I recently watched a few clips from the film, Match Point. The title comes from a tennis term. “Match point” apparently is a term to describe the instant when a ball hits the net, bounces vertically and is suspended, completely vulnerable to the mercies of luck, or, as I may be more convinced of, the laws of motion. It can determine the defeat or victory, success or failure. Once the ball is in the air, neither player has any control over the situation.

A teacher I once had would often say, “The Bible is a book of opposites!” and then list many examples of this. I have been convinced. The Bible is not a book filled with vague distinctions and a morality printed in greyscale. It is a book of opposites, and divisions. In the beginning, God divided. In the end, He shall divide. One of the greatest tasks in life is for us to discover the distinguishing line between right and wrong. How can we choose a life of right if we do not know what it is. But even after much insight and revelation about this distinction, there is still more to be decided on: which to embrace, life for, and eventually die for. We must make this choice. This choice has eternal consequences. In life, we’re exposed to situations that play before us the lessons of the grand significance of our choices. Playing with fire, dabbling with evil and allowing oneself to be seduced by the charms of passion are dangerous. But even after we’ve heard about, seen or even experienced these truths, we still have a choice to make.

What shall become of a person that has made this choice already, but is reconsidering? What if the life that has been pursued has suddenly lost its glamour? What if the things that once brought such joy have suddenly become insignificant? What shall become of a poor soul in this situation? To scared to cross over to the other path, yet unsatisfied where they are. Nevertheless, the choice must be made and the results are sure and invariable. God does not make exceptions, even for His own Son, He could not. The choice must be made.

There is point in life when decisions must be made that will determine defeat or victory in this thing called life; when we choose life or death. M a t c h p o i n t.

*    *    *    *    *

Except, the outcome is placed entirely in your hands.

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At 176 verses, the 119th chapter of Psalms is the longest in the Bible. Psalms 119 is interesting in that it is wholly dedicated to the Word of God, which the chapter itself is contained in. Not only this, but it consists of divisions, each headed by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which evidently has 22 letters.

Although I saw this psalm’s unusual structure, I doubted that it would have a special message for me. Each section seemed to repeat similar concepts using differing synonyms and sentence structure. After having chosen this chapter to memorize for the summer of 2011, I decided to study it further. I am only two days into my study, and already I felt that I needed to write the lessons down, lest they pass me by. I haven’t blogged in 447 days.

Psalm 119

ALEPH [bold mine]

  1. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
  2. Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart.
  3. They also do no iniquity: they walk in His ways.
  4. Thou hast commanded us to keep Thy precepts diligently.
  5. O that my ways were directed to keep Thy statues!
  6. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments.
  7. I will praise Thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned Thy righteous judgments.
  8. I will keep Thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.
The first section, I believe, emphasizes wholeness, completeness, or thoroughness. In the beginning of the verse, a blessing is pronounced on the “undefiled” who “walk in the law”, “keep His testimonies,” “keep Him with the whole heart”, and “do no iniquity”. In order to be “blessed”, we must fit the criteria laid out in these first few verses that describe such an one that will be blessed or happy.
The theme of wholeness is introduced through many key words throughout the passage.

“Blessed” (vs 1)

The term “blessed” here does not mean “entitled to comfort, wealth and health”, but rather it may be replaced by the term “happy”. Happiness is promised to the individual that fits the description given for this verse. I believe that this term of happiness does not point to temporal bliss nor a period of peace mixed in with a share of sorrows. The same Hebrew word for “blessed” is found in Psalms 34:8 that correlates a man’s “blessedness” with God’s “goodness”. If God’s “goodness” is of a complete form, then the happiness obtained by a man that trusts in Him should also be of a complete form. I believe that the happiness here that is promised is a complete form of happiness that can only be given of God.

“Undefiled” (vs 1)

The term “undefiled” is similar to the term “true” in that if something is anything less than 100% clean, it is considered defiled. One drop of poison, one sign of mold, and one line of ink would lead to its host’s title of poisonous, contaminated or ruined.  The standard is clear. Not only must we be “in the way” to obtain complete happiness, we must also be completely pure and “undefiled”.

“Whole Heart” (vs 2)

We are to “seek Him with the whole heart”. God speaks in binary code and lives in a black and white (not greyscale) world. Giving 99% of our hearts to Him is simply not enough and will not gain us true happiness. Our hearts must have singleness of purpose and we must be seeking one Person with our hearts: Him. We cannot find Him unless we seek with our “whole” heart, as made clear in Jeremiah 29:13.

“No iniquity” (vs  3)

Such an individual that is “blessed” does “no iniquity”. By looking at other verses in which this particular form of the Hebrew word for “iniquity” is found, this includes vanity (Jeremiah 2:5), any sin (Ezekiel 3:20), usury and taking increase (Ezekiah 18:8), lying  and deceit (Hosea 10:13, Zephaniah 3:13), and murder or bloodshed (Habakkuk 2:12).  The LORD Himself is described to be without iniquity (Deuteronomy 32:4, 2 Chronicles 19:7). The promise of blessing calls for a completely clean record. Not one iniquity may be excused.

“Diligently” (vs 4)

Not only are we to “walk in the law of the LORD” (vs 1), but we are to “keep [His] precepts diligently“. Diligences requires much effort. Diligence is finding tasks to do when every item on our to-do list is crossed off. Diligence requires constant awareness and a willingness to work painstakingly if need be, and at all times. All of our thoughts, time and actions are to be geared towards keeping God’s precepts.

“All Thy Commandments” (vs 6)

We are to keep all commandments that we are aware of. James 2:10 tells us that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Not only are we to keep the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments (refer to Exodus 20), we are to regard the voice of the Holy Spirit as God speaking to us and commanding us for He comes in the name of Jesus Christ (John 14:26). The individual that obeys every whim of conviction as a command from God is one that is surely wholly “blessed”.

This stanza called ALEPH speaks of a complete giving of heart, a perfect law-keeping, and whole happiness. The impossibly high standard, not kept, results in shame (vs 6). King David, author of this Psalm, evidently sees this impossibility in his wish that his own ways were directed towards meeting this standard (vs 5). Because he is wishing that his ways were intrinsically geared towards God’s ways, that must mean that  this isn’t true. We only wish for that which we do not have. The songster confirms this in Psalms 53:1 where he writes that “there is none that doeth good.” God requires every part of us, yet we cannot do any good. It is no wonder that King David concludes this stanza with the determination that “[he] will keep [God’s] statutes” along with the plea “O forsake me not utterly”. David’s law-keeping and whole-heartedness is completely dependent upon God’s act of not forsaking him. Whenever David speaks of loving the law, keeping the law, being undefiled and pure, it is only because he knows that God has not forsaken him and that he wholly depends on God.

S u m m a r y

We need to be pure, keep the law and diligently keep God’s precepts in a holistic, complete and thorough manner, but this must and can only depend on God’s character of not utterly  forsaking us. This will result in a complete happiness or “blessed”-ness in its purest form.

All relationships have a beginning. Some have an end. Many have a turning-point. I believe that with the LORD, there may be all three. When you first heard about Him, you took some time to learn about Him, to see if He is honest, true, and faithful. You’ve heard so much about Him, and you’ve just begun to communicate and understand what’s in His heart. You’ve started seeing how He behaves in certain situations and how He treats His children. You ponder what He could think of your past. You’ve already started imagining a future with Him and compared it to others that you had in mind if you were to join your life to another. And there is a point when you must decide whether to step forward or to retract.

All lives have circumstances that are uncontrollable and others that aren’t. You have just returned from a mission. You’ve seen the crying of the children, the empty stares of the women and the careless actions of the men. You’ve given Bible studies door to door in the heat of the day to hearts that seem as cold as the night. The joy of living for others has penetrated the thick placenta-like layer of egotism. Even if it was even for a few moments. You’ve seen the miracles, the hearts changed, the new births. You’ve also experienced the self-denial, trials and frustration. You’ve already started imagining a future with this work and compared it to others that you had in mind if you were to join your life to another. And there is a point when you must decide whether to step forward or to retract.

All desires of the heart have a nature that is determined from the source from whence it came. The Christian life, lived to its fullest, promises that the desires of the heart will be given. When you’re first offered this change of heart and an opportunity to reflect the Creator, the fundamental concept is difficult to grasp. You look around and try to comprehend how this life leading to holiness can possible apply in this world. You’ve tasted the temperance, the struggles and the odd moments of overcoming. You’ve seen the changes in your life and you’ve thought about what you could possibly become.  You’ve already started imagining a future with this sanctification and compared it to others that you had in mind if you were to join your life to another. And there is a point when you must decide whether to step forward or to retract.


To step forward or to retract…

I need the faith that the just live by. hab.2.4.

I need the faith that’ll allow Jesus to forgive. mat.9.2.

I need the faith that’ll make me whole. mat.9.22.

I need the faith that replaces doubt. matthew.14.31.

I need the faith that is as a mustard seed. matthew.17.20.

I need the faith of fearlessness. mark.4.40.

I need the faith that saves me. luke.7.50.

I need the faith that purifies my heart. acts.15.9.

I need the faith that sanctifies. acts.26.18.

I need the faith that will be mutual among believers. romans.1.12.

I need the faith that is counted as righteousness. romans.4.5.

I need the faith that comes by hearing the Word of God. romans.10.7.

I need the faith that I can stand by. romans.11.20.

I need the faith that is my breastplate. 1 thessalonians.5.8.

I need the faith that is followed by virtue. 2 peter.1.5

I need the faith of Jesus. revelations.14.12.

I’m here in Atlanta, Georgia.

It’s Sabbath, and it looks beautiful outside. The sun is shining, but it’s quite chilly. New place, new atmosphere, new experience hopefully. Last night, I was finally able to send a much-needed-to-be-sent email. It is something I’ve been praying about for about two weeks, and I kept putting it off. I’ve even asked for advice on this one. I’ve decided to do what I believe to be right and be safer than prolonging the decision and risk displeasing God. I’m praying that the LORD will work upon his heart to realise that I do this, not out of selfishness, but out of a desire for God’s will to be done in both of our lives.

The sinful human has been so trained and conditioned to think of self when making ALL decisions. He is looking for what will benefit him the most – immediately or in the future. To make a decision where self is out of the picture, except as a servant, is quite uncommon, but still required of us. Some even do God’s work, knowing the benefits thereof. We must be willing to do God’s work even if eternity in His presence was not promised to us. It should still be our desire to give our all to Him, even if He hadn’t died for our sins. That is humility: realising that He is everything and we are nothing.

Crazy, isn’t it?

I’m drained of emotions.

Sin has this amazing ability to distort and pervert all that God has created good. It’s done it to our bodies which now start wasting away the moment we are born. It’s done it to our minds which have difficulty focusing on identifying priorities and matters of eternal import. One thing that sin has done in my life is to destroy my natural emotional response.

When God created us, He made us to be in His image (Gen 1:27). He formed us from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7). Many believe that our God is merely a spiritual divine being. This is simply untrue. When God formed us, He had a blueprint or plan. He knew what He wanted man to look like. He also created the earth systematically. Does this not show that our God had a mind? Everything made of matter that God created is of a physical nature. How can an intangible, aura-like God create something physical? It is like us trying to open the door by merely staring at it and willing it to open. God must have a physical aspect if He is to be found in nature, which He created. We know that our spirits come from God. God recreates a clean heart within us and is able to renew a right spirit within us. God is spiritual.

I’d like to submit that these three aspects of God, the mental, spiritual, and physical, are so in harmony and intertwined that affecting one cannot affect the other. Ellen White write that “all created things, in their original perfection, were an expression of the thought of God” (Education, 16). Is it suggested here that all the physical animals, trees, fish, are an expression of something generated in God’s mind? Also, we know God created with His Word. He said it, and it was done. The supernatural sound waves emitted from His mouth had the power to creating thinking creatures. And we are created in the image of such a God.

Just as what is going on in God’s mind affects the physical world, and His physical acts affect the spiritual world (Jesus came down in flesh and died on Calvary), I believe that our mental, spiritual and physical aspects are not to be separate in function and influence, but very closely knit together. When we visual take in certain images, it is to evoke thoughts and an emotional response. When commitments are made after appeals, these supposedly spiritual decisions are to be manifested in our actions and our mindsets. This how calculus can be a spiritual experience. This is how exercise can be actually a date with God. This how reading the Word changes the way we eat.

But there is something called sin that has rewired our brains and our nature itself. We are made to believe that God is only spiritual. We are told that the physical world is detached from the spiritual. In doing so, the Devil has made it even harder for us to understand God and therefore crippling us in our attempt to being more like Him.

When I hear bad news, I usually don’t cry. I sometimes wonder if the emotions are even there. It just seems that seeing certain things allows my mind to make a mental connection, but it doesn’t make it to my emotional complex. I find it difficult to be remorseful or thankful. Even hearing of death doesn’t bother me in the way it usually does to others. Even salvation itself. What prompts me to continue doing good or striving to be as God is a realisation that doing so is right and the best plan for me and for others in my sphere of influence. My emotional senses have been numbed. I sometimes don’t know if it seems as such because I don’t truly love anybody, or if this is the way I am. I know Jesus felt anguish and agony as He prayed at Gethsemane. From this, I know I should be feeling some hint of emotion as  I pray, and that it should increase with the gravity of the prayer. Such has not been my experience.

LORD, help me. I realise that this characteristic of me can hinder me from understanding others and being able to relate to them. Moreover, it stops me from understand my own Creator and harmoniously developing a relationship with You in the physical, mental and spiritual aspects. Help me to be more like You, and to grow more and more in Your image.

It’s driving me insane. Why make a tangible commitment that you cannot follow through with?

Being involved with the mission coordination for Eastern Canada Youth Conference (eastcanadayouth.org) has revealed much to me about distinguishing between one’s words and their actual actions. There have been several missionaries that have dropped out on account of lack of finances, interest shift and fear of safety. We tried very hard to weed out the applicants to find those that would show such lack of dedication, yet months have gone by after the final decision for those included in the team. Many seem to have changed their minds about this mission. Maybe they have realised that this is not a trip, but a serious, urgent mission. Maybe they have been overcome with fear. Maybe influenced by parents and friends. Whatever the reason, I pray for my sake and their’s that it was the Holy Spirit that has moved upon their hearts and that they are seeking for where the LORD would have them be.

Being Christ-like in my thinking is difficult. It is clear to me that I do not yet have the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). As I see the lack of thoughtfulness in those that have applied and backed out, as I experience my time being wasted rearranging, reorganizing and re-emailing, I can’t help but feel the frustration and resentment growing inside of me. I immediately find others to blame, others to hurt and others to annoy. No wonder it is said that sin is not self-containing.

BUT.

1. Who am I to judge the spirituality of others. It is true that we are not to be tolerant of everything and great care has to be taken in the planning of God’s work, but by reading an email of resignation, I cannot determine whether this is God’s will or not. The LORD may have made it abundantly clear to that individual that He had need of them elsewhere. By assuming that the reasons behind their withdrawal were selfish, I’m assuming that they are not making decisions in accordance to God’s will. As much as I have to have faith in where God is leading me in my life, without knowing what will happen a week in the future, I must have faith that God can take the lives of others into His hands.

2. I must not forget the condition from which I was brought out of. So, maybe the reasons were selfish. If they were, my response should be one that is ever so patient. Not long ago, I would not even have considered such a trip. Have I so quickly forgotten how the LORD has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light? Have I not watched as He lead me day-by-day to this point where I am able to make decisions to follow His leading?

3. I am just the same in the sight of the LORD. Ok. I admit it. I’m not as committed as those darn Communists I read about. This experience I have gone through should encourage me to not settle for a mediocre level of dedication and ownership. I must realise that I have nothing to offer the LORD. How many times has the LORD spoken to me, and I pretended that I heard His voice telling me something other than the impulse I felt? How many times have I broken promises I made my Sovereign King? How many times have I let down Him, His mission and His angels in the work that He has committed to me (1 Corinthians 9:16)?

I am unworthy to be a co-laborer. I am unqualified, but it is my prayer that You make me qualified. You have given me a brain with which to think, a mouth with which to speak and two ears with which to not only hear, but listen. Give me what I need to be useful in Your sight. Please, for an existence without usefulness is worse than existence itself.

You are the Faithful One, above others. You are the dedicated One. You are also the Giver of good gifts.

Thank you.

just one.

It’s simple. Just one. One LORD. One faith. One baptism. One body. One God. One Saviour. It is of my opinion that our one life is a life of “one”s. This past week, many thoughts and yet unanswered questions were running through my mind, some that can be traced back from a conversation months ago. The more I wrestle with them, the more I realise the importance of the number one in my life.

What is the purpose of man? To glorify our one LORD and Creator. For those believing this, all their actions and thoughts are to be done in view of eternally giving glory to God. Each day and task completed is a revelation of character (White, Ed. 61) and as great care is taken in each, the individual is to work towards likening the faculties to those of the one Creator. But for those who refuse to acknowledge God as Sovereign, what have they to live for? Is there another cause in which all aspects of the life can contribute? Many seem to live for the love and pleasure of wealth, but even the dying queen of England spoke her last words saying “All my possessions for a moment of time.” Is time and life itself then the source of purest satisfaction and what life is about? How is it that one can live life in order to have more life? In that case, is the mind, body and spirit all unified in the goal to live more life? Are there not those who would sacrifice their lives for the sake of others? Many parents would willingly suffer and even die for their children if it would not cut short the lives of the youngsters. Are children then the focus of a parent’s life? Why then, is it that children are spoiled, mistreated, neglected and abused? They are ill-disciplined, lazily trained if at all, and perverted, until they mature into a full-grown sluggard. Would this not be the case if one loved and lived for their child first and foremost? What is it then that the god-less man lives for?

In 2 K ings 21, the Bible speaks of a man infamous for his wrongdoings and his ability to seduce the nation of Israel into idolatry. King Manasseh was raised with a godly father who had a raw experience with God and who was a strong leader at that. Yet, this son of Hephzibah “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” and “wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD to provoke Him to anger.” It is written that in place of the LORD, he built many altars and high places for “all the host of heaven.”

Accursed. How I hate the acknowledge that I have been propagator of the habits of my fore-fathers. Starting from the ancestor of the whole human race, Adam, man has knowingly and unknowingly chosen selfishness over love and furthering the cause of evil rather than serving for the good. It has become the norm to fulfill the superficial, temporary lusts and all have chosen to settle for this, ignoring the LORD’s ever unchanging standard as our guide and goal.

Accursed. As I observe myself living in this planet stricken with egotism, jealousy, self-gratification, and foolishness, I cannot help but see that I am one of her seemingly supportive citizens. Daily I can find myself, although not directly engaging in obvious, short-lived pleasures, having the same mindset and motive as one who was. Does not the LORD judge the heart?

Reflection on The Humility of Christ by Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD.

December 17, 2009

Angie Cho

When the heart is emptied of self, there is “silence in the soul.” Then is it available for the overseeing of the Holy Spirit. The Great Controversy that began in times of old is an ongoing war over the hearts of each human being, where it lays its stage. In view of that, the notion of having “silence in the soul” is beautiful. It connotes the cease, or the end of this great conflict, for as long as two powers are both attempting to occupy one space, there is conflict. To have the joy and peace flowing from Christ alone, infiltrating every inch of the being is too wondrous a thing to even imagine. To not war over every thought, every decision made and every act done seems impossibly liberating. The thought of being able to move forward without the fear of possible regrets is foreign to me. If I was to give all to Christ, to merely be the “outworking of [His] will,” I would have no regrets, no failures (in view of true education), and full assurance and confidence in all that I did, not because of anything I have, but because of who was in control. The cries of my soul would be silenced and God would truly give me the desires of my heart, for He would restore them to the state of perfection in which He first created them.

To be in harmony with God is to rid the self of all it is, except the choice to follow the Savior. For those that have claimed to have “emptied” themselves of all sinfulness and given themselves to Christ, even this act can be done out of selfishness. In this, Jesus’ gift to us, is the epitome of beauty. Accepting such a proposal is also the most sensible decision one can make. To have “silence in the soul” and receive purification for the filthy, decaying heart, and be given a hope in a bright future are all things that people would desire, and that some may attempt to “empty” themselves to obtain. This would have stemmed from selfishness. To the human, ridding the life of unfavorable influences and unwanted thoughts, feelings, and habits is very pleasant and does not do the self any harm. There are those that painstakingly strive to empty themselves of such, not in humility, but in hopes of having a better self. In the end, the self is there, more selfish than ever, but merely masking it with “good” methods.

The humility and self-kenosis of Christ is one that is beyond our understanding. It was not in hopes of what He would receive, or the glory that would be awarded Him. He already had had everything and He had not lack of anything in His heavenly home. He was already the center of the universe and was worshiped as the One God. It was not to restore Himself from a degraded state, for He was God, the Most High, the Sun of Righteousness, the Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent. It was also not to have “silence in [His] soul” for He was the Peace-giver. To think such a being could find reason to empty Himself is absurd. All the power and wisdom He had were perfect and good, unlike the poisonous habits and attributes we attempt to give up. Christ’s brightness of character and the depth of humility not only overshadow our pitiful attempts to give up parts of ourselves to our LORD, but it makes it completely negligible. We have nothing to offer Him. Even the humility must come from Jesus. Our own seemingly genuine humility is as filthy rags. Only Christ’s humility can give us Christ’s Love.

In the eyes of the Almighty, we are not righteous in and of ourselves. Just as we are to accept Christ’s righteousness and claim it as our ticket into the Book of Life, in the same manner we are to accept Christ’s humility.  In the same way those saved by Christ feel that the gospel is too good to be true, being able to merely open our hearts to accept the humility that he offers us is news of the same manner. All we must do and are capable of doing is choosing to let go of all our self-important thoughts, our past and our pride, and let Jesus settle in. Although, for us humans, selecting this option seems the most profitable and sensible, for Christ’s side, it seems illogical and completely irrational. Christ receives nothing good from us, but actually has to show mercy over and over again as we continue to let Him down. We struggle against His dominion and we do not wish to give back what is His. We crucify Him daily, spitting and scorning as we do so. Yet we somehow find, from the depths of His infinite heart, a foundation of humility, and in it a spring of love overflowing from the heavens into our very being. This relationship and interaction cannot but summed up in equations, in words, in pictures, in speeches or anything comprehendible by any creature, for it is intangible, real, and pulsating with merciful grace.

This is love. This is humility. This is the LORD we serve.