A Year of Hills and Valleys

But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven:

A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.”  Deuteronomy 11:11-12

Out of the midnight of the past year, we enter into a New Year, unaware of what lies ahead. As in past years, we surmise that the coming days will not all be days of sunshine and comfort in the valley; there will be days of difficulty, of wind, testing and cold in the hills.

Yes, the year we are to possess will be a year of hills and valleys, but the overall landscape drinks “water from the rain of heaven”. What comfort we can glean from these words: The Lord shall be our constant supply whether in the valley, or in the hills — that the Lord steadfastly and faithfully cares for us in whatever situation in life we find ourselves in.

He is ever present. His eyes are always upon us, from the beginning of the year, even unto the end of the year.

* Photo –  by Filip Emanuel
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The Christ The World Despises

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”  Isaiah 53:3  KJV

From the book “God Calling”,  by Two Listeners, ed. by A. J. Russell:

That these words strike a note of Beauty in the hearts of those attuned to hear the Beautiful, shows truly that the heart recognizes the need for the Man of Sorrows. That it sees nothing contemptible in One despised by the world. That it recognizes the vast difference between the values of Heaven, and those of the world. Fame and acclamations are accorded to earth’s great, contempt and rejection to the Son of God.

One of the things My disciples must ever seek to do is to set aside the valuation of the world, and judge only according to the values of Heaven. These are not for you.  Do not seek the praise and the notice of men. You follow a despised Christ. See the mob is hooting, throwing stones, jeering, and yet in that quiet little throng there is a happiness and Joy the reviling crowds could never know.

Follow that little throng with stones and gibes, and it appears to be of men, mean, ludicrous, contemptible.  Be one of the throng, and you feel the Majesty of God in the presence of Him, Who was despised and rejected of men. Wreaths around His Brow, and shouts of applause, would belittle that Majesty.

In your dark hours, when human help fails, keep very close to the Man of Sorrows. Feel My Hand of Love press yours in silent but complete understanding. I, too, was acquainted with grief. No heart can ache without My heart aching too. “He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”

* Note: The content in this post is not by the author of this blog, but is derived and quoted from the book  “God Calling”, ed by A. J. Russell
* picture of Jesus from http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/ocean/

The First and Foremost Love

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” Mark 12:30

Love is a command. Astounding.  How can love be a by-product of a command? A command to obey seems sensible, but a command to love?  I did not hear an explicit command to love my children when they were born;  love for them came naturally to me as breathing and blinking my eyes.

But the kind of love being “commanded” here goes beyond all dictionary definitions. It is a love that is to be practiced by all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, permeating every warp and woof of my being.  This is the first and foremost directive. Jesus says in Matthew 22:37 that “this is the first and great commandment.”  The great commandment.

Even more astounding when I consider Who gives this command: God Himself.  He commands me to love Him with every fiber, every imaginable strength I could muster, with all of my heart, soul and mind.  God commands me to love Him.

But even if I were not commanded, I do love God; however, the kind of love I possess has to go several steps further — to follow the commandment as directed, to love God with the totality of my being.    As God loves me, I am to love Him.

I believe the great commandment is about the quality of my love for God. The most important concern in my life, therefore, is my love relationship with God.


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Men As Trees, Walking

23And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.  24And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.
Mark 8:23-25 King James Version

The healing of the blind man at Bethsaida illustrates a miracle of Jesus that was not instantaneous, but unfolded as a two-stage process.  There is a marked difference in the healing of another blind man Bartimaeus of Jericho just two chapters away in Mark 10, who immediately received his sight.

Why the variation in the healing method? It was not because of the lack of  Jesus Christ’s powers that the healing was not immediate. It could be surmised that in the first instance, the blind man did not personally ask Jesus to heal him – other men at Bethsaida brought him to Jesus, requesting for the blind man’s healing; however, this may not be the reason for the two-step healing process because in another miracle, a paralytic whose friends brought him to Jesus was healed instantly. One can only infer that the Lord had a message to illustrate — that this particular miracle was a parable in itself.

What is significant here is that Jesus led the blind man out of the town, and it was outside Bethsaida that Jesus initiated the healing process.  It was a personal, one-on-one encounter with the Son of Man.

After Jesus first put His hand on the blind man’s eyes, Jesus asked him what he saw.  The blind man answered,  “I see men as trees walking”.  It required a second touch from Jesus for the blind man to be fully restored to see every man clearly.

The metaphor that is often described here is that of getting to know God and having one’s spiritual “blindness” healed — to be able to discern the truths of God’s Kingdom more clearly.  A lot of expositions on this subject refer to the first step of this healing process as a “lack of clarity” in the perception of spiritual truths. This is the stage when, after an encounter  with “The Way, The Truth and The Life”, the darkness dissipates; however, one’s comprehension of the Truth is still very much blurred and indistinct, leading to uncertainty and double-mindedness.

The saving grace of the blind man at Bethsaida was his honesty.  He could have told Jesus that he was fine, and went on his way, half-cured.  Not only his honesty, but his desire to see more precisely was what made him whole.

It is thought-provoking that the first object of vision after the first touch of Jesus was that of men.  “What do you see?” That was what Jesus asked the man.  The man from Bethsaida could have mentioned other objects that he saw: the pebbles on the road, the animals, plants,  flowers, even his own hands and feet; however, he straightaway focused on other people.  When he was unable to see, how he must have longed to see other people’s faces, their expression as they talked, laughed, or cried.  After the first touch of Jesus, he listened for sounds where the people were, and set his eyes upon them.   But how did he know what trees looked like?  How did he make the resemblance? Perhaps by touching trees, or through other people describing trees to him.  But he was confused. Trees were supposed to be stationary while men were mobile; his blurry vision identified men with trees.

Trees are tall, rigid and upright.  The man must have been kneeling before Jesus because it is described that he “looked up” after the first touch.  It was a daunting sight for the man: other men, like trees, loomed large (appeared imminent in a threatening, magnified form .. dictionary.com)  But that did not look quite right to him. He was not satisfied with the fuzzy images, the blurriness and the shadows that he saw. He wanted to see men as they really were.

After the man’s response, “Jesus put His hands again upon the man’s eyes and made him look up, and he was restored, and saw every man clearly”.

What do you see? As Jesus asks, “Do you see as you ought to see?”  Do you see clearly, do you know where you stand in your relationship to God and man, or is there uncertainty, vagueness, or double-mindedness?  Are you on fire for the things of God, or are you  neither hot nor cold?  If your vision is blurry,would you be honest to admit this?  If so, then draw near to Jesus and have Him touch you again so you can be at the place where God wants you to be — not in a state of confusion, brokenness and uncertainty, but rather healed, made whole, and “seeing each man clearly”.

*** Photography by James Insogna — jamesinsogna.com

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How Hungry? Tests of Spiritual Appetite

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

What does it mean to “hunger and thirst after righteousness”?  In his book “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount”,  Dr.David Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives a few tests to determine the presence of spiritual appetite.

“The first test is this:  Do we see through all our own false righteousness?”  This would be the first indication of such appetite.  That  is, unless one recognizes his righteousness as nothing but “filthy rags”, there would be no hunger for something better.

Another test is discipline.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones says, “This subject of discipline is of vital importance.  I am suggesting that unless we day by day voluntarily and deliberately remind ourselves of this righteousness which we need, we are not very likely to be hungering and thirsting after it. The man who truly hungers and thirsts makes himself look at it every day.”  Discipline is finding the time to satisfy the hunger pangs that one feels.

The next test according to Dr. Lloyd-Jones is this:  “The man who is hungering and thirsting after righteousness always puts himself in the way of getting it”.   The blind man, Bartimaeus, could not heal himself, so he put himself in the way where Jesus was passing through and made such a commotion that Jesus could not help but notice him.   In modern life, this implies going to Church and being involved in the Church, reading the Bible, and making time for prayer.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones mentions the need for reading the biographies of saints and all literature one can lay hold on the matter of righteousness and the Kingdom of God.  He continues, “The people who hunger and thirst after righteousness are frantic.  They do all these things; they are seeking righteousness everywhere; and yet they know their efforts are never going to lead to it.  … It does not matter whom you look at.  It seems to work out like this: it is only as you seek this righteousness with the whole of your being that you can truly discover it. You can never find it yourself.  Yet the people who sit back and do nothing never seem to get it.  That is God’s method.  … We have done everything, and having done all we are still miserable sinners: and then we see that, as little children, we are to receive it as the free gift of God.”

These then are the tests for spiritual appetite.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones concludes by asking: “Is it(hungering after righteousness) the greatest desire of our life?  Is it the deepest longing of our being? Can we say quite honestly and truly that we desire above everything else in this world truly to know God and to be like the Lord Jesus Christ, to be rid of self in every shape and form, and to live only, always and entirely to His glory and to His honor?”

If so, then as we keep on asking, seeking and knocking, indeed we shall be filled — ‘with all the fullness of God’.


*** Photo by Sifu Renka

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