All Light {Lessons from the Mount Part 2}

There’s a beautiful passage in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that I return to every now and then. At times, I’d wrestled with it, willing it to be absorbed in my system and to know what it really means.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Mat. 6:22-23)

For a long time, as I battled against my illness, I had wondered if this passage could help me in a way. I had toyed with the idea that maybe, if my body was full of light, I couldn’t be sick and suffering still. A good thought. But how to make that happen, I really didn’t know where to begin. It’s only recently that I was able to grasp its meaning.

We only have two eyes, but we easily set our sights on a multitude of things. Whatever and wherever we set our eyes on, that determines the amount of light (or lack thereof) we let into our beings. The Bible tells us to look unto God our Savior:

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth:
for I am God,
and there is none else. (Is. 45:22)

But often, we look into the world, too, and its temptations. Sometimes, we find it hard to tear our eyes away from them as our senses lap up their offerings. We look and our eyes land on material things and pleasures. What we are really doing is absorbing darkness into our beings. For if we don’t exercise discernment, wise judgment, and self-control, the things we focus our eyes on can morph into covetousness, idolatry, envy, comparison, competition, discontent, self-pity, and all the rest. These things will snuff out our light and make us grope in darkness.

We also look at other people and may use our eyes to judge, condemn, and criticize in our hearts, instead of doing something positive, like extending mercy, showing love, and praying for the salvation of those who err. Do sinners stir our hatred, judgment and condemnation, or mercy? When we look at them, do we look at the persons needing mercy and salvation or their sins, and judge them thus? The Lord Jesus Christ warns: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Mat. 7:1). We have been taught to hate the sin and love the sinner. The absence of love brings up two situations: the absence of light and the presence of darkness.

Our eyes are the gateways into which light (or darkness) enters our bodies and souls. Whatever we’re looking into, that will either energize the light to be brighter still, or dim it until it dies. But we can look unto others, whose lights shine even in darkness, and make them our encouragements and inspirations to be lights in the world in our own ways, too. Focus not on those who can make us stumble.

Most importantly, let our bodies be bathed with the bright, shining light of the Savior and let it be reflected in our lives as we set our eyes on Him. Let love be the proof of our faith.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2, emphasis added)

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Loving the Hard-to-Love {Lessons from the Mount Part 1}

I love that the Lord Jesus Christ has given us the perfect law of liberty. Unlike the Old Testament which teaches “eye for an eye”, Jesus’ teachings are anchored on love. That said, they are in no way easy to learn or do, either. In fact, His teachings are astoundingly difficult to follow. That is, without the power of the Holy Spirit in us. This is the way to victory that the Lord has paved for us: the law of love together with the Holy Spirit. And yet, there will still be struggles.

The Lord says to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us (Mat. 5:44). I presume a Christ-follower should not have enemies, that is, enemies of his or her own doing. But whether we like it or not, the world makes us its enemies. The righteous will be persecuted. When we walk in direct contrast with the world, the world becomes our enemy. It wouldn’t want to receive our reproof.

Imagine loving someone whom you had shown compassion to then turned back and hurt you with her words, lifted up her heart against you, and scorned your good intentions. Imagine loving someone (that means love in every sense of the word) who wounded you and made you cry. If you’ve ever been in that place, you know how impossibly hard this thing the Lord asks of us. I’ve been in that place. And while the wound was still raw and the tears had not yet dried, this commandment pressed hard on me.

Remember Ecclesiastes 12:18? It says, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” I fear God so I needed to obey His commandments. Before I can even attempt to love my “enemy”, there was a need to forgive. Forgive even without an apology or an admission of fault from the other person. That, in itself, was hard. But these are things we are commanded to do.

So, many times a day, I prayed for that person who hurt me deeply. I prayed that the Lord would bless her (ouch!) and be merciful to her and that she would be truly happy. The more my heart resisted (for it was the natural order of things – ugh!), the more I prayed and the more tears poured. Tears, not for the other person, but for me, that the Lord would be merciful to me, accept my prayers, and change my heart. For while I prayed to forgive and bless over and over, my heart wasn’t following suit. Anyone who had experienced that?

But I pressed on until one day, the Lord fixed everything. I realized then that we need only to obey and the Lord will do the rest. He changed my heart and the other person’s heart until peace and mutual love were restored.

In the Old Testament, the law tells us to love our neighbor and hate our enemy (Mat. 5:43). But Jesus changed all that. If we choose to hate our enemy, we will be imprisoned by this strong negative emotion and we won’t know true peace and joy. Thank God for Jesus!

(Photo courtesy of my friend Perla Frisberg).

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I might be linking up with these lovely blogs and Coffee for Your Heart.

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Delight in the Savior King

Meditating on Psalm 149.

Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise His name with the dance;
Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation. (vv. 2-4)

So, the past days saw me going back to the mount where the Lord had delivered His popular sermon. For days I had tarried there, hoping to meet Him, to have the chance to fling myself at His sandalled feet and touch Him. But, He wasn’t there. I only saw rocks and patches of grass amidst the dust. And His light, His glorious light that shone upon it. The mountains echoed His eternal words and I strained to listen.

But that hadn’t been enough. So, what do I really want? Maybe to wrap my arms around my Savior. How many times had I wished that? But in praise and worship, He met me. I have failings and shortcomings, but I wormed my way toward His presence through songs that came from my hungering places. Without self-condemnation, I presented myself to Him through my humble songs of praise that were more of soulful prayers. And I felt Him. He touched me and the tears streamed down. His is the love that I crave for. Always will be.

Why do we not rejoice in the Lord? He is the source of our joy, our peace, our hope. He is our greatest love. Why do we not come to Him – in our lack, in our need, in our weakness? For the Lord takes pleasure in His people. He takes pleasure in me and in you, for He has redeemed us by His own blood. Don’t let the enemy’s lies and mocking whispers bar you from approaching the throne of grace. Delight in your Savior King for He takes pleasure in it.

Let the saints be joyful in glory;
Let them sing aloud on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth… (vv. 5-6)

Make all effort to discern your listlessness, your discontent, your sorrow, your emptiness. Your hunger. It maybe that your soul is parched for the living God, the precious Savior, the Lover of our souls.

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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I might be linking up with these lovely blogs and Coffee for Your Heart.

Journey with Jesus,

Going Back to the Mount {Sermon on the Mount}

Today, as I begin my weeklong partial fast, I go back to the mount to pick up nuggets of blessings. For they’re just scattered about there, exactly where the Lord Jesus left them. Walking in the plains where temptations abound (Internet, TV, and other worldly pleasures) can spoil us and draw us away from the light of Christ. Engaging our hearts and minds too long in them, sometimes without even realizing it, can numb our senses until the line between holiness and compromise becomes so blurred we can’t see the difference.

But what does the Lord say?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.  (Mat. 5:6, 8)

Walking in the Spirit brings a world of difference. We don’t always think about Him or are even conscious of His presence, but He’s ever faithful to make His presence felt, especially when we’re veering away from the narrow road. The still, small voice of God whispers and tells us to follow where the Spirit leads us. More than a week ago, I rose up from my nap desiring to go back to the mount and let the words of the Lord be steeped in me, cleansing me.

For you see, even our innocent (or often times, aimless) browsing on the Internet can sully our otherwise pure hearts and minds. Without warning, we can stumble upon a cuss, a dirty word, or a video our eyes are not supposed to see. How many times have I been victimized by the enemy just because I didn’t tread carefully! Before, there were the comments in news articles – oh, they’re just full of dirty words and ugly complaints that I ceased to read them altogether (I don’t go to the comments section of any news articles anymore). Then there were the videos that suddenly popped up on my FB newsfeed (I’ve long learned to block such and I’m not one who just opens a video shared on FB). Even a book that one might think is a good enough read will later turn out to be nothing but the enemy’s snare.

Again, what does the Lord say?

 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Mat. 5:29-30)

But we can’t gouge out our eyes or cut off our hands just to evade sin, can we? But we can turn our heads the other direction, close our eyes, shut down the page, turn off the video or TV (or don’t open it at all!), throw away the book or delete it completely. And the best thing of all, walk away from anything that can ensnare us or defile us. This is the thing:

Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thess. 5:22)

ABSTAIN FROM ALL APPEARANCE OF EVIL. This is not an easy task. Sometimes our good judgments are clouded, or we love to compromise, or we simply can’t know what’s detrimental to our salvation. But soaking up the Word everyday and spending time in the presence of the Lord in praise and worship and prayer will protect us from the evil one.

We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18, emphasis mine)

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Comfort in the Beatitudes

I saw something (again!) that stirred up a slew of emotions inside of me. That kind of sadness which makes you want to curl up on your side, hug your knees, and maybe cry a little? Then silent doubts and painful questions flood your mind? Why has the Lord seemed to have forgotten to punish the wicked and to reward the faithful and righteous? Why do other people continue to flourish in innumerable blessings day after day, month after month, year after year, and yet, you only have mostly trials, suffering, and languishing? You are puzzled and confused, and your heart is filled with sorrow and heaviness.

I thought of the many, many essays about God’s Word and faith that I had written and shared. Oh, I had been through a lot of Scriptures study and life lessons that had taught me through the toughest times. But this one a few nights ago, I couldn’t think of anything, from Genesis to Revelation, that could soothe my soul-sadness. Or maybe I just wanted to dwell on it longer, feel it coursing through me and when it’s done, it will leave me spiritually stronger yet again.

My husband was sound asleep beside me (it was late). But I wanted to talk, so I tapped him gently and said, “I have something to tell you.” He stirred, but continued to sleep. I thought, “I won’t disturb him anymore. I’ll keep quiet. There’s strength in silence. When my breathing normalizes, I will have a goodnight’s sleep.” So, I closed my eyes and grasped peace in the silence. Then the Lord began to talk to me.

“Go back to the Sermon on the Mount. Read it again. And again. You’ll find answers to your questions there. You’ll find comfort there. Those are My own words and those teachings are what matter to Me, to My heart. You tend to look at the world and what it does, and some part of you wants to follow that. You still place your affections there though you say you want to follow Me. But the world’s standards are never My standards. Know Me again and My heart by going back to the Sermon on the Mount.”

I know the Sermon on the Mount. I even bought a commentary of it. And as I lay there in the dark, I thought of the verses. Oh, what a relief! What comfort! The life the Lord Jesus wants me to follow is entirely different from what I see in the world. But though I know that following Him means turning my back to the world, I forget. When I see something of the world, something other people are enjoying, I forget. Deep inside, I want to have a portion of what they are having. And that’s where the pain and sorrow come in, effects of unassuaged hunger.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 5:3-10)

We always tend to think and believe that the people of the world who seem to have it all – they call it “the good life” – are the ones who are tremendously blessed. Yes, even they themselves believe that. But the Lord Jesus Christ stacks an entirely different interpretation of being BLESSED. And what He says blessed is truly blessed!

The poor in spirit, those who mourn [sorrow, grieve, suffer], the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted — these are the ones that are truly blessed! For great is their reward in heaven!

21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh.
22 Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven… (Luke 6:21-23)

 And what of those whom we envy in the world?

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
For you have received your consolation.
25 Woe to you who are full,
For you shall hunger.
Woe to you who laugh now,
For you shall mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:24-26)

Woe to them for they have their fill. They are full in this life and may not want another. They do not want to leave this world for they hunger not for that other life. They have taken deep roots in this world. But what is a few decades here compared to eternity?

By the time my husband turned towards me and pulled me in his arms, the sadness had been lifted off.

(Photo courtesy of my good friend Jules Anne Patman of Sydney, Australia, and edited at

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Journey with Jesus,