Thursday, December 31, 2009

False Teachings

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. (2 Peter 2:1 NAS)

Photo by AP The New York Times reported on December 27, 2009 that a young man, the son of a prominent Nigerian banker and former government official, was charged for trying to blow up a transcontinental airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day. According to a cousin of the suspect who spoke to the press during an interview, there was no sign of radicalism in the young man while he was growing up in Nigeria, though he was devout.

“We understand that he met some people who influenced him while in London,” where the suspect studied engineering, said his cousin. “He left London and went to Yemen where, we suspect, he mixed up with the people that put him up to this whole business.”

All of us know the dangers of mixing with the wrong people and being under the influence of teachings that mislead or are incorrect or untrue. The Bible mentioned about false prophets and false teachers who in the last days will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves (2 Peter 2:1). Followers of such teachings likewise will face destruction if they unwittingly persist to practice the teachings of such heresies.

As Christians and followers of the Lord, therefore, we must be careful not to fall into the influence of false teachings (Matthew 24:4, 11, 13), be wise to examine the things that are being taught to us (Acts 17:11), and be equipped with the correct and true teachings of God's Word. Besides studying and learning from the word of God, we must also constantly examine ourselves to look into the mirror with unveiled faces to see if we reflect more and more the glory of the Lord as we are being transformed in the image of God through the listening and yielding to the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Like the dangers of being under the influence of false teachings, destructive heresies and extremism can be used as tools by the devil to misguide us into following ways that lead us to deny the Lord (2 Peter 2:1). We must therefore constantly cultivate a listening and discerning ear towards the Holy Spirit while we learn and study the Word of God. We must also always be on our guard against 'savage wolves' who will come in among us and not spare 'the flock', but will speak perverse things to draw us away from being disciples of the Lord (Acts 20:28-30).

Dear Lord, help us always to listen to Your Holy Spirit to discern the right from the wrong teachings. Lead us Lord in Your ways that we may not deviate from Your teachings or be misled to let down our guard against falsehood to turn away from You. Keep us focused on You Lord that we may not be veiled from the truth into choosing to listen to teachings that sound good, which end however is destruction. Remind us Lord to constantly examine ourselves and look into the mirror to see if we reflect the glory of Your image more and more each day, to listen and to yield to Your Holy Spirit.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Jesus is the Reason for this Season!
May God Bless All of You!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Shades and Luminance

Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people, Who have eyes but do not see; Who have ears but do not hear. (Jeremiah 5:21 NAS)

Colorful WorldImagine a world without colors. Everything we see is black and white. What would our lives be like? Our lives would be very different and we would only be able to differentiate an object from another through size and weight. Color is therefore an important differentiator that helps us determine whether we live our lives colorfully in vibrancy or in drab lethargy. It is, in this sense, a signifier of the many varieties and differences of every created being, and everything that constitutes a part of our environment.

Although many of us do not consciously think about color apart from how we dress to look good, it is common knowledge that the human eye can see colors only because there is light. Differences in colors as we see them depend on the type of light sent to our eyes, the shades, the reflection, the absorption and the transmission through a spectrum. We are capable of seeing color only because our eyes have light and color-sensitive receptors.

Some people however have trouble discerning colors. Color blindness, for example, is often associated with the ailment of red-green deficiency, which can cause a problem in color perception. According to The Franklin Institute, all of us, even if we are not color blind, can still have the potential to see light and colors in a different light. If a ray of light hits another object before we get to the light source, a shadow present in an area where there is less light can cause a distortion to how we perceive a color. This is because light moves in straight lines and shadows caused by objects blocking the light can block all or some of the light from hitting on the object. Shades and luminance can therefore cause the colors we see to change, and may appear darker if luminance is altered.

Christian living is very much like how we perceive colors. In the Bible, we know of the people who live their lives according to strict rules following the Books of the Law, the black and white of legality. These are the people who by following traditions and customary practices live their lives in the rigidity of legality and failed to experience the vibrancy of living out lives filled with colors, made possible by the gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8). Practitioners of the Law and their followers who do not believe or accept the grace of God are like the people who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but refuse to hear (Jeremiah 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2).

God has created the world with colors, and colors signify differentiation. No single person on earth is created the same and each of us has to go through different experiences in our lives. Just as colors are seen differently in different light, each of us has the potential to experience different depths of closeness with God. If the Light of God hits an object in our lives that we are unwilling to let go, a shadow can overcast us which will distort our perception of God and affect our relationship with Him.

Just as a shadow can influence the way we see colors through the different shades and luminance, our lives can be influenced in part or in whole, depending on the degrees of our willingness to let the light shine through. If we are unwilling to let go of the things we hold dear in our lives that are blocking us from the light that illuminates our walk with God, the draw of the world can gradually change and redirect us toward an alternate route into darkness, away from the luminance of God’s light.

Forgive us therefore dear Lord for sometimes holding on too tightly to the things of this world. Help us to be always mindful not to let the shadows of this world distort our view of You, but be willing to unblock all areas of our lives to let Your light completely shine through. Color up our lives Lord just as You have colored up the world with vibrancy. Open our eyes and lead us in Your light that we may reflect and absorb Your light to transmit it to the world.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Brown Leaves

Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing. (Ezekiel 47:12 NLT)

Brown Leaves When caring for houseplants, the first thing we need to know is that it is not in its natural environment. Conditions in our living room, kitchen or bedroom are vastly different from the outdoor where rain and sunlight play important roles in the growth of the plants. If the leaves of a plant begin to turn brown, it is a sign that something may be missing in the environment of the plant's indoor home.

One of the reasons for leaves of houseplants turning brown is too much or too little water. Houseplants need differing amounts of water. If the plant is watered too frequently, excess water can pool on the ends of the leaves, causing them to rot and turn brown. If the plant is not getting enough water, the leaves will wither, curl or begin to turn brown from the tips up through the entire leaf.

Leaves turning brown can also be caused by a lack of sunlight. If the lower leaves of the plant begin to turn brown, the plant may not be receiving enough light. If discoloration is isolated to the side of the plant away from the light source, it is a clear indication the plant has too little light. Too little water or too much light can cause leaves to curl, and when the leaves turn brown, they will eventually fall off. Most houseplants need regular application of fertilizer as they cannot live on the soil in their pots alone. Fertilizer, with sun and water, can help keep the leaves of the plant green and healthy.

Like the houseplants that need regular care to keep the leaves from turning brown, our spiritual lives as Christians are also in need of regular care to stay healthy in the Lord. One of the first things we must learn as a people redeemed by God is that although we are in the world, we are not of the world (John 15:19). In this sense, we are not in our natural environment because this world is where sin prevails and where many glorify self rather than God. In such conditions, we are like sheep in the midst of wolves, and we need to be shrewd as serpents, yet harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). There may be times when our Christian lives seem to be like the leaves turning brown with signs of something missing in our walk with God. In such times, we need to look within ourselves to find out what is missing that we have to get right in our relationship with God, and not turn away people who care enough to let us know our condition.

Every Christian has differing amounts of faith and understanding of the word of God. When we lead our brothers or sisters in Christ back in their walk with God, therefore, we must be sensitive in our approach. Just as too much water or too much sunlight can turn the leaves brown, if we push the weak in faith too much, we can lead them to turn away from God. Too little water or too little sunlight on the other hand can lead to the leaves curling up and eventually falling off, and if we do little to help them, they may become caught up in the entanglements of this world and eventually fall away from God. If we wish therefore to help believers who are young or weak in the faith, we need to regularly apply 'fertilizers', to nurture them in the Word of God that they may be strengthened and healthy in their walk with God, like leaves that never turn brown or fall, and where fruit continues to bear (Ezekiel 47:12).

Remind us dear Lord that although we are in the world, we are not of this world. Help us therefore O God to always examine ourselves and never to turn away anyone who cares for us enough to correct us, that we may not at any time fall away from You or be caught in the entanglements of this world. Strengthen us Lord that we may strengthen others, that together we may not fall, but bear much fruit as we study Your Word to keep healthy in our walk with You.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Changeover

that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22-24 NAS)

Changeover When we see the leaves of the trees turning orange, we know we are in the seasons of change between the heat of summer and the cool of winter. Orange, in that sense, is like a color on the edge, a divider of two seasons representing a period of change between two extremes in temperature. It is often associated with the season of fall and it signifies the period of time when leaves begin to die before entering into a new season. Orange is also the color of the setting sun and the rising in the early morn to a fresh new day. It represents a change between seasons, a time of transformation, a changeover of two opposites, a turning point and a surrogate, much like someone or something that replaces or is used instead of another as a substitute.

Our salvation is in many ways similar to the changing seasons between summer and winter and between sunset and sunrise. Like the changing seasons and the end of a day to a fresh new day, our salvation signifies a turning point, a change between two extremes, a transformation and a changeover from the bondage of sin to freedom in Christ. It is like the leaves that fall and die before the changing seasons, the death of our old selves crucified with Christ that we may no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:5-6). It is the complete replacement of ourselves by the One who willingly became our substitute to die on the cross for our sins, that we may be renewed in the spirit of our minds, to put on our new selves, which in the likeness of God have been made holy (Ephesians 4:22-24). Jesus our Lord is the One Who is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for the rest of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

As obedient children of God and believers of the Lord, therefore, let us all not be conformed to our former ways, but like the Holy One who called us, be holy ourselves also in all our behavior, because our God is holy, so we should also be holy (1 Peter 14-16). The call to live holy lives, however, is not always well received, because many of us feel it is too imposing on our lifestyle. This is however as far from the truth as anyone can imagine because living holy lives is in fact a better lifestyle as it sets us free from the control of the devil, from doing the things we do not wish to do and from sin (Romans 7:15-23).

Living holy lives is all about living abundant lives. It is about living lives that do not fall short of what God wants for us, which is to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Not that we have already become perfect, but we ought to press on with this attitude toward the goal for the prize of our upward calling (Philippians 3:12-15).

Cultivating perfection while living on earth is therefore nothing wrong, for He Who has begun a good work in us is able and will surely perfect us when He returns (Philippians 1:6). All we need to do in the meantime is not to buffet ourselves to demonstrate perfect example of Christian lives, but to let the Holy Spirit do His work in molding us from within, to put to death our deeds of the flesh, and to manifest Christ through us (Romans 8:12-13).

Dear Lord, thank You for setting us free from the bondage of sin and for transforming us to live our lives anew in You. Help us O God not to conform to our former ways, but to press on toward living holy and perfect lives worthy of our upward calling. Holy Spirit, mold us from within that we may not fall prey to the desires of our flesh, but that we may reveal Christ in our lives more and more each day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Yellow Ribbon

While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:2-3 NAS)

Yellow RibbonIn March 2003, a group of women in Britain met on the Internet and decided to start a Yellow Ribbon Campaign amid a time of great hostility towards the Armed Forces for the impending military action in Iraq. The campaign is to show to the nation that military action aside, there was no reason not to support the brave service men and women in the Gulf.

A yellow ribbon is a symbol usually associated with people waiting for the return of a loved one or of military troops who are temporarily unable to come home. In a sense, it is not very dissimilar from the call to discipleship. As Christians, we are all called to wage war against the devil (Ephesians 6:12-13). Some, however, are specially called to be set aside to serve God in specific ministries, like Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:2-3). These are the people whom we should give our support, just like the women who campaigned and gave their support for the Yellow Ribbon cause.

As the church in Antioch fasted, prayed, and laid hands to send Barnabas and Saul away, we should likewise give our support to these people whom God has chosen for specific tasks. We will of course miss them, yet we must not stop them from going, even if they are our loved ones. Many missionaries and evangelists are chosen by God to do a special work for Him. Do we as God's servants play our part in supporting people such as them or do we discourage them?

True discipleship is often tagged with a hefty price -- the price of separation from the local church and sometimes from the family. Jesus, when He enlisted His first disciples, said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of man." The disciples responded immediately and left whatever they were doing and followed Him (Matthew 4:19-20 NAS). This is the kind of specific calling that demands action, one that requires commitment and separation from the world.

Peter in the Gospel said to the Lord, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You." Jesus in reply said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30 NAS).

As disciples of the Lord therefore our commitment to Him should be whole hearted. If we love our parents or our children more than Him, and do not take up our cross and follow after Him, we are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37-38).

Help us dear Lord to be willing when we are called by You to do a task, even if it means to be separated from the people we loved. We know O God that obeying Your call is the best thing we can do, because in fulfilling Your will, we will be blessed and find fulfillment in You. Forgive us Lord for sometimes failing to give support to the people whom You have specially chosen to serve You in specific ministries. Stir our hearts Lord that we may do our part in giving full support to the ones You have called, and be willing to fast and pray for them and their ministries.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

HappY ThanKsgiving!

HappY ThanKsgiving!
HappY ThanKsgiving!
HappY ThanKsgiving!

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
~ Ephesians 5:20 NIV ~

Friday, November 20, 2009

Purple Heart

They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; (Mark 15:17 NAS)

Purple HeartIt was the year 1782 in the waning days of the American Revolution. The Continental Congress had forbidden the granting of commissions and promotions in rank to recognize merit, but General George Washington, the command-in-chief of the Continental Army at that time, desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, and to foster and encourage military merit, ordered the establishment of the Badge of Military Merit. In his order of August 7, Washington wrote, “Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the purple heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen.”

In 1921, after 150 years of disuse, the Badge of Military Merit was revived by General John J. Pershing with an inspiration for a new decoration for ‘lesser’ acts. In 1932, General Douglas MacArthur, who was then the Army Chief of Staff, finalized the renewal of the nation's oldest military decoration and renamed it to the Purple Heart.

After undergoing many changes in the criteria for the award, the Purple Heart is regulated in 1995 to be “awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after April 5, 1917 has been wounded, killed, or died after being wounded.” In May 2002, a resolution was announced to support efforts to create a National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. Its mission is to collect and preserve the stories of Purple Heart recipients from all branches of service and across generations to ensure that all recipients are represented.

The color, purple, is often associated with royalty or nobility. When a Purple Heart is awarded to a soldier, therefore, it signifies the ascription of honor and nobility to the one deserving merit for defending the country. In certain cultures, purple robes were worn by members of the royal family or people of authority. Jesus, before His death on the cross, was clothed by the soldiers in purple with a crown of thorns to mock and hail Him as King of the Jews (Mark 15:17-18; John 19:2-3). Although Jesus is of true royalty and the world was made through Him, the soldiers, the Jews and the world however did not recognize Him or receive Him (John 1:10-11).

Let us therefore make it known to the world that Jesus is the One Who had given of His blood in the defense of the world, wounded for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5), killed and died on the cross for our sins to save us all from eternal death (John 3:16-17). He is the One deserving of all reverence and praise by His creation forever. Jesus, Who although existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself to take the form of a bond servant, made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6-7), and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

For this reason, God highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Philippians 2:9-11), that as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). As believers and followers of the Lord empowered by His Holy Spirit to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8), let us therefore resolute to preserve the stories written in the Word of God and the records in history of the sacrifices made by believers (Deuteronomy 6:6-12). Let us share these stories across generations so as to ensure the good news of the kingdom is preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (Matthew 24:14; Acts 1:8).

Thank You dear Lord for loving us so much that You died on the cross for our sins. You O Lord deserve all the glory and reverence forever. Empower us Lord by Your Spirit to be courageous in reaching the world for You as we preserve the knowledge of Your Word and the testimonies of Your servants in history, that our young may know Your lovingkindness from generations to generations.

Friday, November 13, 2009

White Elephant

For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (1 Corinthians 8:5-6 NAS)

White Elephant When someone says something is a white elephant, what he really means is that the item is of little or no value unless it is put to use. Phrases.org.uk defines a 'white elephant' as a burdensome possession or something creating more trouble than it is worth, while UsingEnglish.com defines it as an expensive burden or something that costs far too much money to run, like the Millennium Dome in the UK.

The origin of the idiom 'white elephant' dates back to ancient times in Thailand and other Asian countries where white albino elephants were regarded as holy. Keeping a white elephant however was a very expensive undertaking because the owner had to provide the elephant with special food, and he has to allow it to be accessed by people who wanted to worship it. If a Thai King were dissatisfied with a subordinate or servant, he would give him a white elephant, a gift which would in most cases ruin the recipient.

Worshipping a white elephant, a creature created by God, rather than the Creator is not only wrong but burdensome, and dishonoring God. Idol worship of animals or images made from the handiwork of man creates more trouble than it is worth and costs much money to run, just like the situation faced by the craftsmen of Artemis in Ephesus during the days of the apostle Paul (Acts 19). Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis was bringing much business to the craftsmen, but because of Paul's preaching concerning gods made with hands are not gods at all, the trade was in danger and falling into disrepute.

When rationalized, idolatry is in effect all about a business deal. It is about craftsmen making money from the idols they create using their own hands. Some idols may come in the form of animals like the golden calf of the Old Testament or the white elephant of Thailand. Others may be symbolic or in the form of something we put in our hearts that we consider is of more importance than God. All these idols, whether physical, spiritual, holistic or materialistic are an abomination to God.

Like the white elephant that ruins the recipient, idolatry ruins the one who choose to worship other gods. These so-called gods in the forms of man-made handiwork, or the material things we possess, or something we desire or lust for which we put our whole hearts and minds into, or anything or any person we 'worship' and adore, or things we are willing to sacrifice and trade our lives for or give of ourselves to achieve outside the will of God. All these idols or any one of these idols can ruin us because they are not gods, and there is only one true God (1 Corinthians 8:5-6; Isaiah 45:22; 46:9). We must therefore not have any other gods before Him nor worship them (Exodus 20:3-5).

As believers of the Lord, therefore, let us all check our hearts and minds regularly to see if we have put anything above God. If we have, then let us confess before God and ask for His forgiveness, for though our sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow, and He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:9).

Dear Lord, forgive us for placing certain things more important than You in our hearts, our minds, or in our possession. Help us God to always put you first in all things and not to provoke you by worshipping or desiring something more than You. Do not allow us to be ruined by the idols in our lives O God, but keep on reminding us by Your Holy Spirit to always check our hearts to put all things in subjection under Your feet. Sit on the throne of our hearts Lord and be our King for all eternity, for You O God alone is worthy of worship.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sustainability

Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; (Genesis 1:29 NAS)

Sustainability According to Greenpeace, forest destruction produces about one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than that emitted from all the cars, planes, and trains in the world. Countries like South America, Africa and the Pacific however do not have the means or the money to protect these large tracts of tropical forests. Ancient forests house around two-thirds of the world's land-based species of plants and animals. The remaining tracts of forests influence day-to-day weather and help keep the climate stable over time by storing massive amounts of carbon. Logging and burning forests, however, releases that carbon to the atmosphere and creates global warming and climate change.

The crisis of global warming is something all of us must face and tackle if we wish to preserve the future of our planet. Some people believe this is the time for us to pay back for our greed that made the earth sick. Earth was created perfect and man was assigned from the beginning of times to care for the green (Genesis 1:29). We however have failed to preserve the balance between sustainability and depletion. We have drawn from the earth great harvests and produce, but have failed to replenish and cultivate in order to sustain the earth and its environments.

Jesus, in one of the parables in the Gospel, told of a landowner who planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers while he went on a journey (Matthew 21:33-41). When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce but the vine-growers beat up one slave, killed another, and stoned a third. When the landowner finally sends his son to them, the vine-growers killed him, thinking they would be able to seize his inheritance. What therefore will the landowner of the vineyard do to those vine-growers when he returns?

Our earth is like the vineyard mentioned in the parable, created by God along with all the greens in it (1 Corinthians 10:26). Trees, vegetation and plants are parts of the earth’s environment, and they play an important role of balancing the ecosystem of earth. Our earth’s ecosystem however can be depleted if we fail to cultivate and ensure sustainability.

As Christians, vine-growers of God and stewards of His creation, we are therefore responsible for the keeping and reaping of the earth’s produce. We are to do our part in the planting and cultivating of the land, to keep and sustain it, to ensure the survival and continuity of the earth’s environment. God, as the landowner of the vineyard and the Creator of the earth, has the right to receive His produce from us. Whoever therefore is the faithful and sensible steward, the Lord will put in charge and be rewarded at the proper time (Luke 12:42). Whoever is unfaithful, however, will face a wretched end and that has been given to him will be taken away to be shared with others (Matthew 21:41).

Let us all therefore be counted faithful in the handling and managing the resources God has given to us. Whether it be material things, the environment, the greens of the earth, the resources or things we make from the earth, let us ensure its continuity and sustainability, not to deplete the earth of its resource.

Help us therefore O Lord to appreciate and value the natural resources You have given us on earth. Do not allow us to be presumptuous Lord to assume we can exploit the earth without paying a price. We want to be good stewards O God in preserving the balance between sustainability and depletion in using the resources drawn from the earth for consumption. Teach us Lord to cultivate good habits to help slow the death of the environment and the earth.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Black Hole

Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. (Revelation 9:1-2 NAS)

Black Hole According to astronomers, a black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational pull is so powerful that nothing can escape from it, not even light. It absorbs all the light that hits it and reflects nothing in its space, covering all within it with infinite darkness into which objects can fall in, but nothing can come out. A black hole is believed to be created in the collapse of a very massive star at its death. It is shielded from the outside world by what is called an event horizon. This is a sphere around the black hole where light can no longer escape and everything that crosses the event horizon is gone forever.

Despite the invisible interior of a black hole, it can reveal its presence through interaction with other matter. One of the ways to detect the presence of a black hole is by observing the inward spiraling of gas heating up to very high temperatures and emitting large amounts of radiation from earthbound and earth-orbiting telescopes. Such observations, according to information from the Wikipedia, have resulted in scientific consensus that black holes exist in our universe.

Like the gravitational pull of a black hole, the draw and attraction of this world can also be very powerful and enticing. If we are not careful, we can be absorbed deep into the entanglements of this world to a point of no return (Mark 3:22-30; Matthew 12:31-32; 22:11-13; 24:48-51; 25:11-13; Revelation 2:14-16, 20-23). Beyond this point, if we continue to persist in hardening our hearts to hold back the Light of God from penetrating, we will no longer be able to escape or come out of it, and will be lost forever once we cross ‘the event horizon of the black hole.’ So strong will be the pull from the forces of darkness that we will not be able to find our way back.

Before going too deep into darkness, therefore, let us all examine ourselves to observe what is ‘inwardly spiraling’ within us of our motives and cause when we make decisions. Have we given thought to how our decisions can affect others and our walk with God? Unless we look within our hearts and examine ourselves to see if we harbor ill intent in our plans and decisions, we can be in danger of becoming instrumental to the ‘heating up of very high temperatures and emitting radiation’ of smoke from the great furnace of the bottomless pit that shrouds the sun and air (Revelation 9:1-2).

We should therefore decisively purpose in our hearts to stay clear from the absorbing darkness of this world which can prevent the light of God from coming through. When that happens, there will be no return, and darkness will prevail to lay its claim, where all who do not receive Jesus as Lord and Savior or who turn away from Him will perish and suffer the agonizing fire of the abyss and hell forever (Revelation 20:12-15).

Lead us O Lord to walk in Your ways all the days of our lives, never to be drawn away into the enticement of this world. Help us examine our hearts Lord when we make decisions, to always consider whether we are taking a step forward or away from You. Keep us safe from the clutches of darkness Lord that we may not fall prey into the schemes of the devil and his allies to draw closer into the black hole of the bottomless pit. Do not let Your light diminish from shining through us Lord that we may not be shrouded into infinite darkness, but be spared from the burning furnace of eternal death.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Moods

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (Ephesians 1:3 NAS)

Feeling the Blues When I was a young Christian, I was taught to use colors to highlight verses in my Bible to help me easily find different aspects of Bible truths. Blue was the color designated for representing blessings from God poured down from heaven in the sky of blue. This positive representation of blue however is unusual because in the secular world blue is usually represented with negativity. Colloquial expressions such as 'Monday blues' and 'feeling the blues' are examples of negative representations seen from the perspective of life on earth as drudgery.

Monday blues and feeling the blues are often associated with connotations of being mundane or meaningless, in low spirits, reluctance, dejection, depression, despondence, wasting of efforts, melancholy, apart from it being a joy killer. Such negative connotations and emotions are frequently expressed by people around the world, even among Christians. These emotions and feelings of negativity are clear indications of moods and attitudes build on the insinuations of the devil to cause us to lose hope and to indulge in depression rather than to live our lives to the fullest.

We probably have experienced blues in our lives at one time or another. Some of us may feel blue when things are not going as smoothly as we hope. Others may feel blue because of the start of a new week doing mundane or meaningless work. Yet there are also others who genuinely have good reasons to be in low spirits, maybe as a result of some misfortune, mishap, misadventure, or suffering. All these reasons or excuses, however, are not good enough reasons for us to be disheartened or dispirited.

As believers and representatives of the true and Living God, we should be filled with joy overflowing at all times, even while in affliction (2 Corinthians 7:4; Acts 13:52). This is because God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Maintaining a joyful spirit when doing our work is therefore crucial, even if it is not at all interesting or the ideal job we are seeking (1 Peter 2:18), for in whatever we do, we must do it heartily as for the Lord rather than for men (Colossians 3:23). We should therefore give of ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, knowing with certainty in our hearts that God will not hesitate to open up the windows of heaven to pour out His blessings on us until it overflows (Malachi 3:10; Romans 12:1-2).

Fill us dear Lord with Your joy and pour out Your blessings on us. Open our eyes Lord to see life in the correct perspectives that we may not indulge in depressive moods, but be renewed in our spirits with joy overflowing. Remove from us Lord the spirit of negativity that we may live our lives meaningfully and victoriously, each day with great expectancy as we face every situation with You in supremacy. Blessed be Your name O Lord for You are worthy to receive all praise and all glory!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Red Cross

"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool." (Isaiah 1:18 NAS)

Henry Dunant When Henry Dunant, a Swiss banker traveling on business in northern Italy, witnessed the bloody aftermath of the Battle of Solferino between 300,000 soldiers from Imperial Austria and the Franco-Sardinian Alliance in 1859, he resolved to form relief societies with the objective to have the wounded cared for by devoted volunteers fully qualified for the task. In October 1863, therefore, under the leadership of Henry Dunant, along with Gustave Moynier, General Guillaume-Henri Dufour, Dr Louis Appia and Dr Theodore Maunoir, the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded was set up in Geneva, which today is the International Committee of the Red Cross. The symbol of the Red Cross has since become a universal representation of hope and assistance.

Just as the Red Cross symbolizes hope and assistance to many, the Cross which was shed in red with the blood of Christ symbolizes hope and salvation to the world. Since the fall of man, God has witnessed time and again the bloody aftermath of death resulting from the sinful nature of man, beginning with the bloody murder of Abel (Genesis 4). Since the days of Adam, therefore, God has resolved to have the 'wounded' cared for, not only by devoted volunteers such as the judges, kings and prophets, but also by all of us who believe in the Son of God. As Christians and believers saved by God through the shedding of blood by our Lord Jesus Christ and death on the Cross (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2), we are all therefore qualified for the task to be God’s witnesses. For though our sins were as scarlet and red like crimson, we have been cleansed as white as snow like wool (Isaiah 1:18).

As Christians, therefore, we ought not to hesitate to provide relief to the wounded, especially those who are in hurt and facing the agony of sin and death. We need not wait till we are spiritually mature to be qualified to do the work of God and to help provide relief to people in need, for God has already qualified us for His task when we acknowledged Him as our Lord and King. We also need not feel inadequate, because God has completely whitewashed us from our sinful past with His blood.

Thank you dear Lord for cleansing us from sin and saving us from death through the shedding of Your blood on the Cross. Place in our hearts Lord the desire to help people in need, especially those who are wounded, hurt, in agony and in need of your salvation. Help us Lord not to hesitate to do the task you have for us in providing physical and spiritual relief to the world.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Price of Obedience

Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22 NAS)

Obey God's Word One of the first lessons I learnt as a new Christian was 'to obey is better than sacrifice'. At the age of 15, I was faced with the dilemma to obey God or man concerning water baptism. I knew if I decide to obey God and be baptized, I would have to disobey my parents who are ardent followers of 'buddhism' (taoism). If I have asked for permission, my parents would have objected to the proposition, and if they know the date of the baptism, they would lock me up and barred me from ever getting involved with Christianity again. I am after all just a youth under their governance, legally underage to make such a serious decision.

Troubled over this matter, I sought help from my pastor who counseled me and advised me 'to obey is better than sacrifice' (1 Samuel 15:22). What he meant then was if obedience to God is such a great sacrifice to me, then I should not go ahead with water baptism until I am ready to willingly give myself to God. I chose then to skip my first opportunity to obey God in water baptism.

My disobedience to God pricked me over the next few months because my heart was yearning to serve God in the student ministry, but without obedience in water baptism, it is impossible for me to serve Him whole-heartedly. It then came clear to me that although salvation is received the moment I trust in Christ, water baptism is still a necessary step for the outward expression of my obedience as a witness to self and to the public, without which the world will not recognize me as a Christian. So I pondered and read the Scriptures to find out what it has to say about obedience to parents.


For God said, `HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,' and, `HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.' (Matthew 15:4 NAS)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise), that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. (Ephesians 6:1-3 NAS)

If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son, that will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and, though they chasten him, will not hearken unto them; then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; (Deuteronomy 21:18-19 NAS)

The verses quoted above are clear. Obedience to parents is God's command, and if a son disobeys, he is as a stubborn and rebellious son deserving chastening. Does this therefore mean I should obey my parents and forget about water baptism? May it never be! What Ephesians 6:1 means is to obey your parents IN THE LORD, by first obeying God.

So when the next baptism came, I chose to disobey my parents and went ahead with water baptism in obedience to my heavenly Father. The aftermath was not smooth sailing when I finally told my parents and persecution breaks out which lasted several years before they accept me for what I believe.


Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10 NAS)

The route of obedience to God is not easy. Whether as a youth or an adult, there is often a price to pay when you choose to obey God. Honor God and God will give you honor (1 Samuel 2:30; John 12:26). If you seek first His kingdom, He will bless you and provide you with all your needs (Matthew 6:33).

... choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah. (Joshua 24:15 NAS)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Consultative Management

Consultative Management All of us know the many different styles of managing a country or a company or even our subordinates. We sometimes use authoritarian style, at other times liberal style, and occasionally consultative style.

The Bible records one of the ways King David manages his team of warriors in making decisions, through the use of consultative management.


1 Chronicles 13:1-4 (NAS)

Then David consulted with the captains of the thousands and the hundreds, even with every leader.

David said to all the assembly of Israel, "If it seems good to you, and if it is from the LORD our God, let us send everywhere to our kinsmen who remain in all the land of Israel, also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their cities with pasture lands, that they may meet with us; and let us bring back the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul."

Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.

If you are a good leader, a CEO, a director, a manager, or a supervisor, here is something you can learn from king David in the ways he manages his team. Learn to listen to the people at times. Use consultative management, but ALWAYS make decisions with God in your plan! Be sensitive to your staff, colleagues, and subordinates.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Overcoming Anger

Anger We frequently see expressions of anger and sometimes experience flare-up too. We get angry when someone breaks a promise or when we are unable to get what we want. We also get angry because we fail to meet our own expectation or because we do not measure up to perfection. We get frustrated at people when we see them do things we considered as undignified or deviant. We may even be unhappy for being angry with people and sometimes ourselves.

There are many reasons why we get angry but we must always understand that anger in itself is not wrong. What is wrong is dependent on whether we are angry for the right reasons.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said:

"Anyone can be angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - this is not easy."

The Bible talks about an anger that is righteous and holy, such as the holy anger of God:

And they have defiled My holy name by their abominations which they have committed. So I have consumed them in My anger. (Ezekiel 43:8b NAS)

In this verse, we know that God has the right to be angry when His holy name is defiled by the sins of Man because our God is a holy and righteous God. Jesus Himself was angry and cast out the people who were buying and selling in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17). God must also have been angry when He sends an angel to strike Herod because he did not give God the glory (Acts 12:21-23).

From the references of the Scriptures mentioned above we can see that anger in itself is NOT sin. Anger can be holy and righteous if it is for the right reasons.

Most of us however are angry not because of holiness or righteousness. We often get angry without first investigating the truth or without considerations for the circumstances of others. As Christians, we must learn to be "quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger" (James 1:19 NAS). We may get angry and yet do not sin if we are angry for the right reasons. However, whether it is for the right or wrong reasons, our anger must always be kept in checked and not consume us or be carried forward to another day so that we do not sin. For the Bible says:

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4:25-16 NAS)

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:30-32 NAS)

We possess the power to overcome anger because as Christians we have the Holy Spirit in us and "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23 NAS).

Paul in his epistle to the Galatians teaches us to walk by the Spirit so that we will not conform to the desires of the flesh.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:16-17 NAS)

Let us therefore not grieve the Holy Spirit in us by being angry unduly, remembering always not to let anger be brought forward to another day. Where forgiveness is necessary, confess and reconcile with the other party within the same day, and DO NOT let anger accumulate, because it can consume us to the point of bitterness. Confess to God and acknowledge our sins if we have been angry for the wrong reason, and let the Spirit of God Who dwells in us mold and change us as we walk in His Word daily.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Age Gap in Marriage

Then he said, "May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. (Ruth 3:10 NAS)

Marriage Many people have reservation about marrying someone much older than the other. The Bible provides several examples of marriage by people with a difference in age gap, and one of them is between Ruth and Boaz. Ruth is one of the few people in the Bible with no recorded sin, and she goes down into history following the genealogical line of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

The Bible in Ruth 3:9-11 (NAS) records Boaz's evaluation of Ruth and expressed Boaz's willingness to take Ruth in marriage.


He [Boaz] said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative." Then he said, "May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. "Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.

From the verses shown above, it is clear that there is a gap difference between the age of Boaz and Ruth. Boaz called Ruth "my daughter" and commended her for not "going after young men." The honor resulting from this marriage is the recorded history of a couple in our Savior's family line.

Matthew Henry (1706) in his Commentary on the Whole Bible states the following:

"Boaz knew it was not any sinful lust that brought her [Ruth] thither, and therefore bravely maintained both his own honour and hers. He did not put any ill construction upon what she did, did not reproach her as an impudent woman and unfit to make an honest man a wife. She having approved herself well in the fields, and all her conduct having been modest and decent, he would not, from this instance, entertain the least suspicion of her character nor seem to do so, perhaps blaming himself that he had not offered the service of a kinsman to these distressed widows, and saved her this trouble, and ready to say as Judah concerning his daughter-in-law, She is more righteous than I. But on the contrary, he commended her, spoke kindly to her, called her his daughter, and spoke honourably of her, as a woman of eminent virtue."

"She [Ruth] had shown in this instance more kindness to her mother-in-law, and to the family into which she had matched, than in any instance yet. It was very kind to leave her own country and come along with her mother to the land of Israel, to dwell with her, and help to maintain her. For this he had blessed her (Ruth 2:12); but now he says, Thou hast shown more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning (Ruth 3:10), in that she consulted not her own fancy, but her husband’s family, in marrying again. She received not the addresses of young men (much less did she seek them) whether poor or rich, but was willing to marry as the divine law directed, though it was to an old man, because it was for the honour and interest of the family into which she had matched, and for which she had an entire kindness. Young people must aim, in disposing of themselves, not so much to please their own eye as to please God and their parents. He promised her marriage (Ruth 3:11):

"Fear not that I will slight thee, or expose thee; no, I will do all that thou requirest, for it is the same that the law requires, from the next of kin, and I have no reason to decline it, for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman."

"Note, exemplary virtue ought to have its due praise (Philemon 4:8), and it will recommend both men and women to the esteem of "the wisest and best. Ruth was a poor woman, and poverty often obscures the lustre of virtue; yet Ruth’s virtues, even in a mean condition, were generally taken notice of and could not be hid; nay, her virtues took away the reproach of her poverty. If poor people be but good people, they shall have honour from God and man. Ruth had been remarkable for her humility, which paved the way to this honour. The less she proclaimed her own goodness the more did her neighbours take notice of it. In the choice of yoke-fellows, virtue should especially be regarded, known approved virtue."

As can be seen from the commentary, Ruth chose “to please God” rather than self, and in so doing, pleases God. Marriage in the real world is not about age differences, it is about honoring God. There is no failed marriage if we do all things to honor God!

Dear Lord, help us to realize that a lasting relationship is not dependent on age or anything else, but on Your will for us. Cause us Lord not to make decisions according to the practices of societal norms, nor according to our own emotions. Still our hearts Lord that we may know clearly and calmly the one whom You have chosen for us. Thank You Lord for Your guidance and blessing as we continue to put You first above all else in every area of our lives, and especially when making such important decisions.


Adapted from article 'Age Gap in Marriage' by Edmond Ng.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fall Leaves

Those who depend on their wealth will fall like the leaves of autumn, but the righteous will prosper like the leaves of summer. (Proverbs 11:28 GNT)

Fall LeavesMany people think tree leaves fall and die during the fall season because of weather changes, but studies have shown the real reason for leaves falling is drought. This is because the primary function of leaves is photosynthesis, and photosynthesis requires the use of water, carbon dioxide and light to create food in the leaves to generate organic compounds and oxygen. In order to induce a suction force, however, the leaves will need to constantly sweat, and in winter season shed them so as not to get dried. As daylight gets shorter during fall, however, the leaves will gradually suffer thirst because of the reducing absorption of water with the shrinking daylight. This means even when trees live in wet climate with abundant snowfall and rainfall or even when in the warmest of falls, the trees will still lose their leaves, triggered by the shorten length of daylight.

Many changes occur in the leaves before they finally fall from the branch. According to Joe Lamp’L of DIY Network who wrote an article on ‘Why do leaves fall in autumn?’ at ScrippsNews.com, changing colors of leaves during fall is part of an important and complicated process which ends in the leaves being shed at the end of each growing season. The trees, in protecting themselves, purge diseased, damaged or dead leaves, while they seal the point where the petiole connects to it. As the climate and light conditions of autumn evolve, tree hormones change as well, the most notable of which is auxin, a hormone in trees that promotes root formation and bud growth. The balance of auxin levels between leaves and branches is the key to determining if and when the leaves drop.

Much like the processes that end in the fall of tree leaves during the autumn season, Christian living also draws a parallel equivalence in the way we live our lives. Like the leaves of autumn, we often fall under the dry spell of keeping ourselves connected to God, resulting in spiritual drought because of over reliance and dependency on our own ability and wealth (Proverbs 11:28). Spiritual drought can happen when we are too caught up with the entanglements of this world and if we are not careful, we may, like the ‘photosynthesis,’ gradually fail to absorb the necessary energy from the light of the sun to produce food from water and carbon dioxide. When that happens, we will eventually lose our ‘leaves’ of a close relationship with God, triggered by the shorten length of ‘daylight’ absorption from the Light of the world (John 8:12), the Son of the living God.

Many changes can occur in our lives if we spend too much time in the entanglements of this world which can lead us to finally fall from the ‘branch’ that connects us to God. Jesus, in teaching us about the need for us to live in Him said, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me” (John 15:5 GNT). Like the trees that protect themselves and purge diseased, damaged or dead leaves to seal off the point where the leaves connect, we as the leaves and the branches must also be wise not to be caught walking away from the narrow way or be unprepared to receive the Lord when He returns as the bridegroom (Luke 13:24-28; Matthew 25). We must therefore balance our ‘auxin’ levels to ensure a deeply rooted formation to the Vine in ensuring bud growth.

Dear Lord, help us always to remember that like the leaves of the fall season, we cannot survive without living in You and staying connected to You, because You O God are the Light of the world that shines to give us life and sustenance. Keep us Lord from the entanglements of this world and from self-reliance and dependency on our own wealth. Keep us deeply rooted in You, Lord, that we may always be prepared for Your coming and not walk away from the narrow way, for You alone Lord is our strength and source of sustenance.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Infancy First Weeks

As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, She writhes and cries out in her labor pains, Thus were we before You, O LORD. (Isaiah 26:17 NAS)

Infancy By the time a woman realizes she is pregnant, she is probably already one to two months into pregnancy, and by the time she sees a doctor, the baby is usually two or three months along. According to Glade Curtis and Judith Schuler, authors of the childcare advisory book, Your Pregnancy Week by Week (2004), many important things can happen before a mother realizes she is pregnant or before she sees her doctor. Getting in shape for pregnancy therefore means physical and mental preparations. The first 12 weeks of pregnancy is the most important period because this is when the baby forms its major organ systems.

Preparing for the coming of a newborn is important, and as parents, we must first understand what goes on during the period when life is being formed within the mother's womb at infancy. Infancy, from the perspective of medical science, begins from the point when a newborn baby passes from the watery dark environment of the womb to an existence outside the mother's body, cut off from the former dependency on the blood supply of the mother. According to Michael Meyerhoof, Ed.D, executive director of The Education for Parenthood Information Center in Illinois who wrote on 'Understanding Cognitive and Social Development in a Newborn' at HowStuffWorks.com, the first days of the infant are spent on recovering from the mother's labor by first stabilizing the breathing, digestion, circulation, elimination, body temperature regulation and hormonal secretion before the baby’s new independent life can begin. While these adjustments are taking place, the infant is at the mercy of its own reflexes.

As the days and weeks progress, the baby will gradually begin to differentiate shapes, see colors, and distinguish taste and smell. The next stages in the baby’s development is dependent on the child’s environment, which as parents, we must play our part in controlling and composing the aspects of nature or nurture to build trust and bond by spending time with the newborn. The child during this period will acquire knowledge which will include everything from the baby recognizing the mother to learning to sing the alphabet song.

Many of us, as parents, have experienced the joy of welcoming our newborn into this world. Before this overwhelming joy can come to realization, however, every mother must first go through the pain and labor. The Bible, in describing the events preceding childbirth, said of the pregnant woman that when the time to give birth approaches, the mother writhes and cries out in labor pains (Isaiah 26:17). What goes on in the mother’s womb for the months before the delivery of the child and what goes on after the child is born into the world, however, are not all about the mother and child’s relationship alone, but also about the mercies of God and His sustenance. As the baby adjusts to the new environment to develop an independent life, it is during this period that the infant will be at the mercy of its own reflexes. This is the time when what is not mentioned in science is mentioned in the Bible about how the baby’s life is sustained from birth by God who took the infant from the mother’s womb (Psalm 71:6).

As Christian parents, therefore, we must always be thankful to God in praising Him for His sustenance on our children’s lives, for without God, we as parents can only play our roles in fulfilling the natural. It is God who does the supernatural to take care of our children’s breathing, digestion, circulation, adaptation, body temperature regulation and hormonal secretion in stabilizing the infancy of a fresh new life. The days, weeks and months after that in the development of our children’s first years are in our hands to create the environment necessary to lead our children in the right path to balance nature and nurture in cultivating our children’s independence, yet depending on God for sustenance.

Our responsibilities as parents will certainly not be easy, because every child born of a mother is conceived in iniquity and sin from birth (Psalm 51:5). We must, therefore, do our part and play our roles in living godly lives for our children to exemplify us as we build greater trust and bonding by spending time with them so that they may acquire the right knowledge and direction toward knowing God (Proverbs 22:6).

Help us therefore dear God, as parents, to know when to allow nature takes its own course and when to nurture. Thank you, God, for giving us our children and for sustaining them in the early years of their infancy. Grant us wisdom LORD to lead our children in the right path. Lead us and teach us O God to live exemplary lives that our children may grow in Your loving grace to desire more of You each day.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Winter Gardening

"While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
And cold and heat,
And summer and winter,
And day and night
Shall not cease."
Genesis 8:22 (NAS)

Composting Many of us see winter as a time to rest from gardening, a time to wait for spring to return before commencing gardening activities again. While our gardens and yards may appear to be in a state of inactivity during winter, there are actually important things taking place all year long that contribute to the overall health of the plants and vegetation in and out of seasons. The soil, for example, is active all year long and the evergreen plants continue to use nutrients.

According to WinterGardeningTips.com, winter is an important period in the gardening season for composting. Composting involves a mixture of decaying material of plants and food waste to use as fertilizer for improving the growth of new plants. While this is going on, cover crops or what is also known as ‘green manure’ can also be grown to add nutrients to help improve the soil for the next season. Cover crops usually perform multiple functions which include soil improvement and soil protection.

Besides cover crops, there are many other plants that can be grown during fall and winter, such as the ornamental and bulb plants for indoors as well as outdoors. Various kinds of winter vegetation, such as the pumpkins and winter squash, are also ideal for planting off season for harvest during late fall and winter or for storage and cooking through the entire winter. Gardeners can also strategically plan a winter garden to enjoy color and attractive plants all year long. In warmer states such as California and Florida, more opportunities for off season planting is not unusual, but no matter where we live, we can actually enjoy working with plants all year round.

Much like composting which involves decaying material of plants and food waste to improve the growth of new plants, Jesus in the Gospel of John teaches a similar lesson on discipleship when He compares our willingness to give up our all to follow Him with a grain of wheat that must fall into the earth and die before it can bear much fruit (John 12:24-26). If we therefore wish to follow Jesus, we must be prepared to forgo all things and free ourselves of the enticement and entanglements of this world in order to bear much fruit and be a true disciple of the Lord (Hebrews 12:1; Luke 9:57-62).

Like cover crops and other plants that can be grown during winter, we can also learn a spiritual lesson about what it means to preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2a). Preaching the gospel need not be only when in season because while the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22). As long as we are on earth, there will always be a need for planting the seed of faith, composting to improve growth of the new in faith, fertilizing to get ready the pre-believers to the next level of faith, and harvesting in season and off season the ones who are ready to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. There will also be those who are ready to move up the next level of faith, like the cover crops and the wheat of grain that falls into earth and die, be willing to give up all to follow Christ.

Dear Lord, stir our hearts that we may be willing to be used by You in every season and at all times, regardless the role we may need to play. Help us Lord not to slacken or sit back to wait when opportunities come our way to bring others to You, but strengthen us Lord and make us willing to forgo our all to follow You.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Taking Time

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12 NAS)

Taking Time Many of us live our lives rushing all the time, and I, like many, am also always running and rushing all my time. I rush to get to work, I rush to complete my assigned work, I rush to meet deadlines, and I rush to get home. Few are the moments I have to pause and catch my breath, and few are the days I can take extended breaks. This is the kind of lifestyle I live by, and I know it is not healthy, a sure sign of an impending breakdown and possibly a prelude to a heart attack.

I am by nature a time conscious man, probably because of my upbringing and because I live by the principle of living each day meaningfully. I am aware of the shortness of a human life, so in desiring to accomplish much while alive, I am always seeking for more time. Then one day God decided to grant me my wish for more time -- time to completely rest from my labor. So rest I did, first in hospital for a surgery, then at home for recovery. All that took place some years ago, and during that one month of rest, I learnt to be still before God and to be at peace. I also leant that in all the haste, I have gained nothing much except in jeopardizing my own health.

When I finally recovered from my illness, my perception of life was somewhat changed. Sadly, however, I soon returned to my rushing game because I was then studying and working at the same time. Now, after many years, although I have completed my studies, I am still learning how to take time to rest without feeling unrest or guilty of wasting away my free time. Maybe I am too conscious about time, or maybe subconsciously I simply cannot live life without a purpose in mind.

Time is one of the greatest barriers in witnessing. The reason why many pre-believers or professed believers are yet unsaved today is probably because of Christians such as I who are always too busy doing things that are necessary, yet not quintessential. Spending time with pre-believers to touch their lives, for example, are important aspects of witnessing which can nurture relationships to help them grow in their faith to desire more of Christ. Not spending meaningful time with pre-believers, on the other hand, can destroy a growing faith and turn them away from drawing nearer to Christ. We must, therefore, as followers of the Lord learn to number our days to present to God a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12), to know when we are to spend time on the more important things, such as the salvation of the yet unsaved, and when to do the needful things that are often less urgent or less important.

The Bible makes it very clear that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Therefore, in order for us to number our days and use our time wisely, we must first have a heart of wisdom. Wisdom, although is more often associated with the mind than the heart, is what God is looking for when it comes to numbering our days to bring God’s salvation to mankind (Psalm 90:12). Only through the sincerity of the heart can pre-believers experience the heart of God and response to Him. God in His wisdom has made everything appropriate in its time, and He has set eternity in the hearts of man so that man will know there is nothing better for them than to rejoice (Ecclesiastes 3:11-12), and to receive Him as Lord and Savior.

Teach us therefore dear Lord to know when to run, when to slowdown and when to stop and rest. Help us to be sensitive to the leading of Your Holy Spirit so that even in our busyness we may not fail to see the more important things in life, especially when it involves one who is yet to receive Your salvation. Lead us Lord in Your wisdom to know how to keep our time in check, to strike a balance between the necessary and the important, that we may not, out of our negligence, cause the loss of lives of those who are yet unsaved.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Adulthood and Responsibility

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11 NRS)

Responsibility of Adulthood When we were still children, we were able to do things without having to account for our actions. Even when we made mistakes, we need not have to worry, because our accountability rest in the hands of our parents or guardians. Our well being was never our concern because they were the responsibility of the adults. Many of us, however, even before we have reached the age of adulthood, have already demanded for the rights to make our own decisions. Little did we know then, that the day we chose to make our own decisions was also the day we became accountable for our own actions, and not just our actions, but also the repercussions that result from our decisions.

As adults, we can no longer afford to take things for granted and assume someone else will take responsibility for the decisions we make, because every decision we make bears consequences. Adulthood is therefore not all about exercising our rights to make our own decisions. It is about responsibility, and responsibility is not just being accountable for the things we do, but also about handling the events in our lives that come along the way. When I was still in my early adulthood, for example, my father fell seriously ill and was bedridden for an extended period. Taking care of him with my siblings over several years was no easy task and each of us was drained of strength, energy and sleep. In a situation such as this, I could, as the youngest in the family starting on a new career, walk away from my responsibility and leave my siblings to take care of my dad, yet I did not do so because I am a part of the family. As a part of the family, therefore, I must do my part and take responsibility, for this is acceptable in the sight of God (1 Timothy 5:4). Like the good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable who took the responsibility to care for the wounded stranger (Luke 10:30-37), we as followers of the Lord should likewise care for the people whom God has placed in our lives, whether they are family, relatives, friends, colleagues or strangers.

All of us face different situations and circumstances in life, and as adults we must handle them well, regardless of our physical ability. Some situations however may be beyond us to handle on our own, and in such situations, we need to ask God for the strength to go through it and learn to do our part, and leaving God to do His. We should never turn away from responsibility, because if we do, we are not much different from a child who expects his or her parents or guardians to take the responsibility. If we fail to take responsibility or consider the interests of others when we make decisions, we will be like the ones whom the author of the epistle to the Hebrews said ought to be teachers, yet in need for someone to teach them again the basic elements of the oracles of God, and requiring milk instead of solid food (Hebrews 5:12-14). As grownups, therefore, we must end our childish ways (1 Corinthians 13:11), and not do anything from our own selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard the interests of others more important than ours (Philippians 2:3-5).

Dear Lord, remind us to consider the interests of others when we make decisions. Help us always to be ready to take responsibility, not only of our own actions, but also for actions requiring our responsibility. Open our eyes Lord to see the possible repercussions our decisions may cause, and lead us to make the right decisions. Strengthen us and see us through Lord in the handling of events that come along the way in our lives. Cause us to grow Lord in maturity that we may not always rely on others to be taught the basics and drink of milk, but to grow up to take responsibility and eat of the solid food.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Spring Nurturing

Ask rain from the LORD at the time of the spring rainThe LORD who makes the storm clouds; And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man. (Zechariah 10:1 NAS)

Plant Nurturing Spring is a very active period for plants because it is the season for them to arise from their winter nap to begin a new stage of growth or to start a new life. Spring is like a time of fresh beginnings and rebirth to the gardeners, an ideal season for plant nurturing and fertilization to yield the best results. According to an article 'Springtime is Plant Unkeep Time' written by Susan Foster, a house plant advisor and writer for the Beautiful Home and Garden blog at blogspot.com, a beneficial rule of thumb when fertilizing plants is that less really is more when it comes to new nursery plants and fresh soil of re-potted plants because fertilizer nutrients are already in them. Fertilizing should therefore not be done for a plant that has just been re-potted a few months ago or for a new plant that has just been brought home from the nursery.

Much like the ways plants are taken care of, the Bible also teaches a similar lesson concerning planting vegetation in the fields. If a plantation hopes to yield good crops during harvest time, two seasons of rain is crucial. The former is autumn rain before or around seed time (Hosea 6:3), and the latter is spring rain just before harvest (Zechariah 10:1). Little or no rain usually falls during summer in the holy land, therefore spring rains at the right time on the fields after autumn rains are reckoned as crops secure for harvest in summer. If spring rains fail to fall after autumn rains, the soil of the ground will become hardened and will not be easy to plough. The grain will eventually wither away.

Planting seeds of faith to bring pre-believers to the Lord is very similar to house gardening and vegetation planting. When a seed is laid on fertile soil and planted in the heart, a fresh beginning or the rebirth of a faith left dormant in winter of cold and dark will start to germinate. Nurturing and fertilization are the next steps to help germinating faith grow. Our part is to spend time with the pre-believers to ‘fertilize’ them in increasing their faith and trust. We should however not overload them with too much spiritual talk, because when it comes to building faith, less really is more. A good rule of thumb when 'fertilizing' pre-believers is to let the Holy Spirit do His work in those who are first timers hearing the gospel or who have just been awaken from their 'winter nap' to return to the Lord and enter into a more active stage. The reason for this is obvious. The seed which has been laid in the hearts of the pre-believers is already at work by the Holy Spirit, and it is not dependent on us who plant or water, but on God Who sends the rain and causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

When preparing for a harvest, therefore, we must remember to pray and ask of the Lord for the ‘spring rain’ of the Holy Spirit to speak to the hearts of the pre-believers. Prayer is crucial and timing is important. Unless we do our part and let the Holy Spirit do His, according to the perfect timing of the Lord, a germinating faith can become a diminishing faith leading to harden hearts that will be difficult to penetrate, and may eventually lead to lost souls.

Dear Lord, forgive us for being insensitive to the leading of Your Holy Spirit at times and to the people whom we hope to bring to You. Help us dear Lord to know when we should speak, when we should nurture and when we should stay clear and let You do Your work. Remind us Lord that our role is just to plant, water and nurture germinating faith, and it is You Who cause growth and supply the rain. Holy Spirit, be with us as we share the gospel to the unsaved. Reach their hearts that they may at the right time receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Understanding Teens

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 NAS)

Teens On July 15, 2009, The New York Times reported the arrest of a 17 year old Manhattan teenager for the bombing of a Starbucks coffee shop at Upper East Side of New York City in May on Memorial Day, apparently modeled according to a scene from the 1999 film "Fight Club." Statements from the teenager indicated he was launching his own ‘Project Mayhem,’ a plan referred to in the movie. The teenager had bragged to friends that he was responsible for the bombing, and had started an underground fight club. He was charged with arson, criminal possession of a weapon, and criminal mischief.

As adults and parents, we may sometime not be able to understand what is going on in the minds of teenagers, and we may think being a teen today is much like when we were in our adolescence. We are however very much mistaken if we think in such a way, because the problems teenagers face today are far from what we can imagine. According to an article 'Problems Facing Teens Today' written by Keith Allen for EzineArticles.com, teens today are faced with life threatening decisions every day and they are not just about smoking, but includes crack and other strong deadly drugs. Apart from drugs, teens also face many other problems such as sex, violence, depression, drink driving and others. Even if they do not face such difficult issues, other lower level problems like lying, cheating, learning disabilities and emotional trauma can still be as deadly, and in some cases, some teens may choose to run away from the problems rather than face them squarely.

According to an article posted at SurfInTheSpirit.com on 'Running Away is Never the Answer,' “it is estimated that on any given night, there are between five hundred and one thousand homeless youth on the streets of Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and other major cities. Many of them are runaways - teens under the age of 18 who leave their home or place of legal residence without the permission of parents or a legal guardian." All these come from every social class, race, and religion, and they are usually hungry, scared, desperate, and very vulnerable to crime. The most common reason for teens to run away, according to the article, is family problems over issues such as curfew, behavior, dress code, grades, and the choice of friends. Some teens also choose to run away because of problems they are afraid to face, such as bullying at school, pregnancy, sexual orientation, alcohol and drug problems, or emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in their home, and any kind of shame which may involve parents, step parents, or other family members, making it extremely difficult for them to turn to anyone.

Such are the many problems faced by teenagers today, and regardless of faith or family background, the only thing that differentiates between the ones in trouble and the ones that are not, is the values they have learnt and adopted from the adults, the guardians and the parents, according to how they have been brought up. As Christian parents or guardians, therefore, we must always walk with God and set good examples for our young, so as to teach them godly values from the word of God. We must open up ourselves to give a listening ear to our teens, to show them love and respect for themselves and for everyone else. We must also work hard in bridging the gap between our children and us, yet without over controlling them or expecting total obedience, to strike a balance between discipline and love without provoking them to anger (Ephesians 6:4), in leading them to the right path, which direction they must eventually choose for themselves.

Father, teach us as parents and guardians to pay more attention to our teens, to listen and care for them, to love them without over-controlling them. Show us how to balance between discipline and love, to know when to instruct and when to let go. Help us bridge the gap with our teens dear Lord to understand them better and to lead them in Your path.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Harvesting

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; (2 Timothy 4:2a NAS)

Summer Harvest Late summer and autumn bring in the bountiful harvests, and vegetable gardeners understand this very well. As the summer days go on, the gardeners harvest their gardens, a task seasoned gardeners enjoy and look forward to, while newbies have the satisfaction of learning to put food by. According to vegetable gardening expert Melody Rose who wrote an article on ‘Waiting on the Summer Vegetable Harvest’ for DavesGarden.com, unlike late summer, early summer is a frustrating time because while the plants are blooming and producing baby vegetables, the gardeners have to check on a daily basis, sometimes two or three times a day, for the likely candidates of the first ripe vegetable to provide a benchmark for a producing garden. All the other seasons, gardeners are left to be occupied with seed catalogs and indoor transplants while they wait as they can do nothing during winter, or the preparing and planting of seeds during spring.

Soul harvesting or winning people for Christ is very much like vegetable harvesting. Before the yet unsaved can turn to Christ or souls can be won or harvested, a great deal of checking must first be done to find out whether the 'candidates' are 'ripe' and ready for reaping. Sometimes, this can be very frustrating and time-consuming, especially when it comes to paving the way for the pre-believers to turn to Christ while they are still in the infancy of faith, blooming and producing 'baby' steps toward believing the Lord. Looking for germinating faith is like looking for a needle in a haystack because it is seldom visible.

There will be days when we feel totally helpless and incapable of doing anything to bring the unsaved and the people we care about to Christ except to wait and pray. It is during times such as these, we should keep ourselves occupied with 'seed catalogs' and work on 'indoor transplants' to spend time studying the word of God in learning the ‘art’ of soul-winning, and to help fellow believers grow in their walk with God. Only then can we be ready to plant the seeds of faith and share the gospel to pre-believers when the time arrives, in and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2), to meet and spend time with the people we hope to bring to the Lord, to pray for them and to prepare their hearts to know more of Christ.

What a great joy it will be when the day of harvest arrives or when we look forward to the harvest, for while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22). Whether as seasoned witnesses for Christ or newbies learning to bring the unsaved to the Lord, we can be assured of the satisfaction we will receive in winning souls for the kingdom of God!

Still our hearts Lord to be patient when it comes to waiting for the harvest, and prepare us in the meantime through the study of Your word and through helping others grow in their walk with You. Teach us how to pave the way for pre-believers to come to know You and help us be observant to see who are the ones ready to receive You. Lead us Lord to preach the gospel to the pre-believers in Your timing that it may speak to their hearts and meet their needs. Help us Lord, to be ready in season and out of season to plant the seeds of faith and to share Your good news to the lost.

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