Sketching HIStory #1

Introduction -The Life Preserver Lesson

Once upon a time, I was once a drowning man. I was floundering in a sea that I had no hope of keeping a float indefinitely. I was in real danger. Then, someone threw me a life preserver. Now, that was enough to keep me afloat and ultimately save my life… for eternity.

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Of course, I was speaking metaphorically just like the parables told by Jesus Christ. His parables were always relatable to his audience and had in-depth life changing lessons. His words after were always, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” [Mark 4:9 NLT] In essence, the parables, when so desired, can be pondered by those (even) with no scholarly achievements.

So, in my parable, I just wanted to emphasize that in the past, my life was a real mess. Oh sure, on the outside, I presented myself as a ‘happy-go-lucky’ handicap. But it was mostly an act. Don’t get me wrong. I was enjoying life and at the same time I was like ‘going nowhere’. Well, originally, I was heading in one direction but I didn’t realize, at that time, was heading to eternal damnation. Then someone threw me a life preserver.

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It was around 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait which triggered a coalation of several nations who banded together to kick him out. Of course, my wife and I were anxiously watching all this with the only source of TV news we can get in english. (We were living in Manila.) In those days, there were no CNN, cable TV and no internet yet. Anyway, it was when the news started to report that Saddam will use nuclear weapons triggering WW3, I started to think of my own mortality . I remembered asking, if I died that day and I stood before God, will He let me in? It was then I realized that I deserved not to be let in. Like the drowning man, I was very afraid. You see, as a Roman Catholic, it was drummed into us that if Heaven was denied, HELL had to be the only other place I could go and in my heart, I knew I deserved it. I cried out in prayer. It was then a life preserver was cast into the sea to keep me afloat. Now, do you know who threw me that life preserver? … and why?

Well, the answer to that is the reason why I’m writing this blog…

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Sketching HIStory is my effort to tell the story of God. It is a story that saved my life. It is a story I told many times. It is a story that needs telling and is meant to save us all. Why? Jesus said it best, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” [John 17:3]

Once upon a time, someone threw me a life preserver. That task was passed on to us who believed (Matthew 28:18-20). For myself, that was back in the early 90s. Since I have been incapacitated by my current medical condition, I confess that I have been remiss of the privilege that was given me. But lately people I knew (and also a lot of people I didn’t know) have passed away and I have been convicted with the same question of whether they even knew the Lord the way He wants. The emotion, for me, would be like watching someone drowning and yet I did not throw him a line. I express the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Now, I may not be able to preach and teach like in the ol’ days. But I can still tell stories in both my writings and drawings. I pray and hope you would join me as I impart His story and sketch my way through the Bible.

In my next post, I will continue the Introduction with the story of about how God can be really known on The Road to Emmaus told by Jesus himself some 2000 years ago. See you then.

Jesus 101 – That you may know God

If there is a goal in my life, it is that I help people get to know God the same way I got to know Him. For the next several weeks, I am going to be both teacher and storyteller. We will delve in the Bible stories of Jesus. We’re going to start with the concept of how to know God through Jesus.

But why Jesus? In John 14, one of His disciples more or less asked him, ‘Lord, show us the Father?’ If you don’t mind, I’m going to paraphrase what Jesus said. “You’ve been with me this whole time, yet you still don’t know me. Well, stick with me kid and watch me closely!” In essence, getting to know Jesus is getting to know God… and getting to know Him intimately.

In John 17:3, Jesus made this statement within His long prayer, “And this is the way to have eternal life–to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” The words seem clear enough. The key to eternal life is to know God. Allow me to clarify that ‘to know of God’ is just not enough. It is too superficial. What Jesus meant was to go deeper. I am reminded of the time when a rich man came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 NLT) Jesus’ response to him was somewhat more different than the revelation of John 17:3. He first cited that he should obey the last 6 parts of the Ten Commandments. “You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:18,19 NLT)

When the rich man boastfully told him that he did obey them all. Then, Jesus dropped the bomb (so to speak) on him. Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Matthew 19:21,22 NLT)

Believe it or not, Jesus’ final response to the rich man actually coincides with what he instructed to his disciples. Why was his approach different? Jesus knew the rich man’s heart and gave his answer on how the rich man asked it. You see, the rich man’s error was both fundamental and spiritual. The fundamental truth is this: Eternal Life can never be earned or bought because of our sin problem. Jesus gave him a spiritual solution but the rich man did not go for it.

His disciples asked, “Then who in the world can be saved?” I wonder if their question ‘miffed’ Jesus a little. For in this same chapter of Matthew 19, just before the rich man, there were a group of children that was brought to Him. And when his disciples tried to shoo them away, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:14 NLT)

Jesus’ declaration of children shouldn’t have been new to their ears because he had also recently told them similar things when they asked him who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. His answer was when he referred to a child and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3,4 NLT)

I don’t want to annoy parents all over, especially since I have no children of my own (except for being a pseudo-parent to my many nephews and nieces). But with what I have observed of kids when they start to talk and reason all the way to the legal age, it is rare for me to use humility to describe them. Even in Scripture, it says, ‘A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness…’ (Proverbs 22:15 NLT) So, how are being like children a key to getting into the Kingdom of Heaven? And how does this match with John 17:3 on how we should know the only true God and Jesus?

To answer this might need a whole extensive Bible Study and probably many weeks of your time to provide adequate fundamental truths. But for this blog, I have to keep it short. So, here is the nutshell version.

Whenever, I tell good stories to my nephews, nieces and to many kids at Sunday School, I always saw and read the same expression of awe and belief on their faces. So, this is what I believe what Jesus meant that we should become like little children. I found that all children have a great capacity to be awed and to express faith. When I, in my late 30s, started to read about God and Jesus with childlike fascination, I felt like I was reaquainting with a long lost friend (except that I was the one who was lost). So, I encourage you to listen more to biblical stories by humbling yourself; by not being so skeptical even before the telling of the story. I have been walking with the Lord for over 25 years and I can testify that I got to believe in Him because I knew Him and I am still knowing Him today. But don’t take my word for it. Open your Bible to know Him and see for yourself.

Until the next post,

Johann Q

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NLT – New Living Translation

‘miffed’ – put into an irritable mood