Deep diving with Jesus

The deeper one dives in the spirit, the quieter the inner waters become; I am alone, and yet not alone for His presence is always with me. The deeper we dive, the more silent it becomes — the more silent we become.

The world and its demands fade away as I sink immeasurably down into the depths, allowing the silence to draw me like gravity. But I do not live in a vacuum. Occasionally, the cacophony outside insists on my attention and with a sigh I cut loose, surface and deal with it; and then I turn and dive again, into the deep, deep waters of the Spirit who dwells in silence.

His silence is intimate, yet non-intrusive. He is present, calm and assuring. He gives me a sense of the eternity where He lives, where time has no beginning or end. In fact, He is Eternity.

So I dive deeper down into the depths of silence where it’s quiet, not even a ripple, but teems with life.

MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore

No Secrets with Jesus

WEDNESDAY’S WORD

Have you ever wondered why Jesus called out the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and embarrassed her? As an Asian growing up in an Asian society, it’s practically taboo to cause a person to “lose face”. But Jesus isn’t someone who’d just conform to cultural norms, as we well know. Here’s the passage:

43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8, NIV)

Here is someone carrying a deep, secret shame. A woman’s menstrual flow is considered unclean in biblical times, and to have it ongoing for 12 years, for the doctors to discuss her case and for this issue to be quietly whispered about in her neighborhood — she must have felt so alone and outcast.

And so, she hears of this man Jesus who had the power to heal. Quietly, she sneaked up under the cover of the crowds and received healing from the anointing that was just overflowing from Him. She desired to sneak away quietly too, but it wasn’t to be so.

Jesus called her out in public. Trembling in acute embarrassment, fear and shame, she testified to her healing to those around her.

There were a few reasons why Jesus called her out: First, this public testimony served to tell the neighborhood that she was “clean”, and there was no need to shun her. Second, making her speak out about it made the healing real to her. Third, it gave Jesus the opportunity to affirm her faith — not just because she went to Him, but that she persisted for 12 years to look for healing and didn’t give up. Indeed, she had faith that she would be healed, and she was.

But I also think that Jesus was enabling her to take a stance against the strongholds of shame and secrecy that had been haunting her for over a decade. In order to be free, she had to do the opposite of what she had been habitually doing, and Jesus made her take the first step.

Do you need to take a stance against the stronghold of shame and secrecy? For sin — whether you did it, or others did it to you — opens the door to shame, which opens the door to secrecy. Secrecy gives the enemy the power to mentally torment. Mental torment, as we know, often results in physical ailments.

Confession to the right person is powerful and effective to stop the cycle.

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5, NIV)

Photo by Rosie Sun on Unsplash

Jesus the Master Reconciler

It is difficult to be reconciled when betrayal occurs. If the betrayer still remains in the community, both parties would distance themselves. The usual reaction of the betrayer is to pretend it “never happened”, minimize it and brush it under the carpet, or just “disappear” without explanation. Or all three.

But that didn’t happen with Simon Peter. We know he had great difficulty forgiving himself when he realized he had betrayed the One he loved. Scripture records he wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). In a time of pressure, he folded. We can imagine the anguish in his heart, the self-accusations and self-condemnations as well as quite likely the attacks of the demonic on his mind. 

But Jesus, the Master Reconciler, knew Peter had a good heart. He invited Peter back to Him and to his destiny in a series of steps. 

Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

We know that after His resurrection, Jesus appeared by the Sea of Tiberias while Peter and two other disciples were fishing. When John recognized Jesus standing on the shore and exclaimed, “It is the Lord!”, Peter jumped into the water to meet Him, leaving the other two in the boat. One can imagine the joy he felt, and also the shame, the deep sense of unworthiness, and also the deep desire to make things right.

At His request for fish, Peter immediately went to the boat and pulled the net of 153 fish ashore — all by himself. All his actions showed “I am sorry Jesus, I love You, please forgive me, let me make it up to You.” 

But Jesus didn’t address the matter till after He had prepared breakfast and fed His men. The meal was important. We eat only with friends, and He showed Peter that he was included in His community. 

Then came the three famous questions, “Do you love Me?” Each time Peter said, “Yes, I love you,” it nullified each of his previous denials of Jesus. With each “I love You,” Jesus gave Peter a command. First, feed his lambs. Then, take care of His sheep. With each declaration of love, came an increase in responsibility. It showed Peter that Jesus hadn’t lost trust in him.

When Jesus questioned Peter’s love for Him the third time, he was hurt, and he again affirmed his love for His Lord. With that third affirmation came the command to feed His sheep, as well as the prophecy that Peter would die by crucifixion. With the three declarations of love, Jesus re-established Peter’s office as an apostle, re-established his birthright to be one of the writers of scripture and his destiny to be a martyr for Him.

Jesus is the Master Reconciler.

The Woman who Broke the Rules

WEDNESDAY’S WORD

Image by rawpixel.com

Today, I thought I’d share one of my favorite stories in the Gospels — the woman washing Jesus feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50)

What courage she had, to walk into the house of the Pharisee, uninvited, bringing only a bottle of perfume and her heart. What boldness she had, a known sinner, to be doing this. What trust she had, that Jesus wouldn’t push her away or rebuke her but accept her offering of tears, repentance and deep worship. 

It doesn’t say so, but it seemed like she had an encounter with the Lord sometime before. It was so powerful, so compelling that she walked into another person’s house, uninvited, to pour out her love for Him. 

And Jesus calmly accepted the loving touch of her hands, the worshipful kisses on his feet, knowing these were outward expressions of a grateful heart. He, and she, defied the conventions of the day. She ignored the judgmental glances of the Pharisee, He rejected the man’s silent criticism. 

The Pharisee only saw ugliness in what was playing out before him; but Jesus only saw beauty. Jesus’ summary was succinct — those who love much, have been forgiven much; those who love little, have been forgiven little. Such beauty in the truth of those words.

The woman took a big risk in displaying her love for all to see, but her reward was so much greater: Jesus declared, “Your sins are forgiven” — they were already forgiven, but His pronouncing it aloud shifted the atmosphere and her life. And “Your faith has saved you.” As the saying goes, FAITH is spelt RISK. She trusted His heart and did the socially unthinkable. And He found it beautiful.   

The Gentle Hand of God

COMMUNITY MONDAYS

“How did you ever become a Christian? You were never ‘religious’!” said my sister-in-law. My father was even more dramatic, announcing to my sister, “She’s going to be a missionary!” (I guess he equated being a Christian with being a missionary). How did it all begin?

It began in early childhood.

My siblings were going to an Anglican school and the Bible was part of their syllabus. I went to a secular school where mother was teaching and it was more convenient for me, the youngest, to be schooled there. I was an avid reader, poring through everything I could find, and one day, I found the New Testament.

When I opened the pages to the Gospel of Matthew, a supernatural calm fell on me. The Presence and Person of God was rising through the words in this holy book, and I was at peace. My first encounter with God was through the Word.

Almost immediately after, my mind was attacked by weird thoughts. “That was strange,” I thought.

Days later, I went back to the Gospel, and there was again, that wonderful peace and calmness of Jesus coming through the words. And shortly after, the attack on my mind came again.

That was my first experience of spiritual warfare. And it did work on me, a child. I associated cause and effect, and didn’t continue with the Word.

When I was 11, my second brother died suddenly in an accident. He was only 16. The vicar in that school and his wife, New Zealanders, comforted my parents during that time of grief and loss, and invited us to church. My parents went.

My first time in church, I marveled at the atmosphere of peace in the midst of all the activity, and looked forward to the breakfast of hot tea with milk, biscuits, cheese or egg cucumber sandwiches served in small rectangles of white bread piled neatly together. Church was food, drink and fellowship.

I was put in Sunday School and the vicar’s wife looked for me in that class. I don’t recall what I was doing, perhaps colouring, but when I looked up, I saw the bluest eyes I had ever seen looking back at me. I was totally mesmerised, drawn in by the depth and clarity of her eyes. Jesus was looking at me through her eyes. Church was care, compassion and the love of Jesus.

Some months later, the vicar and his wife returned to New Zealand and my parents didn’t like their replacements. So, we never went back to church either.

But I never forgot Him.