Friday, December 31, 2010

Misunderstandings

FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM (Matthew 13:15 NAS)

Misinterpreted MessageSome months ago I was communicating over the phone with an administrative staff of a publisher to request help to correct a typo error made by them in one of my written articles hosted at their web site. The staff explained to me that the person handling the web site is a volunteer, so it may take some time before the error gets corrected. Understanding that, I waited, but after several weeks without any change at the site, I decided to send a follow-up e-mail. The intent was to first apologize for the inconvenience I was causing them, and then provide a step-by-step guide to help the staff easily change the typo error with the web administrator access rights she already has. The e-mail reply from the staff however turned out to be a little hostile, telling me to be patient and to understand the need for time. Obviously, the staff has misunderstood my intent and thought I was chasing her for faster support.

Many of us have experienced being misunderstood. The Bible records many instances when Jesus was misunderstood. Some of these instances include the forgiving of sins (Mark 2:5-7), the dining with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:13-17), the healing on Sabbath (Mark 3:4-5), the conversation with a Samaritan woman (John 4:7-9), the destroying and rebuilding of the temple in three days (John 2:19-21), and the fulfilling of the Law rather than abolishing it (Matthew 5:17).

What is the main reason for such misunderstandings? In the case of Jesus, it was because the hearts of His people have become dull. They have ears but they scarcely hear, and have closed their eyes for fear of seeing what they do not want to see or hearing what they do not want to hear (Matthew 13:15). Jesus therefore spoke to them in parables, and to those whose hearts stood steadfast with Him, they were blessed (Matthew 13:16-18).

What about us? Is the reason others are not understanding us because of their lack of sensitivity to what we are saying? Is it because they are reading between lines that they misinterpret our intent? Is it us who have misinterpreted their message or misunderstood how they think of us?

Over sensitivity and reading too deeply between the lines can give rise to misunderstandings and communication breakdowns. If we choose to hear only what we want to hear or tend to misinterpret the implied meanings or intents of other people, we need to re-examine ourselves to see if we are overly or unduly sensitive. Remember, regardless the mode we use to communicate with other people, communication can only be fruitful if the message is interpreted correctly by the receiver.

Let us be like Christ therefore when we communicate with others about Him. If their hearts have become too dull to receive direct preaching or the gospel, let us share with them 'parables' or examples derived from our life stories or anecdotes. When communicating with them, let us always be careful to clarify and verify anything that is unclear that we may not misunderstand or jump into conclusion. If there be anything that interferes with our understanding of a communication, such as presumption, assumption, prejudice, internal or external interruptions or anything else, let us take steps to eliminate them so the message may not be misconstrued or misinterpreted.

Dear Lord, help us to be attentive when communicating with other people that we may not at anytime misinterpret the meaning of the message. Lay hold of our hearts Lord that we may not be over sensitive or read into messages between the lines too deeply what are not really there or implied. Open our eyes and ears Lord that we may see clearly and hear properly the actual message along with its correct intended meaning so we may not jump into conclusion or misconstrue the truth. Forgive us Lord for misunderstanding You and others at times. Give us understanding Lord that our hearts may return to You and be healed.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Guide to Right Direction

Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, (Isaiah 28:11 NIV)

Foreign LanguageWhen my wife and I visited Japan some years ago, we decided to travel around by public transport. Looking through the route signs at the subway station for direction to get to our planned destinations, we discovered none of the signs was written in English. Without a choice, therefore, we approached the station staff to ask for help instead. Conversing with the station staff however was just as difficult because they do not speak or understand the English language. After much struggle speaking to several people, my wife and I finally have a vague idea on the connecting lines we were to take in order to get to where we wanted to go.

Like the barriers we face when communicating in foreign language, the Bible in Isaiah 28 also tells of an occasion when God had to use foreign lips and strange tongues to speak to His people (v11). This was because when God spoke to them to guide them to the resting place and the place of repose, they would not listen (v12). God therefore had no choice but to use a ‘foreign language’ or a different approach to direct them by giving specific instructions. So the word of the LORD to them was, “Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that,” that they may fall backward, be injured, snared and captured (v13).

Such are the ways our Lord can direct us to the right path through difficulties and failures we face in life. For whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, so as to lead us to the way we should go (Hebrews 12:5-7). Falling backward and getting injured help us learn to better understand God’s direction for our lives. If, however, we choose to harbor bitterness and become scoffers instead of learn from our failures (v14), we will not stand (v18), for we would have made a lie our refuge and entered into a covenant with death (v15). Taking refuge living out a lie or living lives with hardened hearts is making falsehood our hiding place (v15). When an overwhelming scourge—such as the problems we face in life—sweeps by, we will be beaten down, and as often as it comes, it will carry us away and sweep us through (v17-19).

Let us therefore not harden our hearts when we face difficulties in life or be conceited like the ones who hoped to build the Tower of Babel to reach the heavens that God had to confuse their language (Genesis 11:4-7). We should instead be thankful the word of God has today been translated in many languages. No longer do we need to face language barriers or struggle to understand vaguely God’s direction for us while traveling this life on earth. The Bible is God’s guidebook for us—a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Should we therefore not desire God’s guidance from His word and abide by His teachings to live our lives to the fullest for His purpose?

Our God is not One who expects us to follow rules blindly, otherwise He would not have given us the freedom of choice. He is a God who desires to guide us and satisfy our needs, and He will not let us be swept away under the overwhelming scourge of a sun-scorched land. He will strengthen us like a well-watered garden which spring waters never fail (Isaiah 58:11). Let us therefore not neglect to seek God’s guidance at all times and study to learn from God’s word the direction we should take in all we do or plan to do.

Thank You dear Lord for giving us the Bible as a guidebook for living our lives on earth. Forgive us Lord for the times we choose not to follow Your guidance and go our own way, that You have no choice but to discipline us in order to lead us to the right path. We know Lord that many of our difficulties in life are but ways by which You direct us to do what is right. Help us therefore Lord not to harden our hearts to take failures too bitterly, but understand that whom You love, You discipline. Keep us strong Lord and strengthen us that we may not be easily beaten down or carried away whenever a problem comes along.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Warning Signs

But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance. (Mark 13:23 NAS)

Tower of Terror @ Disney WorldThe sign states ‘WARNING! Tower of Terror is a free-fall type attraction with sudden high-speed ascents and drops through darkness,’ but I did not heed the advice and went ahead with the ride. The consequence was a once in a lifetime experience—a scare of my life—even though to some people it may be fun. That was years ago when I visited the theme park at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida.

The Tower of Terror is an attraction at the theme park, a thrill ride featuring a visit to a 199 feet tall fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel adapted from the television series ‘The Twilight Zone.’ Upon entering the elevator and going up to the 13th story, a free-fall drop sequence takes place in the dark—with all the guests in it! This drop sequence has changed over the years from one to two drops to a pre-programmed multiple drop sequence, and today randomized drops.

Like the many pre-ride warning signs around the theme parks, the Bible also provides many warning signs of what is to come before our Lord returns. Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes (Matthew 24:7). Signs will occur in the sun, moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations and perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves (Luke 21:25). In the last days, difficult times will come, for people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4). False christs and false prophets will arise and will show signs and wonders in order to lead us astray (Mark 13:22).

All these are warning signs, and God has told us everything ahead of time that we may be prepared and on our guard (Mark 13:23). We ought therefore to warn others what is to come that they may not have to face the consequence and experience the eternal scare of their lives—death without Christ. For unlike the drop sequence of the Tower of Terror ride, the drop into the bottomless pit or abyss is eternal, and all who are lost without Christ will perish and suffer the agonizing death in hell forever (Revelation 9:1-2; 20:12-15).

The Bible states very clearly that the end will come when our Lord hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after those who belong to Christ at His coming are raised (1 Corinthians 15:23-24). We should therefore take heed not to ignore the warning signs, for the gospel must first be preached to all the nations before the end will come (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10). As children of God, therefore, let us proclaim Christ and unravel the mystery of God’s salvation to the yet unsaved, admonish and teach those who have been saved, that we may present everyone complete in Christ (Colossians 1:26-28).

Thank You dear Lord for letting us know in advance the things that will take place before Your return, so we can be on our guard. We know Lord that difficult times are coming, with wars and famines, earthquakes and tsunamis, people who are self-centered, materialistic and without self-control. Help us Lord to take heed these warning signs, to recognize and understand the need to quicken our efforts in bringing more people into Your kingdom. Guide us Lord as we unravel the mystery of Your salvation to warn the unsaved, admonish and teach the saved, so as to present everyone complete in You.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Non-Verbal Cues Reveal

And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:13 NAS)

Jesus and the LeperIt is no secret that people can detect our attitudes and level of interest on a subject by observing the way we carry ourselves before them. Our smiles and gestures, for example, can show our enthusiasm, while our facial and body expression can show our lack of interest.

Non-verbal communication such as body language can reveal how we think about something or feel towards someone, and sometimes even disclose what is in our hearts. This is why some people are interested in the study of body language—because it helps identify the truth from a lie. We may be able to plan the words we want to say, but we rarely can plan when we blink, smile or use other gestures during conversations. Unlike verbal communication, non-verbal communication is usually done unconsciously.

According to Positive-Way.com, up to 93 percent of communication is non-verbal, and that includes tone of voice, eye movement, posture, hand gestures, facial expressions and more. Staring or gazing at others can create pressure and tension, while maintaining eye contact can reveal whether a person is trustworthy, sincere or caring. Shifty eyes and too much blinking can suggest deception, while people whose eye movements are relaxed and comfortable, yet attentive to the other are regarded as sincere and honest. Vocal cues like tones of voice, volume, emotion, pace and the likes reveal attitudes. Bodily cues, such as hand-to-face gestures or shrugs, are strong markers of possible deception. Hand gestures or signals can communicate without the use of speech. Touch can indicate friendship or aggression, while movement toward or away from someone can convey dominance, assertion or avoidance.

The Gospels mentioned on many occasions how the Lord showed compassion and willingness to heal the sick (Matthew 20:34; Mark 6:34; 8:2). When a leper saw Jesus and fell on his face to implore Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean," Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed” (Luke 5:12-13).

This incident reveals something about body language. Although it is not explicitly stated in the Bible any eye contact between Jesus and the leper, it is clear that Jesus must have shown compassion because He willingly stretched out His hand and touched him. The touch of Jesus is of friendship, not dominance, assertion or avoidance. Our Lord’s non-verbal cues—the tone of His voice, the volume, emotion and pace—must have revealed love and compassion and put the leper at ease, without pressure or tension. Similarly, when the leper saw Jesus and fell on his face to implore the Lord, his posture, eye contact, vocal and bodily cues, gesture and facial expression must have revealed his heart.

When we come before the Lord, do we come to Him with a broken and contrite heart or do we carry untruth and insincerity in our hearts (Psalm 34:18; 51:17)? God does not need to see our body language to know our hearts (Psalm 44:21; Jeremiah 17:10), but are we, like Jesus, filled with compassion for others? Are we willing to stretch out our hands to touch those who are in need? Are we showing nonchalance toward people around us?

In whatever we do, therefore, let us do it with sincerity of heart, knowing that from the Lord we will receive our reward (Colossians 3:23-24). Let us not do anything from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than ourselves; not merely looking out for our own interests, but also for the interest of others (Philippians 2:3-4). Unless we do all things from a sincere heart, our body language can give us away and disclose to the world how much we really care.

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes doing things without sincerity of heart. We know Lord our hearts can never be hidden from You, and even if we attempt to hide our feelings from others, our body language can reveal much to dishonor Your name. Help us dear Lord to always stay truthful and sincere at heart when doing the things we do, especially while caring for others. Mold us Lord to be more like You that we may with a heart of compassion reach out to others without giving them tension or pressure.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Caring by Phone

But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; (James 1:19b NAS)

On the Telephone"Technical support, how can I help you?"

"Well, I have a problem using your software," said Mr. Brown in a not so friendly tone. "Every time I access one of my application databases, it would just crash on me."

"Can you tell me what you saw on the screen when that happened? Was there any error message?"

"I don't know!" Mr. Brown exclaimed, sounding angrier than before. "Do you expect me to write down the message with the error codes? I can't even capture the screen because it had already crashed!"

That was the kind of telephone conversations I get frequently while I was still working as a helpdesk technical support staff for a software corporation some years ago. Helpdesk support was not something fun, and I was often stressed. In fact, for a period of time I was near suffering from telephonophobia—the fear of telephones or reluctance to make or take phone calls.

In my case, it was not so serious to the point of failing to respond appropriately in a telephone conversation, but every time when the phone rang, I would get a chill down my spine. Inside of me was an immediate sense of withdrawal, seeking desperately to avoid receiving another telephone call. Sadly, however, that was part and parcel of my job. In effect, it was not actually the job that bothered me. It was the people I spoke to that caused such distress—people who simply refuse to make any effort to understand how things work and prefer to speak harshly. These days, I only make and receive phone calls when necessary, maybe because I am more comfortable texting than speaking on the phone or maybe it is just my tendency as a writer.

As a tool for communication, the telephone is undoubtedly very useful. How we use such a tool, however, is what really matter. In a helpdesk environment, a telephone answering service can be used to delay customers from getting to a ‘real’ person until he or she has selected multiple number options from the keypad. Such an approach although is effective in filtering who can get support, it can also frustrate the customer because of the time wasted on waiting and the possibility of a dropped line or redirection to a recording. At times, we may also receive calls that we feel is a waste of time, such as telesales and telemarketing calls.

As servants of the Lord, therefore, let us not spend too much time on unfruitful telephone conversations. Instead, let us use this tool for the Lord. Whenever needed, let us not hesitate to pick up the phone to make a call to care for another or take a call to talk to the person who is in need. We can pray and minister to the person over the phone and speak words of care and encouragement or provide spiritual counsel. When on the telephone, let us be good listeners to hear the needs of others and ponder carefully how we should speak to console, give advice or address the need of the other (James 1:19). Rather than be like the customer who is too quick to anger, let us hear carefully what is spoken and clarify if necessary, lest we drift away from our intended purpose and cause a souring of relationship instead.

Just as we make calls to speak to our loved ones when they are away or if they are staying afar, let us do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who need encouragement. Let us not neglect to take time to call our friends to catch up and show our care that they may through us desire to draw closer to the Lord and know more of Him.

Dear Lord, thank You for the telephone that enables us to verbally speak and express ourselves to another, even far remote. Help us Lord not to hesitate to use such a tool when the time calls for us to make or take a call in caring and ministering to another. Enable us Lord to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Remind us always Lord, not to waste too much time on unfruitful conversations or drift away from our intended purpose to risk causing the souring of relationships due to careless or thoughtless speech.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Media Influence

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NAS)

Media InfluenceMedia influence and its effects have long been a topic of extensive discussion. While it may be true that much of the information we know today could not have been communicated without the media, many people believe the media can still have negative influence in shaping how we think about certain matters.

According to cultural and media studies expert Colin Mercer, the way people in a society live their lives are shaped by how we as media audiences subject ourselves to governance and meanings constructed within discourses, created through the occasions of reading media texts.1 This means when we discuss about what we see, hear or read from the media through spoken, print, graphic or electronic communications, we are in effect exposing ourselves to media influence.

Media texts from advertisements, for example, give advertisers the ability to target consumers through text, image, video, animations and other forms of media representations. By repeated showings of such texts, consumers can grow to accept propagandas of what is portrayed as good, acceptable or better than others.

Discourse on crime is another example. Statements such as 'punishment', 'theft' or 'penalty' produce the knowledge of criminals as subjects of deviancy, and we as citizens may see ourselves as different from them because we behave 'normally'. Being 'normal' however is a constructed regime of truth that has been naturalized into habituation and assimilated into social norms. Such differentiations although may seem to be a good way of knowing what is right or wrong, it can also construct what is unacceptable in certain cultures to become acceptable in another.

If a government chooses to regulate the brothels, casinos, clubs and other unhealthy forms of entertainment as legally acceptable, do they automatically become right? If we gamble and drink, is it right or wrong? At which point of addiction are we considered wrong? Is it only when we become violent as a result of these addictions that we are deemed as deviant? Who defines the standard anyway, and who benefits most from such set of rules? Is it the rulers or the citizens? Is it the saints or the sinners?

In the Law of Moses there are many rules, and some of these rules are considered unacceptable today or even quite impossible to adhere, given the freedom we have. Freedom however is a choice, and it can be a bad choice or a good choice. The fact remains unchanged that what may be considered good or bad is relative and subjective, differing in the eyes of men and in the eyes of God.

As believers, we know we have been saved by God’s grace. Does that then mean we should continue in sin that grace may increase (Romans 6:1-2)? Certainly not! Rather, we ought not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we may prove what the will of God is, which is good, acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

When we read, hear or view media texts, therefore, let us diligently decipher what is being represented, rather than accept it without consideration. We should not be influenced by the media, but should measure what is good or bad according to the standard of God, not men. Only when we are guided by the Holy Spirit and the word of God can we know what is truly right or wrong (Psalm 1:1-2; Proverbs 29:18).

Dear Lord, help us not to be easily taken in to believe whatever is constructed by the media is the truth. Do not let us be influenced by what we see or read to normalize what is unholy as acceptable social norms. Open our eyes Lord that we may not unwittingly classify people by the way we have been taught through the media to differentiate ourselves from them and leave them to die without You as their Lord and Savior. Keep our minds clear Lord and guide us by Your word and Spirit to know what is right and what is not. Renew our minds and transform us that we may prove what Your will is, which is good, acceptable and perfect.

1 Mercer, C. (1992), 'Regular Imaginings: The Newspaper and the Nation’ in Celebrating the Nation: A Critical Study of Australia's Bicentenary, Bennett, T. et al (eds), Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

in everything give thanks;
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 NAS)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cyber Evangelism

The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. (Mark 13:10 NAS)

Cyber EvangelismChristian Today reported on January 12, 2009 that dozens of churches around the world were planning to participate in a special missions trip. This missions trip involves bringing Christ and His message to a huge community where the gospel is not the most popular subject. Nearly 2,000 teens signed up for the 'online missions trip' to bombard popular social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter with stories about God. Participants would upload videos and photos, post links, and use status updates to share what God is doing in their lives. They would also write notes, send messages, post blogs, create invitations to their youth group, and do other things that help bring God up in conversations online. Whether the outreach campaign turned out to be a success, few people know, because there was no news reported about it since. One thing is however certain—more cyber evangelism outreach efforts are being seen on the Net today than before.

All of us know there are many modes of cyber communication we can use to reach others for Christ—emails, instant messaging, websites, blogs, social networking and more. As a writer for print and digital media, I, for one, have always been an advocator of online Christian outreach. It is my prayer that all of us as believers will seriously consider how we can use technological tools to reach others for the Lord, especially with the growing number of social networking communities and blogs. No doubt, there will be dangers lurking around on the Net waiting to pounce on us and draw us away from the Lord, yet it is not something we can avoid or should turn away from.

Building relationships on the Net is of course not always healthy, but even so we should still play our part in harvesting the netizens for the Lord. While there may be much truth about online communication and social networking being used by the devil, we ought also to remember that we can use the same tools to turn the tables around. Unless we are firm in the faith, however, such online ministry can also become a snare that pulls us away from our faith. When we deal with social networking or other online activities, therefore, let us be very careful because its draw is very real. We should be self-controlled and in sober spirit, always on the alert against our adversary who is constantly seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

If we are clear with our calling to such a ministry, we can then begin by first praying and building relationships in Christian online communities such as AllAboutGOD.net, BibleStudySpace.com, ChristiansUnite.com, FaithWriters.com, GodTube.com, YourChristianSpace.com and others. Once we are familiar with how cyber communication works, then by the strength of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, let us get ready to reach the world for Christ through evangelism online.

What better way for us to reach all the nations of the earth for the Lord besides cyber evangelism? For the gospel must first be preached to all the nations before the end will come (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10). Knowing what cyberspace can do to close the gap between distances and draw people together, therefore, let us not be afraid to use technological tools to reach the world for Christ. Let us not throw away something good just because the same thing can be used by the devil to do evil, for what is meant for harm, God can mean it for good to preserve many lives (Genesis 50:20).

Thank You dear Lord for the many tools You have given us to improve communication. We know Lord that although such tools can be used by our adversary to do evil, this same thing can also be tools You want us to use in turning the tables around. Help us Lord to stay strong in facing cyber woes as we go forth to reach the world for You online. Do not allow us to fall prey O Lord to the temptations on the Net, but strengthen us that we may in building relationships through social networking bring many to You. Bless our efforts Lord and cause the faith of those who hear the gospel through cyber evangelism grow, that they may eventually come to know You personally.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Grapevine of Rumors

Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. (Proverbs 26:20 NIV)

Gossip and RumorsIf we hear someone say, "I heard on the grapevine ..." about something, it means we are likely to be listening to a gossip or rumor. In organizational context, the term 'grapevine' refers to the informal transmission of information, gossip or rumor from person to person. Such information exchange on the grapevine often comes from unofficial or unrevealed sources.

According to survey estimates by several business journals, 75 percent of employees typically receive news from the grapevine before they hear about it through formal networks. Such news, nevertheless, are frequently distorted from the original information after passing through several people, and usually include deletion of fine details and exaggeration of key points from the full story. With the advancement of information technology, the grapevine today is able to create more havoc than ever before in spreading rumors faster and farther around the world—beyond traditional water cooler gossiping—via emailing, instant messaging and social networks.

Studies in organizational behavior believe that grapevine rumors and gossips are most active during times of uncertainty and when employees are anxious. Social interaction through the grapevine is therefore seen by some as acceptable response to relieve anxiety and fulfill the need for affiliation.

In a sense, it may be true that such response can serve as valuable signal for corporate leaders to take appropriate actions to resolve problems or communicate more fully through formal networks. However, such interaction can also escalate rather than alleviate anxieties. This is because distorted information from unqualified or uninformed sources can demoralize employees to think the worst of the management as lacking sincerity and concern by its slower response than the grapevine. Moreover, misleading information can also be intentionally planted by the management or colleagues, which if assumed as the whole truth, can distort the original information or create negative reaction to provoke expected action.

Just as organizational grapevine can create much damage, the Bible also teaches about the dangers of gossiping and spreading unqualified information. In the Book of Proverbs, the author wrote, “a gossip betrays confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13 NIV). This means unless we hold our tongues from carrying tales and put a stop to revealing secrets or leaking news from unqualified sources, we cannot be considered trustworthy or be entrusted to conceal any confidential matter. The only way to put an end to such contentment and squabbling is therefore to stamp out gossip, for without wood a fire goes out, and without gossip a quarrel dies down (Proverbs 26:20 NIV).

We ought therefore not try to justify ourselves to think it is fine for us to gossip and spread rumors as a natural response to relieve anxiety or feelings of uncertainty. Instead, we should put a stop to rumors if we hear any, and be the one to exterminate further spreading. If we wish to discuss with others about how we feel, we will do fine by first getting our information right—only from qualified sources. In this way, we will then not demoralize others by untruth or discuss matters that come from unreliable sources or are distorted from the original information.

Forgive us dear Lord for the times we spread news of what we may believe is true, but is not. We pray Lord that You will keep our hearts strong that we may not listen to rumors, but always verify the information from its original source. Help us Lord to control our tongues and our inner urge to want to gossip and spread untruth. Calm our hearts Lord in times of uncertainty and anxiety, and restore to us the confidence and trust we have in You. Strengthen us Lord that we may strengthen others instead of demoralize them. Thank You Lord for granting us the many avenues to communicate Your truth to the world beyond the grapevine and social networks. Lead us in our words Lord that through our speech and other modes of communication, we may glorify Your name in all we do and speak.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Letters to Missionaries

For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; for I know your readiness, (2 Corinthians 9:1-2a)

Writing a LetterI used to write at least a snail mail once every fortnight to a group of missionaries. Even when I did not receive regular reply from them, I continued to write because I knew it was quite impossible to expect missionaries in the fields to write back frequently. That was many years ago, before the keyboard took over the pen to become the main instrument for letter writing.

More than one of the missionaries I wrote to had expressed how such handwritten letters meant to them in bringing comfort while they were away from their relatives and friends. One particular missionary told me she was able to observe how I had improved in my writing over the years and grown in faith in the way I encouraged them. When I visited the mission site later, this same missionary conversed with me as though we had never been very far apart from each other over the years. This is what letter writing is all about—closing the gap between distances while building rapport and relationship even when physically absent.

In an article on 'Ten Ways to Encourage a Missionary' at TheGospelCoalition.org, a question was asked as to how missionaries would most like to be served and encouraged. In response, a missionary wrote to describe how he felt about receiving handwritten mails:

"Real mail is always special. Really, the thing with real mail is more than just getting some nice stuff from home (which is nice), but it seems a more tangible reminder that the people I love and miss love and miss me too and are thinking of me."

As Christians, we have a common faith that draws us together even when we are far away, and letter writing is one good way we can show and express our care for those serving abroad. Although e-mail can serve the same purpose in writing to people vast distance apart and providing faster delivery, it can never replace handwritten letters when bridging the gap between hearts. This is because e-mail lacks the personal touch expressed in handwriting.

The Bible in 2 Corinthians 9:1-15 describes what it means by ministry to the saints. It is not just about supplying the needs of the saints, but also about the proof of our obedience in confessing the gospel of Christ and the liberality of our contribution to the saints serving abroad (2 Corinthians 9:1, 9, 12-13). We should therefore not wane in our ministry to the saints, for the administration of such service glorifies God. We ought also not to neglect encouraging one another to build each other up, but should appreciate and esteem highly those who diligently labor among us in love because of their work (1 Thessalonians 5:11-13).

Let us therefore—besides writing emails—not stop writing snail or real mails to those serving abroad, for it is a tangible way of expressing our care in reminding them they are loved and missed. We should instead encourage and show them love with a personal touch by penning down letters in our own handwriting. We need not wait for a reply before sending our next mail because it is more difficult for them than for us to have the time to do so. Rather than feel dejected because of the lack of responses, let us be assured and know without a doubt that every word we write to encourage them is edifying and appreciated. Only in this way can we then close the gap between distances and continue to build rapport and relationship even when absent.

Thank You dear Lord for the gift of letter writing and for providing us a communication mode that offers real personal touch to the ones serving You abroad. Grant us Lord the willingness to be Your instrument in closing the gap between distances to build rapport and relationship with them as one body in Christ. Put in us Lord the desire to encourage and minister to the saints in love and appreciation for their diligent labor and work in You.


NOTE: Not all mission sites are reachable by snail mail. Wherever possible and safe to do so, let us therefore do our part to minister to the saints and missionaries out of love.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Heart of Conversation

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." (John 21:17 NIV)

Jesus and PeterWith so little time available at hand to do so many things, I am frequently left with not much time to engage in conversation with my friends and family members. This, I know, is not good or helpful in caring for others and in bringing others to Christ.

A heart to heart conversation is so important when it comes to expressing care, and although there are many ways of communicating across a message today, nothing beats a personal conversation with another. This is because a conversation face to face requires presence, and presence means taking time to communicate with each other. We may be able to get connected with someone via phone call, email, instant messaging or social network, but we cannot read the other person's state of mind unless we are engaged in conversation face to face.

In the Bible, we read about what the apostle Peter did after he denied Jesus three times. He was deeply grieved (Luke 22:56-62), and it was not long before he went back to his former trade as a fisherman (John 21:1). When Jesus appeared at the shore, however, Peter was quick to jump into the water and get to shore to meet Him (John 21:7). After the disciples had finished eating breakfast of bread and fish, Jesus conversed with Simon Peter (John 21:15-17 NIV).

"Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," Peter said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

The third time He said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?"
He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

The conversation between Jesus and Peter shows the kind of heart to heart talk that engages one to become stirred up from within, leading to repentance, forgiveness and restoration. It is the kind of conversation we can engage in to lead others to Christ—a conversation for action. If we genuinely care for someone, we will want to spend time and engage in conversation with that person.

In bringing others to the Lord, therefore, let us find time to converse with others and tell them how we feel and what the Lord has done for us. It is through such witness, the sharing of thoughts and feelings, that people will know we are speaking from our hearts, not just telling them about Jesus in order to group them into the Christian faith. Like Simon Peter who responded to the Lord in confessing his love, let us also express the love we have for others by speaking from our hearts that they may desire to know more about Christ and His love. In similar ways, we can also nurture the young in faith—the lambs and sheep—by feeding and taking care of them, while at the same time restore the backslidden by redirecting them back to the right path.

Thank You, dear Lord, for showing us how we should engage in conversation to restore a soul. Grant us Lord the wisdom and sensitivity to the leading of Your Holy Spirit in knowing how we should converse with another. Forgive us Lord for the many times we fail to spend time with our friends and family to engage in heart to heart conversations. Create in us Lord the desire to care for Your sheep, the ones that have been saved and the ones that have yet to be saved. Renew us Lord in Your love, and restore to us the burning desire to be fishers of men, not just to group the unsaved into the fold, but also to feed the saved in helping them grow in spiritual maturity.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Grace or Works

"But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:11 NAS)

Martin LutherOne of the first published writings by Protestant reformer Martin Luther in 1520 was A Treatise on Good Works. In it, Luther put up an argument on the topic of justification by grace through faith, not by works. He said if we think by doing good we can be well-pleasing to God, we are lowering God to the level of a broker or a laborer who does not dispense His grace and kindness without payment. Luther addressed in his writing the essence of good works and their fundamental relation to faith. He emphasized that the believer should not need instruction on good works, but should on his own accord at all times do good as his faith and confidence teaches him. The only reason such instruction becomes necessary is because not all of us have equal faith or are mindful of the need to do good works.

Long before Martin Luther wrote and spoke about good works, the churches in the first century also argued on the topic of salvation by grace or by works. It was then Simon Peter, the former fisherman turned apostle, who stood up in the presence of believers and Jews of Jerusalem to make the first recorded theological statement on the subject of salvation by grace in the New Testament.


After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:7-12 NAS)

We know we have been saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus, therefore, we ought also to teach the same to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Not that there is a need to do so, since as believers good works should come naturally according to our faith and confidence (Ephesians 2:10), but because not all of us have equal faith or are mindful in doing good works. God knows our hearts and has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell in us as an affirmation of His gift of salvation, cleansing our hearts by faith. Let us therefore not impose unnecessary practices on others—especially new believers—to put upon their necks the yoke we ourselves cannot bear.

The Bible is very clear on the topic of salvation that it is by grace we have been saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). We have been saved, not on the basis of deeds done in righteousness, but because of His mercy, that by His grace we may be heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7). We need not worry therefore to think that God would expect payment from us to earn our salvation; not when His only Son had already paid it all (Matthew 20:28; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

Thank You dear Lord for dying on our behalf that we may freely receive Your salvation. We know O God that by our own efforts, even with all the good works we have done, we cannot earn Your forgiveness or be reconciled with You. Only by Your grace alone Lord have we been saved through faith, and not by our own works. Put in our hearts Lord the desire to do good works that we may on our own accord at all times do good naturally, rather than because we are instructed to do so. Help us Lord not to overburden our fellow brothers and sisters to put a yoke on their necks beyond they can bear, but instead nurture them in your ways to do good according to their faith and confidence.

Friday, October 15, 2010

End of Rope

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? (Matthew 6:26 NLT)

Knot at End of RopeLivelihood is a concern for many, especially for those who are struggling to make ends meet or have hit rock bottom. Whether we have enough to eat, drink or wear are therefore matters of genuine concern. Even if we know life is more than just food and clothing, we cannot help but to sometimes worry about our next meal or how we can have enough to feed ourselves and the people under our care.

Some years ago, I was faced with the situation of hitting rock bottom. I was at the end of the rope, unable to provide for myself and my family, so I cried out to God, and He heard me and answered my prayer. He provided for me and my family, and granted me a job that is beyond a doubt given by Him because it met every of my specific request in my prayer—a perfect fit.

This is why Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-33 (NLT) that we should not worry about our everyday life—whether we have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear (v.25). Look at the birds. They do not plant or harvest or store food in barns, for our heavenly Father feeds them (v.26). Are we not far more valuable to Him than them? Can all our worries add a single moment to our lives (v.27)? Why do we need to worry about our clothing (v.28)? If God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers, He will certainly care for us (v.30). So do not worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear (v.31)? Our heavenly Father already knows all our needs (v.32).

The lyrics of a song in foreign language describe these verses very well. It states:


Flowers of the wild
Dressed up beautifully
Birds of the air
Never for livelihood keep busy
Our gracious heavenly Father
Watches over them daily
He loves the people of earth much more
And prepares them for the road to eternity

All that we need
Our heavenly Father already knows
The worries within our troubled hearts
Let Him on our behalf dispose
Our gracious heavenly Father
Takes care of us each day
He loves us much more
And prepares us for eternity way

Instead of worrying unnecessarily, therefore, let us trust in God and hold on to Him in times of need. Even if we have come to the end of the rope, let us tie a knot and hang on in faith. God knows our needs; He will certainly care for us (Matthew 6:30). Just as God provided for me and my family in times of need, He will also take care of us and supply all our needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

As for some of us who have been blessed with much and have little or no worry about livelihood, let us not be conceited or fix our hope on the uncertainty of riches. Let us instead, as good stewards of God, do good and be rich in good works to be generous and ready to share, for it is God who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17-18).

Thank You dear Lord for always being on the lookout for us to ensure our needs are met. Help us Lord not to worry too much about what we shall eat, drink or wear, or about tomorrow. Open our eyes Lord that we may see within Your creation how much more You love and care for us. Remove from us Lord the worries within our troubled hearts that we may not be too overly concerned about our livelihood, but instead trust in You completely. Move our hearts Lord, we who have been blessed with much, to be willing to share what You have given us with others. Do not let us be conceited Lord to put our hope on the uncertainty of riches. Instead, direct us Lord that we may as good stewards of Your wealth do good and be rich in good works.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Reaching Forward

but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13b-14 NAS)

Reaching Forward and UpwardMy colleagues and I were informed recently that there will be some organizational restructuring for the division we are currently working in. Each of us will soon be reporting to new supervisors and managers, and the division will cease to exist. In a short span of two days, everything relating to how we work changed, and we are currently all feeling disoriented and somewhat apprehensive because of the uncertainty of our job scope in the future.

The first thing that came to my mind when I received the news was the Bible verse "forgetting what lies behind ... I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). That set my heart at peace, despite being a little apprehensive. This is because since the day I started work at this place, I was assured that this job was God-given—an answer to a specific prayer. It was in a time of need that God provided this job as the means of my and my family's livelihood.

Like me, many of us may have faced similar situations where after a long period of stability, something unexpected happens that changes the way we live. Such unexpected event can come in many forms and may include the loss of a job, restructuring at the workplace, an ailment or someone in the family who falls sick and needs special care. In such situations, we often feel ourselves at a lost because of the uncertain future. We may tell our soul, "Be still and know that God is in control" (Psalm 46:10), yet be unable to remain calm.

In times like this, we must learn to be like Abraham.


By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10 NAS)

Like Abraham, we must confidently take the step of faith in reaching forward to what lies ahead, even when we are unsure where we are going. By faith, we should adapt to new environments and continue to look toward God as the architect and builder of our future (Hebrews 11:8-10). Rather than look back to the past, let us forget what lies behind and press on toward the goal for the upward call of God (Philippians 3:13-14). Let us do whatever needs to be done from our heart without grumbling or disputing, that we may prove ourselves blameless, innocent and above reproach, knowing that from the Lord we will receive our reward (Colossians 3:23-24; Philippians 2:14-15).

Teach us dear Lord to always be ready to accept changes in our lives and to adapt positively in handling unexpected situations and new environments. You O Lord are the architect and builder of our lives, for You alone know what lies ahead. Help us Lord to forget what lies behind so that we can press on toward the goal of our upward call. Instill in us Lord a willing heart to do whatever is required to be done without complaining, that we may stand blameless and above reproach.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Coping with Bereavement

Sarah died ... and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. (Genesis 23:2 NAS)

Psalm 62:1The last few weeks have been difficult as I comfort my wife in her grief over the sudden death of her elder sister to heart attack. Although we know without a doubt that she is now safe in the presence of our Lord, the feelings within remain difficult to contain.

Many of us who have lost our loved ones would know how it feels like to be overwhelmed with sorrow. Although we are aware that death has no victory or sting on those who are in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55), yet we cannot help but feel grieved within. Such feelings are not something we can control or remove just by wishing them to go away. However, if we dwell too deep into feelings of sadness, despair or desperation, we can end up in despondency. We may even become depressed to the point of devastation if we allow our feelings to rule our lives.

Handling bereavement is not easy because our feelings and memories continue to linger on for days, months and even years. When Sarah died, Abraham mourned and wept for her (Genesis 23:2), and after that he rose from before his dead and did whatever is necessary to ensure a decent burial (Genesis 23:3-20). Abraham then went on to live his life to a ripe old age and God blessed him in every way (Genesis 24:1).

Like Abraham, we may be deeply grieved when we lost someone we loved, and it is understandable for us to mourn and weep. However, we ought to after that rise from our state of sadness and do whatever is necessary to put to a close our sorrow and the sad chapter in our lives. We should then continue to live our lives for Christ our Lord and walk faithful in God.

Rather than dwell in despair, therefore, let us wait in silence for God alone (Psalm 62:1). Let us forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13). We need not doubt or be fearful, for it is a trustworthy statement that if we died with Christ, we will also live with Him (2 Timothy 2:11). For a little while we may be grieved and our hearts may be troubled, but we ought not to dwell too deep in our sorrow because excessive grieving is not good and can lead to devastation. As children of God, we need not succumb to devastation or feelings of negativity because in Christ we have been set free, and in Him we have victory (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 John 5:4).

Just as King David knew when he should grieve and when he should stop grieving over his child’s impending and eventual death (2 Samuel 12:16-23), let us also know when to stop letting our emotions and feelings overwhelm us. If we have a loved one who is critically ill, let us fast and pray, and seek God for mercy. If our loved one departs, however, let us not let our emotions and feelings run wild, otherwise it may overtake us and lead us to despair. We may be hurting within our hearts, yet we must always remember that to all who love God, God causes all things to work together for good according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Let us believe in God and believe also in Jesus, for we who believe in Him shall some day live with our Lord in dwelling places prepared for us (John 14:1-2). In that day, there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, and God Himself will live with us, and we shall be His people (Revelation 21:3-4).

Dear Lord, You alone know our deepest feelings, our grief and our pain, and You comfort us in our sorrow at our point of need. Help us Lord not to let our inner feelings overtake us. Strengthen us Lord that we may hold fast to the assurance that to all who love You, all things work together according to Your purpose. Remove our grief Lord and direct our hearts and minds to see beyond the grave to look forward to the day when we shall see You face to face. In that day Lord, we shall live with You forever, in the place where there shall be no death, sorrow, crying or pain.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Know by Fruit

So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:20 NAS)

Know by FruitAccording to experts in the field of body language reading, relying on words or verbal communication alone is not good enough to understand the feelings or thoughts of the one we know. What people say is often very different from what they think or feel. It is easy to say something untrue, insincere, unconsciously or nonchalantly.

Body language experts however believe with the right knowledge, we can uncover what our friends, co-workers, spouse, customers or anyone else may be hiding from us. According to them, the most effective way in uncovering hidden desires, thoughts or emotions is to observe, read and interpret body language correctly.

Much like the study of body language, the Bible also teaches of a way by which we can uncover the feelings and thoughts of others—their intents—by observing their fruits (Matthew 7:15-16; 1 Timothy 5:24-25). Just as good trees bear good fruits, so shall the good intents of the pure in heart show forth from their inner person the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Matthew 7:17-20; Galatians 5:22-23).

In contrast, just as bad trees bear bad fruits, so shall the ill intents of the impure in heart show forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness and slander (Matthew 15:19). Such will be the evil deeds of the evildoers be revealed (1 Samuel 24:13), for nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light (Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17).

Let us therefore be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves while in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16). Let us beware of people who come in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15). With watchful eyes, let us observe and understand what’s going on around us and not be deceived by the ones who have come with ill intent to destroy the harmony we have as believers in the Lord.

Thank You, dear Lord, for showing us the way by which we can identify people by their fruits to know their intent. Help us Lord to always be sensitive to Your guidance in keeping watchful eyes on all ill intents aimed at deceiving or destroying, to be observant in uncovering the evil plots and deeds of evildoers. Guard our hearts Lord that we may with purity of hearts reveal the fruit of the Spirit in us of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Open our eyes Lord that we may not gauge people merely from the external but be shrewd in seeing beyond to understand the inner person. Grant, O Lord, that whatever is hidden which deserves praise be praise given, and whatever is of ill intent be eradicated.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How Others Think

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NAS)

“We need not think too much about what others think of us because they seldom do.”

How Do Others Think of Me?That is a statement written by a friend of mine in her instant messenger’s status. In a sense, there is much truth about people seldom thinking about us when they are too busy with their own cares or pursuits in life. However, it is not necessary entirely true that we should not bother about what others think of us, otherwise we may run the risk of being misunderstood. There are of course also exceptions—people who genuinely care and think of us constantly.

Being concerned about what others think of us is nothing wrong, but being overly concerned is. Dressing up to look good so as not to give others an opportunity to think of us negatively or unfavorably is reasonable. How others think of us however largely depends on how we think of ourselves and them.

We may be able to camouflage ourselves with pretense to put on a false front before men, but it is ultimately our inner being that reveals our true selves. If we think too highly of ourselves and look at others around us as beneath our status, no amount of pretense will help us gain good impression or change how others think of us. Like one who spins promises he or she cannot keep, so shall the truth be revealed eventually (Matthew 7:18; Luke 6:43). Our behavior and the way we act on things will reveal our hearts and attitudes to disclose our true state of minds to the world (Luke 8:17; 12:2).

Let us therefore not pretend or think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but think with sound judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has given us (Romans 12:3). After all, so long as we are still on earth, none of us has obtained perfection (Philippians 3:12), so we ought not to think of ourselves as better than others or that others are inferior to us. Instead, let us fix our eyes on Jesus and press on so that we may lay hold of Christ our Lord, the perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 3:12).

If we are to compare or boast, then let us boast of what pertains to our weakness, yet not beyond proper limits, but within the area of influence God assigned to us (2 Corinthians 11:30; 10:13). Rather than doing or thinking from selfishness or empty conceit, let us with humility of mind regard one another as more important than ourselves, looking out not only for our own interests, but also the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). Therefore, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let us dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8).

Thank You, dear Lord, for being our Friend—One who never doubts us and who always understands, genuinely caring and constantly thinking of us. Help us Lord not to be overly concerned about what others think of us, but instead regard the interests of others as more important than our own. Remind us constantly Lord to dwell our minds on what is honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute. You alone, O God, is worthy of all praise.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Feelings of Despair

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 43:5 NAS)

FeelingsHow we feel is never a good measure of what is true or a fact. This is because reality may be far different. Too often our feelings are clouded by the circumstances we are in that we become too easily influenced by our moods rather than rational thinking.

If we feel deeply grieved because someone we loved has left us, it does not necessary mean that someone does not reciprocate our love. If we feel alone, it does not mean no one cares. Feelings are often misleading, and if we fall too deep into it, we can end up in despondency. We may even become depressed to the point of devastation if we let our feelings rule our lives.

Let us for a moment think about how our Lord must have felt when Peter—whom He loved—denied Him three times. Surely, Jesus must have felt something within Him. What about Peter? How do we think Peter have felt when Jesus looked at him after his denial? Peter was grieved, and he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:56-62).

Like Peter, we may grieve and weep bitterly because of our sins and be unable to forgive ourselves, much less expect God to forgive us. We may feel God is far away or He does not care, but the truth is God is always near and He cares for us more than we can imagine. Just as Peter was restored by confessing Christ (John 21:15-17), we can also be restored by confessing our sins and returning to the Lord (1 John 1:9). Instead of dwelling too deep in despair or devastation, therefore, let us not give up our all because of the ensuing feeling of guilt or regret. Instead, let us again praise God and hope in Him, for He is our help (Psalm 43:5). If we are truly repentant, we are definitely not beyond hope to receive God’s salvation and forgiveness. There is therefore no need for us to despair or be disturbed within our soul, for in Christ we have been cleansed by His blood which was shed on the cross for us (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Rather than dwell in despair, let us forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13). Even though there will still be days we need to go through sorrow and agony, and times when we feel down and out, we need not despair. The Lord is our confidence; He will keep us firm and not let us fall (Proverbs 3:26), for as believers we are partakers of Christ if we hold fast our assurance until the end (Hebrews 3:14).

Just as King David knew when he should grieve and when he should stop grieving over his child’s impending and eventual death (2 Samuel 12:16-23), let us also know when to stop letting our emotions and feelings overwhelm us. Let us not allow our emotions and feelings run wild, otherwise it may overtake us and lead us to despair. We may be hurting within our hearts, but we ought not to dwell too deep in sorrow, because excessive grieving is not good and can lead us to devastation. Let us therefore not be deceived by the devil into believing the solution is to give up all, because reality is far different from how we feel. We need not succumb to devastation or feelings of negativity, for in Christ we have been set free, and in Him we have victory (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 John 5:4).

Dear Lord, forgive us for the many times we feel You have neglected us or are far away. Help us Lord not to let our feelings rule over our rational thinking to believe what is untrue or be overwhelmed to the point of devastation. Lead us Lord to hold fast with confidence our assurance in knowing that You will keep us firm and not let us fall. Thank You Lord that although we may grieve at times, we need not despair, because we are partakers in You.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Breath of Life

Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life."'" (Ezekiel 37:9 NAS)

Russia on FireThe RT television network reported on August 3, 2010 that intense temperatures and the worst dry spell for generations continue to pound parts of Russia, with at least forty lives already claimed by wildfires. Hundreds were injured. Seven of the hardest-hit regions were in a state of emergency and one of them was the greater Moscow area.

“There is no air to breathe in Moscow,” said Andrey Pozhalov, a Moscow resident who spoke to BBC News about living in the smog. “There is a smell of burning everywhere. Most offices switch off air-conditioning systems to prevent smoke flowing into the building, but the temperature immediately goes up. The only way to survive is to wear a gauze bandage, but it doesn't help when you are in the street because it dries out in a few minutes. Apart from coming to work, I try to stay indoors as much as possible. I have stopped going out jogging in the morning because it is just impossible.”

We know what it means to be out of breath when we over exercise or when air pollution becomes so bad we can hardly breathe. As one suffering from hypoxia, I understand this very well. Hypoxia is the condition in which the body as a whole or in part is deprived of adequate oxygen supply, often resulting in breathlessness. This is why I always avoid places that have low air flow. Avoidance however may not be possible all the time, especially when onboard the airplane. In such situations, all I can do is simply stay calm to be at peace and find rest as I go through it.

Much like the wildfires in many parts of Russia, the Bible also reported of a time when Lot, the nephew of Abram, had to flee from Sodom to catch his breath because of brimstone and fire falling out of heaven (Genesis 19:14-25). In the same way, just as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, so the day of the Lord will be when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:28-30). There will be no way for the yet unsaved to prevent the rising temperature of the eternal fire from hell or avoid the smog of death (Revelation 19:20; 20:10; 21:8), for only in Christ can they survive (Romans 8:1).

In that day, it will not help even if the unsaved have done many good deeds in their lives, because salvation can only be received by grace through Christ and not by works (Romans 5:1-2; Galatians 2:16). Apart from receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, there is no other way to salvation (John 14:6). Even if they have lived holy and decent lives, and have stopped doing whatever is wrong or sinful, it is still impossible for them to receive eternal life without Christ in their hearts and Jesus as Lord of their lives (Matthew 19:16-24). As believers therefore, we should not neglect to preach Christ and bring as many as possible to our Lord.

Just as we know what it means to be lifeless without Christ as Lord of our lives, let us also not fall into the condition of ‘hypoxia’ to be found lacking in spirit the breath of life (Ezekiel 37:1-4). Instead, let us be empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 37:5-14; John 20:22). Let us take clear steps to avoid situations that can stifle our spiritual lives. If avoidance is not possible, then let us stay calm to be at peace before the Lord and find rest in Him as we go through every situation in His strength.

Thank You, dear Lord, for always being present with us wherever we are, and especially at the time of our need. Though we may at times be caught in the smog of spiritual lifelessness, O God, we know You will never let us be without help. Lead us therefore dear Lord and do not allow us to fall into situations that stifle our spiritual lives and become breathless. Instead, renew us by Your Holy Spirit, Lord. Grant us the ability to stand strong and stay clear from the heat of temptation that we may with Your peace find rest in You to go through every difficult situation.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Discerning with Wisdom

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; (1 Thessalonians 5:21 NAS)

DiscernmentIf a business has a product that is constantly under attack, it is likely because it has grown to become a threat to another, especially a competitor. Nick A. James, author of article at Buzzle.com on ‘Clues for Discerning the Integrity of a Product Critic’ suggests three ways to analyze the integrity of a critic or skeptic.

First, find out if the feedback from the critic is all negative. If it is, it is probably a sham because even if we dislike something, there is bound to be some good in it and not all bad. Second, a bad product cannot stay popular for long and is unlikely to get any positive feedback from others. Third, if it is a scam, there would probably be some visible tell tale signs indicating ill intent, such as to wreck havoc. One of the most common tell tale signs can be seen in the effort the critic is making to undermine the product’s reputation.

Just as a product can be analyzed to determine whether what a critic says is true, we can also use this same approach to discern the truth about our beliefs. In Mark 14:55-59, we read the account of how the chief priests and the council kept on trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death. Many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.

Jesus, during the trial, was accused by many false witnesses bearing testimony of untruth. These accusations were all negative, which means they were all dishonest claims—a sham—to put Jesus to death (Mark 14:55). There is no chance anyone can hate everything about our Lord, unless he is of the devil or is totally misled (John 8:44; 1 Corinthians 15:33-34). If Jesus is not who He claimed He was, then His influence would have ceased long ago, but till this day, good reports and testimonies are still being received of changed lives in Christ (Acts 5:36-39). False accusations always have their tell tale signs and in the case of Jesus’ trial, it was indicated by the inconsistencies of testimonies and the persistent effort to obtain testimony against Jesus to undermine our Lord’s reputation to put Him to death (Mark 14:56, 59).

In discerning whether something is a scam, sham or the truth, therefore, we should take steps to analyze and examine everything carefully and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We should not be quick to jump to conclusion or falsely accuse another by assuming what we hear is true. Discernment is after all not about instinct or our gut feeling about something. Rather, it is the wisdom to be able to read between the lines, yet without jumping into conclusion about it. It is like understanding the untold in seeing things beyond what is obvious through the eyes of God to hold fast the right perspective in making use of all our senses which God has given us.

When we encounter situations that demand discernment, therefore, let us first analyze and examine the evidences so as to determine the truth. Let us use all our God-given senses, and along with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, stand for what is right, rather than with the majority to be an accuser. Like King Solomon who sought God for an understanding heart to govern His people (1 Kings 3:9), let us also seek God to grant us hearts of wisdom and understanding to discern between good and evil.

Grant us wisdom Lord to discern that which is right, so as not to be deceived or without knowledge accuse another falsely. Help us Lord to examine everything carefully and hold fast to that which is good rather than to jump to conclusion without investigation or understanding. Remind us Lord to use the senses You have given us to put in perspective the truth in seeing beyond what is obvious to understand what lies between the lines. Lead us dear Lord to be sensitive to Your Spirit to seek His guidance in differentiating the genuine from the counterfeit that what is worth much may not be lost among the worthless.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Touch of Faith

For she thought, "If I just touch His garments, I will get well." (Mark 5:28 NAS)

Sense of TouchWe usually associate the sense of touch with the use of hands. In actuality, however, touch is not confined to specific parts of the body. Unlike the other four senses which are correlated to the eye, ear, nose and tongue, the sense of touch can be found all over the body because it is made up of many tiny nerve endings at the bottom layer of our skin.

Nerve endings communicate information about the things the body comes in contact with by sending messages to the central nervous system. If we touch something hot or cold, the nerve endings in our skin will immediately pick up the sensory signal and react in response to the feeling by withdrawing or extending our touch. This is done by carrying the information to our spinal cords which then send messages to the brain where the feeling is registered.

Just as the sense of touch is not confined to specific parts of the body, as Christians we should also not limit or expect the touch of the Lord to come in specific ways. Instead, we should like the nerve endings, be quick to pick up the sensory signal and react in response to the different situations we face each day in presenting Christ to the lost. Rather than ‘send chills down the spine’ in frightening people into receiving Christ, we ought to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to know when to withdraw or extend our touch in reaching the ones prepared for the kingdom of God.

Like the way our brain communicates in response to our touch, the Bible also records an incident of a woman who by touching our Lord’s garment was healed of hemorrhage she had suffered for 12 years (Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48). After hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak (Mark 5:27). Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body she was healed of her affliction (Mark 5:29). Jesus, perceiving in Himself the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched My garments?" When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she responded and fell down before Jesus and told Him the whole truth (Mark 5:33; Luke 8:47).

This reported incident in the Bible teaches us a few things about touch and faith. First, to want to receive a touch from the Lord, we must make the first move to act on our belief (Mark 5:27). Second, to receive the touch, we need to draw near to Him with faith (Mark 5:28). Third, we need to recognize there is power proceeding from God when we receive His touch (Mark 5:29-30; Luke 8:44). Fourth, we should share and testify what the Lord has done for us, preferably without being asked to do so or having God to find us out (Mark 5:33-34; Luke 8:47-48).

If we, like the woman healed of hemorrhage, want to receive a touch from God, we should first make the move to seek after Him. We should draw near to Him with faith, regardless the situations we are facing now. When we come to the Lord, we should also recognize there is power proceeding from God, and with full confidence receive His touch. We should not to be ashamed to testify to the world the great things the Lord has done for us, for such are the testimonies that will bear witness of Christ in leading the yet unsaved to Him.

Touch us O Lord and move our hearts to know when to withdraw or extend our touch in reaching out to the lost. Instill upon us Lord the sensitivity to react quickly in response to the different situations we face in presenting You to the ones prepared for Your kingdom. Help us Lord to always be ready to share and testify the great things You have done for us, and not to hide the truth or be ashamed to share it to others. Thank You dear Lord for touching us and for meeting our needs when we draw near to You with faith.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stench or Aroma

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; (2 Corinthians 2:14-15 NAS)

FrankincenseI recently came across an unusual question raised by someone at the WhatBrandBest.com web site. The subject in question is tagged with the header ‘My Bible is starting to smell funny. Best brand of Bible deodorant?’ In the discussion thread, the writer elaborated to say, "My favorite bible is starting to smell a little moldy. Is there anything I can use to freshen it up? I was at a Christian bookstore and I saw a can of ‘Gee, Your Bible Smells Terrific,’ but that's all they had. What brand of bible deodorant is everybody using?"

Sometimes we may encounter a similar situation of having our Bible smelling foul or becoming moldy. Although this may sound a little funny, it is certainly not something we should be proud of or consider lightly as expectable or perfectly normal. All of us know that things on earth get moldy and smelly only because they are not used regularly. If we have something we like turning moldy and smelly, it is most likely we have forgotten what we have. By the time we rediscover and attempt to restore it to its original state, it is often quite difficult to remove the unpleasant smell and the mold. Spraying a fragrance over it offers little help removing the odor. Even if we take measures to cover it with frankincense—the one scent known for its evocative fragrance in the history of aromatics—it is ultimately the regular use of the thing we once liked that will help improve its condition. Unless we regularly pay attention to the thing we like, no amount of restoration work will help make it become like before, free of mold and stench.

Like the things that become moldy and smelly over time of negligence, Christian living is very much the same. If we neglect the study of the word of God and choose to leave our Bibles to rot, our Christian lives will gradually deteriorate, stink and become defiled with mold and unpleasant smell. We may try to act perfectly normal in the sight of men, spraying fragrance on ourselves in masking our inner state of being or dipping ourselves into frankincense to hide among those in the faith. Eventually, however, our missing aroma or our odor will sooner or later give us away. Like the foul smell and stench of a land desolate, emptied and devoid of life and growth, our fruit and deeds will reveal our true state of being (Joel 2:20; Micah 7:13).

The first steps we must take in getting rid of the foul smell therefore is not to cover up, but to let out from within the fragrance of Christ. God is the One who leads us in triumph in the Lord to manifest through us the sweet aroma of Christ in every place (2 Corinthians 2:14). We are the fragrance of Christ to God among all who are being saved and to those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Unless we return to the Lord and get back to our regular walk with God, our condition cannot improve. No amount of restoration work will help bring forth the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ in us to the perishing world if we do not spend time in His word. Let us therefore be diligent to present ourselves approved to God as workmen who do not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15).

Forgive us dear Lord for neglecting to spend time with You and in the studying of Your word. Help us rediscover our first love for You and for Your word Lord, that we may not pretend we are well by covering up our state of being in hiding our inner decadence. Restore to us Lord the sweet aroma of the knowledge of You in us in bringing forth Your fragrance to those who are being saved, and those who are perishing. Thank You God for leading us to triumph in Christ and for manifesting Him through us to the world.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Reflect and See

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

PhotoJournalismPhotography news reporting can be interesting when it is placed in context with a written story. However, it can also be dangerous if taken out of context.

One of the myths about journalistic photography is the perception of seeing is believing. As media audiences, we tend to assume what we see in a photograph is equivalent to seeing the actual event, hence genuine in every respect and capable of conveying the truth about what had happened. 


Photography, however, in reality only records what had been captured and does not interpret the meaning of the picture. A photograph is not reality seen and therefore cannot be true evidence. With digital editing capabilities today, creative intervention can also tamper with the authenticity of what was actually 'seen' through the eye of the camera.

When we read a piece of news, we need always to remember that photography and messages conveyed in a written story can only be perceived reality. This can be manipulated to send a particular message to us, and unless media representation is deconstructed and understood as simply representations, our minds can be deceived or be misled into believing what may not be true.

Jesus said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near’ (Luke 21:8a NAS). All of us who have eyes to see will probably think we cannot be easily misled or deceived into believing one who claims to be Christ, even if he is able to perform miracles. However, when it comes to looking into what’s going on in our own lives, we tend to be completely blinded and not see the Lord’s hands guiding us in the circumstances we face. More often than not, we see our lives crumbling down and falling apart, and sometimes even crippling when the going gets tough. We may have eyes, but we do not see or understand the reason behind what is going on or what has gone wrong in our lives.

It is perfectly understandable to feel perplexed during times when sorrows befall us, but if this sadness and gloom continue into days, weeks, months or years, then we must relook and reflect to know the reason why. Like the one who sees ‘reality’ through the eye of a camera, we may not be able to see the reason behind the difficult times now. This is because what we see is only what had been captured, without the understanding of the full story behind.

Like Joseph of the Old Testament who sees every event in his life as part of God’s plan (Genesis 45:5), we ought also to relook and reflect on our past to see and understand. Rather than blame God or anyone else for whatever unhappy things that happened in our lives, let us see the truth for itself. Let us not to be misled to think the worst of things or live our lives under a lie.

Things that happened in my past and present, to me, are simply God’s way of molding me for His purpose. When I reflect, I see how at each stage of my life God was always there for me. I am therefore thankful and forever grateful to God my Savior. Like me, do we see God’s hands in our lives? If we do, then let us not dwell in sorrow any longer. Let us come forth with joy because God knows His plans for us—plans for our well being and not for calamity, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Thank You, dear Lord, for always taking care of us and for seeing us through every step of the way. We know Lord whatever is happening and had happened in our lives are part of Your plan for us in molding us to be who we are today for Your purpose. Help us Lord to reflect and see how at each stage of our lives, You have been there for us. Remove from us Lord all the gloom and sadness, that we may with grateful hearts come before You in gladness of joy and thanksgiving.

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