The Internet, The Tongue, The Shoes.

I honestly could not count how many times I’ve heard the saying: “Life is hard for those who are soft”. If you’re Brazilian, you probably heard it too. It’s kind of like our version of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, which we all know by now is utter nonsense. Life is hard for most people. And I don’t have to tell you that words do hurt – just watch the news or spend half an hour talking to pretty much any housewife or teenager (with them being so vastly different, you can get the gist of the universality of the situation).

Though I understand why we say those things – we are usually trying to comfort someone while helping them to “pull themselves together”, tough love and all that jazz – it’s safe to say they hardly ever help anyone and are not likely to cause great epiphanies for that person who needs our help or rather just a listening ear.

The Bible says that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Proverbs 18:21). Two things jump to my attention in this proverb: the dimension of the power of words (death and life) and the fact that people who love it will bare the consequences of exercising that power (eat its fruits). Of course this applies not only to the spoken word, but the written word as well. Despite the decline of traditional printed media, the written word continues to be a great part of our lives, even if 140 characters at a time.

We’ve all heard of stories of people who lost their jobs over gossip or a poorly considered tweet. I will never forget Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk  and how it affected my understanding of the responsibility of expression or the value of compassion, I advise you to check it out. In the talk, she mentions the deep humiliation and online harassment she received at the time and how it almost cost her her life. She also mentions Tyler Clementi’s story of cyber-bullying turn suicide, proof that death and life are in the power of the tongue or, in this case, the hands that type hurtful words on a keyboard. Then there’s Michelle Carter and how her words played an undeniable role on Conrad Roy’s demise. These are just a few stories that show how great the power of words and how we should be very careful using them because they can greatly affect others.

Furthermore, there is no shortage of emblematic cases of how words can impact the people who say or write them. Justine Sacco‘s story comes immediately to mind. One tweet before a flight ruined her career and made her job termination a real time online reality show – she was fired before she landed. Connor Riley’s (a.k.a. “Cisco Fatty“) tweet about an internship she didn’t even want caused a lot of commotion and public embarrassment which no doubt affected her career as well. Sacco was a PR professional and Riley was an IT student, both of which should have known better. None of us are imune to a social media faux-pa and maybe, just maybe, should be more compassionate to those who undergo it.

I could go on and on with more and more stories, but the bottom-line is: what you say  or post can have tremendous consequences for you and for others – good and bad. In our day, what you post can be even more critical than what you say, given the fact when you say something it will most likely affect you and the people who hear it directly. If others repeat it and pass it along, there will always be doubt whether you actually said it or not, the shadow of gossip – that doesn’t happen when you post or have an online conversation. You can delete it later, but anyone anywhere in the world can capture it beforehand, transmit it worldwide, making it live forever on the Internet as undeniably yours.

The Internet gives our “tongues” an immeasurable power-boost,  not to mention various platforms and a much bigger audience. Let’s face it, most of us love this power and use it with much less discretion than we ought to. We must remember that we will eat its fruits. Therefore, we should be mindful of how others will perceive what we say, write or post. Think about how it may affect your image, your relationships, your career. If you’re posting about someone else, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, shoes you might me putting on them.

Be mindful. Be kind. It’s better to miss the joke than the job, the friend, the reputation, the life.

Love,

Lily.

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5 D’s to Dominate Unplanned (Even Unwanted) Downtime!

Recently, I have been forced into some downtime in my career. As a newly graduated Chemical Engineer from one of the top universities in the world, I did not see that coming. Since the moment I was accepted into UNICAMP, I was constantly assured that I would have an amazing job with generous pay and exciting possibilities right out of the gate. I believed that and held onto it with hope. Then the current economic crisis hit Brazil and unemployment began to grow, even among the so-called “on the demand” professions. So not long after classes ended, this starry-eyed proactive, creative, dynamic little engineer found herself looking for a job – looking hard. And so did a lot of her classmates – people just as qualified, just as enthusiastic, just as creative, all looking for their place in the job market. I found myself in a forced hiatus, a pause, a hurdle, a rock in the middle of my beautifully imagined road to success.

It is not the first time that things don’t go according to plan for me, and I am sure it will not be the last. Back in 2010, I was forced to take a break from my studies at the university for a year due to spinal surgery. Needless to say I was more than a little vexed at the whole thing. I am also positive I am not the only one to whom this has happened. People lose their jobs, get into accidents, have family emergencies or even get sick from all the stress if modern life and get forced to stop – that happens every day. So how can we make the most of it? How can we make delicious lemonade out of those pesky little lemons? Here are a couple of thoughts from my experience.

  1. Decompress. Pressure is one of the words that define this modern life for me. We are constantly under pressure to do more, have more, be more. Don’t get me wrong, pressure can be a good thing – I do some of my best work when I’m under pressure. As cliché as it sounds, it’s heat and pressure that makes diamonds out of lumps of coal. Yet, it is undeniable that human beings cannot live healthy and happy under constant pressure. Give yourself some time to relax, recharge, regroup – and why not – reinvent yourself? You can’t get to the improved state without knowing the “as is” state. So, to continue with the alliteration: reflect on where you are, where you want to be and how to get there. After all, if not now, when?
  2. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do but never “had time”. I am a big skeptic when it comes to not having time. It rarely is the case. More often than not, it is usually a matter of priorities. It’s not that I don’t have the time to learn to play the piano, when it comes down to it, I chose to do other things. Granted, some of the things I chose to do are more pressing, more important, but some are just waste of perfectly good time I could have allocated to this if I really wanted to. Well, there’s no better time to do “something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time” then when I’m forced to take time off.
  3. Develop better habits. Since moving back to my hometown, I have taken up walking at the park and plan to work my way up to running regularly. As someone especially prone to obesity, I can’t tell you how much good this has been making me. I haven’t lost much weigh yet, but the discipline and the health benefits gained by this new habit far outweigh the futile pleasure of staying in bed watching sitcoms. If you see yourself in a situation when you have more “spare time” than you are used to, reflect on your habits and work on leaving the bad ones and picking up better ones. You won’t regret it and when the busy times come along again (and they will), you’ll be better equipped to handle them. After all, we are the product of our habits, so make sure to cultivate good ones.
  4. Deepen your relationships. Another great benefit from moving back home is that I have been blessed with spending more time with my family. When times are tough, there is no better place to be than at home, surrounded by people who love you. My parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts and sisters have always been the best source of support, wisdom and care for me through the good times and the bad. This downtime means that I get to talk to them, listen to them, serve them in any way I can. You really only know someone if you spend time with them and that is what I have been doing. I am getting to know my loved ones better and they are growing in their understanding of who I am. Take this time as an opportunity to really get to know your loved ones and let them know you. You won’t be sorry you did.
  5. Discover and rediscover the art of learning and mastering your craft. When I look at children I think of all the time they have, how they have to responsibility but to learn and grow – what a wonderful stage in our lives. Someone once said “Babies are such nice way to start people!” Aren’t they? I believe part of the beauty of babes is how they sulk up the world, learning and growing with every breath. We might not have all the time we had as children, but we mustn’t lose the childlike curiosity and sense of wonder. It is a tragedy of the fast life we live now that we sometimes lose the love of learning, the joy of discovery, because we are so focused on always doing more. Take time to wonder, to learn, to grow. This doesn’t have to be a romantic notion either. I have been using my intermission, if you will, to take online courses on subjects I would like to know and that will help me in my career, such as Marketing, Lean and Six Sigma, Renewable Energy Sources and Technology, Computer Science and so on. The difference is that I am doing it because I genuinely want to know, not because I have to make some deadline. I am learning these things with a sense of wonder and curiosity. I have been rediscovering the joy of learning and mastering my craft as an Engineer in the process – you can do that for yourself too.

In conclusion, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to when this hiatus will end. I do look forward to it because it means I’ll have a job where I can apply all of these things that I have been learning in a way that can create positive impact. I will also be able to provide for myself and help others, but the major point is that this is not time wasted. It is time given and I will make the most of it – and I hope you will too.

Lots of love,

Lily.

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Dealing with Frustration

Recently, I have been going through quite a bit of frustration. Since completing the Chemical Engineering undergraduate program at the State University of Campinas, I have been trying to get into a Trainee position in a good corporation. Due to many different factors, I was forced to give up on a few excellent selection and hiring processes and was called for some really promising group assessments. Two days ago, I took part in the one I wanted the most and was not accepted.

Everything they told us before the case competition began was true: not being selected to go continue competing for the Trainee position does not mean we are any worse than the selected ones, it does not mean we can never work in that company, it does not mean we will not obtain such a position in another company. Sometimes, it’s not your day. Sometimes, it’s just not a good fit. And, of course, maybe, just maybe being a Trainee is not the right career path for you. Any of those reasons or a combination of them might be your case. However, even knowing all of that doesn’t take the sting of not getting what you want. It just doesn’t. This is an incredibly human experience: frustration! Nobody likes it. Nobody. The key  is how you deal with it.

Everyone has a different way of dealing with frustration, but there are more than a few that are not conducive to personal and professional growth. Here are four terrible ones to watch out for:

  1. Denial. To most, denial is just the first step of dealing with grief. But there are those who live in it. It’s their coping mechanism. They’ll try to take you on their bandwagon to try and cheer you up. They’ll tell you things like: “You know, that wasn’t as great an opportunity.” ,”It’s too close far away. Would you really want to take the company charter bus every morning? You’d need to wake up too early.”, “If you drove there you’d spend so much money on gas”.  Some people might be consoled by those thoughts, but I wasn’t. It was that great an opportunity. I would not mind waking up early to take the company bus. The gas money is pocket change next to the salary and benefits. Pretending doesn’t help anyone. It won’t change the reality and, most importantly, it doesn’t teach you anything.
  2. Shifting blame. It was that girl who just wouldn’t just shut up and listen to my ideas. It was the weather. The recruiter didn’t like me. Unless it was a clear case of discrimination, you don’t have a leg to stand there or one to help you move forward. You can’t control all external factors, whether it’s other people or the environment, but you can control how you respond to them. 
  3.  Self-pity. This is a close cousin of blame shifting. If everything and everyone else is to blame for your frustration, then there is nothing you can learn from it, nothing you can do about it. You’ll just stay in the pit, feeling sorry for yourself.
  4. Self-depreciation. Some people mistake self-depreciation for self-awareness. That is a dangerous confusion. It is perfectly healthy and helpful to know your weaknesses so you can work to overcome them. It’s a completely different, unhealthy and counterproductive thing let them define you. For example, feeling a need for control can be a weakness, but that doesn’t have to make you a “control-freak”. If unchecked, that feeling can become a source of anxiety and conflict, so you work on accepting what you cannot control. On the other hand, you can use that inclination to produce initiative. Also, people who feel the need to control usually have a great eye for details and for predicting possible scenarios.

Conversely, a healthy approach to frustration would be:

  1. Acknowledge the situation. Don’t try to make it any better or any worse than it actually is. If it’s still fresh, feel the pain, then let it go. Look at the circumstances and the event as they are, compare them to different contexts. If you lost you job, for instance, it certainly is a difficult situation, yet it is not an impossible one. There are many ways out this jam and you can find them if you don’t hide from it. In my case, the Trainee position really was an amazing opportunity. I might never get another one like it – but then again, I might. Yet, even if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world, it doesn’t mean I can’t have a great career.
  2. Understand the circumstances and actions that lead up to it. I was sick when I participated in the assessment. I could have tried to re-schedule it. Also, I should have been more prepared for the personal presentation. Understanding the circumstances can help create controls and understanding the actions that lead up to the frustration will prevent you from repeating them in a similar scenario.
  3. Be humble. When the recruiting team told those of us that were not selected that we were not moving forward in the competition, they gave us the option of receiving feedback. All but one of the group accepted. I know from personal experience feedback can be hurtful, but it can also be incredibly helpful. No matter how self-aware you may be, you don’t have eyes on the back of your head. You can’t see everything. As my father says: when faced with criticism, always give at least a 10% chance the critics are right. If they are, you’ve learned something and can better yourself. If not, you can always ignore them.

This is what I’ve learned from my experience. Hope it helps you.

Love,

Lily.

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“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” – Why unbelief is the root of all sin.

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3

Someone asked me earlier this week: “Isn’t the Gospel a little bit too abstract? I am saved by believing in something that happened over a thousand years ago and that might not even have happened the way it was written?“. Clearly, that statement gives strong evidence that this person does not believe and therefore, is not saved.

As I was cleaning my stove this evening, the Spirit brought to my mind the text from Romans 4:3, “Abraham believed God”. That doesn’t simply mean that he believed God existed, but that Abraham believed what God had said to him. It occurred to me that essentially that is what God has wanted from men all along.

In the garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve not eat from the fruit of the tree the knowledge of good and evil or they would die. Satan came and told them that God was lying and that they could eat the fruit. They believed Satan over God and ate the fruit – that was the first sin. The way I see it, the first sin was not the act of disobedience itself, but what preceded it: unbelief. Remember, the Bible says that God walked with them in the garden and had communion with them daily. He was revealing Himself personally to them, so they should have known He was trustworthy and good –  they should have believed what He said.

Think about it: here is God, the Creator the Universe and all that there is. He created this being in His own image to fellowship with him and does so everyday. One day, that being, despite all revelation, despite all privilege, all provision, all proof that God is good and perfect and truthful, goes on to believe a lie and betray Him. How horrific is that? How insulting! It would have been perfectly justified for God to send both Adam and Even straight to Hell right then, for there to be no human race at all, just them, burning in the lake of fire for all eternity. But that is not what happened, God being great in mercy and of infinite wisdom already had a better plan even before they fell:

the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1: 19-21). 

Every man who was ever saved was saved by believing God: what He says about who He is and what He has done for us (Hebrews 11). The Gospel has been proclaimed by God to men since the beginning of time: the first animal slaughtered to make the clothes that covered Adam and Eve is a figure pointing to the need for the bloodshed of an innocent to pay the penalty of the guilty sinner and the clothes themselves were a symbol of Christ’s righteousness that covers our sins. The blood of the sacrificed lambs on the doors of the Israelites in Egypt during Passover, saving the first born inside from the Angel of Death was an illustration of the blood of Christ, our Passover Lamb, who by His death delivered those who believe God and are protected by the blood. Noah’s ark is the same: Noah and his family were saved from the flood by believing God and entering the ark, just as believers are saved by believing in Christ and being safely hidden in Him. All of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, the Law given from God by Moses – all of it were pictures meant to reveal God’s character, man’s depravity and point to the need of a Savior. Moreover, all the Messianic prophecy was given so that when the Messiah came, people would know who He was. Jesus showed this to the two disciples in the road to Emmaus when He appeared to them after His resurrection:

“And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24: 25-27

When God called Abraham out of his land and away from his family, he had no earthly reason to believe or to obey Him. Abraham came from a family and a land of idolaters – he had never known God before, but when Yahweh called him and promised to make him a “father of nations” despite the fact that he and his wife were both old and that she had always been barren, Abraham believed God and His promise and that was counted to him as righteousness. God always saves the ones who believe what He has revealed about Himself and His Son. All that were saved before and after Christ came to Earth were saved by believing God and His Word, which brings me to my next point.

Even though the world sees Christians as people who have blind faith, that is the opposite of the truth. Our faith is not supposed to be blind, it is supposed to be proven by the Word and by experience (in that order). The Bible constantly tells people to read It, to examine its words, to prove that God is who He says He is and that His Word is true. The Bereans were said to be “more noble than those in Thessalonica” because “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Even though Paul and Silas were preaching the Gospel and performing miracles in Jesus’ name, the Word of God calls the Bereans noble because the examined the Scriptures to see if what was being preached was true.

The Old Testament is filled with pleas for the people to read and meditate in the Word, to examine and test the Scriptures. A couple of days ago, I saw a TV show on the History Channel shamelessly saying that the Bible hides the ugly stories, the “dirty details”. Anyone who has ever read the Bible from cover to cover knows that is not true – at all. The Bible is filled with pretty shocking stories about most of the “heroes of faith”. Just read about the lives of Samson, David, Judah, the Apostle Paul and you will see my point. All those men were either murders or consented to murder. David committed adultery with one of his best soldier’s wife and had him sent to the battle front to be killed when he found out she was pregnant. We only know that because it says so in Scripture. Yet the same Scriptures say that David was man according to God’s own heart. How can that be?

The reason why the Bible does not hide the sins of the people of God is to show that every single one of them was not saved by their own personal “goodness”, but by repenting and believing the God Who Saves. All of them repented and believed and thus were justified. Clearly, there is no attempt on the Bible’s part to create devotion for anybody except for Christ, the Savior, the Son of God, who was blameless, the only man who was tempted in all things but never sinned and therefore was able to die and suffer the penalty for the sins of the word, the only One worthy of adoration and praise. How can we know He never sinned and that His death was an acceptable sacrifice? Because God rose Him from the dead and He appeared for several days to several people before He ascended to Heaven and those people spread the Gospel to the nations to the cost of their own lives. It would be understandable if those who believed the Gospel would believe it because it says “Come to Christ and stop suffering” or “Come to Christ and be healed” or “Come to Christ and be rich”, as many false teachers say today, but in the time of the early Church, becoming a Christian almost certainly meant death, persecution, pain, ridicule.

Jesus said  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23)He said “repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). The message was basically that people have to recognize that they are depraved sinners hopelessly condemned to Hell unless they repent of their sins and believe that Jesus came to die a substitutionary death on the Cross to fully pay their debt of sin to God so that they can be forgiven, become children of God and, as a righteous response to such great salvation, live for Him Who died for them, spreading the Good News of the Gospel to all people.
Ultimately, it is an offensive message with unappealing demands of self-denial. Who would proclaim this if it were not true? Who would die for it if it were not true? Were all the disciples crazy? They didn’t even make money out of this!  They died quite horrible deaths, but they did it because they knew the Gospel is true, they knew that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” and that none can come to the Father except through Him (John  14:6).

Although the message is hard to believe and the invitation to cross-bearing and self-denial is unappealing, people from every culture, every background, in every country do become Christians everyday –  against all odds. This is another strong evidence to both the credibility of the Bible and the Gospel message but also, of its incomparable power to change lives. True Christians all around the world are living testimonies to the truth and power of the Word of God. In the end it’s all about revelation: God has revealed Himself in the Bible and in His Son, Christ Jesus. He revealed Himself in a book that has been preserved throughout the ages, despite all persecution against it, despite all criticism and scrutiny, so we could examine the written Word, meditate on it, see that these things are true and not just go by the words of some preacher. The Book was even written by bunch of different people with overwhelmingly different backgrounds throughout the centuries and yet, amazingly enough, all of it tells the same story. Nobody has any excuse not to believe the Bible.

In  the end, there are many reasons why  we can believe that the Bible is trustworthy and true, but you will not believe without the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Therefore,  I’d like to finish this post by begging you to call out to God and ask Him to reveal Himself to you in the words of the Bible, to grant you repentance and faith, “for everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8), “and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

In Christ,

Lily.

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16-18

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Amazing grace through every storm: God’s plan and my myopia

A couple of days ago, I got some feedback at work that I really did not expect. I was trying for a new job opening in the Customer Service department. Being an intern has been an incredible experience and I truly like the company and hoped to be hired there. Needless to say I was very nervous at the interview and even more so when they scheduled a meeting to give me the results. I did not get the job.

To be completely honest, I already knew I wasn’t going to get it. Deep down I didn’t feel prepared for it, although I’d like to believe I would have risen to the challenge. I also knew my friend, who is also an intern in the same department was better equipped for it at the moment: he’s got this wonderful way of dealing with customers and with everyone around him, he seems confident even when he isn’t quite sure what to do yet (he knows he’ll find the answer eventually) and that comforts people. He really deserved the job and I was ready to be happy for him. I was not ready, however, for the things I was about to hear.

It had seemed fitting to the HR department to tell me I didn’t get the job and why in the same meeting, kind of like ripping off a band-aid all at once. I’m not sure that was the best approach, it’s like if someone broke-up with you but instead of the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech you got the “it’s you, let me tell you how” speech. Nevertheless, I tried to listen to the whole thing without crying or scoffing or having any kind of negative reaction. Of course, being human, my face showed disappointment – really wish that’s where it stopped, but it wasn’t. First, they complimented me and my work, then, when I was feeling happy and appreciated, they told me I wasn’t selected. Ouch… still okay though. And then came the feedback.

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad in my life. The more they talked, the worse I felt, until the last comment. It just broke me and my eyes instantly teared up – it took everything in me not to cry in that meeting room. Thankfully, they finally let me go, but not without trying to give me some comfort and offer to help me develop the skills in which I did poorly. I thanked them and left. The day ended for me at the exact moment I left the room. I was feeling disappointed, broken, ashamed, rejected. The whole experience just wore me out for the next two days.

To top it all off, I still had loads of schoolwork to do. Praise God, I was able to hand-in everything in time. I also praise God for the support of my wonderful friends and my amazing boyfriend who were there for me. Of course, I didn’t see it when it happened, we tend to kill the messenger,  but now I’m grateful for my boss and how she handled it, how she even asked my supervisor to help me through this difficult time – she was trying to look out for me after delivering a message that I’m sure was hard for her to deliver. I’m really lucky to have her, she’s an amazing person.

On Friday, there was year-end party for all the employees, which was great. The place was amazing, the food was delicious, the entertainment was surprising and spectacular, not to mention the people. The room was filled with a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie. It truly lifted my spirits. After the party, the HR person who gave me the feedback along with my boss, gave me a ride home and we got to talk. I can’t tell you how great that conversation was! It’s funny how some distance and a little time can give you a lot perspective. If I’d had that talk the day before, it probably wouldn’t have had the same effect. She helped me see that though  painful, that feedback was a growth opportunity. Even the idea to tell me I didn’t get the job and the feedback in the same meeting was planned out with my best interest at heart. Though I may not agree with the approach, I appreciate the thought.

The best part is that, in the end, I was able see God’s hand in everything that happened. I knew in my heart, and of course He’s always known, that it would be very difficult to work full time and study next semester – it wasn’t my time, it wasn’t my job to have. It reminds me of a passage in the Bible that says:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

In this text, God is telling Israel about the exile they will face in Babylon, about the sufferings they are about to endure, and so He affirms them by saying that even through all of that, He is the one who knows His plans for them and that they are good plans. I complained so many times about how I was denied an elective this semester and how hard I’ve had to work on the one I got, but the truth is that the elective I got has been one of the most interesting classes I’ve ever had. Reading the material the teacher assigned us made me remember what I like about Chemical Engineering, it might even have shed some light onto what field I might pursue after graduation. God knows best, always. He knows the end from the beginning because He ordained it and guess what? His will is “good, pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Therefore, the events of last week have helped me immensely in the grand scheme of things. They have shown me areas in which I need to grow professionally, but most importantly, they have shown me where I need repentance. I need to repent from not doing everything with thanksgiving. God gives me life and breath everyday, even though I don’t deserve anything from Him. He gives me rain and sunshine, food and shelter, friends and family who love me. He gives me opportunities that millions of people in this country wish they had: the chance to study at one of the top universities in the country and an internship at a multinational corporation. And the most important, most amazing, most gracious, most undeserved gift of all: He gives me eternal life in His Son. He gave me Jesus, who came and died on the cross to pay my debt of sin. I’m the one who sinned against God again and again, and God himself provided the atonement I needed for my sin against Him through the death of His only Son, who was holy and blameless. Not only that, but God adopted me into His family in Christ Jesus. I get to be a daughter of the living God, be partaker of His nature, have His Spirit indwell in me and teach me! That should be enough reason for joy and praise all the days of my life until eternity and beyond.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:1-10.

If you still haven’t repented of your sins and surrender to Christ as your Lord and Savior King, I urge you to do it know. He’s your only hope of salvation and it will bring you joy and wonder without compare. 

I’d like to close this post with a very famous and extremely beautiful, completely true hymn by John Newton. May God bless us and keeps for the glory of His name. Amen.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

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Lie to me: the deep deception of the human heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

If there’s one thing we humans can do is rationalize sin. It’s so easy to fool ourselves into thinking we always have a noble reason for the not-so-honorable things we do! Even easier to tell ourselves our sins aren’t sins because other people approve our behavior (as if sin were an offense against our peers and not against God). I think one of the biggest lies in human history is that we all need more self-esteem. Humans have an extremely high opinions of themselves, after all, despite all evidence of evil, most of people think mankind is basically good.

Just watch any romantic comedy or sitcom and you’ll inevitably find a character that does wrong, hurts people, lies, does everything to get what they want and still, at the slightest sign of remorse, they are quickly reassured that they are not bad, they just made some mistakes. Hollywood desperately tries to instill in society the notion that our actions are somehow disconnected from who we are, yet nothing is more illogical and further from the truth. People do bad things because people are bad, all people, everywhere. This idea that there is some irrevocable spark of inherent goodness in humanity is ludicrous and, in my opinion, is part of the reason why this generation that is so proud of itself even though there is very little to be proud of.

The world is full of  all sorts of theories why there is so much war, hatred, violence, dishonesty and all manner of evil in the world . Most of them fail to see the heart of the matter: the human heart. They blame society, technology, politics, everything but man’s nature. Often, people who are confronted with their sins say “God knows my heart” as if it’s some sort of defense, when it should really be their biggest concern. They say it as if deep down our hearts can be good, despite our sinful behavior. Well, God does know our heart and that’s precisely why we are in big trouble.

I’m sure to be greeted with a chorus of accusations of hypocrisy for saying this but the reality is that I do not exclude myself of this charge. I am part of Adam’s fallen race, rotten to the core, in desperate need of redemption. Perhaps the difference is that, as a Christian, I own up to it. Years of careful pruning from my parents have helped restrain such evil to the point where I’m not as bad as I could be, but that doesn’t make me good. I am fallen, I was born with a sinful nature, inclined for evil, and I call out for God to save me, to change me, to sanctify me.

You see, our big problem with seeing our big problem is that we have really low standards of goodness. We compare ourselves with ourselves and so we think we look pretty good – like sheep at each other, we think we look white enough, but just place us in fresh snow and the filth will show itself. That’s what happens when we compare our righteousness with the righteousness of God. Let’s take the story of the rich young ruler as an example:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Mark 10:17-31.

One of the first things that come to my mind when I read this text is that Jesus, the Son of God, the Holy One of God, perfect and undefiled said “Why do you call me good?No one is good—except God alone”. Now, we know that Jesus is God and, therefore, he is good, but the point Jesus was making is that the man didn’t know Jesus was God and he called Him “Good teacher”. That showed that the man had the idea in his mind that man could be good. In Romans 3:10, the Bible says “There is no one righteous, not even one”. This is God’s Word, it’s His assessment of the state of humankind: no one is good, no one is righteous. In John 2:23-25, the Word says “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” God knows the heart of man, his judgement of us is completely accurate, completely true. So mankind is evil and it is God common grace that restrains man so that not everybody is as evil as they can be. It is also why some of us can do good works, but that doesn’t make us good. God’s standards are much higher:

“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” James 2:10.

Then Jesus goes on and reminds the man of God’s law, quoting a few of the ten commandments. This is to bring the heart to the knowledge of sin. But the man says he’s observed all those things from infancy – which I’m sure is safe to say he hasn’t, not perfectly as it would be required, if we take into account the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus explains the spirit of the law and its meaning, which is deeper than it seems. Notice that it says Jesus loved him, which is the same as saying Jesus felt compassion for him, and because He loved him, Jesus pointed out the hidden sin in that man’s heart – greed, the love of money:

“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”.

This is not to say that the mere act of selling his possessions would earn him eternal life, we know it wouldn’t:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10.

Jesus was exposing that man’s heart to him, forcing him to face his sin.

Recently I’ve been told that someone close to me, who claims to be a Christian but is living in blatant sin, strongly protested when he was confronted, saying the dear sister was being a hypocrite and unloving for pointing out his sin and calling him to repentance. But notice here that it says Jesus loved the man and as a result of that love, confronted his sin. This notion that if you love someone, you should accept (and in practice, approve even if by omission) whatever their choice they make is a Satanic lie meant to keep people away from repentance and salvation. If we are Christians, we are to follow Christ’s example and be light, even knowing that the world hates the light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). The only thing that makes this hypocritical is if we rebuke others while guarding our own sins in our hearts and fail to repent from them as well. That would be falling into the “Judge not” those people love so much to evoke and distort. What we need to do is what Jesus did “not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).

Now, the man went away sad because he had many possessions. His love of money was more important to him than his eternal salvation. It seems insane to think that anyone would chose money for some years on Earth and eternity in Hell  over giving it all up and living forever with God in Heaven, but that is what every person does when they refuse to repent from their sins and follow Christ. The point was not that he had to give his money away, but that the needed to recognize the righteousness he thought he’d attained so far was not enough, empty himself and turn to Jesus in wholehearted trust. If he had realized the depth of his unrighteousness and the infinite worth of He who was calling him, he’d given away ten times over whatever he considered precious so that he could follow Christ.That is the Gospel! We are sinners, hopelessly bound to Hell unless we repent and trust in Christ and be saved.

After the man leaves and Jesus makes his astonishing statement about the rich and their incapability to enter the Kingdom, the disciples ask him who then can be saved. Christ’s answer is even more astounding: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27). Here we have, from the lips of Jesus the affirmation that it is impossible for men to save themselves. Salvation is a supernatural work of God from start to finish. God gave Jesus as propitiation for our sins, which means Jesus came to earth as a man, lived the perfect sinless life no other human being could ever have lived (Hebrews 4:15), then died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 6:23; Isaiah 53), on the third day, God raised Him from the dead as a sign that the atonement was accepted (1 Corinthians 15), “so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).

Therefore, when Peter says they left everything to follow Christ and He assures them that they will have the reward here and in the life to come, Jesus is not saying that Peter and the others have earned their salvation by their good works, but that such actions are evidence that they have received salvation from God because “with man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God”. 

Salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Therefore, He has provided everything He demands in Jesus Christ. Through Christ we are saved, justified, sanctified and glorified. It’s all Him and that is the assurance, that is the reason for our strong hope and the very reason why we are not hypocrites when we call people to repentance, knowing that the same call applies to us and we know that any righteousness we have is not our own but has been imputed to us through Christ and that by His Spirit we are being sanctified. When we call unbelievers to repentance, we are showing them the way to enter into eternal life and blessing (John 3:16-18). When we call believers to repentance, we are warning them not to despise the great salvation they have received, if indeed they have received it (Hebrews 10).

I’d like to end this post with the wonderful riches of 2 Peter 1:3-10. If you are not in Christ, I urge you to repent from your sins and turn to Him so you can enter into this salvation. If you are in Christ, meditate, marvel in these words and make your calling and election sure. May God’s grace be with us. Amen.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”2 Peter 1:3-10

In Christ,

Lily.

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Dipping my toes back into the water – Social Media, Busyness and the Gospel

Hi guys! 

I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post. Actually, I can. I’ve been busy and ironically, that makes me lazy. When you’ve been having hard days at work, followed by hard nights at school, classes, tests and whatnot, it easier to make excuses why you are not engaged in things that really matter, like being in the Word and prayer or preaching the Gospel with boldness and clarity, or writing something profitable on your blog. Also, I think Facebook is making me lazy to share my thoughts and experiences here because it’s just faster and reaches more people – all I have to do is right short posts and hit sent and my almost 500 “friends” can read it. Unfortunately, even those posts haven’t been the best of me.

Sometimes I wander if posting only our best moments is a form of hypocrisy, if it is an attempt to create an image of holiness and perfection that is not really there. I suppose it can be, but it also has a touch of common sense, not exposing your dirty laundry with the world and not “bugging” people with your problems, after all, nobody wants to be the “downer” on anybody’s day. In the end, we can find explanations for all sorts of attitudes we have, but those explanations don’t justify the wrong ones – especially with sin.

I can come up with a hundred excuses as to why I sin, but that doesn’t make it okay. Nothing can ever make it okay. Once I’ve committed my sin, it’s done – it’s unrighteousness fulfilled, it leads to death. We are born sinners, we sin from our birth to the day we die, in fact, that is why we die. God said “the one who sins is the one who will die.” And so we are all dead, all condemned to hell and eternal suffering – and this condemnation is righteous. Now, is this the end? Is there no hope? Well, there is indescribable hope, but to enter into this hope you’ll still have to die: die to yourself, die to your sin and live for God. How is that possible? Thought Christ alone.

You see, God is holy – in fact, He is completely holy, no sin at all, never. He hates it, can’t look upon it. So how could there ever be any lenience towards it? How could he ever have peace with sinful man? How could He ever have communion with us? There is only one solution: justice must be service, the law must be obeyed, the soul that sins has to die. Okay, so we die, but where does that leave us? Dead in Hell. Then we can’t possibly save ourselves, there is nothing we can do, nothing at all. So because God loved us (how amazing is that? How can a holy and righteous God love generations of filthy sinners who hate Him by nature? But He did… how glorious is that?!), His Son Jesus was offered as propitiation for our sins. What does that mean?

It means that since we couldn’t pay for our crimes of sin, God had Jesus come down to Earth as a baby, grow up and live a perfectly sinless life of obedience to God’s Holy Law and die on the cross for our sins. Because Jesus was holy and perfect death was a punish that could not apply to him and death could not hold him. He took all the punishment due to every sin that every man and woman of His chosen people, suffered it in full and in the end, God was satisfied, He was made propitious, favorable, to us by the work that Jesus did on the Cross. How can we know that? By the fact that God raised Christ Jesus from the dead. He is risen, He is alive, He paid our debt in full and now lives to give us eternal life with the Father. Yes, the Father. Jesus’ death was the atonement for sin, which made God propitious to us sinners, fulfilling all that His justice required, enabling God to justify us without offending His holiness, impute Christ’s righteousness to us, and therefore, regenerate us. God gives us a new heart, new desires and puts His Spirit in us and we are adopted as His children into His family and His kingdom and His glory. That is the glorious truth of the Gospel of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  But how do we enter into this eternal life in Christ? We must forsake all hope of saving ourselves through our good works or any other means, because that is a false hope, as we’ve seen, repent from our sins and believe the Gospel, believe that God’s provision in Christ is sufficient.

Make no mistake though, it doesn’t end there it starts there. Once you are saved, if you truly are saved, you will be sanctified. God says in Ezekiel 36:26-27:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”.

He will sanctify you, if you are His. How does He do it? The answer is in verse 27, He will out His Spirit in you and move you to obey. But how can we obey that which we don’t know? We learn it! The only way you are going to learn God’s will so you can obey it is by reading, meditating, studying, diligently searching the Scriptures in a spirit of prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to teach you the truth of God. God has also given us the command to fellowship with other believers so we can stimulate each other to godliness, that means you need to be in a local church, serving God by serving your brethren. 

You see, eternal life starts here and when Jesus prayed for us in John 17, He said:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

It makes me incredibly happy and moved to know that Jesus prayed for me when He was here. I know He intercedes for us with the Father in Heaven, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25), but it’s so wonderful that He would record a prayer Jesus made on our behalf in the pages of the Bible, almost two thousand years ago. It’s sheer grace, a lovely gift from the Father:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17: 20-23.

This passage also highlights the importance of life in the local church, in unity, love, communion and service to each other, because Jesus said that the world believe God sent Him if we are one with each other and with God: it’s important for our spiritual health and growth, it’s important for evangelism, and most importantly, it’s for God’s glory. You need to know that despite the newly popular saying, your are not the Church, you are part of the Church, a member of body of Christ.  It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking it’s okay to ditch communion with a local church because they are flawed, because there may be some hypocrisy, because we are busy, because we can watch sermons online, but the bottom line is that forsaking the fellowship of believers is sin: you are to walk with them, know them, love them, serve them in Christ as Christ knows you, loves you and died for you – otherwise you’re just plain disobedient.

I want to close this in saying that I am a far cry from perfection, but I know  that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Grace and peace to you.

In Christ Jesus,

Lil.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

Romans 8:29-30.

 

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