Changed from Dogs to Sheep

Matthew 25: 2, 12-13

“Five of them were foolish, and five were wise….But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

As those called by God, we are set apart to live in this world, but not of the world (1 John 2:15-17). Being set apart means that we are called to holiness, to be sanctified in our mind and acts, and all that we are to be more and more like Jesus, to live our lives on the basis of the Gospel, on the basis of what Jesus Christ has come and done for us on the Cross. He rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of our Heavenly Father so that we have the Holy Spirit living in us to guide us to live for Him.

What is foolishness in this world? Proverbs 26:11 tells us, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” It paints a vivid picture, doesn’t it? We have been saved by Jesus’ precious blood, been purchased by a price, if we keep our sinful ways, we are like dogs returning to its vomit. Remember, when we come to Christ, we are changed by God from dogs to sheep, and we listen to our Sheperd’s voice and follow Him, not the world (John 10:3).

In Need of a Savior

Life is very real. It’s not all sunshine, love, laughters, happiness, singing with overwhelming joy all the time; there are also sorrow, pain, tears, loneliness, hurt, misunderstanding, harsh judgment, cruelty, poverty, and deep anguish….But that’s why it makes sense that we are in need of a Savior, Someone who was willing and did come to die for our sins, to redeem and deliver us to the everlasting joy that we are able to experience partly here on earth, and that we will be able to experience fully one day in Heaven. Thank you, Jesus!

Comfort in Pain

Q5

We often don’t understand the depth of someone’s pain and aloneness until we experience a very similar suffering.

The Lord teaches us to trust Him in the midst of our pain, and love others with great compassion, just as He loves us.

In a deep pain, we might suddenly realize that sometimes all a person needs in their deep pain is not to hear you “preach” to them, but just being there with and for them, and just to feel God’s comfort, like a child closing their eyes and hiding in a loving Father’s arms.

May the Lord wrap his arms around you in your pain, that He comfort you with his everlasting love and presence. God is with you.

When Do Troubles End?

Matthew‬ ‭14:30-31‬ ‭(ESV‬)

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”

If we are honest about ourselves, we would recognize and admit that we are often like Peter, being afraid and panic when life seems to be overwhelming, uncertain and when we feel lost. We might begin to doubt: “Is God really with me like He says He is? Is He really watching over me and directing my steps like He says He is? Am I really walking in His blessings in Christ?”

It’s understandable that we think and feel like that sometimes. Life is full of troubles and we are weak in our flesh, but the Lord says to Peter (and to us), “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Certainly the Lord knows our circumstances and our flesh, but His focus is on our hearts: “Why did you doubt?” He wants us to look to Him, remembering what the Lord has promised His chosen people (all Christians who believe in Christ) throughout the Old Testament to the New Testament, which has all been “YES”, all been fulfilled in Jesus Christ on the Cross. He has died for our sins so that God will be with us at all times in all situations. That is our greatest comfort and hope. And He asks us to remember and believe that to give Him glory.

When do our troubles end in the current situation? Recognize that the wind does not cease until Jesus and Peter get into the boat (Matthew‬ ‭14:32‬). This is a crucial point because it shows us what truly matters is not when the storm on the sea calms. What truly matters is that the Lord wants us to know our need for Him and cry out like Peter “Lord, save me!” The storm first calms in our heart, and when God’s purpose to grow us in our faith is done, the true peace comes, as we have found our Rock and Shepherd, our Ever-lasting Love in Christ, when we fix our eyes on Him, rather than on the circumstances.

Counseling is Devotional

Counseling is a journey that we walk alongside someone – we meet them in the wilderness of their life, we listen to their heart’s cry, we draw them out, and we talk together, pray together…It’s like walking them through a devotional, only that the words are not there right in front of you, but the Holy Spirit is with you, the Lord’s presence and Word with you, walking with you through the valley of life, and leading you to slowly raise your heads, fixing your eyes on Jesus Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for you.

Then, together, we sing,

“My soul yearns, even faints,

for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh cry out

for the living God.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;

the LORD bestows favor and honor;

no good thing does he withhold

from those whose walk is blameless.”

(Psalm 84)

Our Helper in Temptations

Hebrews 2: 18

“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

We face many temptations every day, each one screaming out to be our god and rule our heart and life. Many times we give in because we want it so much, because it feels so good, because we imagine how happy and satisfied we would be “if I could just have it.” Christian life is not an easy road; it requires us to say no to our desires many times a day. Some desires are not bad in and of themselves, but they could grow in such a portion that we want it more than God, and would do anything to have it fulfilled; we demand that it be given to us, be it love, money, sex, food, comfort, peace, etc.

These things happen in small things in the little moments, so we often don’t recognize what has hijacked and enslaved our heart. That’s why Jesus calls us to abide in Him, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) “Blessed is…whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and we grow in Godly wisdom by remaining in his Word. Through His Word, we get to know and be reminded again and again how God has sent his only Son to suffer and die for our sins, through many temptations and sorrows, and because He has defeated the devil who has the power of death, and has overcome the world without sinning, we have the greatest hope in Christ. He is the merciful and faithful high priest and Lord to help us when we face various temptations. What temptation are you struggling with now? Give it to Jesus and ask Him to help you. He is faithful to deliver you and set you free. Trust Him.

Change from the Inside Out

Luke 21:1-4

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'”

Life could feel strange sometimes with all its ups and downs and the many unexpected turning of events. Maybe that’s why there’s the saying, “C’est la vie” (this is life). It’s easy to sing Hallelujah and praise the Lord when things are going really well, but much harder for many of us when things are tough, when sorrow and pain feel like an overwhelming wave that’s about to swallow you up alive.

The good news is that reality is more than what our eyes can see. When things are hard, the Lord hears our cry and answers from His holy mountain (Psalm 3:4, 18:6). Even when we don’t seem to see any change in our situation, the Lord is at work to deliver us, through which process He makes us more like Christ as He endures the greatest suffering to save us from our sins. The Lord works through the Holy Spirit to renew our mind day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16), leading us to the humble state where we could sing with peace and joy, “Lord, I do not have much strength left, but with the little strength that I have, I will worship you. May Your Name be glorified!”

He changes us from inside out, equipping us to look beyond what meets the eye, and see the invisible reality where Jesus sits on the throne and welcomes us in.

Our Comforter & Protector

Isaiah 4:6

“There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.”

Jesus has told us that “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33b) so it shouldn’t surprise us when we face various trials and sufferings (i.e., the “heat”, “storm” and “rain”). We are often surprised and complain when we are met with such “heat” because we have taken our eyes off of God and fixed them on our circumstances.

The Lord is faithful and good. He has promised us that when we put our faith in Him, when we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, He will be our stronghold in distress, a shelter from the trials (Isaiah 25:4), and our very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). He will hide us in His shelter in the day of trouble, conceal us under the cover of His tent; He will lift us high upon a rock (Psalm 27:5), so that “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:7)

No matter what you are facing today, know that the Lord, the Holy One of Israel is with you; He is watching over you, calling you to turn your eyes and heart to Him and Him alone, and He will take care of the rest for you. It is your heart that He wants, and He is Able to calm your storm, and place you on a dry land.

 

How to Act

Proverbs 19:2

“Desire without knowledge is not good. and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”

Have you ever had a thought or idea (in life or ministry), which you were very excited about, and moved to act on it quickly without giving it careful considerations and planning, and ended up failing miserably?

I have done that many times. I used to be very proud of myself, believing that it’s a virtue called “quick to act”, the “opposite” of indecisiveness. The Lord is gracious to use circumstances to humble me, and now I call it my foolishness to act impulsively, without carefully considering all aspects and all people involved, the motive, and the potential short-term and long-term development and impact, etc.

As the Lord teaches us here: having the desire to do something, but without sufficient knowledge of what it is and how to do it is not good. A fool acts unwisely before thinking or planning the right course and misses the way and goal.

Even more importantly, we are to place our ideas and plans before the Lord, examining our hearts to see the motive of our desire – “is it aiming to glorify the Lord, or glorify me? What/Who am I worshiping in wanting to do this?” And we are to pray for God’s wisdom to help us move forward with His guidance in His timing if it pleases Him, instead of relying on our own strength and resources. Proverbs 16: 9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Nothing in our hearts and lives misses the eyes of the sovereign Lord, may Him keep our hearts pure, and our steps firmly established in Him!

How to Listen

Proverbs 18:13

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

Have you ever reacted quickly and emotionally to what another person had just said, without asking them what they really meant by what they said and getting clarification, but only found out later that you had misunderstood them, that they didn’t mean what you thought they meant?

I have done that many times. By God’s grace, He used a friend in my life to gently advice me not to assume what another person meant, but to ask more questions to understand them better. This is great wisdom for my personal life, but also a wonderful skill for counseling.

Listening well is so critical in our interactions with others. The Lord teaches us how to listen, “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (v. 15) We are to listen with an open heart, open mind that is centered on Christ, and we are to take the active role, to seek knowledge – what is truly being said, and not what we think/assume is being said. May God give us wisdom and grace to listen well and love with kindness.