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 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 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.