Whatever is Worthy

My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. ~ Psalm 45:1

Lesson from The Pilgrim’s Progress – Restore your brother in a spirit of gentleness — May 26, 2017

Lesson from The Pilgrim’s Progress – Restore your brother in a spirit of gentleness

John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is my favorite book of all time. Bunyan movingly describes the journey that all must take when they place their faith in Christ. The allegory begins with a man named Christian, carrying “[a] great burden on is back,” trying to escape the City of Destruction. He “opens [and reads] a Book…, [weeps] and tremble[s]…” for the Book reveals his sins. Christian meets a man named Evangelist, who upon seeing that Christian is in despair and lamenting his condition, points him to the Wicket Gate, which will ultimately lead to the Celestial City (Heaven itself!). Evangelist directs Christian to keep the Shinning Light in his eye and go directly toward it; as the Wicket Gate is there. As Christian plunges into this course; his wife, children and neighbors, Obstinate and Pliable, attempt to persuade him to return. To which Christian “put[s] his fingers in his ears, and [runs] on crying, Life! Life! Eternal Life!” And so the journey begins.

Eventually, Pliable tags along with Christian on the way to the Wicket Gate and is content, even curious with the pilgrim life, until they reach what is the Slough of Despond, an area/time of deep depression. Once there they find themselves drowning in quicksand, with Christian drowning far more rapidly than Pliable since he has the great burden on his back.  Disillusioned that the road to the Celestial City is met with difficulty, Pliable vows to return to his hometown if he’s able to escape the Slough. He is successful in freeing himself and, as promised, hastily returns back to the City of Destruction; leaving Christian alone to drown in the miry Slough. That is, until a man named Help pulls Christian out and redirects him on the path to the Wicket Gate.

As Christian is making his way, he encounters a man named Mr. Worldly Wiseman and the two soon become acquainted. During their discourse, Mr. Worldly Wiseman mocks Evangelist’s counsel to Christian and persuades him to pay Mr. Legality a visit so that Mr. Legality can help Christian get rid of his burden. Christian listens and soon finds himself out of the narrow way that leads to the Wicket Gate, still carrying the great burden on his back, and afraid to venture further. And so we read:

Here therefore he sweat and did quake for fear. And now he began to be sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly Wiseman’s counsel; and with that he saw Evangelist coming to meet him; at the sight also of whom he began to blush for shame. So Evangelist drew nearer and nearer; and coming up to him, he looked upon him with a severe and dreadful countenance, and thus began to reason with Christian.

Evan.  What doest thou here, Christian? said he: At which words, Christian knew not what to answer; wherefore at present he stood speechless before him….

Evan.  Did not I direct thee the Way to the little Wicket Gate?

Chr.  Yes, dear Sir, said Christian.

Evan. How is it then that thou art so quickly turned aside? For thou art now out of the way.

Chr. I met with a gentleman so soon as I had got over the Slough of Despond, who persuaded me, that I might, in the village before me, find a man that could take off my Burden.

And so Evangelist and Christian continue their exchange. Christian recounts Mr. Worldly Wiseman’s deceptive tale; to which Evangelist rebukes Christian and admonishes him to stay on the narrow path, shows Christian his sin, and compares it to what the word of God says.

Then (said Evangelist) stand still a little, that I may shew thee the words of God. So he [Christian] stood trembling….

Then Christian fell down at his foot as dead, crying. Wo is me, for I am undone! At the sight of which, Evangelist caught him by the right hand, saying, All manner of sin and blasphemies shall be forgiven unto men; be not faithless, but believing: Then did Christian again a little revive, and stood up trembling, as at first, before Evangelist….

Chr.  Sir, what think you? Is there hopes? May I now go back, and go up to the Wicket Gate? Shall I not be abandoned for this, and sent back from thence ashamed? I am very sorry I have harkened to this man’s counsel; but may my sin be forgiven?

Evan.  Then said Evangelist to him, thy sin is very great, for by it thou hast committed two evils; thou hast forsaken the Way that is good, to tread in forbidden paths; yet will the man at the Gate receive thee, for he has good will for men; only, said he, take heed that thou turn not aside again, lest thou perish from the Way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.

Then did Christian address himself to go back; and Evangelist, after he had kissed him, gave him one smile, and bid him God speed; so he [Christian] went on with haste, neither spake he to any man by the way; nor if any asked him, would he vouchsafe them an answer….So in process of time Christian got up to the Gate.

Ladies, we see in this excerpt that early in his walk Christian encounters Obstinate, which the Bible describes people like him as scoffers (Proverbs 21:24). Along with Obstinate came Pliable, who the Bible paints as a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). Next Christian unfortunately meets with and heeds to the counsel of Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who in Romans 1:22 is found to be someone who professes to be wise, but is indeed a fool (1 Corinthians 1:18-22). And finally he was directed to Mr. Legality’s house, who is a Pharisee as he holds to a form of Godliness and seeks to keep people bound to the law (Matthew 23:1-7).

In contrast, notice the way Evangelist sternly rebukes his brother for his sins, speaks the truth in love, gently encourages him to repent, and urges him to entrust himself to the Lord. Dare we remember God’s warning in Galatians 6: 1-3:

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

In a world full of people like Obstinate, Pliable, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, and Mr. Legality, may we be like Evangelist; restoring our brethren in a spirit of gentleness.

Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
A sated man loathes honey,
But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet. ~ Proverbs 27:5-7

Thoughts on using your time wisely… — March 5, 2016

Thoughts on using your time wisely…

I recently read an article on Desiring God entitled Hillary, Bernie, Donald, and Me. It was amazingly encouraging to me because John Piper describes how at the age of 70 and beyond all these candidates still have goals of doing something exceptional in their lives, which includes the “hardest job in the world!” How cool is that! Piper goes on to list many people who have accomplished amazing things and set out goals to do great things beyond the age of 70.

Piper does a fantastic job in reminding believers that retirement is not mandated in the Bible. It certainly was not a part of the lives and plans of Moses, Paul and other important biblical characters. He draws the point that for the Christian, “our retirement is in heaven.”

I tell you, when I was done reading the article, I was so pumped, so encouraged, so motivated to do incredible things for the Lord Jesus. He deserves that His people be sold-out for His cause. Oh that the Lord would raise up a people that are zealous for Him! That He would help us to live lives that glorify Him in all things, at all times. He is amazing. He is incredible! May God help us to redeem our time that we may do things for His glory.

15 Therefore [j]be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 [k]making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. ~ Ephesians 5:15-17

Future Thoughts —

Future Thoughts

My daughter’s been thinking a lot lately about what to do for college, where to go, how she will pay. She’s been dwelling on all things pertaining to her education future. She wants to make sure that she is covered financially. She is aiming to get a good score on the SAT and looking to CLEP some courses in order to save money and to get a scholarship, if possible. Of course I’m dragged into this futuristic craze with her. I’m the target of many questions, that I love to answer and now I even find myself spending quite a good amount of time “researching.” This is our second year homeschooling so I have lots of questions too. I’m trying to find ways to get her into college and get her some scholarships as well.

The other day while doing my usual research – looking for CLEP materials, the local college requirement for Dual Enrollment and the like – I started thinking about an elderly lady from my church. Let’s call her Nena. She has four sons, one which happens to be my pastor. She is a sweet lady and super affectionate.

I thought, “Wow, Nena raised very successful boys.” See, all of Nena’s boys are professionals of some sort: two doctors, one lawyer and a pastor. As a mother, what a great accomplishment to have your children become professionals in different fields. However, as a Christian, Nena’s has been much more successful because all four of her boys are saved. That’s amazing and God gets all the glory for that!

In the eyes of the world, Nena did a great job raising boys that took their education seriously and wound up pursing professional degrees. But even more so, Nena is successful in the Almighty’s eyes for having been obedient to the Lord in diligently teaching them His word. She could very well have raised them all to be the President of the United States, and that would have been an great feat, but being the President that fears the Lord and has an allegiance to Him, now that’s an incredible accomplishment indeed.

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?  Mark 8:36

Grown-ups and the Essential Matters — July 24, 2015

Grown-ups and the Essential Matters

Grown-ups are like that…Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What game does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?

Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

– The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

He’s right! Grown-ups are like that. We place much worth on things we find expensive, of value. The higher the number, the shinier and prettier it is in our eyes. Why are we like that? Why do we “look at the outer appearance?” 1 Sam 16:7

Even second-hand stores prove this point. “Really? How?” you say. Well take a good look at, say, Goodwill, for instance. They have their racks for regular clothes and a special section just for ‘designer apparel.’ Even the description changes. Doesn’t ‘designer apparel’ appeal more to your senses than regular clothes?

I have witnessed a person go for a plain-looking designer top, obviously not being the person’s style, just because it bore a brand name label. Usually you can purchase a very similar top at a small boutique in the mall for a fraction of the price. But because it’s nicer to have the name [insert favorite logo here] roll off your tongue, then thrift store, it’s suddenly more glamorous and more appealing. It’s sad really. Yet this is the type of culture we live in, especially in the United States. This culture is not much different from the one in Jesus’ time. And He warned us that we should:

…“Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

We value possessions. We give places of honor to those whose job/professional title is added to their birth name. We watch different shows on television, even the commercials, or the magazines at the check-out counter and secretly wish we had some more.

In The Little Prince, this smart young man implies the futility of working, working and working all your life to obtain many useless things. He goes on to say:

I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved anyone. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: ‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride.

Bingo! That’s exactly what that is. Our infatuation with figures, with materials, with the things of this world is connected with our pride. Instead of our hearts being inclined to the heavenly things, to things that matter, it is tied to the things of this world. These things will soon perish and only the truly valuable things will remain. Solomon, the wisest man in the world ended the book of Ecclesiastes like this:

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

That’s it folks. That’s the way we ought to govern our lives – fearing God Almighty and keeping His commandments. The commandments include loving Him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength. It includes loving our neighbors as ourselves. It includes being filled with the Holy Spirit. It includes being Christ-like so that He will get the glory out of our lives. May we be diligent to endeavor in that regard. I leave you with this comforting verse:

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

33 Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~ Luke 12: 27-34 [Emphasis added]

To what does your heart incline? Where can it be found?

Easter lilies grow on the Palmer Westbrook, Inc., Easter lily farm in the small town of Smith River, California.  Smith River is known as the Easter lily capital of the world. Farmers in  the costal area between California and Oregon grows nearly all of the Easter Lily bulbs sold in America.(Credit Image: © Robin Loznak)

A Thankful Heart — May 30, 2015

A Thankful Heart

May is a month of much anticipation and joy for many graduates, high school or otherwise. Joining this flock of ecstatic achievers is my niece who will graduate from high school today. She’s a beautiful young woman, bestowed with a lovely jazzy voice, popular and very smart. This fresh, 18 year old, will embark on her next journey in life excited about the transition from high school student to adulthood.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the graduation, but as I was writing on a card I bought for her, I couldn’t help but think of all the accomplishments people have throughout life. Many accomplishments occur as infants and young children, where due to our biological make-up, we cannot retain many of them in memory. As infants, we hold the bottle for the first time, rollover, sit, crawl, walk, talk, independently use the potty, well you get the point. Progress to childhood and we find that we can successfully tie our shoes for the first time, learn to read, recite the ABCs from memory, ride a bike, etc. And so, for many, we go through life completing countless feats; graduations, engagements, marriage, parenthood, careers, and promotions to name a few. We are mostly unaware that these great things are not attained on our own merit, and many times not even giving it a second thought to thank God.

There is an enormous error in this kind of thinking. We get to where we get to with the help of God. Let’s never forget that. A grateful person goes further in life than the unthankful ever will. Take a moment and always thank Him for your accomplishments. One of the ugliest traits a person can have is that of being an ingrate. As difficult times approach, men will be characterized by a variety of despicable traits, one of them being ungrateful. Take a look at what Paul says in his letter in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.”

Although all of these listed traits are undesirable, doesn’t it seem that the ungrateful person just caries an air of arrogance and self-entitlement? Such a trait has the capacity to disfigure even the most physically flattering person.

We ought to be thankful for what we have. We must be content with the things our Creator has bestowed upon us. They’re bestowed for a reason, it’s free, and it’s undeserved. We’ve been give these things because He sovereignly ordained it so. Let’s not take it upon ourselves to alter that as if we are the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s humble ourselves and remember that we are not worthy of anything and everything that we do have is a gift and a blessing from God, “for every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17.)

Let us strive to apply this truth and

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. ~ Colossians 3:15-17

God bless!

~ Ambism

Live Purposely — April 20, 2015

Live Purposely

I want to encourage my children to be the best they can be.

To tap in to their creative side. Quiet the negative voices

trying to pounce on them like a roaring lion seeking to devour

their hopes, dreams and aspirations.

May they learn to silence that oppressive voice.

No, kill it.

For its very existence robs its victim of any God-given talent

and leaves them dejected,

like the disillusioned look in the eyes of many elderly, the ones

abandoned in nursing homes by their families.

Rejected and forgotten.

Yes,

that is what the negative voice does. It sucks

the life out of you and leaves you hopeless.

Aimlessly roaming the earth with nothing to look forward to,

full of untapped potential.

May they kill that voice now in their youth.

That they may avoid the unfortunate circumstance

that many in their 50s and beyond find themselves

in – – a life of regret – – recalling all the opportunities

they had to make a significant contribution to this world, but

for the sake of instant gratification

forsook the chance

to leave a lasting impression.

They are now just waiting for the time

when they will leave this world and be no more.

But in the meantime,

though the voice has robbed them,

it comes back to assault with deadly blows,

reminding them of their failures, taunting that

their hopes, dreams and aspirations are but a blur, and

keeping them in a state of mind of hopelessness,

when they can but serve as a witness and give

the youth the instrument to kill this foe…

WISDOM.

– Ambism ❤

Oh that my children would seek this truth,

hearken to my voice and fear the Lord…

who is the beginning of wisdom!

Beyond Me — Easter Weekend 2015 — April 7, 2015

Beyond Me — Easter Weekend 2015

I had a lovely weekend surrounded by family, friends and my church family. On Friday was my church’s Good Friday Music Night. Different church members formed into groups to sing songs reflecting on the death of Christ, the cross and His resurrection. I was part of a group that sang Charles Wesley’s hymn “And Can it Be.” It was a challenge to sing, but so worth it. It truly is a beautiful hymn. My son played the piano to a song called “Grace and Peace.” I had a proud mommy moment watching him overcome his nervousness and play the piano. Then my pastor gave a brief message presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The entire program must have lasted about two hours, maybe even short of two hours.

Excited about mine and my son’s musical presentation, I invited several people. My husband and friend were the only ones able to attend, the others could not make it. My friend brought along her aunt and son. The evening went so well. My son did his piano number and I sang my little heart out. My brothers and sisters also presented their songs so divinely.

Everything seemed to be going well and my guests enjoying themselves until my pastor preached. As he spoke I looked over to my husband and friend from my corner seat and saw to my surprise…restlessness. My husband was continuously yawning every so often and my friend uncontrollably shaking her legs. I tried to focus on the message as best I could and tune them out, but I was distracted. I kept thinking “Why aren’t they interested? This is good.” In the end, I was just frustrated and disappointed.

Finally, the end of the message arrived, believers partook of the Lord’s Supper and the service came to an end. We prayed for the food, the congregation was dismissed and everyone moved towards the dinner hall for fellowship. Much to further my disillusion, as the congregation was exiting the sanctuary, my friend quickly said her goodbyes and departed with her guests. She said that she had to quickly drop off her aunt because her son wanted to spend as much time with her as possible before she left back to Cuba in a few days. My husband, on the other hand, stayed a little longer but did not want to fellowship. He just wanted to grab the dinner and go!

And that’s not the worst part. The next day I see that my friend, who made it seem like her aunt had to be home by midnight like Cinderella, posts a picture with her aunt at a restaurant where they were having dinner nearly 40 minutes after they left. I was truly let down.

I thought I had gotten over Friday’s ordeal since my mind was occupied the rest of the day Saturday at the beach (Which was excellent!) and Resurrection Sunday was filled with sweet fellowship. On Monday, however, I found myself dwelling on the what occurred on Friday night. I was just so disappointed about the whole thing. I cannot begin to tell you how discouraging it is to invite people to church and see them leave pretty much the same way they came in, but with more speed. It is like you want them to respond to the message heard and feel deep conviction for their sins. You go through the week praying that the Lord may use the service and message to impact your loved ones, only to see that the only impact it seemed to have made is their desire to leave the premises as quickly as possible. What a bummer, I tell you!

Wallowing in my hopelessness for the souls of my loved ones, I start singing a song we learned at my church’s mission’s conference this past February. There is something special about music and God’s people that they resort to singing when they are feeling low. Praise God for hymns. 🙂  Anyway, the song is called For the Sake of His Name. I remember having a copy of the lyrics in my tote bag at work and so I started reading.

Go to the world for the sake of his name;

to every nation His glory proclaim.

Pray that the Spirit wise

Will open darkened eyes,

Granting new life to display Jesus’ fame.

Love the unloved for the sake of His name;

Like Christ, befriend those

Whose heads hang in shame.

Jesus did not condemn,

But was condemned for them.

Trust gospel power, for we once were the same.

Oh my goodness! The Lord immediately reminded me that my husband and friend (and the rest of my loved ones) are not saved. What else do I expect? Their hearts are darkened, their eyes do not see. They are in the kingdom of darkness as of now. And what’s more, I once was the same.

1 Corinthians 6: 9-11

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 2: 1-5

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

Titus 3:3

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.

I mean, what is up with me getting in my feelings and making Friday’s event about me anyway? The Lord is working, let Him do His job! I was reminded to trust my God, for our times are in His hands. He is sovereign and in full control of all situations. My prayer is that the seed that has been planted in my husband, friends and loved ones will grow abundantly. I am to plant the seed or water it, but only God Almighty will cause it to grow.