The Seven-Fifteen

Lately, our church was visited by Drs. (yes, plural) Hong Yang and his wife, Esther.

He’s a funny, ON FIRE, truly pentecostal preacher – barely attached to the floor when he’s preaching. He’s like a firecracker bursting at the sides to proclaim the Gospel. It is truly inspiring to see. One of his many talents is using word play to convey the deepest truths in the simplest ways… One thing he said which really struck me was:

“… at the heart of every issue … is an issue of the heart…”

I had to write that down in my notebook very quickly (coz this guy speaks a million miles a minute) but I just knew that I would have to revisit that thought at the very first chance.

On my last post, I had mentioned that just over a year ago, I was living a life of sin…  but since coming back to God, its been a long and hard process of learning and unlearning things that I had always thought to be true about myself, about my small world, about the world-at-large, about life, about the church, about God himself.

And no, I’m not talking about some kind of shifty DIY ‘psych yourself out’ process. Part of what was different about “this” coming back to God – was my going back to the light of his Truth – of his Word.

The Bible says, the truth will set us free. We say it often in the church but most of us don’t really know how that can be true. I’ve heard many a sermon on the importance of reading the Word but never had I placed so much faith in its power, never have I relied on it and NEVER have I been more convinced that:

No one can hope for true redemption, for transformation, for TRUE LIVING without God’s word…

Without the Word – you won’t know WHO you are – you won’t know WHOSE you are – you won’t realize WHERE you are (reference to God’s first question to Adam — making him realize he was NOT in God’s presence anymore)…. These three questions make up the basics of human identity.

We were created by God for his glory and his pleasure and without Him we are left incomplete for the “creation can never be satisfied without communion with the Creator”.

Without intimacy with God, without identity – no wonder we have no inkling of the WHYs, the HOWs, the WHAT FORs of living. No wonder we have no sense of direction and purpose in life – no wonder we end up living for the lesser things – no wonder we end up being mastered by our most natural desires…

Sin caused us to lose our intimacy with God, which resulted in the loss of our identity – which led to the loss of control.

It always confused me – why I would do the things that I knew were not good for me – why would I continue doing the very things that were screwing my life up. It was masochistic. Its counter-intuitive… Its as Paul had said

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15

And yes, that is THE SEVEN-FIFTEEN that this blog is named after.

Masochistic, counter-intuitive it may be — but it is the human condition…

Most of us, who secretly struggle with sinful habits — have tried countless times to STOP — without realizing that the reason we cannot stop is because we haven’t gotten to the root of the problem.

The heart of the human issue – is not the ISSUES – its our HEARTS.

We all need an intensive renovation of the heart. We need to stop running away from the Truth – hiding away in the shadows, in the darkness. If you want to be free — if you want to live — you need to die…

We need to start moving things OUT and invite Jesus in. We need to check ourselves into the Hospital (the Church) — to reconnect with the Father, through his Son and re-establishing that connection through the guidance and the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

Only then, can we live in freedom. Only then, can we truly live.

Sin and Snakes

Come Away With Me - Agatha Villa
Come Away with Me

It was another one of those hot Saturdays, I just needed to get a breath of fresh air. So, I packed my camera bag and set out to retrace some of my old photo-venture trails. Somehow, I found myself along the rocky side of the island and I felt like taking a turn I had never tried before. Then, I had an encounter (too close for comfort) with a snake – not just any kind of small worm-like garden snake – it was a nice, fat, HOODED snake – yes, a cobra.

Words cannot even begin to describe the panic that set the moment I saw it. Yes, I had always known that in an island (such as the one I live on) full of trees, boulders and crevices, there would be untold numbers of creatures lurking, hiding. In fact, part of the thrill of photo-venturing was the reminder that there were dangerous things out there. The only thing was, now that danger was all too real.

So, when I saw that scaly body not even a foot away from where I was standing, all I could think of was to run.

“Snakes… you either kill them or you run away from them – fast…”

Sin, is like that too in many respects.

I’m not saying that snakes are inherently evil – but sin definitely is. No matter how people might want to view it sin is despicable, ugly and destructive. It is anything and everything that separates us from God.

I used to be in bondage to sin. I could not stop doing the very things that I hated, the very things that brought me so much pain and suffering. All my attempts at ‘cleaning up’ were in vain. I was but a slave and sin my master.

Today, in many ways, I am still the same person I was before – the same proclivities, same inclinations, same carnal desires — but after having repented and returned to God I am convinced now that I am a ‘new creation’ (as the Bible puts it). I am no longer in bondage to my sinful ways – I can say no.

But just because it is possible to say ‘no’ to sin, doesn’t mean we should just willingly waltz into situations wherein we know we can ‘fall’. In Matthew 26 we are told, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” In James 1, we are also told that we are tempted by ‘natural desires’.

We live in a world that glorifies sin. Temptation presses on us – from all sides. We should not, therefore, be surprised by it. At times, its harder to resist especially when my humanity weighs on me. But the Bible gives me hope, it tells me

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

There will always be a way out.

We need to realize that falling into temptation is not an ‘oops, I did it again’ sort of thing. Often, we make several unwise decisions before we are trapped into sin again. In that case, we must be aware of our weaknesses — of things, places, times and even PEOPLE that may lead us to sin.

So, I tell myself. “Agie, you know you shouldn’t be here – you know where this road leads.”

1 Peter 5:8-9 tells me:

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Life for every Christian is a constant struggle – its why I decided to make this blog. Even if we are no longer who we were – we still have that sinful nature in us – THAT WANTS to sin. It is not, however, the end game – if and when we fall. If and when you fall into sin (just like I have in many occasion), the best thing really is to look to Jesus again — don’t be discouraged by your failings, rather – repent and return to God our Father.

1 Peter 5:10 reminds us

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

God is not finished with us yet…

“…Trust deep. Aim high. Work hard. Live Well. Die Laughing…”