Knowing God [Victory church series]

I'm attending Victory Church Iloilo, and what's unique about the church is their Sunday series on various topics. The new year started the Knowing God series, where we talked about God's character for 5 Sundays: God's glory, goodness, generosity, graciousness, and His greatness.

We also had our Prayer & Fasting Week the first week of the year, and its my first time to try this practice. Though, we can also fast or abstain from certain things, not just food, that we feel are hindering us from our time for God. Most friends at church abstained from social media, because sometimes we fixate too much on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever's the trend. Social media is useful, but it becomes a hindrance when the sole focus is ourselves. I'm also struggling to keep things in balance and commit more time in worthwhile offline activities.

In Knowing God, we focused on knowing the identity of our Creator. The Bible text used is the Psalms. I admit that when I read the Bible I struggled with Psalms. Its a book full of praise, and expressions of worship. The writers are honest and open with their feelings to God - here are people praising in the midst of war, failure, despair, and persecution. Most of these songs were written by King David, who was known as a man of God but who also committed horrendous sins (adultery and murder).

God's Glory
What an appropriate message for the first day of the year! The world has completed another revolution around the sun. Speaking of space, the universe beyond earth is mysterious and great indeed. Come to think of it, compared to the unfathomable vastness of outer space, the planet is very, very, small. But from the large bodies of space to the smallest bacteria, the world is so vast and detailed at the same time. In observing the natural world, one marvels at its creation.
What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? (Psalms 8:4)
The message is as human beings, we are God;s rightful creation for worship and to declare his glory. His glory (the Hebrew word is howd - grandeur, beauty, excellency, great magnificence) is ultimately expressed in Christ and his ultimate sacrifice to cleanse humanity of sin.

God's Goodness
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)
God prospers, provides, and protects His people who are willing to obey him. His laws may hurt us, but they are for our own good. In spite of our sins, God's goodness is immeasurable. To make us right with Him, he sent us the Son and whoever believes is saved.

God's Generosity
Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas... (Psalm 65:4-5)
January is a month of fiestas and various celebrations. Though they are celebrated as religious, most have roots in pagan traditions. We used to offer to various gods and try to appease them with rituals if we want healing, good crops, love, or good fortune. This is no different from the patron saints of modern tradition - we pray to specific saints for their intercession for our particular problem. But sometimes we forget that is is only God who gives us all these blessings.

God pardons with mercy. We cannot save ourselves, his generosity in giving us his one and only Son to atone for our transgressions already saved us. We can't undo or add more to this sacrifice.

Sometimes its the enemy who wants to remind us of the past and wants you to stay the same, in your sinful state. But in accepting Christ, our old selves have been crucified with him and 'it is no longer us who live but Christ who lives in us'. But we need God's grace and guidance for us to obey him.

Sometimes, we also focus on what's missing in our lives that we forget the blessings he already provided us. If we start to write all our blessings, the list would take forever to finish - because it is by his will and grace that you are breathing.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:25-26)
God's Graciousness
Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Psalm 103:1-5)
Praise and worship is not only in the external - it is not only in praying in public, the beautiful church, the songs we sing but it must start within ourselves. But even if we don't feel good about ourselves, still we must praise him. We may hate ourselves, but we are loved and we belong in Christ.

Source: True Wild Life
'Our strength is renewed like the eagle'

This phrase has so much meaning, and here I learned about an important aspect of the eagle. The eagle is a common symbol of freedom and greatness, but it undergoes a difficult molting process when it reaches the age of forty. Its feathers rot and fall away, calcium accumulates on its beak and talons over the years which makes it difficult to hunt and eat food. The eagle has to retreat into the rocky mountains to scrape off its beak, its claws, and remove all his feathers. The process of healing takes many months, and many eagles die in this process. But those who will survive will grow a new beak and new talons, and its feathers will grow again. If it survives, it will live for another thirty or forty years! When I first heard this at church, I was so amazed at God's creations. If the lofty eagle undergoes such hardships, what more of us human beings?

Its an excellent metaphor for our lives as born again in Christ: each of us had a turning point where we had to grow, and it felt like we couldn't take it, but in the end we realized that we had to suffer in order to learn. And now, we are better.

Even one phrase of the Bible can have great insight and meaning, but sometimes we readers overlook them!

God's Greatness
God's greatness is unsearchable, uncontainable, and unselfish.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them [false prophets and evil spirits], because the one who is in you [Christ] is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) 

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