Sunday, April 20, 2014

Blessed Easter 2014

Wishing Everyone a Blessed Resurrection Day!

Blessed Easter 2014

For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be 
Lord both of the dead and of the living.
~ Romans 14:9 (NAS) ~

Friday, April 18, 2014

Amid Trying Times

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:17-18 NIV)

Trying Times
While many parts of the U.S. were facing frigid cold conditions the last few months, many people in the tropical countries were facing the exact opposite—extreme heat and drought. Going outdoors to chill out and relax was near impossible, and many turned to the shopping malls and air-conditioned rooms indoors instead.

Like the discomfort we feel during extreme weather conditions, we know how we feel during times of extreme distress, sadness or desperation. If a loved one is ill and needs medical attention amid the worst of times when we are struggling to make ends meet, how would we feel? If we are out of a job and something came up that needs us to increase our financial support for a dependent, would we stay nonchalant? More often than not, multiple problems in life come at the same time, and we are frequently left helpless and desperate at our wits’ end.

Are we facing multiple problems and desperately seeking help? Are we feeling all dried up and in desperate need to calm down and relax? If we are, then we need to turn to God to find relief rather than seek addictive alternatives like drinking, smoking or drugs. Such unhealthy addictions do not provide relief but add up to greater despair.

Too often we are burdened by the cares in our lives to make time to chillax. We worry too much for an extended period, and in our desperation or extreme distress condition, we turn to unhealthy or addictive alternatives for comfort instead of crying out to God for help.

The psalmist exhorts us to cry out to the Lord who hears us and delivers us from all our troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those of us who are crushed in spirit. We may have many problems, but we can rest assured the Lord will deliver us from them all (Psalm 34:17-19).

Make time, therefore, to go to a quiet place to get some rest amid difficult and trying times. Cast our cares and anxiety on the Lord, for He cares for us and will sustain us, and not let us be shaken (Mark 6:31; Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7).

Hear our cries, dear Lord, in our times of need and desperation. Deliver us from all our troubles, for we are unable to handle them on our own. You know, Lord, every of the troubles we are facing and the burdens we are carrying. Grant us relief, O Lord, and sustain us. Do not let us be shaken, for our hearts are weak and broken, and we are crushed in spirit. Draw us close to You, Lord, so that we might not go astray to seek alternatives in our moments of weakness. Help us plan our time and schedules wisely, Lord, so we might make time to calm down, relax, and rest in Your presence. 

Blessed Good Friday 2014

Remembering Good Friday


For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, 
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
~ John 3:16 (NAS) ~

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cut to the Heart

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:36-39 NKJ)

Cut to the Heart
I had a strange dream last night. I was at a Bible study with my pastor and some people I knew—mostly some co-workers of mine and some nondescript college students. We were discussing the Crucifixion. Somehow we ended up talking about Isaiah 11, where the Savior is described as "a Rod from the stem of Jesse" (v.1) and "a Root of Jesse" (v.10). Someone asked what that meant, and I explained how Jesse was David's father, and how Jesus was descended from David—hence, our Savior was from the family "stem" of Jesse. But for some reason the discussion wandered away from the discussion of the Crucifixion, and my Pastor and I had to reign in the off-topic speculating and get back to the Cross. People just seemed to trivialize the Crucifixion, to take it for granted, not realizing what it was or what it had done for them. The people there didn't seem ready to discuss it. So let's discuss it today.

The Crucifixion is the tipping-point of human history. While we may count days and years by a calendar reckoned from the Birth of our Savior, it is really only His Death that makes a difference in the world. To put it bluntly, Jesus lived to die. While we celebrate Christmas with reckless abandon every year, we ought to remember that for sixteen-hundred years, Christians spent more time and effort focusing on Easter—the Crucifixion and Resurrection—than on Christmas. The Crucifixion is important, folks, and we must not forget that.

In today's verses from the book of Acts of the Apostles, we have the tail end of Peter's first sermon to the Jews of Jerusalem during Pentecost. The end result was that "about three thousand souls" came to Christ that day. (Acts 2:41) And what did Peter talk about? The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. In this last bit quoted above, we see the first result of such preaching: they were "cut to the heart" and asked the apostles what was required of them. (v.37) And what is the Peter's response? "Repent" and be baptized "for the remission of sins." 

What cut them to the heart? Peter told them that THEY had crucified Jesus, who is now "both Lord and Christ." In fact, Peter told them that TWICE. In Acts 2:23, Peter said that Jesus they had "taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death."

At this point, some will say, "Quit accusing the Jews of killing Christ! Jesus was a Jew, you know!" Yes, and every other persecuted prophet of Israel was a child of Abraham, too, but that didn't stop the Israelites from seeking their deaths.

Others might try to get technical and say, "But the Romans crucified Jesus, not the Jews." During the religious wars in Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, people were impaled on long stakes just the same way that the Romans used crucifixion - as a "deterrent" to other rebels and "infidels." But the Christian rulers didn't want the stain of such cruel deaths on their hands, and so they hired non-Christians to do the actual impaling for them. Did that make the Christians any less guilty? It was the Pharisees and Jewish leaders who brought the charges against Jesus, and who called for Pilate to free Barabbas instead of Jesus. But that's not all that Peter was talking about.

What put Jesus on that cross was the sin of all the generations since Adam, and the sin of all generations until the end of time. WE put Jesus on that cross with our sin, rebellion, and lawlessness. We nailed Him there with our own hands as we performed acts that were not in keeping with the will of God. Our society put a spear in Jesus' side with our belittling of God and our self-interest and pride. Our nation put a crown of thorns on His head instead of a crown of glory, because we seek glory only for ourselves. We ourselves have beaten and mocked Jesus from the court to Calvary every time we allow bitterness and anger and hatred to reign in our hearts. We stripped Him naked every time we ignored the poor and the fatherless, every time we allowed injustice and oppression to reign in our lands. As surely as any Roman soldier, as surely as any mocking Jew in first-century Jerusalem, you and I have nailed our Savior to a cross so He could die.

Does that cut to the heart? It ought to. It's meant to. The Crucifixion is not just some "read it and forget it" moment of history, it is the turning point of God's plan for the world. The violence done to the Son of God was the result of our sins - AND it is the moment when one Man bore those sins away and washed us white as wool. It is cruel and heartless and painful, and it is something we would just as soon forget. But we MUST remember it, and we must remember that although it was horrible, it was necessary. The sentence of death is no longer ours, for the Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world. Christ defeated death, but He had to die to do it.

Today, dear sisters and brothers, remember the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus. Don't gloss over it as some inconvenient fact, some unexplainable glitch in the course of Jesus' life. The Cross is the bridge between us and God, the place where our salvation was bought and paid, where we were ransomed from the slavery of sin. Yes, let us read and preach the words of our Lord, and let us talk freely about His unswerving obedience to God the Father. And then, when necessary, let us be like Peter and talk freely about the Crucifixion.

Let's not forget the Crucifixion and why and how it happened. Let us remember that even as non-believers are confused by the Crucifixion and cannot understand it, to those whom God has called, our crucified Lord is wisdom and power. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25) Remember this, too: If thinking about the Cross cuts you to the heart, then that is a good thing, because it means God has touched your heart and elected you to join His Son in glory. Glenn Pettit 

Precious God and Father, I have sinned so much and am so broken today. Your blessed Son was broken and beaten and He bled for me, a sinner and fool for so long. I am cut, dear Lord, deep into my stony heart. Thank You for the Cross that showed us Your mercy. Thank You for dying for me so that I might live. All I ask today, Lord God, is that You teach me how to live again in this new life I have been given. Amen.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Emotional Storms

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3 KJV)

Emotional Storms
Emotional storms of inner turmoil are difficult to handle. Grief, fear, and worry can cause us great distress. To see us through life's difficulties, God provides His protection and peace. But protection doesn't mean that troubles won’t occur. 

Jesus allowed the disciples to experience the fear and anxiety of being in a boat on a raging sea. He permitted them to suffer because He had something far more important to teach them. He wanted the disciples to recognize their own helplessness, His sufficiency, and their dependence on Him.

God's peace is not dependent upon the calming of our circumstances or the removal of external pressures. It doesn’t mean the absence of conflict either. His promised peace comes in three ways.

First, Jesus Himself becomes our peace. Through His death, He reconciled us to the Father. And we are no longer His enemies (Romans 5:1). In God, we can be at rest.

Second, when we're in a right relationship with the Father, we have the ability to live at peace with our fellow man (Ephesians 2:14). Through God, we have the power to choose forgiveness, to keep no record of wrongs, and to show love to our enemies.

The third way His promised peace comes is through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. It enables us to experience an increasing sense of inner tranquility (Galatians 5:22-23). Karen McKenney

Friday, March 28, 2014

Empty Handed

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 NIV)

Empty Handed
Have you ever watched a child getting candy from a candy jar? I love when they reach in and grab a handful, only to discover that their hand is now too big to get out of the jar. They pull and pull, shake and shimmy, but the hand is stuck. Finally, they realize they have to let go of the candy. Defeated, they watch the candy drop and take out their hand.

I think this is the perfect analogy for prayer. You see, we often bring our struggles to God. We kneel at his feet. We tell him we are ready to do better. We wait for our answer. After a little while, we decide that we should do something about this problem and begin to work on it. We get a little frustrated that God didn't help us through this—again.

But here's what really happened. We went to God, reached into the candy jar and tried to grab the answer to our prayer. We pulled and shimmied. We shook and danced. We tried to get our hands out. But we never let go of our troubles. We knelt at his feet, but never surrendered our problems. We tried to grab an answer with a fistful of problems.

Instead, we need to come to God, lay our problems at his feet and with empty hands, reach out to him. Only then can we grab on as he pulls us from the depths and makes it better. Only then can our hands be filled with blessings. Amanda Lynch

Heavenly Father, You are loving and good. You have assured us that when we pray, you will answer. Help us to surrender our troubles to you so that we can grab onto you. Hold us in your arms. Bring us the peace and confidence that comes from knowing you are there and you care. Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Silence at the Deep End

And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer (Matthew 27:12 NAS)

Silence at the Deep End
“Get this done by today,” said the boss.

“I'm afraid this is not quite possible,” said the staff. “I have too many other tasks I need to complete today.” 

Such a response from a staff is seldom received positively by the boss. In a corporate environment, it is not uncommon to see bosses going off the deep end when their staff refuses to do something asked of them. How we respond to our bosses, supervisors, or employer in such situations could mean keeping or losing our job.

As believers in Christ, how should we respond when we are reprimanded, put down, or accused of insubordination or something else? Should we remain silent even when we are not in the wrong? 

We might have heard the saying, “Win an argument and lose a friend.” In Christian context, this might cost much more. In our eagerness to win an argument, our unchristianly manners might ‘kill some souls’ in turning away those around us from believing in Christ observing our 'unbecoming' behavior and response.

Jesus, when He was accused, remained silent (Matthew 27:12-14). Depending on our situation, sometimes silence might be a good way of responding. No doubt, we might get angry out of holy indignation, such as when Jesus drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). Yet we must not sin or let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26).

Rather than let our anger burn or get ourselves into heated argument, let us learn to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice and the like, so as not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 40:30-32). Whether our bosses or supervisors are good and gentle or unreasonable, let us respond with respect. For this finds favor if for the sake of conscience toward God, we bear up under sorrows when suffering unjustly (1 Peter 2:18-19).

So when we get thrown in at the deep end or face a situation we find too difficult to explain ourselves out the next time around, take heart and do not despair. Remember Jesus our Lord, while He was accused, He did not answer. Therefore, do not be afraid, for while men’s hatred and malice may be concealed by deception, their wickedness and wrongdoings will be exposed in public, and whoever plans evil will fall into it (Proverbs 26:26-27). For nothing concealed will not be revealed, or hidden will not be known (Matthew 10:26; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17). 

Vindicate us, dear Lord, and plead our case against our accusers and tormentors! In Your righteousness, do not let them gloat over us. Rescue us, Lord, from those who are deceitful, wicked and hotheaded. Help us keep our cool, Lord, that we might not respond in kind to blow our top and shame Your name, or behave unruly or unchristianly, even when maligned or suffering unjustly. Grant us wisdom, Lord, to know when to remain silent and when to speak. Tame our temper and calm our spirit, O God, so we might respond with respect even to those who are unreasonable. Unhide and reveal all malice and deception, Lord, and let the truth prevail.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Camel Bones and the Bible

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. (2 Peter 3:3 NLT)

Camel Bones and the Bible
The findings of two archaeologists at Tel Aviv University (TAU) made headlines when their research called into question the Bible’s version of ancient history.

According to the study conducted by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen, domesticated camel did not appear in the Eastern Mediterranean region until around the tenth century BC. If this is true, it means biblical records referencing the animal in the times of Abraham and Jacob are inaccurate.

"There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place” wrote John Noble Wilford in The New York Times on February 10, 2014. “These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.”

In an interview with Christianity Today, Titus Kennedy, an adjunct professor at Biola University, said he noticed archaeologists who work in Israel and Jordan seem to date camel domestication later than those who work in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

“[Israel] doesn't have much writing from before the Iron Age, 1000 BC,” he said. “So there aren't as many sources to look at. Whereas in Egypt, you have writing all the way back to 3000 BC and in Mesopotamia the same thing.”

Based on Egyptian and Mesopotamian accounts, Kennedy believes domestication probably occurred as early as the third millennium BC. He also believes the TAU researchers not only ignored evidence from outside Israel, they also assumed too much about their own research.

“All they really tell us is that at that particular place where they were working they found some camel bones that they interpreted as in a domesticated context between the ninth and 11th centuries BC,” said Kennedy. “It doesn't tell us that camels couldn't have been used in other nearby areas earlier than that.”

Dr. K Martin Heide, an expert on Semitic languages and cultures based at Philipps University in Marburg, Germany, expressed his view about the findings in his article for Tyndale House, cited by Christian Today.

“The Genesis narrator does not claim that the camel was in wide use in the second millennium BC,” wrote Dr. Heide.

“To the contrary, while Abraham and Jacob had camels (probably Bactrian, or double-humped, camels that were available in Mesopotamia), Isaac, who stayed in Canaan most of his time, seems to have used no camels. In addition, the final retreat of Jacob with his family to Egypt was all done on donkeys.”

“Neither do we have to assume that they or the few people who may have used camels at that time buried their camels or deposited their bones at some special place for them to be found in our times.”

“Only later, in the first millennium BC, when camels came to be exploited in the well-organized infrastructure of an established kingdom, can we expect to find archaeological footprints of their use.”

Dr. Heide cautioned that archaeological evidence only paints part of the picture and that future excavations may shed new light on aspects of history.

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of [the camel's] absence in Israel in the second millennium [BC].”

The Bible forewarns that in the last days there would be scoffers who would mock the truth, whose purpose in life is to satisfy their own desires. They would not listen to sound and wholesome teaching, but would look for teachers who tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3; 2 Peter 3:3; Jude 1:18).

When we hear of wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, scoffers who mock the truth and follow their own desires, do not be afraid or be in doubt, but be aware the Kingdom of God is near (Matthew 24:6-8, 33-35; Mark 13:29-31; Luke 21:31-33). For people are like grass and all their glory like the flowers in the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever (1 Peter 1:24-25).

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes doubting the Bible is inspired by You. Your word, O God, is the lamp to guide our feet and the light for our path. Thank You, Lord, for forewarning us about the things that must take place before Your return, that while we wait we might not be swayed by unsound or unwholesome teachings but be found faithful in You to the end.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Shortchanged

For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind. (Psalm 73:3-5 NAS)

Shortchanged
“We’d have done a better job if we were sent for the training, but as always when it comes to opportunities from the boss, we get the short end of the stick.”

That was how I felt when I was working in a corporation as a support engineer some years ago. While everyone in the team had to support customers, only two members were given the opportunity to be trained abroad. Yet when they returned, much of the support job was still assigned to those who were untrained, and there was no sharing of information of what was learned from the training.

Many of us have experienced being shortchanged of something we feel we deserved. We think of ourselves as unfairly treated and at times envy those who do better than we do. We discover that being a Christian is not as smooth sailing as we hope our lives to be, and at times we might even get put down or be given a miss because of our faith or belief.

We might envy the arrogant because of their prosperity and because they seemingly suffered no pain in their death. They do not get into trouble like we do nor are plagued with the problems we face almost daily. We might even think we have kept our hearts pure in vain (Psalm 73:3-5, 13-14).

The Bible exhorts us not to envy such people—the sinners, the wicked, the evildoers and wrongdoers—or desire to be with them (Psalm 37:1; Proverbs 23:17; 24:1, 19). Are we envious because our hirer or boss is generous to some but not to all? As followers of the Lord, we should not be envious but should accept what is due to us. After all, is it not lawful for a hirer or boss to do what he or she wish with his or her own (Matthew 20:14-16)?

In all circumstances and in everything, therefore, give thanks for this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes complaining and gossiping about our dissatisfactions. Help us be grateful for what we have, Lord, and not feel unhappy that someone else is doing better or getting more than our rewards. Place in our hearts the joy of Your salvation, Lord, that when unfairly treated because of our faith and belief in You, we might rejoice and accept what is due to us. See us through in our daily encounters with problems and troubles, Lord, and keep our hearts pure all the days of our lives.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Beyond Our Wits

They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. (Psalm 107:27-28 NAS)

Beyond Our Wits
Working in a job that is not exactly our idea of enjoyment can be exasperating. At some point of time, we are bound to reach our wits’ end to consider how we are to live on in the days ahead and attempt to make sense out of our labor. Too often, however, we are left without a choice because of the scarcity of jobs and the limited opportunities to make ends meet.

Not every one of us will get to do what we like for a living. Sometimes we might need to live above our wits to do things beyond our own knowledge, expertise, skills or ability. At times, we might need to lower ourselves to understand the struggles of those in need and live humbly. That is when reliance on ourselves ends, and God's help is all we can depend on. Thankfully, we can rest assured where God places us He will bless and grant us the strength (Psalm 128:2; Isaiah 40:29).

Where and who should we turn to when we are at our wits’ end? The psalmist beseeches us to turn to God when we stagger, and cry to the Lord in our troubles. Our Lord is the One who stills the storm to a whisper and puts the waves to a hush. He is enthroned in the heavens, the maker of heaven and earth, who will bring us out of our distresses (Psalm 107:27-29; 121:1-2; 123:1).

So when we lift up our eyes to the mountains or look up to the skies the next time around, remember, we are not alone in our struggles, for our help comes from the Lord.

Thank You dear Lord that we can count on You and cry out to You in our troubles and distresses. We stagger in our struggles at times Lord, yet You would not leave us without Your blessing and strength. You O Lord are the calmer of the storms in our lives and You are always present to help. Remind us Lord to depend on You when we are at our wits’ end, especially when unsure how to live on in the days ahead. In You we depend and put our trust Lord, for You are our refuge and our strength.

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