Category: Contemplations


Yesterday I had such a wondrous time reading Matthew chapters 5-7 — just alone time with my God and me. I started from the Beatitudes to the end of Christ’s words, and His teaching just struck me as so amazing. Stuff I had heard before, but for some reason I was seeing with new eyes. Like, He says, when your enemy forces you to go one mile with him, you should go with him two miles. Or if he sues you for your tunic, give him your coat also. Wow, how counter-intuitive! How totally lacking in bitterness — what a hard, amazing thing. He’s really saying, in a nutshell, to repay evil with good, to give to your opponent even when you are the one wronged.

THAT takes a lot of maturity — maturity in becoming Christlike. I was just thinking through these three chapters how a lot of it is about our relationships and our character-building — what righteousness is is Christlike character! The whole Christian experience is growing in that character so that we reflect God’s own perfect character. And all the things Christ was saying in these chapters — so counter-intuitive, against your expectations kind of things — it just made me realize how smart, wise Christ is.

Did you ever ponder how He is pretty smart, I mean, like you admire how other people are smart? I’ve been noticing the ingenuity of God lately, like how His greatest act of glory (redemption of fallen humans) is through His greatest humiliation (the cross)! I mean, how genius is that? Who ever thought of winning through utter defeat, giving life through death — that’s just mind-blowing!

My sis and I really started appreciating this because we’re trying to write a novel, and we come up with these story twists and character growths. And then we apply what we’re doing with what God’s doing, and suddenly we see how awesome God is — He is the greatest Storyteller ever. How He ever came up with the cross is astounding. He’s a person who wants to show His great glory — and yet He shows His greatest glory by becoming a weak, poor, tortured man who dies a criminal’s death on the cross. What’s with that — I mean, if I was trying to show my glory, that’s not the way I’d go about it! I’d blast the world with light or something and just everyone will be at their knees. That’s how we’d all do it.

But not God. He really has a humble streak in Him — He loves showing power through weakness, glory through meekness. O how beautiful — can’t you see how incredible He is! God is a genius — we talk about how loving or holy or merciful He is, but has anybody ever just thought of how He’s just so smart, so genius to come up with such a counter-intuitive way of showing all His glory in the most defeating way? Amazing! Awesome! Now He’s Someone to really admire — to revere and worship and just stand in awe!

What Love Is via How to Train Your Dragon

To me, the most beautiful virtues are humility and selflessness. In watching my favorite movie, How to Train Your Dragon, I realize that it is the characters’ incredible self-denial that keeps me coming back to them time and time again. In the music videos I create and in the stories I make of them, it is these virtues I want to express, because it is this character that forms the foundation of all other beauties: kindness, understanding, and love.

I invite you to read of the excellency of what true love is, via Paul, and to see how that is done, via How to Train Your Dragon:

I Corinthians 13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Did you know who helped end the entire slave trade in England? He was a Christian in politics named William Wilberforce. Sometimes he would wear chains while in the legislative hall to wake up his fellowmen to the plight of the slaves. He followed God and His will to the ends of the earth, to places even where he was ridiculed. How much we need such a faith as he had! I’ve been reading a modern form of his work, Real Christianity, and it is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

He not only helped end slavery, but his writings and example helped inspire a whole nation to turn back to God. He wrote what it means to have authentic faith in Christ. One of the great principles of authentic faith is a true heart of humility before God:

As we grow in Christian maturity, we will also grow in humility. This is the primary principle on which vital faith rests. To the degree that humility grows, so grows our vitality. To the degree it diminishes, our vitality will also diminish. From beginning to end, authentic faith is based on humility. It takes humility to acknowledge our true state before God and throw ourselves on His mercy. It takes humility to recognize that nothing we can do can change the true state of our heart; only surrender to Christ and opening our heart to the Holy Spirit can enable us to change at all. How we relate to God, to ourselves and to our fellow men and women is all a function of the humility we possess” (Real Christianity, paraphrase of Wilberforce, pp. 176-7).

What is humility? How can we obtain it? Humility, according to the dictionary, is a modest or low view of oneself, being synonymous with humbleness. But I think it is more than just that – it is acknowledging the truth about ourselves. We are naturally an arrogant species – we almost always have a problem with thinking better of ourselves than we actually are. Thus, to really view ourselves as we are in reality, it is imperative that we see ourselves as lower than we otherwise would, because our tendency is to over-inflate our worth. To get to the truth, we must be humble.

One key to finding humility is introspective reflection. We need to examine our hearts to see not just our strengths, but also our faults. And not just the easy faults, like a quick temper, but the sins that stretch deeply into the fabric of our souls, sins that may be looked upon by the culture as good or that are so deeply hidden in our thoughts that others don’t even know they’re there. It is extremely easy to overlook sin – this is probably the easiest thing men on earth do.

I’ve seen it in my life. There are times when I would never suspect I was sinning, but then circumstances revealed otherwise:

There was a time when one of my dreams was to send hundreds of balloons across the world with Gospel tracts attached to them. I’d imagine that I’d figure out the wind patterns so that the balloons would peter out and fall down over Christian-persecuting countries such as Saudi Arabia and North Korea so that the people there could hear the Gospel. Sounds like a pretty neat, unique plan, right?

I thought so. I was happy to have such a unique idea and I dreamed of doing it.

But then one day I heard that Christian South Koreans were already sending balloons with tracts into North Korea. When I heard the news, for a second my heart felt disappointed. Since I’m an introspective person, I pondered: “Why, Rowena, are you disappointed about South Koreans finding an ingenious way of sharing the Gospel?”

I was disappointed because I was sad that someone already had my idea. I liked the uniqueness of the idea so much that when I saw someone else using it, I felt that “my idea” had already been used. What a terrible reaction I had – here when I should be praising God for the spreading of the Gospel, I was instead sad that someone was using “my idea” (which never really was mine).

I’ve thought of this example many times because it shows the super-subtle nature of sin and pride, the antithesis to true humility:

First, what was wrong with my original thought? I wanted to share the Gospel of God. That’s good. I wanted to share it with peoples who could hardly find God on their own. That’s good. I thought of a way to reach these people. That’s good. Everything here is worthy and good – everything as you would want if you were following God and doing His will.

But the greatness of the idea went to my head. My pride stealthily crept in, and I was totally unaware of it until I heard of someone else having the idea before me. Just imagine for a second if I never heard about the South Koreans sending Gospel balloons to North Korea. Would I have known that I was sinning in my pride? No! My pride was mixed in with my good motives of serving God, so that I had no knowledge of it until circumstances brought it to light.

This type of sinning and pride is much subtler than the “obvious” sins of adultery, murder, stealing, etc. It’s easy to see if we are or are not committing such sins. But sins of the heart are much trickier and deceptive. That’s why the path to humility must first be launched on a path of self-reflection, to see the motives and attitudes of our true heart. We need to know the sin in us before we will bow in humility before God.

I’ll give another example, then you should think of your own. When I go with my family to shop at Winco (a great, low-priced place to shop!), my sister and I personally bag our groceries (that’s Winco’s policy – self-bagging). Everybody’s bagging their own groceries. Sometimes I see another girl, about the same age as I am, bagging with her family. If she is kind of geeky-looking or shy, I feel empathy and friendliness towards her. But if she has lots of makeup and looks like a hot-shot beauty, I start to feel less friendly and more competitive. I start thinking about how vain she is.

But as I dwell on her faults, what does that say about me? I was empathetic with the less-pretty, less sophisticated girl (compared to me), but was more competitive with the more-pretty, sophisticated girl (compared to me). Sounds like I’m comparing myself. When I see someone less “attractive” than myself, my pride is not threatened, and I may even feel a sense of superiority over her that I hide as empathy. I would have never known this was my superiority-complex rising up had it not been for my negative reaction to a girl more attractive than myself. Suddenly, my true feelings well up.

I’m sure something like this has happened to you. Right now, just reflect on your own thoughts and reactions towards yourself and others. Don’t think for the moment how this article can really be applied to that prideful, obnoxious so-and-so you know – we need to reflect on our hearts first and foremost.

It’s so easy to apply what you are reading right now to someone you know instead of yourself. It’s fine to apply it to people you know. A couple people right now come to my mind who can learn a thing or two about humility! Can’t you just feel your thoughts naming them right now? I remember instances where someone was arguing how people are hypocrites, and then my mind flashes with all the hypocritical things they’ve done! It seems so clear that they are acting hypocritical – why can’t they see it? Why can’t they see all the faults in themselves that everyone else sees?

One reason they can’t see their own faults is because when they hear about certain sins, like pride, selfishness, unlovingness, etc., their minds immediately come up with other people guilty of these travesties, and not themselves. We – our own minds – always are astute to see others committing sins, but are blind towards our own.

That’s why I’m emphasizing here that, rather than just applying these saying to other people, apply them to yourself. To yourself. Not anyone else in that room with you. Self-reflect on your own actions and thoughts.

  1. Are you focusing your thoughts and actions on God?

  2. Are you thinking about yourself most of the time?

  3. Do you think highly of yourself? If you do, think what reasons you base this high opinion. Is pride stealthily creeping into your attitude towards yourself?

  4. Do you show false humility? For example, if you berate yourself for your faults, and if someone agrees with you, are you mad at them for agreeing with your negative self-assessment? If you negatively view yourself, are you really trying to gain sympathy from others?

  5. When you do “good” actions (such as the balloon-tract idea I had), are you really doing it from pure good motives to praise God, or are your motives mixed with self-pride or self-gain for recognition, etc.?

Doing “good” actions from self-serving motives is probably the most widespread sin on earth – so watch yourself extremely carefully in this area. “Big sins” like murder, lying, and cheating are easy to spot and refrain from, but such sins as seeking for self-adoration from gifts of charity are so hard to see that we often label them as the highest good in society. In all probability, most of the “good things” we do are laced with bad motives.

So if you’re striving for humility, the first step is to accurately assess your own sins. By reflecting on your day-to-day actions and attitudes towards God, others, and yourself, you will see the extent of your own sinfulness, and thus humility will grow in you. You will see why you were under judgment as a sinner before your salvation, and why God is so awesomely amazing to save you from your sins now. When you see yourself as you really are, you will be awed by God even more and learn to say, “Let You increase, and me decrease.”

I’ve often wondered how to be humble. If I start thinking myself as obtaining humbleness, is it really humility or is it self-righteousness? One little test to see how humble you are is if your thoughts revolve around God and others instead of yourself. If you think and meditate so much on God, then you won’t have time to think about yourself and whether or not you’re humble! Rather than wondering how humble you are, you will be living the humble life experientially as you experience God and seek His will alone for your life. Focusing on God is the key to becoming humble. We forget ourselves and melt into His presence and enjoy Him more than anything in the world.

When we long to be His servant and to make ourselves less than Him, we receive the joy of true humility as found in authentic faith.

The God of Love

Yes, God is certainly loving. The most loving Being in the universe, for He is the only One Who would give Himself for avowed enemies. No man was His friend, for no one seeks after Him: “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11).

Yet by His sheer grace, He offered salvation. Now that is love. But His love has many facets, and like we know, His is not a condoning “love” — the “love” that accepts everything, right and wrong, the “love” whose god is personal happiness (temporal, at that).

No, God’s love is mature and holy. He hates sin with a passion: “The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain snares; Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; The upright will behold His face” (Psalm 11:5-7).

Thus, God will not tolerate sin. He cannot stand sin, and it is with great pain that He allows Himself to endure the sin of history, it is with grace He allows this. He could have — should have! — obliterated us first chance He got. We disgrace Him constantly: “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

We would never love Him, except by the grace He gave us to open our eyes to the glory that is His. Yet He cannot just let sin slide. And this was love: That He absorbed all our sin on Himself and paid the penalty required of disgracing the God of the universe.

He paid it Himself. The God of Heaven humbled Himself as a man to pay our debt so that we could find true happiness, the happiness that could only be achieved by filling our souls with His glory.

Praise the Lord.

Tim Tebow Wins Playoff Game After Storied Journey

I was there, as millions of others were, when Tim Tebow threw the 80-yard touchdown that closed the shortest overtime in NFL history on the night of January 8, 2012. After an intensely passionate game of two quick Denver touchdowns in the first half and a Pittsburgh Steelers comeback in the second, Tebow worked his magic to win the game.

Critics have longtime doubted Tebow’s playing ability — despite his being one of history’s finest college quarterbacks to come into the NFL. His passion for Christ scared too many in the media and in America, causing his name to be a touchstone for conservatism and faith. He won game after game in the regular season, silencing critics for a while under ecstatic cheers of “Tebow Time!” Then came three straight losses, with which Tebow and the Broncos closed the season. The criticism resumed, up to the point of doubt Tebow would return as a starter next season.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7; NASB)

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7; NASB)

But they seemed to purposefully forget Tebow’s incredible ability up to that point: He had transformed the Broncos from a failing team to one that had entered the playoffs. He injected a sense of passion, purpose, and work ethic into his teammates. The media had forgotten the values of a soul leaning on Christ can bring. He is a first-time starter quarterback who carried his team to the playoffs.

Before this monumental playoffs game, Tebow was despondent. He watched his alma mater win a bowl game with not so much as a cheer. Yet as the January 8, 2012, game neared and official practice began, his spirit revived. No doubt he did some soul-searching and came to the conclusion that criticism is there to motivate you, critics of you and your faith exist to be defied.

Priceless...

I believe God used this gifted man for His glory. His tremendous college career brought attention to his faith. His NFL drama displayed the reaction to his shamless Christianity. His consecutive wins increased his fame. And I believe his three losses humbled him and brought him back to his humble beginnings and complete trust in the Omnipotent.

Critics should be ashamed of themselves. Denver journalists should realize how unfair they have been in their hasty assessment of an (honestly) rookie quarterback. The CBS announcers had no choice but to “Tebow” after the game: Honestly, there was nothing left to say, but accept his skill and victory.

I cheered like nothing I’ve done before when I watched Demaryius Thomas catch and fly with the winning touchdown. But I can cheer all the greater for the shining example God set up in the world for His glory. Tebow is just like any other man and Christian, learning about God and interacting with his Saviour. He is not perfect. Like all of us, he learns and grows. But he is certainly most blessed by his position in the world to proclaim the Lord’s truth to all the world.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD" (Jeremiah 17:7; NASB).

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD" (Jeremiah 17:7; NASB).