Friday, July 30, 2010

Savor God’s Goodness

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8 NAS)

Tongue MapMany of us have been taught that the human tongue may be divided into various sections when mapped according to areas of taste receptors. The tip of the tongue is the section for tasting sweet, the sides for sour and salty, and the back for bitter. Some studies however suggest that this mapping may be wrong because there is at the least a fifth basic taste.

In a health news archive from The New York Times, it was reported that besides the four basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty and bitter, there is a fifth flavor—savory. Scientists suspect there are receptors for other flavors as well and that receptors for basic tastes are not localized according to sections but spread throughout the tongue. What this means essentially is that receptors for different tastes are not confined to certain parts of the tongue. According to OneLook Dictionary, 'savory' means something “pleasing to the sense of taste” or “morally respectable or inoffensive,” and ‘savor’ refers to “flavor, taste of something” or as “derive or receive pleasure from; get enjoyment from; take pleasure in.” Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘savor’ as “to enjoy food or an experience slowly, in order to enjoy it as much as possible.”

We know what it is like to taste and savor the food of our delight, and we know what it is to desire food that whets our appetite. Not everyone however gets to experience such luxury, especially the ones who are in want or poverty. Depending on our ability and circumstances, each of us can derive satisfaction and pleasure from tasting different flavors. Some of us however may get to taste or experience less of the sweet and more of the sour, salty or bitter. More often than not, many of us experience multiple ‘flavors’ of different situations at the same time, and these are seldom confined only to an area in our lives. We may taste and enjoy an aspect of our lives, yet be suffering at the same time in other areas. Like the different flavors we taste using our tongues, our lives often face differing experiences at different time.

The Bible says, “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8 NAS)! This is a psalm written by King David while he was pretending to be insane before Abimelech. David was able to praise and glorify the LORD despite his circumstances (Psalm 34:1-4). He was able to do so only because of his complete trust in God, having tasted God's goodness (Psalm 34:8).

As believers of the Lord, we should be like David to have complete trust in God. Regardless our situations, we can count on God to bless us when we take refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8). Whether we are presently experiencing the sweetness of a good life or facing the bitterness, sourness or saltiness amidst a multitude of difficulties, let us stand firm and remain calm in spirit to praise and glorify God. Like the way we savor and taste good food, let us also savor and taste God’s goodness slowly, to enjoy it as much as possible by dwelling our minds on things honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellence and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Beyond that, let us also derive and receive pleasure in honoring Christ our King, for this is respectable and inoffensive, pleasing to the sense of taste wherein we find fulfillment and complete satisfaction in our Lord. How blessed are we who take refuge in Him!

Thank You, dear Lord, for always being there for us in good times and in bad times. We are truly grateful to You for allowing us to taste of Your goodness in our lives and for taking care of us when we choose to take refuge in You. Whether in time of sweetness or in times of bitterness, sourness or saltiness, we will praise and glorify You. Dwell our minds Lord on all the good things You have done for us, and help us not forget to trust You even in the worst of situations. Draw us close to You Lord as we take pleasure in pleasing You our Lord and King.

Friday, July 23, 2010

No News is Bad News

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 NAS)

No News is Bad NewsWe have heard the saying ‘No news is good news’, and we know in certain circumstances, this may not be true. Such a saying is usually true only in times of crisis where no reported news of injury or death is good news or when sales are closed without any complaint throughout the warranty period. In the context of spreading the gospel, however, without the good news, the death toll can only increase and that’s bad news!

The Bible states clearly that the good news of salvation in Christ must be proclaimed in the whole world before the Lord returns (Matthew 24:14). But how can the unsaved call on Christ in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher (Romans 10:14)?

We know faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). If we, however, prove ourselves to be hearers but not doers (James 1:22-25), then in vain we have been called to be God’s witnesses (Acts 1:8). Let us hear this, therefore, if we have been foolish and senseless to have eyes but do not see, and ears but do not hear (Jeremiah 5:21). Give ear and listen to the voice of God! Hear His words carefully, whoever has ears (Isaiah 28:23; Mark 4:9)! The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward us. He does not wish for anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Let us therefore take care what we listen to, for by our standard of measure, it shall be measured to us, and more will be given besides (Mark 4:23-24).

Wail, everyone! The day of the Lord is near and will come as destruction from the Almighty to all who are unsaved (Joel 1:15; Isaiah 13:6). Listen to what the Lord is saying, and do not hesitate to proclaim to the world the good news (Matthew 28:18-20)! The Lord has given us His Spirit to dwell within us. He has anointed us to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners, and to comfort all who mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2). Let us hear and obey, for there is no other Way by which men can be saved apart from Christ (John 14:6).

How then shall we reach the world for Christ? There are so many ways—through missions, personal evangelism, meeting the needs of others, living out Christ in our lives, sharing the reality of the risen Christ and more. In whatever way we choose to reach out to others for the Lord, what’s most important is to get through the message of the good news accurately to the pre-believers (2 Timothy 2:15). For the word of God, in which the good news is heard, is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4: 12). Let us therefore be sensitive to the prompting of the Spirit in us, and let Him guide our hearts as to the best ways to reach out to the unsaved. Let us remember always that unless the word of Christ is preached, the good news cannot be heard, and faith cannot take place, which end for the unsaved can only be bad news!

Dear Lord, forgive us for being negligent in sharing your good news to those who are yet unsaved. We know Lord that unless they hear Your good news, faith cannot find its way into their hearts, and the end can only be bad news. Help us therefore Lord to desire to reach out and touch lives in ways beyond the conventional, to go the extra mile in meeting the needs of others, and to reveal more of Christ in our lives. Thank You dear Lord for the empowerment of Your Holy Spirit in us to bring good news and comfort to the afflicted, bind up the brokenhearted, and set the captives free.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Favor with God and Men

And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52 NAS)

Favor with God and Men Juggling between pleasing God and men is no easy task, and in some situations we may have to choose one or the other.

Ever since the prophet Samuel anointed David to be the next king of Israel, David has been watched and observed by man, not for his physical appearance, but for his actions and reactions. It is clear that David was selected not for his physical strength or stature, but for his heart towards God (1 Samuel 16:5-13).

In many occasions, Saul sought to kill David, but each time David spared the life of Saul instead, refusing to kill God's anointed (1 Samuel 24, 26). His covenant with Jonathan concerning the preservation of Saul's family line was closely observed without fail (1 Samuel 18, 20). David consulted God each time before he goes to battle (1 Samuel 23:2; 2 Samuel 2:1, 5:19, 23) and he treated his henchmen fairly (1 Samuel 30). He dealt fairly with the people who accommodated him and his men while running from Saul (1 Samuel 25).

When the servant of David, Joab, killed the commander of Ish-bosheth's army, Abner, David made it clear to all Israel that it was never his intent to kill Abner who had made a prior covenant with David (2 Samuel 3:13-39), and through action, David mourned and made restitution by fasting. The people observed David and "all Israel understood that day that it had not been the will of the king to put Abner the son of Ner to death" (2 Samuel 3:37 NAS).

Now all the people took note of it, and it pleased them, just as everything the king did pleased all the people. (2 Samuel 3:36 NAS)

It is clear that David was a man of integrity, pleasing in the eyes of God and men. To the men, David's action, mannerism, behavior and fair dealings won him the respect of the people who observed him (2 Samuel 3:36). To God, the LORD said to Samuel concerning David's brother, Eliab when he was looking at the sons of Jesse to anoint the next king:

"Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7 NAS)

David was therefore chosen to be king because of his heart towards God, not for his physical strength or ability, but because he was pleasing in the eyes of God.

Like David, Jesus, as the Son of God, went through the same lessons while He was a lad. He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). No doubt, there were occasions when Jesus had to choose between God and men, to please the Pharisees and other people or to please God His Father. In situations such as these, Jesus chose to please God the Father, who for this reason said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" and "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him" (Matthew 3:17; Luke 9:35 NAS).

Two things we can learn from the life of Jesus and David. First, our actions speak louder than words. Second, our actions must come from the heart. As believers in the Lord, it is important for our hearts to be constantly in tune with God to follow His commands in every of our action. There is nothing wrong with being pleasing in the eyes of God and men, because it is by our actions and behavior that men will see God in us, so they may believe and give glory to God.

Dear God, thank You for giving us Your Son to set for us an example of what it means to increase in favor with God and men. Thank you also for the example of King David, who You have chosen because of his heart towards You. Help us dear Lord to live our lives pleasing in the sight of God and men, that by the way we live, the world may see You in us. Stir our hearts Lord that we may always consciously choose to please You first rather than men. We praise and worship You Lord for You alone are worthy to sit on the throne of our lives and our hearts.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Living Within Means

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Philippians 4:12 NAS)

Tightening Our Belts
I used to work as a helpdesk support engineer for a large software corporation that paid me a tidy sum each month. The remuneration per month was enough to support my family, spend on personal and family indulgence, and still be able to save some money.

A day came, however, when the corporation announced it would be moving its helpdesk operation to another country, so I began to look for another job and by God's grace found one that paid even higher, but with added responsibilities as a project manager. After a year into the job, I had to quit because I was totally stressed out working under a 24/7 environment.

While still serving notice for my resignation, I fell ill and underwent a surgery for appendicitis. During the three weeks of leave, my perspective of life changed completely as I spend more time with the Lord. I realized then how weak and frail human life could be and learned dependency, that is, dependency on God to live on, and dependency on others to take care of me. That period of solitude was God's way of preparing me to face something bigger.

I soon started work at another company as a technical consultant. After six months, however, I was informed that my service was no longer required because there was not enough business in the regional countries I was serving in. That was the beginning of difficult times ahead for me and my family.

During that year, the technology industry slumbered and did not bounce back until some five years later. Staff hiring as a result froze. I worked hard to look for alternative jobs but found none during the five years of waiting, so I took up freelance work as a technical consultant and writer. These occasional work assignments however did not provide sufficiently to sustain my small family, so I had to dig into my savings. Amidst all of these, I was also pursuing my part-time degree course, which fee also took up a substantial amount of my savings.

Throughout the years of waiting, I sought the Lord for sustenance, and God never failed to provide sufficiently. Every time when there were some expenses or a necessity I had to pay, the Lord would grant me a work assignment that sufficiently covered for that time of need. Nearing the end of my savings, I looked to the Lord and sought Him earnestly, knowing in my heart that God will never fail to provide for me and my family.

I asked of the Lord specifically to grant me a job that would be according to His will, using the talent He has given me in writing, yet without wasting my years of work experience in the technology industry. Within the next month after I requested of the Lord, He answered my prayer and gave me a job as a technical writer in the technology industry, fulfilling my desire to write, yet without sacrificing my past experience.

Today, although I no longer can afford to spend on personal or family indulgence because I am now receiving only half as much as I used to receive as a project manager, my family and I are living each day happily and sufficiently by the grace of God.

Like me, some of us may now be experiencing a change in our financial status. Each of us however need not fear for our future as to what we shall eat or drink or wear (Matthew 6:25-33). Just as the Lord has taken care of me and my family, He will also take care of us who seek Him and ask for His providence. Let us therefore learn to live within our means in any and every circumstance that we may understand the secret of being filled as well as living in sufficiency and contentment (Philippians 4:12; 1 Timothy 6:7-8).

Thank You, dear Lord, for always being there for us. You alone O Lord is our sufficiency. You have the power to perform awesome acts and we will eagerly utter Your abundant goodness to the world and shout joyfully of Your righteousness. You are gracious and merciful Lord, slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. You are always good to all who trust in You and Your mercies are over all Your works. Blessed be Your name Lord forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Living the Faith

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, (Philippians 3:7-8 NAS)

Living the Faith I served as a librarian when I was in high school. During that time, much of the library's administration and cataloging were done using the typewriter, so I was sent to the YMCA to acquire typewriting skills.

While at the YMCA, I came across a brochure about a free Christian correspondence course, so I enrolled and got to know about Christianity. As my interest grew, I continued with other Christian correspondence courses from other organizations. Before long, faith found its way into my heart to desire to receive Christ. Salvation did not take place immediately, however, because I had no idea how it would be like to say the sinner’s prayer, having no direct contact with any Christian thus far.

One day, while at the public library near my high school, a stranger who was a student from another school approached me and invited me to attend a church-organized student meeting near the library’s vicinity. An evangelistic meeting was being held during my first visit, and having learned about Jesus through the correspondence courses, I was ready and received Jesus as my Lord immediately.

Becoming a Christian was, however, not all smooth sailing. Coming from a Taoist family, I was persecuted and regarded by my parents as one who had gone astray and not known my own roots, and by the people of the community a renegade and an outcast. In school, I was ridiculed and nicknamed 'holy cow,' and was segregated from a circle of friends. It was not until several years had passed that the people I knew gradually accepted me for who I am. Even till this day I face rejections and displeasure at times from members of my family and relatives, especially during occasions like non-Christian funerals because of my refusal to participate in the rites.

All these sufferings are insignificant in comparison to the sufferings the Lord went through for me. Whatever things were gain to me in the past, therefore, I willingly count them all lost for the sake of Christ because of the surpassing value of knowing Him as my Lord and Savior (Philippians 3:7-8). What a joy to trust in Jesus! When things seem humanly hopeless and even at times when I stray, God never once turned me away. He is always present and near to fill my heart with a calm that empowers me to continue on with confidence.

Now, after more than 30 years in the faith, I had been privileged to serve the Lord in many areas, including church youth ministry and cell group leadership, worship leading, gospel events counseling and new converts nurturing. I had also been privileged to study in two different theological seminaries part-time and write Christian articles for church newsletters and Christian magazines.

Today, I am serving the Lord and ministering to His people through devotional writing at various online Christian communities. My heart’s desire is to share with everyone the inner peace I have in Jesus.

Like me, many of us who had received Jesus as Lord have our own stories to tell. A good practice is therefore for us to be always ready to share what the Lord had done in our lives. When we share, let us always do so with gentleness and respect that whoever hears our testimonies and sees our behavior might come to know Christ (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Thank you dear Lord for always being near and present for us. Without You, we would not be who we are today. Only in You Lord can we remain calm even in the midst of storm, and only in You Lord can we trust to continue life with full confidence. Even in suffering for the faith, Lord, we shall not despair because of the surpassing value of knowing You. Blessed be Your name Lord, now and forever! Amen.

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