Friday, August 29, 2008

Charades of Life

And He said, "See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, `I am He,' and, `The time is near.' Do not go after them. (Luke 21:8)

Charades Many of us know about the game of charades where someone acts out a scene, skit, word, or phrase to help others or members of a team to guess what it means. Few, however, know charade also means "an act or event that is obviously false, although represented as true," according to Cambridge Dictionary of American English.

All of us know how scripts, writings, and even news can be tweaked, omitted, and modified to represent the truth, and how public relations can spin stories. Media bias is a good example of truth represented from the view of an eye witness or a writer's perspective—an act or event recreated to represent the truth.

According to Baker of Media Research Center1, media bias can be identified by commission, omission, story selection, placement, source selection, spin, labeling, policy endorsement or condemnation, editorials or opinion columns, stories or statements that make the conservative side look bad but are accurate, and non-policy stories on a specific event that don't have to be balanced. All these negligence can lead audiences into believing what may be untrue or viewing certain events from an incorrect perspective.

As Christians, we have been warned in the Word of God not to be misled and to watch out for false prophets, false teachers, anti-Christ, and events that are obviously false, although represented as true.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; (2 Peter 2:1-3a)

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. (Revelation 13:11-14)

Let us all therefore learn to discern falsehood and not be deceived by the smoothsayers and those who claim to be the Lord or a prophet of Christ. We must study the Word of God to know what must take place before our Lord returns.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-16)

Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many ... But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Matthew 24:11-13)

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, `Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, `Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:24-27)

Dear Lord, teach us to perceive what is real and what is not. Grant us Your wisdom to discern between the truth and untruth. Help us not to be deceived into believing false teachings or listen to things we wish to hear but is not according to Your word. Keep us safe in Your guiding hands and lead us by Your Holy Spirit to walk in Your ways.

NOTE: All scripture references in this article are from New American Standard Bible (NASB).

1Baker, B (2008), MRC in 'How to Identify, Expose, and Correct Liberal Media Bias', FairPress: How to Identify Media Bias (Accessed 18 August 2008).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Witnesses for Christ

Witnesses for Christ As Christians, we have all been called to be witnesses of the Lord, but what do we understand by being a witness for Christ?

According to Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, a 'witness' is a person who sees an event happening, or one who is to show or give proof of something, or a person who speaks from his own experience that something is true, or one who bears testimony to a fact with proof that something is true. A ‘witness’ for Christ therefore involves an experience we can testify, or a proof of God's wonderful work in our lives, something we can see visibly in the form of changed lives, from sinfulness to desiring holiness, and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit with our lives revealing Christ.

How then can we be witnesses for Christ? The Book of Acts tells us how. By first receiving power, and then be witnesses to all the earth.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8 NIV)

The first steps to being a witness for Christ therefore is to receive power, and this means we must first get hold of our lives to live victorious in Christ, by submitting ourselves in total surrender to Him and drawing closer to God on a daily basis through prayer and Bible reading, allowing the Holy Spirit to mould us and manifest through us, to become more like Jesus, and to bear much fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

All these traits and qualities of what some people deem as essential signs of 'good' Christians bear witness of Christ in our lives, and our lives given to God completely will in return reflect and bear witness of Christ. Witnessing is therefore more than just reaching others for Christ by being vocal in telling others about Him and the gospel. It requires living our lives for Christ to show more of Jesus, and less of ourselves, not in the way the world shows, as in staging a scene for others to see, like the Pharisees who seek the honour of Man, but truthfully, genuinely, and naturally from the innermost depths of our hearts (Matthew 6:1, 5; Luke 6:45). It is revealing Christ and the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which are not something we can acquire by works. It is God given, and it comes naturally as we continue to draw close to God. There is, however, no need for us to wait until we are spiritually mature to bear witness for Christ; we need only to come clean before God in all areas of our unholy lives, in confession and repentance, to take steps to build a closer relationship with God, to pray, study, and walk in His Word.

Once we have gotten hold of our lives to live victorious in Christ, we must then decisively take steps to stamp out our bad habits and unhealthy practices, and these may be in the form of our attitudes at work or our behaviour towards others. Two Christian principles which I find particularly useful in bearing witness for Christ at the workplace come from the following verses:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV)

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:18-20 NIV)

Our attitudes should express no fear when we know we are working for the Lord and not man. When we work for God, we are to always do our very best, and then let God do the rest. Therefore, when in the face of impossibilities, we should not fret, for God is a powerful God and nothing is impossible with Him, and even if the answer is a ‘no’ from God, we need not fear the man who expects the work to be done, for God is with us to see things through. Whether our bosses are reasonable or harsh, considerate or inconsiderate, we are to perform our jobs to the best of our abilities, and this attitude will separate us from the others, in showing Christ in our lives (Philippians 2:14-15).

Other examples of Christian principles may include areas such as not cheating on company's time to do our own work, not slandering others to raise ourselves up for better opportunities, not covering up truths for others or ourselves to keep the job, not turning a company's meeting into an evangelistic meeting, and not creating situations in the company to demonstrate a spiritual lesson or to promote greater awareness or spirituality.

Take the aspect of not covering up truths for example. Suppose we see our colleague being falsely accused for doing something he did not do by a supervisor trying to cover up for his mistake, do we leave our colleague to be accused by the management, while letting the supervisor go scot free, or do we defend the righteous? What if by speaking the truth, we risk losing our jobs? Do we still stand out to do speak the truth in representing what is right, or do we stand accused of letting down our faith?

What about preaching Christ at the expense of the company's time? Is it ethical for us to turn a company's meeting into a session of spiritual discussion? Will this achieve the goal of reaching people for Christ or will this turn people away from Him? There is absolutely nothing wrong about preaching Christ, but doing it at the right time win souls, while doing it at inappropriate times loses all.

Living our lives for Christ requires sensitivity. When we live our lives a holy and living sacrifice to Christ, we will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and as we grow in the Lord, we will discover ourselves growing in greater sensitivity towards others. Being sensitive to others' needs will help us understand our friends and colleagues better, and this in turn will give us opportunities to offer help to them, not just in the areas of work, but also in areas of their personal lives, and in this way, we can demonstrate how God can help them as He has helped us. What better way to bring others to Christ than sharing how He leads our lives. Even if we have yet to develop this sensitivity, we can still make friends with colleagues, sharing their pains and joy as we share our experiences with them, the things God have done in our lives, in a manner similar to sharing other things in our daily lives, subtly and unconditionally, and depending on their response, slowly yet surely, introduce them to Christ.

Living our lives a testimony for Christ is never easy. Whether we are in or out of the workplace, we are constantly expected to behave in the ways of a good Christian so that man may glorify God because of us. Being a witness for Christ is not just telling others about Him, but also about showing Christ in our lives. We should therefore begin by drawing close to God, in coming clean before Him in all areas of our lives, so as to be better witnesses for Christ.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The First Hide and Seek

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself." (Genesis 3:8-10)

Adam and Eve Ever since the fall of man, many have sought to hide from God rather than to seek Him. The first 'game' of hide and seek began when Adam chose to listen to a lie and disobey God. Instead of going before God to seek His forgiveness, however, Adam hid from Him. Although Adam claimed it was because he was afraid, due to his nakedness, it was in reality, the fear resulting from guilt and the shame of disobedience that created the barrier between man and God. Since then, a close relationship between God and man was no longer possible, not until Jesus, the second Adam, at Calvary restored us to God through the breaking of the veil between God and man to all who would believe in Him.

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45)

but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:16)

Today, many of us still hide from God. We hide from Him the things we should not do, and we hide from Him the things we should do but did not do. We hide because we are ashamed and have fallen short of the glory of God. We do things that displease Him, and we do things that are unclean, against the holiness of God.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (Romans 7:15-19)

What then shall we do? We shall seek God and not hide from Him. We shall draw near to God, be ready to conquer self, and fight against sin.

For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. (Romans 6:19b)

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14)

Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Romans 13:12b-14)

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Let us all, therefore, draw near to God and forsake the 'game' of hide and seek. Seek God earnestly and do not hide from Him anymore.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS." - Jesus (Matthew 11:28-29)

NOTE: All scriptural references in this article are based on the New American Standard Bible

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bridging the Gap

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6 NAS)

Christ the BridgeMany of us have seen the illustration used during evangelistic meetings of Christ or the cross as the bridge between the relationship of man and God. Few however have given any thought of how the relationship between man and Christ may be bridged. The Bible records for us what Jesus said about bridging the gap between man and Christ.

but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Acts 1:8 NAS)

Bridging the gap between man and Christ requires us to first be witnesses for the Lord. According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, a ‘witness’ is a person who sees an event happening, or one who is to show or give proof of something, or a person who speaks from his own experience that something is true, or one who bears testimony to a fact with proof that something is true.

The death of Christ on the cross is an event of the past, so we can never be what the dictionary defines as ‘a person who sees an event happening’, but we can certainly ‘show or give proof’ of Jesus in us and speak from our experience that Jesus is true. Witnessing for Christ, therefore, means testifying Christ, sharing our experiences of Him, giving evidences of God's wonderful work in our lives, and reflecting visible traits that people can see of changed lives, from sinfulness to desiring holiness, and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit with our lives revealing Christ.

As Christians, we are all called to be witnesses for Christ, to be the bridge between the unsaved and the believers in Christ. We bear witness for Christ by bridging the gap between a person who does not know Christ and the person who lives in Christ. We are the bridge between the unbelievers and Christ, the reflection of Christ living in our lives.

The way to reflect or show Christ in our lives is to do what writers do in 'showing' rather than 'telling'. In writing stories, showing is about engaging the readers in identifying themselves within the story, and at times challenging them into taking some positive action. This same principle may be applied in bearing witness for Christ, in bridging the gap between man and Christ. Rather than just telling people about Christ, we should show pre-believers what it means by having Christ in our lives, in engaging them to identify the difference between people who live in Christ and people who are without Christ, to challenge them into decisive action.

Telling people about Christ is fine, but unless we show what it means to have Christ in us, few will believe or desire to commit themselves in giving their lives to Christ. In bridging the gap between man and Christ, it is important to show Christ in our lives, rather than just telling people about Him. May we, therefore, 'show' more of Christ, rather than just 'tell' others about Him, in being the bridge between the unsaved and the people in Christ.