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.

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