him… (Phil. 3:8-9, emphasis added)

This is what it means when the Lord said to lose our lives. Yes, to lose that life that is not really life but death, and to trade it with the life we find in Him. That is the true life. Everlasting life.

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Mat. 10:39)

This is pure wisdom: To be willing to lose the life that we adore so much and to find ourselves in Him.

It will be hard for some. They will look back with longing of the life they left behind every now and then. Like me. But not to take the first step to go back to it, but to be able to appreciate how much the Lord Jesus had to give to give us life.

A life that will not cease long after this world has.

This is the life Jesus gives. But many of us are not willing to take it. We want to remain as blinds and fools, not knowing what matters most. We only see the pleasures and thrills the world offers; we cannot see the other side, the side where the King of kings reside. Life and glory forevermore.

But even as we live in the Lord, sometimes we still act foolish and make foolish decisions the same way as the world does. Where has wisdom gone?

For whoever finds me finds life,
And obtains favor from the Lord. (Prod. 8:35)

Sometimes we dwell in coldness and lovelessness. In anger and unkindness. In selfishness. We respond harshly to criticisms that are supposed to help, correct, and improve us. We devour each other even as we call on the name of the Lord and carry His name. Christians.

Yes, sometimes we do not know how to really live, even if the Lord has already shown us how to. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Sometimes we act as if we do not know Him.

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Mic. 6:8)

Oh, man! (Put a crying emoji here). What does the Lord require of us?

Do justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Do we trample each other and grind each other with our unmerciful words? But didn’t you know, oh man, that —

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. (Prod. 16:24)

Our words should bring life and healing!

The letter addressed to the church in Sardis should serve as a warning and reminder:

I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. (Rev. 3:1-2, emphasis added)

Life in the Lord must be fruitful, not barren. 

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Spiritual Hunger

Lately when I presented myself before the Lord in worship and sang my one song (or two) before breathing became short, my soul had asked painfully. As I tried to touch heaven and my Savior King’s heart, this was what went on in the depths of my soul:

Here I sit in this room, singing praises to You, desiring to worship You with all of me and yet, it seems that what I do is not enough.

What really connects me to heaven? To You? To eternity? Is it the song? My voice? My raised hands? My posture? My words and declarations like, “Thank You, Lord! I love You so much, my dearest Jesus!” and such like?

What makes me Yours, completely and eternally? Are they the things that I do (or not do)?

I think not.

It should be my heart. I want to know and experience again to be completely owned by You. So, take my heart. Take all of it. I give it all to You. Please own me completely. Again.

My loose painting of roses on my Monologue visual journal. I hope you like it :) .

My loose painting of roses on my Monologue visual journal. I hope you like it :) .

Still, I felt that wasn’t enough. Words of love like that seem hollow when there is something missing. Something I cannot put my finger on sometimes. It seemed that I couldn’t see that cord that connected me to my Lord, like the cord that connected a child to its mother. Suddenly, I realized that it is not the things, the activities that we do, that make us one with the Eternal King, the Savior that will bring us to His everlasting kingdom.

What makes us citizens of heaven, to be seated together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus? And to experience that everyday of our life and not feel estranged or orphaned? For me, the altar call, the salvation prayer, and the baptism in water in Jesus’ name are like lightyears ago.

By God’s grace, I never turned my back on Him ever since. But the seasons of life change and the face of our faith change with it. Just like winter, spring, summer, and fall, our lives and faith journeys shift from fallow to fruitful, sunny to stormy, rich to wanting.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. (Ecc. 3:1)

Looking back at the 13 years of being ill and walking with the Lord Jesus, I can see the seasons changing in connection with my faith and relationship with Him. There had been seasons of fear and uncertainty. Seasons of partial healing and seasons of sickness and suffering again. Seasons of doubts, discouragement, and even resentment and wanting to rebel.

And then there was the season of great hunger for the Lord Jesus, my Savior and Healer, that I will not forget.

Looking back now, that season of hunger was also the season of being nearest to Him. He was a constant in my thoughts, in my song in the night, and in my Bible readings. He was in all of my moments.

Everything I did was to reach out to Him, to touch even the hem of His garment. For Him to see my tears. To see me and touch me and make everything okay. In that season, He was all I ever wanted. My burning desire.

One time when Hannah read to me a passage from the gospels, I cried. Hannah asked why and I said that I cried because I wanted the Lord Jesus so much. Looking back, even in that season of hunger (and more so), everything in my life seemed pure, fine, and right with God. Hunger for Him is purifying. A sanctifying experience.

And that’s where I found my answer to my soul’s questions of recent days.

Our hunger for God is what connects us to Him, surely and completely. We come before Him because our hearts are so very hungry and we know that it’s only Him who could fill that hunger. It is our hunger that He fills up. And when He does, we feel Him and all of eternity with Him. And we are that child again connected to its mother like an umbilical cord.

Without that cord, the child will die. Without His filling up our hunger, we will die. A slow spiritual death.

But if we are not hungry for Him, how could He fill us up? If our vessels are full of this world’s goods, where would His place be? First the child must experience pangs of hunger, his tummy is hollow, so he cries. He cries wantonly and will not stop until his mother nurses him and his hunger is fully satisfied.

This is what connects us to our Father in heaven: our hunger for Him. When we are hungering for Him, we will turn to Him, run to Him, hound Him, cry out to Him and reach out for Him until we can touch even the hem of His garment. We will pour out our hearts to Him like a drink offering. Unrelentingly until He comes and satiates our hunger and we will be refreshed and revived.

Deep spiritual hunger is beyond lifestyle. Above and beyond anything this world could offer. Above our gifts, the things we love to do, what inspires us. It is even beyond the beautiful praise music. Hunger for God is free of any earthly thing that cannot really, eternally satisfy. It is a hollow in our soul only He could fill.

But even this hunger for God must be prayed for and sought after.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4)

We want Him to grant the desires (our prayers) of our hearts. But we must also ask that He put those holy desires in us. That we must desire Him more than the things of this world. Yes, even more than His gifts and blessings and the things we do that delight our hearts and souls and make us burst in overflowing inspiration and joy.

God fills us up by the outpouring of His Holy Spirit. We may think that we are full when our earthly desires are met, but it is only in being full of the Holy Spirit (the manifest presence of God) that we are truly full.

“…whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14)

When we worship, it is the moving of the Holy Spirit that assures us we are citizens of heaven and we have not lost our seat beside Christ. It is our seal, our branding, of belonging to Him, now and for all eternity. And as we do our best to reach out to heaven and touch it during worship, God will put that craving in our soul once again, craving for His love and presence and all of Him.

And that’s what I received and experienced again: the wanting of the Lord Jesus Christ so much it hurts. That experience is in and of itself pure joy and satisfaction.

(Erratum: In my previous post, it should be “steering wheel” and not “stirring wheel” 😀 . Sorry for the error).

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Journey with Jesus,

Rushing Through Life

I found out that even at painting, we rush, too. Or maybe I’m the only one. I think that’s one of my weaknesses in watercolor painting – I so want to see the end product that at some point, I hasten it up, committing mistakes in the process.

rushingthrough

I was very eager to start the third piece in my Magnolia Project because it involved one of many lovely Bible verses that I treasure. It started out good and promising. The white magnolia petals and its pink stamen were pretty in their simplicity. Even the background color I used came out surprisingly comforting, too – a combination of very light cerulean blue and olive green. I used a thick mop brush to spread the wash and when it dried, it created tinges of blue and green and I thought it was lovely. But I wanted to see the final product, so I rushed through the hand lettering which is not my strong point. To make the story short, I ruined the painting because I didn’t take time in writing the verse. Although I used Finetec metallic gold, that didn’t do the trick.

I lamented my white magnolia flower and its buds. I regretted rushing through the project and not taking my time to produce a carefully-painted artwork.

Before I became a born-again Christian, I used to measure time by productivity. As I looked back at the year that was, I measured its quality and magnitude by how much I had accomplished in my business – sales, new products, new projects, new developments, new territories. How many trips and seminars abroad I went to, and if I had invested in a prime property or upgraded my vehicle. The goal was always to move forward and move up. Always adding knowledge and experience into my profession. I was contented if my year had been full and frenetic.

I used to qualify the years by how the dreams were lived.

Life was always a rat race. For me, it wasn’t as much about competing as it was about aiming higher, setting more ambitious goals and achieving just as much. If you’re an overly ambitious businessman or woman, every hour must count toward the fulfilment of every goal.

I put up my own chemicals company at 30. And from Day 1, I didn’t stop running the lane of fulfilling dreams and ambitions and unstoppable success.

Then illness came and time stood still.

When you’re staring down illness and the threat of death, your perspective shifts dramatically. You’re apt to forget about all else and just want to survive. Realizations, naked and clear, suddenly play a powerful role.

Early on in my illness, I knew without a doubt that it was “a call” from above. I trembled in fear just by the realization of it. In panic, I set out to make peace with God and to align my whole being with His will. And fast, tearing down all obstacles. I thought I couldn’t afford a moment’s delay. I understood clearly then that man’s salvation is an emergency. There might not be another chance…

And so I received my salvation a day after my 36th birthday. The peace that flooded my being was one I had never experienced in my entire life. I felt that finally, I was placed on a firm and hallowed ground and that there was absolutely no other place on earth I’d rather be. My whole view of life and the world changed overnight: I was no longer the overly ambitious, over-achieving businesswoman. I was now a person who had received abounding grace and mercy and who was desperately waiting for healing. My worldly life had ended and a new one had begun. I was born again in an entirely different realm, raised up together, and made [to] sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (see Eph. 2:6).

I knew it then when a rich friend from the gym I used to frequent called to invite me to an affair in a plush hotel. She excitedly told me of her plans to get us fabulous hair and makeup appointments in the salon and wear our gorgeous best. She didn’t know I was very ill and unable to move normally. (I withdrew from the world so suddenly and quietly it would seem like I had vanished into thin air).

When the call ended, I slowly hobbled to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. My days of worldly pursuits had ended and there was no turning back.

But in my sickbed, I begged the Lord to hasten to heal me so I could go back to work. My company was limping with only my staff running it. But more than that, I desperately wanted to go back to the work I so loved. Although I had just become a true child of God, I was unaware that I was still identifying and defining myself by my work and not by my daughtership.

Weeks turned into months wherein I desired to get well and recover to be able to go back to work. Eventually, Felix had to takeover the management of the company. Still, healing didn’t come.

I was rushing through God’s refining process. Although still very sick, my vision and desires rested on the career I had unwillingly left behind. I couldn’t settle in to God’s own plan for me. I thought my plan was also His.

The waiting time, which I had hoped would only take weeks, took years. And finally in 2007, more than three years after that last day that I worked in the office, I totally surrendered to God and His will. A revelation happened on that afternoon in our bedroom and I vowed never to go back to work again. I was God’s and He could do with me whatever He wished. Then the rushing through life stopped.

I slowly settled in to the new normal. I stopped counting months and years before I could go back to work for there was no more work waiting for me. God had chosen Felix to lead our company. I settled in to His pace and learned to seek His will and purpose for me. I hadn’t a clue what it was, but I believed that I had all the time in the world to figure it out, as long as I remained fastened to His side.

I look back at the years that had passed, still in the long waiting season, and I can no longer valuate them as I used to. No worldly achievements, accomplishments, or acquisitions to count. There is only walking with Jesus, ever abiding and continuously learning and growing in Him. Unlike before when I looked back at my prosperous years, they were neatly aligned like shining trophies prominently displayed where everyone could see. Now, it seems to me that my years are jumbled and remembered only by seasons of illness and suffering interwoven with enduring tender mercies, healing moments, good and perfect gifts, Jesus’ unfailing love and faithfulness and His constant presence.

I’m learning to embrace these years and to count them as not wasted but ones that have an impact on eternity.

The world measures the years by success and growth and profits and the things that can be seen and touched and flaunted. Heaven measures them entirely differently.

(Photo: My watercolor painting of sky, hills, and meadows. I invite you to visit my art gallery on Facebook :) ).

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Journey with Jesus,

Experiencing the Word

Living out God’s Word, that is, putting it into practice in our daily lives (e.g. “Love one another as I have loved you”), is not the same when I say, “experiencing the Word.” To experience God’s Word, for me, means that we live through it, letting it seep in and through our flesh (every pore and vein and nerve where life pulsates), our feelings (whether they be peace or fear, joy or depression, etc.), our minds (that sense and strength of reason), and our souls (that vital part of us that strains to connect with the Divine). Where “living out the Word” entails an act of obedience, “experiencing the Word” is walking through and dwelling in it in faith and letting its power work mightily in and for us.

experiencing the Word

We may do it for healing and strength, to usher in peace and unbroken hope, or to deepen  our faith. Or just simply to enter into worship.

When we set out to experience God’s Word, we are positioning ourselves to receive with open hearts and hands. Mostly for me, experiencing God’s Word is borne out of desperation.

January 2004. We had just received salvation weeks before, and amid the chaos brought about by my undiagnosed illness, the speedy and unstoppable waning of my strength and the skyrocketing of my fears and panic, we scrambled to grow and strengthen our faith. Felix was learning to worship by singing praises and I was reading the Word as if my life depended on it (and in truth, it did).

On that January morning, I had just eaten a meager breakfast and as I slowly let my weak body touch my propped up pillows, my insides trembling, my nerves humming like a motor all over my body, and my back felt like it wasn’t there, I tried to grasp strength from the praise music playing on the cassette player. Weak and dizzy, my body wanted to succumb to sleep, but I was afraid to give in to it, thinking I might not wake up again. But when I closed my eyes, the vision of the Lord Jesus coming in the clouds in all His glory played on the terrain of my mind.

There was brightness all over me there as I beheld the Lord, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass… and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength (see Rev. 1:13-16). 

The vision’s message was: Someday, whether I am asleep or awake, at the trumpet’s call, the Lord will come to take me (and all who believe in Him) and I will be forever with Him in eternity. There was nothing to fear. He has sealed me for eternal life where God shall wipe away all tears from [my] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev. 21:4).

That vision with its powerful message instantly calmed my flesh and fears and I went to sleep in peace and comfort. It was my first Word-experience and it brought me strength and hope for the months and years that followed.

Later that year, I lay in a cot in one corner of the chapel of our church’s fasting house in a nearby province. Living in the chapel where there were long hours of praise and worship, morning and evening, and workers and payer warriors praying and fasting brought me spiritual strength as I continued to battle my illness. I was leaning heavily on my Savior, Healer, and Comforter.

Lying there, my insides, though empty, wanting to rise up to my throat, threatening to cut the air, I played in my mind the Bible scene where Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, implored the Lord to come heal his daughter. Being in internal panic myself moment by moment, I could relate to this frantic father’s desperation.

His young, only daughter lay in bed at home, dying. Every single second was essential. He has heard of the Miracle Worker who healed the sick, made the lame walk, and opened the blind’s eyes. His daughter’s miracle was within reach. He only had to make haste. When he finally found Him, he dropped to his knees and begged Him to come.

“I will come,” was the Lord’s calm reply. They set out, but a delay was inevitable. Another desperate soul desired to be healed. It had been 12 long years of waiting and she believed, now was her time. After the brief delay, someone from Jairus’ house came to tell him that his daughter was dead.

What now? I imagined Jairus’ heart stopping for a beat or two, and his knees threatening to buckle down. But before earth and sky came crashing on him, the Lord was quick to assure him, “Be not afraid, only believe.”

Over and over as fear and illness threatened to snuff the life out of me, I played that scene in my mind. When I felt like I was losing the battle, I believed and trusted in the depths of my soul that Jesus cared for me, as much as He cared for the woman who crawled behind to touch the hem of His garment and Jairus’ dying daughter, and so, He wouldn’t fail me, too. Even at the throes of death. I clung to this with every weak heartbeat and incomplete breath: “Fear not. Only believe”,  imagining the Lord assuring me with eyes of compassion and power. (See Mark 5).

During one of those long seasons where illness and suffering defined my days, I relived the story of the hapless Syro-Phoenician mother and every time I did, hot tears spilled copiously as sob after sob, I reasoned with the Lord just as she did.

Wanting so much to be relieved of my suffering, I begged the Lord to let me pick up crumbs that fell from the children’s table. I was willing to be like a dog if that was what would move His hand to heal me. I knew that I had been made a daughter of God (John 1:12) and had access for a good seat “at the table”. Meaning, His promises had been made available to me when I received Jesus into my life, just as Apostle Peter had written: His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises (see 2 Pet. 1:3, 4).

But if it pleased the Lord that I humbled myself and showed Him how much I wanted healing and be so bold as to importune Him for it, then I would gladly do it. And so, for a season, I became that Syro-Phoenician mother begging for the crumbs of healing for the sake of my young children.

But the most beautiful reliving of the Word I have ever experienced was the story of my own salvation seen through the encounter between the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned to death and the Lord Jesus. That scene, which was taken from the movie Passion of the Christ, was used in a music video featuring the song You Raise Me Up. While I listened to it, I saw myself in filthy rags, daring to raise my face toward the Savior as He gently lifted me up from the miry clay and assuring me with so much love and mercy, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (see John 8).

Aahh! The power of that moment! It gripped me so profoundly I could only sob and praise in eternal gratitude!

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Journey with Jesus,

Living Blessed

Tim comes to kiss me goodnight and again, I am reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Okay, so you often read me writing those two attributes of our heavenly Father these days, but I honestly can’t help myself. That’s exactly what He is to me: good and faithful. So, following this road of counting my blessings and blessing God for them, like a bee follows the flowers’ fragrance, I am continuing on with my words of thanksgiving and praise.

living blessed

There have been the usual challenges in my life lately, like marriage and motherhood, not counting the fact that I am still unable to walk and travel. But as I was saying, when Tim came to kiss me goodnight at the end of a rather stressful day, I clung to him and squeezed him so tight as the memory of God’s wonderful blessing played out in my mind. There are days that I want to focus on my difficulties and forget to be intentionally and fervently thankful, but the Holy Spirit is quick to point me to the truth: that the Lord Jesus has done mighty works on my behalf. I only need to remember again and again.

In 2005, while I was sick in bed, twice I dreamed of a beautiful baby boy sleeping beside me. And in those two times, I woke up with a deep longing in my heart. I wanted so much for the dream to come true. I wanted to hold that baby in my arms not only in my dreams. But how could that happen, seeing that I was very sick and weak?

One day, an older sister in Christ came to visit. I told her about my dreams. She said that God was showing me that He was going to bless me with a son. That brought joy to my heart although I never really gave it much thought. I was more focused on my illness and suffering and my hope for recovery.

One whole year passed wherein I received partial healing and was able to go to our church’s crusades with my family. Then in 2007, I conceived. The dream had turned into reality. Nothing is impossible with God. He is a good God, a rewarder of our unwavering faith and obedience and fulfiller of our most fervent dreams.

That night that the memory came rushing back, I hugged Tim tightly. He’s one of the proofs of God’s love and faithfulness to me. I was embracing God’s gift, the deep desires of my heart filled to overflowing.

It’s not a secret to you, my dear readers, that I had struggled with comparison and envy these many years. I had written about it a few times here and also in my book Quiet Strength: And Learning From the Women of the Bible Who Had It. This is mainly because of my illness and suffering and being unable to work, travel, and do the things my heart desires to do. They have not completely gone but it’s far less intense and frequent now. They don’t affect me as much. Yes, I’m much stronger and wiser now. God, through my incessant prayers and supplications with much pleading, is slowly walking me away from these spiritually unprofitable emotions and practices. He is slowly opening my eyes to live blessed rather than live less: less than, loved less, known less, blessed less.

This is the song of my heart now:

For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. (Ps. 107:9)

And so I want to live blessed everyday even through life’s vicissitudes.

How do we live blessed? More specifically, how does one who has frail health live blessed day after day after day?

Living blessed means that you count everything in your life – good or bad, trial or triumph – as stepping stones for growth and fruition, and in the end, as reasons for joy and thanksgiving. It is believing and trusting that God is in control and He knows what’s best for us even if we don’t understand and see the meaning of our painful trials, and in the process, embrace the lessons wherewith we can grow thereby.

It is seeing beyond our circumstances, toward the things that are not temporal but eternal. It is living in the knowledge that Jesus loves us fiercely, unconditionally, and unfailingly, and that nothing can separate us from His love. Living in the knowledge that He loves us so much He died for us to give us eternal life.

Living blessed, therefore, is living loved, forgiven, saved, joyful, thankful, courageous, fruitful, generous, victorious, and as heir of eternal life!

Living blessed means we bless others, too. Yes, even if they may have wronged or hurt us. It is a proof that Jesus’ love resides in us to the magnitude that it naturally flows outward toward others. Especially those who are so in need of Jesus and His salvation. Yes, you are so blessed that anger or unforgiveness  or ill will doesn’t find a place in your heart!

Living blessed is counting less the material things we possess (although we sincerely thank God for them, too) and more of the works of God that we do, laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven.

Not very recently, I focused my attention to the silent conviction that has been going on in my mind. I wondered why I wasn’t so much affected by the brokenness of the world at large. I often just forget about the great sufferings and needs of peoples around the world when I read about their plight. Maybe the main reason was that, I couldn’t do anything about it anyway. But it is never good for a Christian to feel helpless and indifferent. It is un-Christlike.

There were spurts of intense compassion and feverish praying for others, even for people I didn’t know, in years past, like when I prayed for those countrymen who were fleeing the conflict in Palestine, when I prayed for the people that might be affected by the fire near our place, and a few other instances. But the passion had not been sustained until I didn’t do it anymore.

I wondered when I would have the heart and genuine love for others’ salvation, those people that are outside of my circle, people I haven’t seen or met but exist anyway. Like the prostitute that prowls the streets at night, the children who dine with Rugby instead of a decent food. Every man, woman, and child, who sleeps in gutters, under the bridge, in dark alleys, in the parks, and who is in danger of every evil imaginable. Unprotected. For the one who languishes in bed with no hope of healing; the wife or mother who nurses a broken heart and home; the husband or father who can’t leave the casino or another woman’s arms.

For the destitute, the broken, and the lost.

The first stirrings began when the lyrics of Christy Nockels’ Sing Along hit home. At night when I say my prayers, safe in the comfort of our home, I think about those who are far less fortunate, the people I mentioned above, and the Lord put into my heart to pray for them, with true compassion flowing from my heart. I pray that God would cover them with His protection and not let them be destroyed as the world sleeps, that He would reach out His mighty arm towards them and save and heal them, too.

Great God
Wrap Your arms around this world tonight…*

That’s what being blessed and living blessed do.

(Sing Along by Christy Nockels; photo from Instagram).

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Journey with Jesus,

Immeasurable

The day Felix and the kids went to Timberland for a day of swimming and breathing in nature, I finished my watercolor painting of poppies and then baked chicken BBQ buns. I didn’t want to think about how it could have been so lovely going with them and enjoying together the things the place had to offer. Timberland Sport and Nature Club is situated on top of the mountains of San Mateo, Rizal. The place overlooks the whole metropolis down below and neighboring mountains. The olympic-sized, infinity pool makes you feel like you’re on the edge of the earth :) . There’s an al fresco cafe and I wanted to imagine my husband and I enjoying some refreshments while the kids swam, the cool mountain breeze and resplendent view invigorating us.

immeasurable

But it was very quiet at home and in the quiet, I blocked all the “if only” thoughts and focused on the activities God gave me to accomplish on that day. He laced it with fresh inspiration yet again, balancing the melancholy with the joy of creating something: I would be baking buns and half of them I would send to our beloved pastor who has been weak and recuperating these past months. I also received inspiration to wrap birthday gifts for a hardworking couple in church who lead the choir. We have been blessed to be able to give, and giving gifts, however simple, has inspired me anew.

I recently wrote that when we learn to dwell in the everyday gifts of God and immerse ourselves in gratefulness and intentional thankfulness, our unsatisfied desires that threaten to undo us would turn to deep satiety in Him we never knew was possible. And indeed, the Lord is faithfully doing exactly that.

I also wrote sometime ago about my life flowing in trickles. I remember that again when Felix was assisting me bathe in my new clawed feet bathtub. He has to carry me from my wheelchair to the bathtub and back again after soaking in warm, scented waters for at least 30 minutes. It’s not easy for both of us (I’m quite heavy and though he exercises everyday, he still needs to exert a lot of muscle), but we are both grateful. On one of those bathroom episodes, while I basked in the aftermath of a warm, lavender bath, I commented, “Oh, thank You, dearest Lord Jesus! I’m so happy. So Dy, a little bath here, a little happiness there. I paint a little, bake a little, decorate the house a little… My life flowing in trickles and I can’t complain!”

A continuous trickle of life and blessings – I am deeply grateful.

I have discovered that the more we thank the Lord sincerely with all our heart, the more He draws us closer to Him. And when we are closer to Him, His blessings, though flowing in trickles, are magnified in such a way that they become bigger than our longings and desires. They become sources of great joy and gratitude so high and wide and deep they are immeasurable!

When Felix and the kids were away in Pampanga for the wedding of a young couple from Church, the threat of loneliness and bitterness hovered over me once again. My husband and I were principal sponsors and Tim was Bible bearer. The bride’s mother was a former employee of our company and who also happens to be my friend and the one who brought me to Jesus. So, we wanted to be present.

I persuaded Hannah, now a 15-year-old young adult who stands up to her Dad’s jaw, to be my proxy. After negotiations involving a promise of a Sakura watercolor set, she agreed. I had a full-lace, peach dress made for her, a new pair of quite expensive sleek heels, and a matching evening purse. She didn’t gloat as much as I did on those things, mind you (unlike me, she doesn’t have a single fashionista bone in her body 😀 ). But she was representing me and would be walking alongside her Dad on the aisle, so I didn’t want her looking shabby.

As we prepared on the wedding day, wistful thoughts came in and out of my mind, but I shoved them aside. Daddy and son were dapper in their suits. Wouldn’t it have been blissful if I were well and went with them with my own beautiful lace dress, walking with my husband, my hand wrapped around the crook of his arm?

My three loves at the wedding - The Lakeshore, Pampanga.

My three loves at the wedding – The Lakeshore, Pampanga.

It was a lakeside-and-wharf-themed wedding held at The Lakeshore Promenade in Mexico, Pampanga. How lovely is that? I wanted to be there, but I refused to think about the “what might have been” had I been well. The tempter came and tried to sow bitterness, saying, “How can you remain at peace with God when He denies the very things your soul so desires? How can you not be bitter against Him?”

I shook the thoughts away and shooed the pesky demon by not falling into his baits and taunts. I had been through enough pity parties and bitter sulks against God, I knew better.

And I have not forgotten my story. When the Lord Jesus found me, I was just out of a sinful relationship I barely survived, wrecking our family and another’s in the process. I was dying in my sin.

But Jesus came mightily with His love and light and the rest is history. His story, actually. All our salvation stories and testimonies are His. He has been writing them before the foundation of the world.

Now, He gives me enduring peace and joy that the world doesn’t understand. I feel loved by Him despite of lingering illness and physical difficulties. Do I have the license to be bitter after all He has done, saving me, wiping out all my sins, restoring my family, and sealing me for eternity, just because I”m not walking, running, or traveling as other people do? None whatsoever! His love is enough! We need to realize and understand that Jesus is enough and always will be. Can one attempt to measure Jesus’ love? Can one set boundaries to it?

It’s true that even at this hour, I’m still trying to know and grasp the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passes knowledge (see Ephesians 3: 17-19). During those times of utter physical suffering, I secretly and silently questioned it in the depths of my soul. But now, He has translated the language of His love into something that I can comprehend, appreciate, and enjoy – healing (though partial), strength (both physical and spiritual), lessons learned (that would last me ’til eternity!), and joy overflowing!

With His latest gift to me – watercolor painting – He brings me fresh inspiration with each waking moment, filling my heart with bubbling eagerness to a promise of yet another day of vibrant colors and splashes that become beautiful works of art, sending my spirit into silently shouting, “Your compassions never fail! They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness!”

If we learn to dwell in the place of active and intentional thankfulness, the things that seem to be lacking in our lives are dwarfed and eventually become insignificant, as we learn to look not at the things that are temporal but at the things that are eternal.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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Journey with Jesus,

Living for Eternity

Before I found my way to putting up my own chemicals company 18 years ago, I had to work through the maze of odd jobs. The last two trained me rigorously in sales and marketing (the last one, being a combination of my ChE profession and marketing, put me exactly at the heart of my fervent dreams and shaped my future in business). I believe I was born an entrepreneur (I had been doing business since grade school 😀 ). One of the slogans I learned in those rigid seminars and trainings in sales and marketing was to “dress the part.” Later on, as my company soared to great heights of success, I didn’t only dress the part, but also learned to play the part of a young, successful business-and-careerwoman. And did it in style as I acquired worldly wealth, which a successful career woman must possess. This I learned in the world I lived in.

living_for_eternity

There is this unwritten code of proving one’s success and showing it off to the world by the things we do and possess. Golds, pearls, and diamonds must adorn us. We get obsessed with signature fashion. There is a higher standard (often really painful to the pockets) we put into the brands we wear and patronize. There must be a trip or two abroad every year and vacations on holidays. A sedan isn’t good enough (unless it’s a BMW), it must be an SUV. The kids must go to a prestigious private school. Ateneo or La Salle wouldn’t disappoint when mentioned to friends. And so on as success rolls in and competition heats up.

Playing the part. That’s what people of the world learn and do.

Even the average Filipino family would want to sport the latest Apple product. IT’S A STATEMENT.

It’s not a bad thing to want to improve one’s standing in life – good education and financial and material prosperity and stability – and attain it through hardwork and diligence and belief in God and oneself. I myself advocate these things. But we do it to bring some measure of security, comfort, contentment, and happiness to our lives, not to be enslaved by any of it or a source of pride.

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:16)

In the world, the wanting and attaining and competing never seem to have an end. Such was my life before Jesus. But when I gave my life to Him, everything changed. The words of Apostle Paul have become true for me: …It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

All the golds, pearls, and diamonds had to go. Our Church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, bans the wearing of jewelries. Others may say this is legalism, but for me, it’s liberation from covetousness. If you have the means and there is no teaching against wearing of jewelries, you can’t seem to stop accumulating. I had felt the “high” it brought and even at the peak of my worldliness, I knew it wasn’t right and I felt guilty as sin. The Bible says that covetousness (or greed) is idolatry. I’m thankful that there is actually a teaching on this matter which our Church upholds (see 1 Tim. 2:9-10).

So I lost that glitzy and glamorous lifestyle and Apostle Paul’s words became my own:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him… (Phil. 3:7-9). 

As is proper among saints, therefore, we must not be consumed with worldly desires and possessions but be continually enriched by the Word. I can say for myself that my life is richer because of the Word.

Living the life that impacts eternity requires being centered on the spirit and not on the flesh and its desires. It is the spirit that dwells in the realm of God’s kingdom. We can only “worship God in spirit and in truth”, never outside of it. The apostle Paul says it best:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (Rom. 8:5-7 ESV)

To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. In another place, we are taught to set our mind on things above, not on things on the earth… (Col. 3:2). For the things above are eternal. This should be our compass whenever we face the temptation to desire material things and pleasures that are outside of our grasp and God’s will.

But I know that there are Christians who still struggle seriously in this regard (I still do with a few things). They still have a bit of the worldly mindset or are influenced by it especially via Facebook, harboring deep desires for the things the rest of the world enjoys. If they won’t have them, they feel like they are being left behind.

Facebook brings all these objects of desire together effortlessly and makes it easier for those who have to compare and continue to compete, and for those who have not, to wallow in envy and discontent.

If we really consider it, if we really go down to what is essential: Does standing beside the Eiffel Tower really bring us lasting happiness? I mean, what of it, if only ANOTHER STATEMENT? It’s okay if God blesses us with such travels. But if not, we should not be too desirous of them (note: preaching to self :) ).

How about grand parties? I was already a born-again Christian when I saw the grand debut of the daughter of a rich and famous local celebrity and I thought, “These things aren’t for us anymore.” I instinctively thought that the life of a Christian should be in moderation [temperance or self-control – a fruit of the Holy Spirit], that they should walk in simplicity and modesty [freedom from vanity]. And they should! But I have seen Christians throwing lavish parties.

Others (especially those who can’t afford) may see them and will desire to have them, too. Then we have influenced our brother or sister in Christ to covet worldly things. We have become an offense [a cause of transgression or stumbling] to them. The Lord has warned us that offenses will come, “but woe to him through whom they do come!” (Luke 17:1). (A constant reminder to self).

Jesus wouldn’t choose to be born in a manger if modesty wasn’t one of the main lessons He wants us to learn. He always teaches by example.

Vain things, which are of the world and not of God, must not be the desires of a Christian.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17 ESV). 

This new year, may we begin to live a life that constantly and intentionally chooses what matters most to God and His kingdom and impacts eternity.

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Journey with Jesus,

The Savior’s Heart

The enemy’s goal is to alienate us from God. His work doesn’t end on the day of our salvation but it only intensifies us we embark on our faith journey and cling to our Savior Jesus Christ. His seemingly relentless temptations are both his attempts to draw us away from our new life and as tests on our faith. He capitalizes on the diverse trials we face to paint a picture of God that is cruel and indifferent to our deepest needs. He whispers to our unsuspecting ears that God delights in punishing us. And in the Christian’s weakened state due maybe to intense and constant hardships and sufferings, he or she becomes vulnerable against such lies.

the_Savior's-heart

Through these lies, he affects our thoughts and emotions to sow seeds of doubts, resentment, and bitterness in our hearts. It is the embittered heart that clouds the truth about God and before we know it, the seeds sown begin to germinate. It is like The Parable of the Tares. Although it was used to illustrate the kingdom of heaven, it can also be seen as the field of our hearts. The Lord sowed good seeds into our hearts, but the enemy comes to sow tares. (Tares are weedy plants that grow in wheat fields). If we let him, what will our harvest be?

This is another examination of a heart that has been battered both by suffering and the devil’s lies. Though we wouldn’t dare think of turning away from God (no, not even in our wildest dreams!), the enemy might have succeeded in dousing the fire in our hearts that should have been burning for our Savior. Or maybe, the utter hardship and confusion the trials brought have wounded our hearts and the devil’s whisper “Has God indeed said…?” (Gen. 3:1) has somehow found its way to our grieving heart and driven us to ask in desperation, “Does God really love me?”

Such was my story and I didn’t even realize it was happening. These deep things about faith and our relationship with God, these roads in our spiritual journey that are less travelled – I didn’t give them much pondering. Until a few months ago. The hard trials and bouts of discouragement and the devil’s incessant whispering, taking advantage of the crisis, had brought me to Jesus’ feet each time, begging for help, love, and mercy. But what was becoming of my heart? Every now and then, it wallowed in self-pity and fought discouragement so powerful it had tried to drown me many times. I’m thankful that those episodes don’t last longer beyond an hour.

When my Savior and I found each other twelve years ago and He freed me from all sin, guilt, and shame, the feeling was so exhilarating that for months, I just wept in gratitude and awe before Him. It was a blissful “honeymoon” and I talked about it to whoever cared to listen. Then healing didn’t come. Instead, fiery trials did. The illness and suffering intensified and would last for years. Often, I felt like laundry being tumbled helplessly in the washing machine and there was no one who could pull out the plug to stop it.

Through those years, images of an angry God would float in my mind as I received the cruel blows on my body, blows that scared me and sent me trembling to the core and cowering in a dark corner (figuratively) (crying now). At other times, I saw glimpses of the Lord in my mind just standing in the background, watching me suffer so hard. One time, I even imagined my angel pleading to Him to do something (more tears). Those thoughts would parade in the periphery of my mind, unbidden, born out of desperation due to the intense suffering that battered my body. In those agonizingly difficult times, I couldn’t help but think of the almighty, all-powerful God as a severe, punishing God. It was always a painful thought.

Yes, my relationship with my Lord and King has been rather bittersweet, with peaks and dips like a roller coaster ride (now I can smile).

I can think of two Biblical men who felt the same way I did. David said in Psalm 32: “For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me.” This was my heart’s cry, too.

Through the years, my soul echoed Job’s soul-wrenching discourse. Season after season of sickness and suffering had me owning his words. I understood on a very intimate level every anguished word he spoke:

 But he is unchangeable [of one mind] and who can turn him back?
What he desires, that he does.
14 For he will complete what he appoints for me,
and many such things are in his mind.
15 Therefore I am terrified at his presence;
when I consider, I am in dread of him.
16 God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me. (Job 23:13-16, annotation mine)

Job, once a powerful man, in his extreme suffering, became so terrified of God.

But back to the present. There is a need to heal from the wounds caused by our misconceptions of God, otherwise, we will never find true joy and wholeness in Him. And without our full trust in Him, that He is a just and merciful God, we can’t have complete courage to live the life He has purposed for us. Even if the trials have not fully passed, there is a need (now, not later) to re-acquaint ourselves with the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ, the express image of the invisible God.

I would like to see the heart of Jesus between the passages of Isaiah 53. We can know Him within the pages of the Gospel, how He went about proclaiming the Good News and healing all manner of sickness and disease and liberating those possessed by devils. But Isaiah 53 tells in detail what He has really done for mankind. For you and for me. It tells the poignant story behind the cross:

  • He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.
  • He was smitten by God and afflicted.
  • He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities.
  • Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace.
  • With His wounds we are healed.
  • The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
  • He makes intercession for the transgressors.

Today, we declare that the devil’s lies and the false image of God he has conjured up in our minds are ground to powder and scattered in the water never to be seen again.

The wrath of God against the sin of mankind was poured out on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing left for those who will receive Him as their Savior. God has laid our iniquities on Him. He bore them all upon His body — our sin, shame, punishment — to bring us peace. His wounds brought us healing. If He was crushed, afflicted, and punished on our behalf, how could we even think that God would delight in doing those things to us after we’ve received the Savior? There should only be peace and healing! For those are assuredly the things the Lord has won for us. He has finished the work! In fact, griefs and sorrows should not hold us captives anymore — He has carried them all! And even if we fall, He ever intercedes for us.

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb. 7:25)

Here’s the heart of our God and Savior laid bare. He loves us so much He gave His all. Let not the enemy steal all that He had died for to give us: life and life abundantly.

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Journey with Jesus,

Live Loved

It’s all coming to me now, cascading like cool waterfalls and awakening every fiber of my being. As I continue to walk closely with the Lord in this hard season of my life, ever receptive to His voice speaking, guiding, teaching — He leads me through narrower paths and deeper waters of faith. As I yield myself to His ever-patient molding, re-forming, and renewing, I find myself swimming above the waters instead of drowning. He enriches my faith, my obedience, my love, my hope, and there is an abiding light in my otherwise dim world.

live_loved

I sat down at the edge of the bed maybe to switch on the lamp or reset my docked iPod (I can’t be sure now), but in that moment, His words came, and my hand, whatever it was reaching for, stopped in mid-air. He got my attention and I wondered, really wondered, how I could have missed it all this time. All these years. Maybe that’s what self-absorption does to us (or some other). It lulls us to spiritual slumberland and shuts out His voice.

Every time you wallow in envy, jealousy, comparison, covetousness, self-pity, resentment, bitterness, even unforgiveness, you have not abided in My love. As long as you abide in them, you will not know the fullness of My love. You will always feel unloved or loved less. For these things happen to one who has not My love nor has known it. This breaks My heart, for everything that I had done, I did it because of My love for you.

This, more or less, was the essence of the Lord’s message in that moment of epiphany.

The times that I had indulged myself with those negative emotions, being weak to totally fend them off, but succumbing to them time and again, had me living outside of love. More importantly, outside of the Savior’s love. And this was what really stopped me dead in my tracks: Every time I had dwelt in them, I had unconsciously spurned His love for me. For if I had been fully abiding in His love, carefully holding every drop of it safe in my bosom, there wouldn’t have been reason to feel those things, let alone revel in them like I had all the reasons in the world to do so. Whether it was done unconsciously or not, or in moments of weakness or deep anguish, it had some tinge of rebellion to it. But this isn’t the life the Lord has called me to.

In the early months after my salvation, I was euphoric. The Savior has delivered me from an adulterous life. I imagined Him thundering to the gates of hell and snatching me from its clutches before it was too late. When I thought of the many opportunities the devil could have plunged me to my death as being unsaved yet, BUT the Savior never allowed it — I was overwhelmed by His great love.

When did I begin to equate His love (or seeming lack of it in my limited understanding and vision) to sickness and suffering, to unhealing, to hardships, to misery, to sorrow, to unfulfilled dreams, to unanswered prayers? I think it was the time I didn’t receive answer to my most urgent prayer — my healing and deliverance from suffering — and countless times after that as the years flew away swiftly, like falling leaves in autumn, and still without receiving the healing I was so desperately begging for.

Then began the years that I lived like His child who was loved less, favored less, the one who wasn’t deserving of a miracle as grand as healing of a grievously broken body. More like a sooty Cinderella that tended the cinders rather than a beloved princess – daughter of the King of kings. I gravitated towards intense feelings of envy and jealousy to those whom I saw His favor heaped upon, not realizing these were already taking root in my soul.

However, I saw also that God had been faithful in other areas of my life and continues to be so to this day. That is why gratitude has not left my heart neither have my lips withheld praise and thanksgiving. I’ve lost count of the many testimonies to His enduring mercies which I hold close to my heart.

Nevertheless, the ceaseless pounding of illness and suffering on my already battered body had somehow shrouded God’s love for me. Even Apostle Paul’s exhortation on Christ’s love had not been able to appease my sorrowing heart.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35, 37, 38, 39)

I knew and believed without a doubt that whatever happened in this life, the Lord would take me to His dwelling place, where there’s no more crying nor sickness and suffering. I believed that nothing could snatch me out of His hand as He assures His children. But I couldn’t help but see the sufferings in my life as God’s punishments, or to put it mildly, His chastisements. I don’t know when I started to develop that mindset but it had taken deep roots through the years that when my illness and suffering intensified, I cowered in fear of Him and saw only His severity.

I understand that God chastises or disciplines His children when they err or become wayward. It is another token of His love (see Heb. 12:6-7). But though it wasn’t the case for me, through the years, I felt like I lived in an atmosphere of constant chastisements and less-than love. It was hard to reconcile my harrowing reality with the truth that He loved me completely. It was a challenge to experience His love, let alone bask in it.

But He made me realize that I need not live like this.

So now, I’m coming a long way from that place of believing I was being severely punished to that place called love where my Savior dwells. There is a need for me to relearn His truths, to listen well to the Holy Spirit’s voice: God is not punishing me (the Lord Jesus Christ had already borne all that). I am relearning to see my Savior in a new light: one who loves me and delights to give me eternal life. I am making baby steps toward that love, a love that nurtures and heals and binds up and never strikes or harms (crying now).

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart… (Is. 40:11).

Live loved. What does it look like? It’s peace and quiet rest, security and confidence; untainted joy; generous kindness and gentleness. It’s a child basking in the warmth of her Father’s unfailing love.

Live loved, dear one. It’s the will of the Father for us. Anything less is from the devil. Our Savior died on the cross to prove His love for us. There’s no greater love than His. And nothing can ever separate us from it.

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Journey with Jesus,