Friday, March 26, 2010

In That Day

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1 NAS)

Oslo, Norway I live and work in the city, so I don't get to see much of nature most of the time. While on a holiday in Norway last year, I was therefore overwhelmed when I saw magnificent sights of valleys in the countryside of Oslo. Never have I seen such beauty of God’s creation before, the mountains, rivers and green pastures. So captivated was I with the fabulous views that all I did then was to exclaim, “Wow!”

Every one of us has experienced wow moments in life, the times when we are caught by surprise or are deeply impressed. Such will be the moments we will experience when the world as we know it comes to an end to be replaced by a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1). In that day, God will dwell among men and death will be no more. Every tear will be wiped away, and there will no longer be any mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). All of us who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior will on that day be overcome with joy and will inherit the spring of the water of life without cost (Revelation 21:6-7). How awesome it will be when we behold God in His full glory, holiness and majesty!

As we look forward to the day of the Lord, let us in the meantime remember we are but passersby while on earth. Our dwelling place today is temporal, unworthy of our total devotion and love to sacrifice our all. We should therefore get ourselves prepared and ready for what's eternal instead, for not everyone will inherit the water of life, but only the ones who overcome (Revelation 21:6-8). Behold, our Lord is coming quickly, and to each shall be rendered a reward or punishment according to our deeds (Revelation 22:11-12).

Dear Lord, we pray, as we look forward to that glorious day, that we will be ready when the time comes for us to return to You. Help us Lord not to be too tied down in our commitments to the world, but to always remember that our time here is short, and our true inheritance is in You. Lead us Lord in all we do, that we may use our time wisely while on earth to fulfill Your will and purpose.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Beyond Mistakes

"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. (Matthew 18:15 NAS)

Hmph! "Hmph! I've told him before, but he refused to listen. Now, he's getting his just deserts!"

I've heard this being whispered behind my back before, and I didn't like it. Everybody makes mistakes, and I am no exception. Like everyone else, I sometimes make wrong decisions, and that's nothing unusual. Making mistakes, to me, is part and parcel of life. What’s important is for me to get back on the right track once the mistake is realized and correct the wrong or abandon it completely to start anew.

All of us make mistakes. There is no need for us to remind others of their mistakes, nor any reason for us to snort at them when they fail. Mistakes are lessons in life everyone has to go through to learn how not to make the same mistakes again.

Unlike mistakes, however, sin is the deliberate act of disobeying God. In the Gospel, Jesus taught that if we see a brother sin, we should go and show him his fault in private, and if he listens to us, we have won the brother (Matthew 18:15). But if the brother does not listen, we are then to take one or two more with us, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every fact may be confirmed (Matthew 18:16).

Nowhere in the Bible was there any teaching that we should just warn the brother and leave him alone to bear the consequences, so that he may learn from his mistake. Neither was there any suggestion in the Bible that we should show contempt towards that brother who has failed to do what was right (2 Thessalonians 3:15), but has since repented and is now on the right track with God.

It is noble and good for us to love someone enough to want to warn him or her of mistakes or sins. It is, however, neither noble nor good to jeer at that someone for failing to heed advice. Jeering, ridiculing, despising and sneering at someone for his or her mistake is undermining, demeaning and showing contempt. Such behavior is not exemplary of the Christ who lives in us. We should therefore always test and examine ourselves to see if our motives for wanting to warn our brothers or sisters is in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Dear Lord, forgive us for giving up easily when it comes to warning our brothers and sisters about their sins, and for showing contempt towards them when they fail. Help us Lord to examine our motives when seeking to warn them, to do it out of love and not spite. Stir our hearts Lord that we may not take sin lightly to assume it is just another mistake, but instill in us to recognize sin for what it is and repent.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fear Not

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:18 NAS)

Fear Not Household pests are such a nuisance and sometimes it irks me just to think about them. I particularly dislike lizards and when asked to catch them, I would feel the chills down my spine. Inside me, I would exclaim, "Eek! Not again!”

Lizards are found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world, and in temperate regions such as California and Arizona. According to getridofthings.com, there are about 155 species of lizards found in North America. While lizards are generally harmless, house lizards tend to elicit some surprised and scared reactions from people, especially because they look scary at quick glance, owing to their reptilian heritage.

There are many fearsome and frightening things in life which each of us may view as scary in different degree, depending on our susceptibility to fear. Whether it is the result of our past experiences, the way we have been brought up, or simply natural instinct, such fears often cannot be written off as and when we feel like it. Much like household pests, these things that cause us fear may never go away. Pests like the lizard although may be grasped with hands, always remain, even in the kings' palaces (Proverbs 30:28).

Not all fears however are bad. If we do not fear punishment, then lawlessness will prevail. This is because we are all born in sin and our first choices are seldom to do what is right (Psalm 51:5). If our loved ones or the people we know fail to understand what it means to fear getting burned, then they will not stop playing with fire. Fears can therefore sometime serve as a guide to direct us to the right path, so that we may not fall prey to the devil's trick into thinking we can hit the mark by our own efforts (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Bible states clearly that fear often involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love, for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). If we have done rightly, we should not fear the ones who can kill our bodies but are unable to kill our souls; rather we should fear God who is able to destroy the soul and body (Matthew 10:28). Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).

We need not fear or anxiously look about us if we are assured of His presence with us. God will strengthen and help us; He will uphold us with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). Whoever therefore confesses Jesus as the Son of God knows the love which God has, and he abides in God and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, and with perfect love, we can stand confident in God without fear (1 John 4:15-18).

We should therefore rejoice rather than fear, because God is present to help. If we bring His presence into every situation we face each day, there is no reason for us to fear because God is with us, who or what then can prevail against us (Romans 8:31-35)? If there be people who contend with us or are angered at us for our faith and belief, they shall be as nothing (Isaiah 41:11). Notwithstanding the things that give us the creeps, therefore, let us acknowledge our place in God. Let us have full confidence in the knowledge of our dominance over every living thing that move upon the earth (Genesis 1:28). Let us who fear, fear no more, but seek God and exercise perfect love through confessing Christ, and abiding in God.

Dear Lord, we acknowledge Your dominance over all things. Help us therefore not to fear created things or the people who is angered against us for believing in You. Grant us Lord the ability to exercise the perfect love that casts out all fears. Guide us in our walk with You Lord, that we may not fall prey into thinking we can make our mark by our own efforts. Strengthen us with Your righteous right hand Lord, and teach us to fear You, that we may gain wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Be Still

"Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10 NAS)

Jesus in the Storm Many of us feel the jitters when visiting the dentist. We seldom can keep calm without finding out at each step of the way what's happening, especially when the dentist is doing something out of the ordinary. Even if the dentist says, "Shhh, be still!" we will never be able to remain still or permit the dentist to do whatever he or she wants to do to our teeth.

Like the visit to the dentist, we are often unable to stay calm when facing a storm. We sometimes question God why the storm is happening in our lives. We want God to let us know what He is doing each step of the way, especially when He is doing something unexpected or extraordinary. Even though we know God can calm every storm we face in life, we cannot remain calm.

In the Gospel’s account of the strong wind that threatens to sink the boat, the disciples said to Jesus, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" Jesus, upon waking up from His sleep, rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still," and the wind died down and it became perfectly calm (Mark 4:37-41).

We may be facing a storm right now or maybe we are apprehensive of an upcoming storm. Are we able to stay calm? Are we at peace when we know that God is in control or are we too afraid to hush ourselves to be still and listen? The Bible says, "Cease striving and know that I am God;" (Psalm 46:10 NAS), or in some translations, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Knowing He is God should be enough for our hearts and souls to stay calm and be assured of His control.

Let us therefore cease striving, and let God do with us whatever He wants to do. We need not, as with the dentist, keep on finding out or questioning God what He is doing with us. God knows His plans for us, for welfare and not for calamity to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). It is fine for us to ask God for His will or what He would have us do in a situation. It is however not fine for us to doubt God and question Him why He is doing what He is doing.

God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is the almighty God, and He need not answer to us His purpose. Let us therefore instead of questioning God, learn to quiet our hearts and be still before Him to seek His will, especially while in a storm. Let us not doubt God’s purpose for our lives, nor fear the storm or the people who can harm us physically. Rather, let us be assured in God, the One and only Who is all knowing and trustworthy (Matthew 10:28).

Dear Lord, we know we can trust You completely because You are the all knowing God. You know the storms we have faced, the storms we are facing, and the storms we will face. Calm our souls therefore Lord, knowing that You are in full control. Still our hearts Lord and grant us perfect peace that we may stop striving and listen. Guide us each step of the way Lord that we may walk the right path and stop doubting Your purpose for our lives.

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