Book Review: When I’m with Jesus

When I’m With Jesus by Kimberly Rae

When I’m with Jesus

This is such a beautiful book. Written by a mother, fearing that she may not be there to watch her children grow up due to her multiple health conditions. She wanted to leave behind a message for them to let them know how much she would still loved them even when she is gone. She wanted to make sure that they knew she would be all right when she is with Jesus in Heaven to allow them to heal. Many children often wonder about Heaven, especially when someone they love goes there. They are often afraid to ask other grieving adults about it or talk to them about how they are feeling. They need reassurance that those feelings and questions are normal. This book helps children see that a loved one’s transition to Heaven is a joyful thing and it reminds and comforts children to know that they have not been forgotten and are still loved by the ones they have lost, as well as our Father in Heaven. It uses this verse from Revelation (21:4) as a reminder of what eternity with God in Heaven will be like: “There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.”⁠

Reading this book brought tears to my eyes. It reminds us that God knows all about us, He knew us before we were born, how long we will live, our fears, our sufferings, our pain, our deepest darkest thoughts and secrets, even how many hairs we have on our head! He loves us, just as we are, just as He had made us. But sometimes, when the time comes, He will want us to leave this Earth and be with Him in Heaven. Sometimes he’ll take away someone we love to Heaven even when we want them to stay. Though it sounds scary, it is actually a wonderful blessing and a gift from God! Because, although we have pain, suffering and death on Earth, we will only have joy, peace and life in Heaven – eternal life with God, Jesus, all the angels and those we have lost before! It’s such a beautiful story that teaches us about life after death and how wonderful it is to be adopted into God’s family for eternity!⁠

Check it out on Amazon! https://amzn.to/36hXzCf

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

Recently, I’ve been trying to do more Bible reading and study as part of my spiritual growth since I started doing the 2:7 Series. I’ve been reading the book of Mark and today, I came across a passage about Jesus cursing a fig tree:

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. (Mark 11:12-14 ESV)

For some reason, this passage made me pause and wonder. Why did Jesus have to result to such a drastic action just because the fig tree had no fruit, especially if it wasn’t even the season for figs? Why curse the tree so no one can eat fruit from it again? Surely it would have fruit later, right? Why kill all its chances of ever bearing fruit again? I asked my mum what this story meant. She was also uncertain so we searched for some explanations together. This is what we have learned:

At the time Jesus saw the fig tree, it would have been around March or April and fig trees usually bear fruit in May or June. However, they saw that the fig tree had leaves but no fruit. Generally speaking, the fruit of a fig tree appears before the leaves and blends in with the leaves until it is ripe. So when Jesus and the disciples saw that the tree had leaves, it would be expected that the tree would have fruit even though it was earlier in the season for a fig tree to bear fruit.

The fig tree is also used symbolically to represent Israel in scripture. After Jesus cursed the tree, he arrived in Jerusalem and cleansed the temple. These events are not unrelated. Jesus was denouncing Israel’s worship of God because they had used the temple to sell goods and make dealings with money. With the fig tree, he was symbolically denouncing Israel as a nation for being unfruitful Christians who profess to be ‘Christian‘ but have no evidence of a relationship with Christ. The fruitless fig tree symbolizes the spiritual deadness or emptiness of Israel. They seemed to appear outwardly religious, keeping to the traditions, sacrifices and ceremonies, but they were spiritually fruitless because of their sins. The cleansing of the temple and cursing of the fig tree both represent Jesus pronouncing his coming judgment of Israel. It demonstrated his power to carry it out and came as a warning to them. He was trying to teach the people of Israel that professing you are Christian does not guarantee your salvation, only those that bear fruit can be saved. God is not fooled by fruitless Christians and will judge them harshly.

There is another lesson from the cursing of the fig tree though. And it comes from Mark 11:20-25, after Jesus cleansed the temple:

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive your trespasses.” 

The lesson Jesus was trying to teach his disciples was one of faith. Simply believe in your heart that it will be done and it will be. When we pray, pray with complete faith in God. Of course, we should also be praying according to his will and not for selfish reasons. If we pray with a genuine and faithful heart, we will receive whatever we ask for in prayer. However, we also need to forgive others if we pray and ask God to forgive our sins. Not only is faith in God important, we need to continually restore our relationships with others and with God by forgiving and confessing our sins. This is the only way we can have an intimate relationship with God. And when we have a relationship with God, we are then able to ‘bear much fruit’! It all links and makes sense now!

(The same account is also given in Matthew 21:18-22, however, there is a slight discrepancy in the time of the events. In Mark, the account happened over two days – Jesus cursed the tree on the first day and it withered on the following day, but in Matthew, the fig tree withered immediately after Jesus cursed it.)

I rarely dwell on a passage like this and I never thought that a simple story about a fig tree could teach us so much about living a fruitful Christian life. It is not easy to understand scripture when you just read it once or twice. You really need to spend time to study, analyse, and meditate on it. Sometimes you need to understand the historical and cultural background and even the science of nature. I’m amazed how God uses everything in our world and surroundings to teach us about truth, faith, worship and what it means to bear fruit.

I’ve been rushing through my Bible reading for the last couple of months and haven’t looked deeply enough into what I was reading before, and this story made me pause and think. God was trying to tell me to re-examine my heart and my motivations for my Bible reading. I wasn’t reading to understand his word, I was simply reading to tick off a box on my to-do list. I did not have a real intimate relationship with Christ. I was just like those Israelites – outwardly religious, but spiritually fruitless. God knew I needed a reminder and spoke to me through his word! Sometimes, we need to stop and pause and take time to think about what we are doing and why we are doing it. It may look like we are doing everything right but those actions are meaningless if our heart is not in it and if we are not honest with God.

Lord, thank you for speaking to me through the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree. Thank you for your grace and mercy for my iniquities. I have taken you for granted and neglected to spend time with you and meditate on your word when you were trying to speak to me. I complain that I don’t hear from you even though you have been trying to speak to me, I simply didn’t listen. My prayer life has been very dry and I didn’t try hard enough to connect with you. Give me the patience to listen and wisdom to discern what is from you and what is from the world. Guide me to where I need to go and give me the courage to follow the path you want me to take. Take away my doubts so that I may have complete faith in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The most helpful reference I found was from Got Questions: https://www.gotquestions.org/curse-fig-tree.html

Did this scripture impress you? Were you confused when you first read it, like I was? What do you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Just Do Something!

justdosomethingGet the book !

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I should do with my life; this isn’t anything new really. I found myself thinking I was meant for more than this and started reading books on finding my purpose and how to live out God’s plan for my life. I was constantly reminded of the verse from Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I had no idea what I should do, when and how. I was even struggling to decide which volunteer role I should take at church. I was continually praying to God to reveal his plans to me. I never heard from him but I did come across this book called ‘Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will’ by Kevin DeYoung. It popped up as a recommendation after I read ‘Why Church Matters’ by Joshua Harris. DeYoung would say that it’s total baloney to say that it is God’s will for me to read this book. That was even what I had thought when I bought it! Well, he completely changed my way of thinking about God’s will from that first page.

To expect God to speak to us and reveal his plans for us is foolish. Yes, God has, on numerous occasions throughout the Bible, spoken to people about his will for them. But this is not the norm. They were very rare occasions and none of them had asked God to tell them.

We over-spiritualize everything in our lives and often forget to live our lives due to our fear of doing the wrong thing or making the wrong decisions or disappointing God. We delay making even the most simple and straightforward decisions (non-moral decisions) because we are waiting for God to tell us what to do, when in fact, God has no obligation to reveal his plans or his will for us. His only desire for us to be live for God, obey the scriptures, be holy, love Jesus and think of others before ourselves. If we do all these things, we can do whatever else we like, with whomever we like and wherever we like because we will already be walking in the will of God. God or Scripture will never tell us which job to take or which house to buy or which person to marry.

The fact that I was willing to volunteer at church is already walking in God’s will because anything that serves his purposes is good. So why did I need to complicate the matter and think so much about the decision? There is no right or wrong choice in this decision! Whatever I decide to do, the outcome is the same. This is a non-moral decision. I will not harm anyone or cause trouble in doing so. This book made me realize how silly my thinking was!

So I made several bold, non-moral decisions to serve at church. Now, I need to do the same for my career, education and relationships. God gave us free will to make our own decisions and become self-sufficient human beings, not so we would become cowards and wait for everything to be handed to us or to be told what to do. We are not God’s puppets.

What we need to pray for is not for God to tell us what to do, but pray for wisdom to make our own decisions and not be afraid to take risks or fail. If we must fear something, fear God, not the future.

 

Letters to My Father (2)

After my father passed away in June, I’ve been writing letters to him to tell him how I am doing. I thought I’d share some of them. Here is the one on the day of his memorial service in July.

Dearest Daddy,

Today was your memorial service. For the last two weeks, we had been rushing to compile the memorial booklet for you. We also set up a Facebook page for you and everyone who knew you had wonderful things to say about you. I realised there was a lot that I didn’t know about you. Reading through all their posts and messages made me feel so incredibly grateful. I wish I had known more about you or listened to you more when you were here. I regret not spending more time with you. I knew you were always busy with work and meetings but when you were home you’d always want to spend time with us. I wish I had known that through all your work and meetings, you were changing the world and helping people in need. You had a great vision made an incredible impact on the community. You were also incredibly humble and never boasted or bragged about your accomplishments, which was one of the reasons why I knew so little about the work you had done! You even told Mum not to talk about what you had done, only to share our experiences with you as a family during your illness. You wanted people to know how we had come and grown closer together as a family and the struggles we went through during this time.

We celebrated your life today. Your friends, colleagues, and family shared stories about you. I learned about all the amazing work that you had done and the people’s lives you had changed. I got to meet Jessica, a girl you had mentored for many years. A girl I knew nothing about but whose life you had completely transformed and turned around. She spoke of how you continued to help and support her through her struggles and gave her many opportunities. She calls you Uncle Charles as if you were really related. You treated her like a daughter. I was so surprised to hear her story yet I was incredibly proud of you because at that moment I realised that Jessica was just one example of the many lives you had changed for the better; including my own. I didn’t get the chance to speak at the service but I think you knew everything I wanted to say anyway. I had shared with you on Father’s Day.

I miss you so much and don’t quite know how to describe that feeling I get every morning when I wake up. It is still so surreal. Am I still dreaming? I know you had lived a full life, and in those last moments, you had no regrets and went peacefully to Heaven. I can still see your face from that night. The calmness, the peacefulness, the final smile gave us all peace. I don’t think I ever fully understood what peace felt like until that moment when I saw it on your face. I cannot describe it yet I can feel it and I can see it in your eyes. In that moment, I knew that God had given you that peace. He took away all of your suffering and pain and gave you rest and carried you into Heaven with Him.

I had lost my way and my faith in God for many years. I started calling myself agnostic and stopped attending church. But somehow, that day, I wanted to believe again. Many people wonder why someone would believe in a God who would let this happen to our loved ones. I wonder that too and although I may never know the answer or understand the reason, I believe that God had given you this amazing life, which you treasured and lived to serve in His name, that even in the face of death, you were able to have so much peace and calm. You were not at all afraid because you knew He would be with you. I also feel calm and peace knowing that I will see you again one day in Heaven. I want to learn from you and live a life of purpose with humility and compassion.

Your loving daughter